Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Leipsic

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LEIPSIC (in German, Leipzig), the second town of the kingdom of Saxony in size, and the first in commercial importance, is situated in a large and fertile plain, in 51° 20′ 6″ N. lat. and 12° 23′ 37″ E. long., about 65 miles north west of Dresden and 6 miles from the Prussian frontier. It stands just above the junction of three small rivers, the Pleisse, the Parthe, and the Elster, which flow in various branches through or round the town, and afterwards, under the name of Elster, discharge themselves into the Saale. Though of unimposing exterior, Leipsic is one of the most prosperous and enterprising of German towns. Besides being the most important commercial city in Germany next to Hamburg, it possesses the second largest German university, is the headquarters of the supreme courts of the empire, and forms one of the most prominent literary and musical centres in Europe. It consists of the old or inner city, surrounded by a wide and pleasant promenade laid out on the site of the old fortifications, and of the very much more extensive inner and outer suburbs. Beyond the last is a fringe of thriving suburban villages, such as Reudnitz, Volkmarsdorf, Gohlis, Eutritzsch, Plagwitz, and Lindenau, which are gradually becoming absorbed by the growth of the town. On the north-west the town is bordered by the fine public park and woods of the Rosenthal.

EB9 Leipsic.jpg

Plan of Leipsic.

The old town, with its narrow streets and numerous houses of the 16th and 17th centuries, still preserves much of its quaint mediæval aspect. The most interesting of its buildings are the Rathhaus, a Gothic edifice built by Hieronymus Lotter in 1556 (now doomed to demolition), and the Fürstenhaus, with its curious projecting balconies. The Pleissenburg, or citadel, now used for barracks and public offices, also dates from the middle of the 16th century. Auerbach's Keller, a curious old wine-vault, is interesting for the use made of it by Goethe in his Faust; it contains a series of mural paintings of the 16th century, representing the legend on which the play is based. The business of Leipsic is chiefly concentrated in the inner city; but the headquarters of the book trade lie in the east suburb. The streets of the suburbs are mostly broad and well built. The most notable modern buildings are the new theatre, an imposing Renaissance structure designed by Langhans, and the museum, which stand facing each other at opposite ends of the spacious Augustus-Platz. Most of the west side of the same square is occupied by the Augusteum, or main building of the university, which, however, also possesses several special institutes in another part of the town. The new district law courts are contained in a large and substantial though not specially imposing building, and the municipal hospital and the hospital of St John are also handsome edifices. The so-called Roman House, with loggie and frescos in the Italian style, is the only private dwelling demanding remark. The churches of Leipsic are comparatively uninteresting. The oldest, in its present form, is the Paulinerkirche or university church, built in 1229-40, and the largest is the Thomaskirche, dating from 1496. The university of Leipsic, founded in 1409 by a secession of two thousand German students from Prague, has long ranked among the most important in Germany. A few years ago it was also the most numerously attended, but it is now outstripped by Berlin, which has about four thousand students as compared with thirty five hundred at Leipsic (1882). The professors and "Privatdocenten," or lecturers, number about one hundred and seventy. The university library contains 350,000 volumes and 4000 manuscripts; it occupies the Paulinum, a characteristic specimen of old monastic architecture, dating in part from 1229-1240. The other educational institutions of Leipsic include three gymnasia, two “Realschulen,” a commercial academy (Handelsschule), a high school for girls, another for boys, and a large number of admirable public and private schools of a lower grade.

The number of literary, scientific, and artistic institutions in Leipsic is unusually large for the size of the town. One of the most important is the museum, which contains about four hundred modern paintings, a large number of casts, a few pieces of original sculpture, and a well-arranged collection of drawings and engravings. The art-industrial museum, the collection of the historical society, and the ethnographical museum are also of considerable interest, and will be still more useful when they are united in the large building to be erected for them with part of the munificent bequest made to the town by Herr Grassi in 1881. As a musical centre Leipsic is known all over the world for its excellent conservatorium, founded in 1843 by Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. The series of concerts given annually in the old Gewandhaus, or Drapers Hall, is also of world-wide reputation, and the operatic stage of Leipsic is deservedly ranked among the finest in Germany. A further stimulus to the musical taste of the inhabitants is afforded by the numerous vocal and orchestral societies, some of which have brought their art to a very high pitch of perfection. The prominence of the publishing interest (more fully noticed below) has attracted to Leipsic a large number of gifted authors, and made it a literary centre of considerable importance. About two hundred and seventy newspapers and periodicals are published here, including several of the most widely circulated in Germany.

