Theodor Kräuter

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Friedrich Theodor David Kräuter (* 10 June 1790 in Weimar; † 29 September 1856 ibid)[1] was a Weimar librarian, Grand Ducal Councillor and Goethe’s secretary.

Life and work

The master tailor Johann Friedrich Ehrenfried Kräuter († 27 April 1817), town elder and district head of Weimar and
his wife Johanna Dorothea Schenkin († 20 February 1826) had three children – two sons and a daughter. The older son was allowed to study. The younger – Theodor – was taken out of the Unterprima of the Weimar Gymnasium in 1805 for financial reasons, and on 1 December of the same year was placed as a clerk in the Weimar ducal library. On May 15, 1810, he was employed there, and remained a clerk in that institution until his retirement on January 1, 1856. While serving for fifty years, Theodor Kräuter became administrator of the private library of Archgrand Duke Karl Friedrich in 1824, librarian on September 15, 1837, and grand ducal councillor on April 2, 1841.

Theodor Kräuter became Goethe’s private secretary in February 1811. At times Goethe employed several scribes.[2] Kräuter was the most capable[3]. For example, he was dictated long passages from the Italian Journey in quiet morning hours. Kräuter hardly stumbled over foreign words and phrases – like one or another of his colleagues. He had used his relatively short time at the Gymnasium to learn foreign languages and had steadily educated himself in the library. On May 15, 1815, he was allowed to have lunch with Goethe, and on December 19, 1815, he became secretary in Goethe’s department of “superintendence of the immediate institutions for science and art in Weimar and Jena.”[4]. Kräuter was allowed to enter Goethe’s office unannounced.[5]

By the time Goethe had made Kräuter his library secretary in early 1816, Theodor was able to marry the young Friederike Wenzel. From 1817 to 1819 Kräuter gradually took over the cataloguing of Goethe’s private library. On May 7, 1822, Goethe noted: “Kräuter worked… to arrange all the files and documents relating to me and my sphere of activity and to bring them into order[6] The result was available on 2 September 1822 – the “Repertorium of Goethe’s Repository[A 1]“.[7] Kräuter had meanwhile made himself indispensable. He had become the only one who could find every leaf in Goethe’s archive and in Goethe’s library. Goethe thanked the poorly paid Kräuter with a housing allowance and the arrangement of paid part-time work. On 11 November 1831 Goethe made him curator of the coin cabinet.

Goethe used Kräuter as an intermediary to the Weimar court in matters concerning the library and collections. In 1824 Kräuter took the place of the head librarian Vulpius, whose work was impaired by a stroke. After Vulpius’ death in the summer of 1827, Kräuter was subordinate to the new head librarian Riemer. While Kräuter is said to have worked in collegial agreement under Riemer, after Riemer’s death he had heated arguments with Preller, who took his place as head librarian in 1847, even over trivial matters.

Kräuter had his only son Edmund study in Jena and Leipzig.

From the years 1819-1843 the correspondence with the Gotha senior librarian and philologist Friedrich Jacobs has been preserved.

Kräuter’s estate can be found in the Kippenberg Collection[8] in the Goethe Museum Düsseldorf.


  • 1825 Silver Medal of Merit (on the occasion of the jubilee of Carl August’s reign)
  • 1836 Prussian Great Golden Medal for Art and Science
  • 1. December 1855 (50th anniversary of service)
    • Knight’s Cross of the Order of the Falcon
    • Honorary doctor of the philosophical faculty of the University of Jena


  • Arthur Pollmer: Aus dem Nachlaß Friedrich Theodor Kräuter. Jahrbuch der Sammlung Kippenberg, vol. 2, Weimar 1922, pp. 214-239(digital copy)
  • Max Hecker: The letters of Theodor Kräuter to Eckermann. Goethe-Jahrbuch (GJB) vol. 12, Weimar 1926, pp. 264-306(Digitalisat aus dem Internet Archive)
  • Richard Friedenthal: Goethe – his life and his time. 772 pages. R. Piper Verlag, Munich 1963
  • Gero von Wilpert: Goethe-Lexikon (= Kröners Taschenausgabe. Vol. 407). Kröner, Stuttgart 1998, ISBN 3-520-40701-9, p. 585 (second entry).
  • Karl Otto Conrady: Goethe – Leben und Werk. Artemis & Winkler, Düsseldorf and Zurich 1999, ISBN 3-538-06638-8

Web links


  1. Repository: File archive (location for the repository).

Individual references

  1. Max Hecker: Kräuter’s Letters to Eckermann, p. 285
  2. Conrady, p. 952, 10. c.f.o.
  3. Friedenthal, p. 661, 3. z.v.u.
  4. Wilpert, p. 778 Middle
  5. Conrady, p. 946, 6. z.v.o.
  6. Max Hecker: Briefe Kräuter an Eckermann, p. 286, 6. z.v.u.
  7. Conrady, p. 629 Middle
  8. Kippenberg Collection