Nepomuk Cosmas Michael Denis
MALI, 2014, mini-sheet and souvenir sheet, Denis is here honored as a lepidopterist
Michael Denis (1729-1800), an Austrian bibliographer and poet, was born at Schärding, Upper Austria, and was educated at Passau by the Jesuits, whom he joined in Vienna in 1747. For some years he taught Latin and rhetoric, first at Graz, then at Klagenfurt. After four more years devoted to the study of theology at Graz he was ordained priest in 1757, and began preaching in Pressburg. In 1759 he was made professor of belles-lettres at the famous Theresianum in Vienna where he remained until 1773, when the Society of Jesus was suppressed. After the Suppression he was entrusted with the supervision of the Garelli Library, connected with the Theresianum. When that institution was closed by order of Joseph II, in 1784, Denis was appointed custodian of the Imperial Library. He deserves much credit for having elevated the standard of bibliography as a science, but his chief merit is that he awakened and spread the literary taste in Austria, making that country participate in the revival of letters which was then agitating Germany. He translated Ossian into German, and was a great admirer of Klopstock, in imitation of whose bard poetry he composed lyrics under the name of "Sined, the Bard" (an anagram of his name). In addition, working with Ignaz Schiffermüller he formed an early collection of butterflies and moths, which was kept at the Hofburg Palace but lost in the revolution of 1848, and published the first catalog of the Lepidoptera found around Vienna.