Christian Gottfried Elben

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Christian Gottfried Elben on a photograph of a painting from the family archive around 1800

Elben’s wife Sophie née Feuerlein, in a photograph of a painting from the family archive, circa 1800

Christian Gottfried Elben (* May 4, 1754, at Zuffenhausen, duchy of Württemberg; † February 3 or 4, 1829, at Stuttgart, kingdom of Württemberg), professor of geography at the Hohe Karlsschule, was founder and editor of the Schwäbischer Merkur.


Origin and school years

Christian Gottfried Elben is the son of Johann Kaspar Elben (1716-1783), schoolmaster, bailiff and Umgelder in Zuffenhausen and his wife Susanne, née Zayser (1724-1774), daughter of Hans Michael Zayser, blacksmith, miner and Heiligenpfleger in Stammheim near Stuttgart. Christian is one of the sons, of the 16 children, who were born in the marriage of his parents.

In Zuffenhausen, Christian Elben received his first lessons at the German School before attending the Latin schools in Cannstatt and Güglingen. Following his attendance at the Latin school, Elben attended the Gymnasium Illustre in Stuttgart. After Elben had made the long daily walk from his parents’ home to the Gymnasium and back home again, he was able to finance his own quarters in Stuttgart by giving private lessons. In 1771 Elben began to study theology in Tübingen, but had to interrupt his studies several times for lack of money.

Military service and graduation

In 1774 he was picked up near Heilbronn by recruiters for the Prussian army and recruited for Frederick the Great’s army. There he belonged to the second battalion in the Möllendorf regiment and was quartered in Soldin. He gave Latin and geography lessons to the sons of his quartermaster, a shoemaker, and used to read newspapers to the shoemaker himself.

In 1778 his father was able to release him from his military service. Subsequently, Christian Gottfried Elben became tutor in Stuttgart for the children of Carl Friedrich Feuerlein, the councillor and secret cabinet secretary of Duke Carl Eugene. In addition to teaching in the Feuerlein household, he continued to give lessons in the city of Stuttgart and prepared for his graduation in Tübingen.

On 27 September 1779 he completed his studies with a disputation on modern history. During these years, Elben also wrote a number of articles for entertainment journals that were published in Mannheim, Frankfurt am Main and other places. In 1784, Christian Gottfried Elben published the first part of the history of the German Order, one year later the Beiträge zur Geschichte des Hoch- und Deutschmeisterthums.

Foundation of the “Schwäbischer Merkur

On October 3, 1785, the first number of the Schwäbischer Merkur, founded by Elben, appeared, a successor to the “Mercurius or Stuttgarter Ordinari Chronik“, which had beenhurrying along over sea and land. This paper had existed since 1731; Elben replaced the Mäntler brothers, who had held the privilege for this newspaper. The Schwäbische Merkur brought political news twice a week in half sheets; in addition, Elben also published the Schwäbische Chronik, which contained patriotic news from Swabia and Anterior Austria. It was printed in Esslingen, where the censorship conditions were milder.

The High Charles School

The Schwäbische Merkur competed with a court newspaper that had been published as a political newspaper by the bookseller Stoll since 1751 and had been taken over by the Cottaschen Hofbuchdruckerei in 1756 when it was elevated to the status of a court newspaper. The privilege for the newspaper was renewed in 1787 by the Duke of Württemberg for 20 years under the condition that the printing was henceforth done in the ducal academy. The same demand was made for the Schwäbische Chronik, which was now united with the Merkur. Elben was first able to obtain by petition that no court censorship be exercised on his papers. He was supported in this by the director of the Academy, Colonel von Seeger. The latter considered Elben less dangerous than Schubart, whose Vaterländische Chronik was also published by the Academy’s printing house. In November 1788, however, a complaint was received from the Elector of Bavaria about a captious article from Munich, and in 1789 Elben got himself into trouble with an article on the coinage of the Swabian district. As a result, a censor was appointed for the Merkur and Chronik by ducal order, but Elben was able to have this reversed just one week later.

Marriage with Sophie Feuerlein

Christian Elben[1] married on 1 October 1789 in Stuttgart with Sophie Caroline Auguste Magdalene Feuerlein (* 1772; † 1847), one of the many daughters of the Regierungsrat Carl Friedrich Feuerlein and his wife Auguste Franziska, née Fischer. Christian Elben’s marriage to Sophie Feuerlein produced ten children, who founded the Elben tribe in the genealogical family book of the descendants of Regierungsrat Carl Friedrich Feuerlein.

Professor at the Hohe Karlsschule

Extra sheet of the Merkur on the stag disaster 1906

Elben’s suggestion to hold a Collegium novellisticum once a week for the students of the Academy was also accepted by the Duke in the summer of 1788. He made Elben professor of geography at the Hohe Karlsschule, for which he received a salary of 100 fl. After Carl Eugen’s death and the dissolution of the Hohen Karlsschule in the following year 1794, Elben had to renounce this income. Likewise, the Urkundenbuch zur Schwäbischen Chronik, a kind of law journal that Elben had published from 1791, was now discontinued

Publisher of the “Schwäbischer Merkur

Christian Gottfried Elben now concentrated entirely on the Schwäbischer Merkur. Despite censorship and growing competition, the paper survived wartime and the Württemberg constitutional struggles from 1815 to 1819. On January 30, 1817, censorship was lifted and the press subsequently took off. The Schwäbische Merkur now appeared together with the chronicle on six weekdays and was produced in its own printing works. However, the distribution to most parts of the country by the Thurn- und Taxisschen Posten did not take place in this rhythm, but only on some post and messenger days. Also, the freedom of the press in Württemberg, which had just been guaranteed by the constitution, was already ended again by the Karlsbad resolutions in 1819.

Grave of Christian Gottfried Elben on the Hoppenlauf Cemetery in Stuttgart

Late years

Christian Gottfried Elben had two daughters and eight sons, including Karl Elben (1790-1854) and Emil Elben (1795-1873). Of these, Karl joined the editorial staff of the Schwäbischer Merkur in 1817 and Emil in 1823; however, Elben himself held the top management until his death. His son Karl then took over the management and editing of the Schwäbische Chronik.

Christian Gottfried Elben found his final resting place in the Hoppenlauf Cemetery, which has been abandoned, and continues today as a park. Many important gravestones can still be found and studied by visitors today.[2]


  • Heinz-Alfred Pohl: Christian Gottfried Elben (1754-1829). In: Heinz-Dietrich Fischer (ed.): Deutsche Presseverleger des 18. bis 20. Jahrhunderts. Verlag Dokumentation, Pullach bei München 1975, ISBN 3-7940-3604-4, pp. 72-81.
  • Otto Borst:Elben, Christian Gottfried. In: New German Biography (NDB). Vol. 4, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1959, ISBN 3-428-00185-0, p. 434 (Digitalisat).
  • August Ludwig Reyscher: Elben, Christian Gottfried. In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Vol. 6, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1877, pp. 1-3.

Individual references

  1. See also family data of the Martinszellersche Familienstiftung Archived copy(Memento of the Originals january 5, 2017 on the Internet Archive) Info:The archive linkwas automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check original and archive link according to instructions and then remove this note.@1@2Template:Webachiv/IABot/
  2. Thomas Borgmann Magazine about the Hoppenlauf cemetery. on:, 30 December 2011.