Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut
Preussischer Kulturbesitz

Three gables

Lehmann, Walter (1878-1939)

Walter Lehmann was a German specialist in ancient American studies. He studied medicine and natural sciences. After obtaining his doctorate in 1903, he worked as an assistant at Berlin Royal Museum of Ethnology (today’s Ethnological Museum – Berlin State Museums). From 1907 to 1909 Lehmann travelled from Panama to Mexico for the museum. During this period, he conducted extensive linguistic and archaeological research in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and El Salvador and amassed a large archaeological collection for the museum. Under the supervision of Eduard Seler, he subsequently studied sources from the colonial period in Aztec and Mexican pictographic script. After working at Munich Museum of Ethnology (today’s State Museum for Ethnology in Munich) for a decade, he was appointed director of the newly established Ethnological Research and Teaching Institute at the Museum of Ethnology in Berlin-Dahlem in 1920. Lehmann made further trips to Mexico and Guatemala in 1925 and 1926. From 1929 to 1939 he travelled around South America. Lehmann’s work focused on the indigenous languages of South and Central America and Mexico, in particular the translation and annotation of Aztec texts, and the archaeology, ethnology, folklore and mythology of Central America and Mexico.

In accordance with the wishes of Walter Lehmann’s widow, the IAI shelved his papers and his library separately. His papers and library still have different call numbers today. The library holdings were allocated the call numbers W and X; numerous manuscripts were classified under the call number Y. It is possible to search the online catalog using these three call number groups. Media with these call numbers can only be used in the reading room.

The papers comprise:

  • approx. 30 boxes with index cards (A5)
  • approx. 150 small card file boxes containing vocabulary from indigenous languages, notes or extracts from works
  • approx. 40 cases containing his own manuscripts and notes
  •  approx. 50 folders with other material
  • 476 cases of various materials on different topics and regions (including 21 on Costa Rica),
  • numerous manuscripts on publications and presentations
  • offprints of his publications
  • travel notes
  • lecture transcripts
  • handwritten vocabulary notes (indigenous languages)
  • large-format rubbings
  • copies of pictographic script
  • sketches
  • drawings
  • 1 folder of drawings of the hands and feet of Bakairi Indians, Brazil, year unspecified
  • exhibition materials
  • letters (some classified under the call numbers W and Y)
  • manuscripts by other authors
  • newspaper clippings
  • 1 large picture library
  • hand-drawn maps and similar items
  • maps
  • collection of various materials (special editions, newspaper clippings, illustrations, essays, transcripts and notes on topics such as: archaeology, folklore, ethnography, cosmology, ethnoastronomy and languages – also on Europe, Asia, Africa)
  • 1 collection of pictures of saints (40 cases)
  • 1 folder containing newspaper clippings on Walter Lehmann

Lehmann’s private library comprises:

348 cases containing offprints (call number W)
528 cases containing books and journals (call number X)

Keywords: Latin America, ethnolinguistics, history of photography, travelogues

Walter Lehmann in the Digital Collections IAI

Las lenguas chibchas de Centroámerica en la obra de Walter Lehmann

2017 || Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut Preussischer Kulturbesitz