The case of “a crow dressed in borrowed feathers”: Debate of the church historians on plagiarism in the 19th-century Hungary




plagiarism, historiography, church history, debate, press, Hungary, comparison


This paper presents a heated debate about plagiarism that unfolded between historiographers of the Catholic Church in the press in Hungary in 1841. It was only one special event with few participants, but this case offers an opportunity to study the development of the approach of historical science to plagiarism and the conditions of historiography in East-Central Europe, with special regard to church history, and contrasts these with the conditions in West European countries.

To interpret the plagiarism debate, the “court model” will be applied because the writings of the accused author, the victim, and the witnesses remind us of the participants in a court trial, where for the court to pass the sentence mitigating and aggravating circumstances can be put forward, and there is also countercharging; and the committed act is also considered from the point of view of intellectual property rights, as well as from a moral and scientific standpoint.



National Széchényi Library of Hungary (Budapest). Manuscripts. Institutiones

historiae ecclesiasticae a Nicolao Cherrier. Tirnaviae, 1836–1837. Oct. Lat. 490.


Alzog, Johannes 1843: Universalgeschichte der Christlichen Kirche. Lehrbuch für akademische Vorlesungen. Mainz: Florian Kupferberg.

Cherrier, Nicol.[aus] Joan.[nes] 1836–1837: Enchiridion juris ecclesiastici cum singulari ad alienas confessiones attentione, Tom. I–II. Pestini–Budae: Trattner.

Cherrier, Nicol.[aus] Joan.[nes] 1840–1841: Institutiones historiae ecclesiasticae N.[ovi] F.[oederis], Tom. I–IV. Pestini: Hartleben.

Cherrier, Miklós 1841: Írói rágalmazás, az az czáfolása az […] „Írói orzásnak”. Nagyszombat: Spanraft. [’Authorial Defamation or Refutation of the ’Authorial Theft’]

Cherrier, Miklós 1844: Köz egyháztörténet. Pozsonyban: Belnay. [’Universal Church History’]

Cherrier, Nicolaus J.[oannes] 1853–1854: Epitome Historiae Ecclesiasticae N.F. Tom. I–II. Viennae: Wallishauser.

Cherrier, Miklós 1856: A magyar egyház története. Pest: Heckenast. [‘Church History of Hungary’]

Hergenröther, Joseph 1876: Handbuch der allgemeinen Kirchengeschichte. Bd. I. Freiburg: Herder.

Klein, Antonius 1828: Historia Ecclesiae Christianae, a Nativitate Salvatoris, usque ad obitum Pii VII pontificis maximi. Tom. 1–2. Graz: Christophori Penz. Kurtz, Johann Heinrich 1853: Handbuch der allgemeinen Kirchengeschichte. Bd. I. Mitau: Aug. Neumann’s Verlag.

[N.N. 1841] Dr. Cherrier über den Hermesianismus. Zeitschrift für Philosophie und katholische Theologie 2(3), p. 248. Available online:

[N.N. 1842] Geschichte der Christlichen Kirche […]. Zeitschrift für Philosophie und katholische Theologie 3(2), pp. 395–396. Available online:

Nagy, Zsigmond 1857: Egyházi történelem Dr. Alzog után. Egerben: Érseki Lyceum. [’Church History according to Dr. Alzog’].

Ruttenstock, Jacob 1832–1834: Institutiones historiae ecclesiasticae N.[ovi] T.[estamenti] Tom. I–III. Viennae: Wallishauser.

Szabó, A. János 1841: Irói orzásnak szemtelen tagadása az az czáfolata az írói rágalmazásnak. S.l.: s.n. [Pest: ?.] [‘Shameless Denial of an Authorial Theft or Refutation of the Authorial Defamation’].

Toldy, Ferenc 1840: Az írói tulajdonról. Budapesti Szemle 1(1), pp. 157–237. [‘On the Authorial Property’].

Toldy, Ferenc 1842: Nem lehet hallgatással mellőznünk […] Athenaeum, 3 April 1842, p. 640. [‘It is impossible to ignore with silence…’]

Udvardy, Ignác 1841a: Írói orzás, Athenaeum, 27 July 1841, pp. 188–191. [‘Authorial Theft’].

Udvardy, Ignác 1841b: Véd-irat […] az „Írói orzás” czímű czikkem mellett. S.l.: s.n. [Veszprém: Tóth.] [‘Defense Writing … to my Article entitled ’Authorial Theft’].

Udvardy, Ignác 1842: Válasz Cherrier Miklósnak Udvardy Ignácztól. Pest: Beimel. [’Answer to Miklós Cherrier from Ignác Udvardy’].

Vass, Ladislaus 1828: Institutiones historiae ecclesiasticae novi foederis. Tom. I. Introductio. Pesthini: Trattner.

Vass, László 1842: Néhány szó ezen Iratra: „Írói rágalmazás az az czáfolása […] „Írói orzásnak” [‘A Few Words on a Pamphlet entitled ’Authorial Defamation or Refutation of the … ’Authorial Theft’] Pesth: s.n.


Anderson, Judy 1998: Plagiarism, Copyright Violation, and Other Thefts of Intellectual Property: An Annotated Bibliography with a Lengthy Introduction. Jefferson NC/London: MacFarland & Company. ISBN 978-0786404636.

Bischofslexikon 2020: Die Bischöfe der Donaumonarchie 1804 bis 1918. Ein amtsbiographisches Lexikon. Bd. I. Hrsg. von Rupert Klieber. Berlin: Verlag Duncker & Humblot. ISBN 978-3-428-15648-1.

Bradley, James E.; Muller, Richard A. 1995: Church History. An Introduction to Research, Reference Works and Methods. Grand Rapids MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing House. ISBN 978-0802874054.

