Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/James Brucker
BRUCKER, James, theologian, historian, philologer, and biographer, was born at Augsburg on the 22d of January 1696. His father, who was a respectable burgher, destined him for the church; and his own inclinations according with his father's wishes, he was sent at the usual age to pursue his studies in the university of Jena. Here he took the degree of master of arts in 1718; and in the following year he published his Tentamen Introductionis in Historiam Doctrinæ de Ideis, in 4to,—a work which he afterwards amplified and completed, and republished under the title of Historia Philosophica Doctrinæ de Ideis, at Augsburg in 1723. He returned to his native city in 1720; but here his merit having attracted envy rather than recompense, he was induced to accept of the office of parish minister of Kaufbevern in 1723. In the same year he published a memoir De Vita et Scriptis Cl. Etringeri, Augs. 8vo. His reputation having been at length established by these learned works, in 1731 he was elected a member of the Academy of Sciences at Berlin; and soon afterwards he was invited to Augsburg to fill the honourable situation of pastor and senior minister of the church of St Ulric. He published in the same year three dissertations relating to the history of philosophy, under the title of Otium Vindelicum sive Meletematum Historico-philosophicorum Triga, Augsburg, 1731, 8vo. Besides several smaller dissertations on biography and literary history, printed at different times, and which he afterwards collected in his Miscellanea, he published at Ulm, in 1737, Neue Zusätze verschiedener Vermehrungen, &c., zu den kurtzen Fragen aus der philosophischen Historie, 7 vols. 12mo. This work being a history of philosophy in question and answer, contains many details, especially in the department of literary history, which he has chosen to omit in his greater work on the same subject. He was forced by the booksellers, in opposition to his own opinion, to adopt the erotematic method, which at that time had been rendered popular by the writings of Hubner and Rambach.
In 1741, at Leipsic, appeared the first volume of his great work, Historia Critica Philosophiæ, a mundi incunabulis ad nostram usque ætatem deducta. Four other ponderous quartos, completing the first edition of this elaborate history, followed in 1744. Such was the success of this publication, that the first impression, consisting of four thousand copies, was exhausted in twenty-three years, when a new and more perfect edition, the consummation of the labours of half a century devoted to the history of philosophy, was in 1767 given to the world in six volumes quarto. The sixth volume, consisting entirely of supplement and corrections, is applicable to the first as well as to the second edition. Of the merits of this work we shall speak in the sequel.
His attention, however, was not wholly occupied by this stupendous undertaking. The following books would of themselves have been sufficient to exhaust the industry of any ordinary author: Pinacotheca Scriptorum nostra ætate literis illustrium, &c., Ausgsburg, 1741–55, folio, in five decades. Ehrentempel der Deutschen Gelehrsamkeit in welchem die Bildnisse gelehrter Männer unter den Deutschen aus dem XV., XVI., und XVII. Jahrhundert aufgestellet, und ihre Geschichte, &c., entworfen sind, Augsburg, 1747–49, 4to, five decads. Institutiones Historiæ Philosophicæ, Leipsic, 1747, 8vo, second edition, ibid, 1756; a third has been published since Brucker's death, with a continuation by Professor Born of Leipsic, in 1790. Miscellanea Historiæ Philosophicæ Literariæ Criticæ olim sparsim edita, nunc uno fasce collecta, Augsburg, 1748, 8vo. Erste Anfangsgrunde der philosophischen Geschichte, als ein Auszug seiner grossern Werke, zweyte Ausgabe, Ulm, 1751, 8vo. He likewise superintended and corrected an edition of Luther's translation of the Old and New Testment, with a Commentary extracted from the writings of the English theologians, Leipsic, 1758–70, folio, six parts. His death ensued before the completion of this work, which has since been accomplished by Teller. He died at Augsburg in 1770; and he may be added to the catalogue of Huetius, to prove that literary labour is not incompatible with sound health and longevity. (See Saxii Onomasticon; Biographie Universelle; Gesner's Isagoge.)
It is only by his writings on the history of philosophy that Brucker is now known in the literature of Europe. In this study his great work forms an important era, and even at the present day it is the most extensive and elaborate upon the subject. It is, however, a work of which the defects are great, and its errors have been important in their consequences, in proportion to the authority it has acquired. We shall, therefore, hazard a few general observations on the defects which chiefly detract from the perfection and utility of the Critical History of Philosophy.