The outstanding importance of Leipsic as a commercial town is mainly derived from its three great fairs, which annually attract a concourse of about forty thousand merchants from all parts of Europe, and from Persia, Armenia, and other Asiatic countries. The most important fairs are held at Easter and Michaelmas, and are said to have been founded as markets about 1170. The smaller New Year's fair was established in 1458. In 1268 Margrave Dietrich granted a safe-conduct to all frequenters of the fairs, and in 1497 and 1507 the emperor Maximilian greatly increased their importance by prohibiting the holding of annual markets at any town within a wide radius of Leipsic. During the Thirty Years' War, the Seven Years' War, and the troubles consequent upon the French Revolution, the trade of the Leipsic fairs considerably decreased, but it recovered itself after the accession of Saxony to the German Customs Union (Zollverein) in 1833, and for the next twenty years rapidly and steadily increased. Since then, owing to the greater facilities of communication and consequent alterations in the mode of conducting business, the transactions at the fairs may be said to have diminished in relative though they have increased in actual value. Wares that can be safely purchased by sample appear at the fairs in steadily diminishing quantities, while others, such as hides, furs, and leather, which require to be actually examined, show as marked an increase. It is impossible to give accurate statistics of the business done at the fair, but the value of the sales considerably exceeds £10,000,000 sterling per annum. The principal commodity is furs (chiefly American and Russian), of which about one and a quarter million pounds worth are annually disposed of; next in order come leather, hides, wool, cloth, linen, and glass. The Leipsic wool-market, held for two days in June, is also important.

In the trades of bookselling and publishing Leipsic occupies a unique position, not only taking the first place in Germany, but even surpassing London and Paris in the number and total value of its sales (Hasse, Leipzig und ihre Umgebung, p. 236). There are upwards of three hundred publishers and booksellers in the town, and about five thousand firms in other parts of Europe are represented here by commissioners. About 2500 books, or one-sixth of the total production of Germany, are published in Leipsic annually. Several hundred booksellers assemble in Leipsic every year at Jubilate, and settle their accounts at their own exchange (Buchhändler-Börse). Leipsic also contains seventy printing-works, some of great extent, and a corresponding number of type-foundries, binding-shops, and other kindred industries. The so-called “polygraphic” industries give employment to nearly ten thousand hands.

As a manufacturing town Leipsic is important rather for the variety than for the magnitude of its industries. The great manufacturing staples, such as iron and the textile fabrics, are scarcely represented at all, but in certain specialities, such as etheric oils, artificial flowers, and perfumes, it ranks before any other town in Germany. In absolute value the most important articles of manufacture are pianos and other musical instruments, tobacco and cigars, spirits, chemicals, scientific instruments, and waxcloth. Wool-combing has also of late years been extensively carried on. Upwards of fifty thousand workpeople are employed in the factories in and around Leipsic.

The population of Leipsic has been quintupled within the present century, rising from 31,887 in 1801 to 153,988 in 1881, and has of late increased at the rate of between 3 and 4 per cent. per annum. With the suburban villages the population amounts to 220,000. While the dwelling-houses in the suburbs have been multiplied six-fold in the last two hundred years, the number in the inner town has remained almost stationary for the same period, the business part of Leipsic thus exhibiting the same phenomenon as in other large cities. The vast majority of the population (upwards of 90 per cent.) belongs to the Lutheran Church, while the religious bodies next in numerical order are the Roman Catholics (4288), the Reformed (3368), and the Jews (3179). The annual death-rate is 23 to 24 per 1000, in which Leipsic, thanks in part to its excellent system of drainage, compares favourably with other large German towns. It is remarkable that the proportion of suicides to population is larger in Leipsic than in any other European town, in the five years 1876-80 no fewer than 332 persons voluntarily put an end to their lives, being at the rate of 62 per annum, or 1 suicide to every 30 deaths of adults.

