Ernst Förstemann

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Ernst Förstemann portrait, oil on canvas by Julius Scholtz

Ernst Wilhelm Förstemann (Danzig, September 18, 1822 – Charlottenburg, November 4, 1906) was a German historian, mathematician, doctor of linguistics and librarian, director of the Saxon State Library (German: Sächsische Landesbibliothek) in Dresden. He is known as a founder of onomastics and folk etymology studies in Germany, and also for his seminal contributions made in the early years of Mayanist research, towards the decipherment and understanding of calendrical elements in the pre-Columbian Maya script.[1]


He was born in Danzig. In 1865 he became chief librarian at the Royal Library (now the Saxon State Library) in Dresden, which contained the Dresden Codex.[2] He prepared an edition of the Maya manuscript as well as several treatises on it. His services in behalf of the reorganization of the library were most important. In 1894 he deciphered the Maya numbering systems.

Works (selected)[edit]

  • Altdeutsches Namenbuch, 2 vols., 1856/59. A discussion of old German proper names, the first volume being devoted to names of persons, and the second to places.
  • Über die Gräflich Stolbergische Bibliothek zu Wernigerode, 1866
  • Mitteilungen der königlichen öffentlichen Bibliothek zu Dresden, 1866 ff.
  • Geschichte des deutschen Sprachstammes, 2 vols. 1874/75 (Reissued 1966; called by some his most important work)
  • Graf Christian Ernst zu Stolberg-Wernigerode, Hannover 1886.
  • Zur Entzifferung der Mayahandschriften, 7 vols. 1887/98
  • Aus dem alten Danzig, 1820-40, 1900
  • Zur Geschichte der Bücher-Sammlungen in der Grafschaft Wernigerode bis zum Dreißigjährigen Kriege, insbesondere der Sammlung Graf Wolfgang Ernst zu Stolberg (angelegt von etwa 1569–1606)., undated MS.


  1. ^ Coe (1992, pp.107–108); Hammond (1991, p.10)
  2. ^ "The Dresden Codex". World Digital Library. 1200–1250. Retrieved 2013-08-21. 


Coe, Michael D. (1992). Breaking the Maya Code. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-05061-9. OCLC 26605966. 
Hammond, Norman (1991). "Introduction". In T. Patrick Culbert (ed.). Classic Maya Political History: Hieroglyphic and Archaeological Evidence. School of American Research advanced seminar series. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 1–18. ISBN 0-521-39210-1. OCLC 20931118. 
Wikisource-logo.svg Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Förstemann, Ernst Wilhelm". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.