Herbert Thoma was born in Munich on 31 March 1899, the son of Karl Thoma-Höfele, a painter who was related to the writer Ludwig Thoma. Herbert did his military service in 1917 and then attended Munich University to read German, English, History and Philosophy. In 1920-21 he was assistant to Hermann Paul, but was supervised for his doctorate (submitted in 1922) by Carl von Kraus, the great German medievalist and philologist. His doctoral thesis on Rittertreue was published in 1923.

After leaving university he went to work for the Süddeutsche Monatshefte, which ceased publication in 1936. In 1939 he left Germany for the UK to join his fiancée Susi Bauer, who had fled from Nazi persecution several years previously. Thoma was able to leave Germany on the pretext of travelling to England to research the early German manuscripts in British libraries as a supplement to the work of Robert Priebsch. To give plausibility to his trip, however, he was obliged to leave behind him all his personal and professional papers. Ironically, these were subsequently destroyed in the Allied bombing of Munich.

Once settled in England, Thoma married Susi Bauer and, through her good offices and those of a group of fellow exiles, he was approached by academics, including Professor Frederick Norman of the Department of German at King's College London, and persuaded to become an assistant in this department in 1947. In 1948 he was appointed Lecturer and, in 1950, became a Recognised Teacher in the University of London. In 1959 he was appointed Senior Lecturer. He lectured in medieval German language and literature generally but his special research field was early German glosses, on which he became a leading authority. He retired from King's College in 1967 but remained research-active until his death on 18 September 1975.

The Papers

The material in the Thoma collection dates from 1913 to 1975 and was donated to the Institute of Germanic Studies (now Institute of Languages, Cultures and Societies) during the session 1995-96 by Dr Kurt Ostberg, who had been a colleague of Dr Thoma at King's College London. There are no restrictions on access.

The papers include a variety of formats: manuscripts, letters, photocopies, photographs, microfilm, memorabilia. With the exception of lecture notes and some correspondence from his teacher at Munich, Professor Carl von Kraus, most of the papers date from Dr Thoma's arrival in England in 1939. Included are his lecture notes for the courses on Old and Middle High German at King's College London and the examination papers associated with them; his research notes for unpublished and published research, particularly on early German glosses which was his specialist field; a very few letters from colleagues; photographs and a microfilm of the manuscripts he researched from collections in the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe.

Archival Arrangement

HTH/1 Teaching
1.1 Lectures on Old High and Middle High German language and literature
1.2 Assessment (examinations)
1.3 Supervision of postgraduate studies (W.F. Tullasiewicz's thesis on the Kaiserchronik)

HTH/2 Research
2.1 Unpublished research including the cataloguing project commissioned by the Bavarian State Library on the manuscripts in the monastic library at Ottobeuren, glosses to Hartmann von Aue's Erec and Iwein, and biblical glosses and studies on German word endings.
2.2 Published research including the work on early German manuscripts in London (principally the British Museum) which was the supplement to Robert Priebsch's great work, entries for Merker-Stammler's Reallexikon der deutschen Literaturgeschichte, medieval manuscripts of the Carmina Burana and the Nibelungenlied in the British Museum, early German manuscripts in the Vatican Library and libraries of Munich. Thoma contributed to the Festschrift for Professor Frederick Norman, who retired in 1965, with an article on John of Neumarkt and Heinrich Frauenlob. Some photographs of manuscripts are to be found amongst the papers in this section.

HTH/3 Correspondence
This is very scant but includes letters and postcards from Professors Bernhard Bischoff, Arthur Hatto, Carl von Kraus and Paul Salmon.

HTH/4 Miscellaneous
Personal notes and news clippings on A.E. Housman.

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