History.—Though recent discoveries point to the conclusion that the site of Leipsic was inhabited even during the Stone Age, the history of the present town begins with the foundation of a Serbian fishing village at the junction of the Pleisse and the Parthe, which derived its name of Lipzk from the Slavonic lip or lipa, a lime-tree. This settlement was probably already in existence when the emperor Henry I. built a castle here about 920. The Slavonic language long continued to be spoken in Leipsic, and was legal in the courts of law down to 1327. The first historical mention of Leipsic occurs in a writing of the beginning of the 11th century, when it is spoken of as an “urbs,” or fortified place. In 1134 it came into the possession of Conrad of Wettin, margrave of Meissen, and under Margrave Otho the Rich (1156-89) it received many important privileges, and became a flourishing town of 5000 to 6000 inhabitants. Its favourable situation, almost equidistant from the Baltic Sea and the Alps, the Rhine and the Oder, in the midst of a fertile plain intersected by the principal highways of central Europe from north to south and east to west, co-operated with the fostering care of the margraves in raising it in the 15th century to the position of one of the most important commercial towns in Germany. The growth of its fairs, which of course were mainly instrumental in producing this result, has been above described. The famous conference between Luther and Dr Eck, held in the Leipsic Pleissenburg in 1519, did much for the spread of the Reformation, but it was not till twenty years later that Leipsic formally espoused the Protestant cause. In 1547, in the war of the Smalkaldic league, the town was besieged and the suburbs reduced to ashes, and during the Thirty Years' War it suffered six sieges and was four times occupied by hostile troops. Its commerce was also greatly interrupted by the Seven Years' War. The publishing trade of Leipsic began to grow important towards the end of the 17th century, when the severity of the censorship at Frankfort-on-the-Main caused many of its booksellers to emigrate to Leipsic. The preliminary years of the French Revolutionary wars were not unfavourable to the commerce of Leipsic, but in 1813 and 1814 the town suffered greatly. Its accession to the Zollverein in 1833 and the establishment of the German system of railways (of which Leipsic is an important centre) inaugurated a period of great prosperity, which has continued to the

present day. The revolutionary riots of 1848-49 and the Prussian occupation in 1866-67 were merely passing shadows. In 1879 Leipsic acquired a new importance by becoming the seat of the supreme courts of the German empire.

The immediate neighbourhood of Leipsic has been the scene of numerous battles, two of which are of more than ordinary importance, viz., the battle of Breitenfeld in 1631 (vol. xi. p. 334), and the great battle of Leipsic, known in Germany as the Völkerschlacht, fought in 1813 between Napoleon and the allied forces of Russia, Germany, and Austria.

Towards the middle of last century Leipsic was the seat of the most influential body of literary men in Germany, over whom Gottsched (q.v.), like his contemporary Samuel Johnson in England, exercised a kind of literary dictatorship. Then, if ever, Leipsic deserved the epithet of a “Paris in miniature” (Klein-Paris), assigned to it by Goethe in his Faust. The young Lessing produced his first play in the Leipsic theatre, and the university counts Goethe, Klopstock, Jean Paul Richter, the Schlegels, Fichte, Schelling, and numerous other eminent writers and thinkers among its quondam alumni. Schiller also resided for a time in Leipsic, and Sebastian Bach, Hiller, and Mendelssohn all filled musical posts there. Among the famous natives of the town are the philosopher Leibnitz and the composer Wagner.

See the Urkundenbuch der Stadt Leipzig, 1870 sq.; Grosse, Geschichte der Stadt Leipzig, 1837-42; Sparfeld, Chronik der Stadt Leipzig, 2d ed., 1851; Gretschel, Die Universität Leipzig, 1830; Moser, Leipzig's Handel und Messen, 1869; Hasse, Die Stadt Leipzig und ihre Umgebung geographisch und statistisch beschrieben, 1878; the Mittheilungen of the Statistical Bureau of Leipsic; and the Schriften of the Leipsic Historical Society. (J. F. M.)