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 Charles Joseph Ermatinger (1921-2002)

An expert on medieval manuscripts, Charles Joseph Ermatinger was born in Duluth, Minnesota in 1921 and raised in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on April 26, 1944 and served in France and Germany. In December 1945 he was assigned to the headquarters of the Office of Military Government Württemberg-Baden. There, he worked alongside Monuments Men Lt. Robert A. Koch, Lt. Leslie Poste, Lt. Dale Ford, Cpl. Gordon Chadwick, and Sgt. Harry Ettlinger. He served in this position until February 1946, when he accepted a civilian position in the E&R section of the same headquarters. In April 1946 he served as a German translator at the Conference of German Library Directors in the American Zone, the first meeting of its kind since the end of the war.


At war’s end, Ermatinger returned to his academic studies. He attended Saint Louis University in Missouri, where he completed a Bachelor of Science in philosophy in 1951, a Master’s degree in medieval philosophy in 1955 and a Ph.D. in philosophy in 1963. In 1952 he became assistant reference librarian at the university’s library. He served as an assistant in the department of modern language from 1955 to 1961 and in the department of philosophy from 1961 to 1964. A popular lecturer among his students, he was appointed assistant professor in the department of philosophy in 1964, and eventually rose to associate professor in 1965 and full professor in 1970. He retired from teaching as professor emeritus in 1992, but remained a regular participant in the Saint Louis Conference on Manuscript Studies.


In 1953 Ermatinger began a long and successful career as librarian of the Knights of Columbus Vatican Film Library at Saint Louis University. During his forty-seven-year tenure as librarian, from 1953 to 2000, he curated an extensive collection of Vatican manuscripts on microfilm and established an impressive reference library for the study of manuscripts. Ermatinger was also editor of Manuscripta, the Vatican Film Library’s academic journal devoted to the research of ancient, medieval, Renaissance and early modern manuscripts. In 1961 he was one of twenty-two scholars who presented to the prefect of the Vatican Library “Didascaliae,” an illustrated volume honoring the Vatican Library’s patronage of American research.


Charles Ermatinger died in his beloved St. Louis on January 19, 2002.

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