Johann Samuel Ersch, a German cyclopaedist, born at Glogau, in Prussian Silesia, June 23, 1766, died in Halle, Jan. 16, 1828. He was educated in the universities of Halle and Jena, and was afterward connected in Halle with Meusel's periodical, Das gelehrte Deutschland. and in Jena with a political journal. He published a voluminous collection of the documents found in German political, geographical, and scientific periodicals (3 vols., 1790-,92), which created a great sensation among German bibliographers. His efforts were so much encouraged by prominent savants, that he was induced to undertake a digest of literature in connection with a general literary gazette. Eight volumes (Jena and Weimar, 1793-1809) were required to epitomize the literary productions of 15 years (1785-1800). Not only books, but also newspaper and magazine articles, were recorded, and even the criticisms to which the respective literary productions had been subjected were referred to with the utmost precision. While this was in progress, he projected a universal cyclopaedia of modern literature, which he carried out so far as to publish five volumes on French literature, Das gelehrte Frankreich, and an edition of the same in French under the title of La France litteraire (1797-1806). He was also engaged during the same period in various editorial labors.
In 1803 he accepted the chair of geography and statistics at the university of Halle. He crowned the labors of his life by establishing in conjunction with Gruber the Allgemeine Ency-klopadie der Wissenschaften und Kunste, of which 17 volumes (the first appearing in Leip-sic in 1818) were edited by Ersch and Gruber. This is the most learned and elaborate German cyclopaedia, and is still unfinished. (See Cyclopaedia.) A third edition of his Handbuch der deutschen Literatur seit der Mitte des 18 ten Jahrhunderts Ms auf die neueste Zeit (2 vols., Amsterdam and Leipsic, 1812-14) was prepared by Geissler, who added to it a cyclopaedia of philology in 1845 and of philosophical literature (Leipsic, 1850).