Breisach, Ernst 1983: Historiography: Ancient, Medieval, & Modern. Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0226072746.

Ceserani, Giovanna 2005: Narrative, Interpretation, and Plagiarism in Mr. Robertson’s 1778 History of Ancient Greece. Journal of the History of Ideas 3(66), pp. 413–436. DOI: 10.1353/jhi.2005.0043.

Deák, István 1992: Historiography of the Countries of Eastern Europe: Hungary. The American Historical Review 4(97), pp. 1041–63. DOI: 10.1086/ahr/97.4.1041. Available online (01.06.2020):

Dienes, Dénes; Ugrai, János 2013: History of the Reformed College of Sárospatak. Sárospatak: Hernád. ISBN 978-963-89817-4-5.

Eigen, Edward A. 2009: The Plagiarism of the Heathens Detected: John Wood, the Elder (1704–1754) on the Translation of Architecture and Empire. Journal of the History of Ideas 3(70), pp. 375–397. DOI: 10.1353/jhi.0.0047.

Eigen, Edward A. 2018: On Accident. Episodes in Architecture and Landscape. Edited by Chelsea Spencer. Cambridge MA/London: The MIT Press. ISBN 978-0262534840, pp. 124–153.

Fazekas, Csaba 2006: The Lessons from the Past: The Church–State Relations and the Beginnings of Political Catholicism in Hungary from 1790 to 1848. Central European Political Sciences Review 6(19), pp. 99–115.

Gunst, Péter 2000: A magyar történetírás története. Debrecen: Csokonai. ISBN 963-260-152-1. [‘A History of Historiography in Hungary’].

Hoffer, Peter Charles 2004: Reflections on Plagiarism – Part 2: ‘The Object of Trials.’ Perspectives 3(42), pp. 21–25. Available online (01.06.2020):

Howard, Rebecca Moore 1999: The New Abolitionism Comes to Plagiarism. [In:] Perspectives on Plagiarism and Intellectual Property in a Postmodern World. Edited by Lise Buranen and Alice M. Roy. New York: SUNY Press. ISBN 978-0791440803, pp. 87–97.

Introna, Lucas D. 2014: Towards a Post-human Intra-actional Account of Sociomaterial Agency (and Morality). [In:] The Moral Status of Technical Artefacts. Edited by Peter Kroes and Peter-Paul Verbeek. Dordrecht/Heidelberg/New York/London: Springer. DOI: 10.1007/978-94-007-7914-3_3 ISBN 978-94-007-7913-6, pp. 31–54.

Kennedy, Amelia 2019: A Short History of Academic Plagiarism. Available online (01.06.2020):

Kewes, Paulina 2002: Historizing Plagiarism. [In:] Plagiarism in Early Modern England. Edited by Paulina Kewes. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0333998410, pp. 1–18.

Kirsch, Johann Peter 1910: History, Ecclesiastical. [In:] The Catholic Encyclopedia. VII. New York: The Encyclopedia Press, pp. 365–380.

LaFollette, Marcel C. 1992: Stealing into Print: Fraud, Plagiarism, and Misconduct in Scientific Publishing. Berkeley/Los Angeles/London: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0520205130.

Lynch, Jack 2002: The Perfectly Acceptable Practice of Literary Theft: Plagiarism, Copyright, and the Eighteenth Century. Colonial Williamsburg Journal 4(24), pp. 51–54.

Mallon, Thomas 1989: Stolen Words: Forays into the Origins and Ravages of Plagiarism. New York: Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 978-0156011365.

Maruca, Lisa 2003: Plagiarism and its (Disciplinary) Discontents. Towards an Interdisciplinary Theory and Pedagogy. Issues in Integrative Studies 21, pp. 74–97. Available online (01.06.2020):

Mazzeo, Tilar J. 2007: Plagiarism and Literary Property in the Romantic Period. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 978-0812239676.

Mezei, Péter 2019: A Development of Hungarian Copyright Law Until the Creation of the First Copyright Act (1793–1884). [In:] Cambridge Handbook on Intellectual Property in Central and Eastern Europe. Edited by Mira Sundara Rajan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI: 1017/9781316661253.003 ISBN 978-1107156364, pp. 37–50.

Randall, Marilyn 2001.: Pragmatic Plagiarism: Authorship, Profit, and Power. Toronto/Buffalo/London: University of Toronto Press. DOI: 10.3138/9781442678736. ISBN 978-1-4426-7873-6.

Richardson, Lisa 2002: Plagiarism and Imitation in Renaissance Historiography. [In:] Plagiarism in Early Modern England. Edited by Paulina Kewes. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0333998410, pp. 106–118.

Šoltés, Peter 2015: Confessionally Mixed Marriages. Legal Norms and Social Practice in the Kingdom of Hungary up to 1848. Historický časopis 5(63), pp. 813–45. Available online (01.06.2020):

Stearns, Laurie 1999: Copy Wrong: Plagiarism, Process, Property, and the Law. [In:] Perspectives on Plagiarism and Intellectual Property in a Postmodern World. Edited by Lise Buranen and Alice M. Roy. New York: SUNY Press. ISBN 978-0791440803, pp. 5–20.

Steinhauf, Bernhard 1999: Die Wahrheit der Geschichte: zum Status katholischer Kirchengeschichtsschreibung am Vorabend des Modernismus. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. (Bamberger Theologische Studien, 8.) ISBN 978-3631338964.

Tóth, Orsolya 2000: A Conversations-Lexikon-i pör és az írásos hagyomány. [In:] A magyar irodalmi kánon a XIX. században. Edited by József Takáts. Budapest: Argumentum. ISBN 963-9136-56-5. [‘The Conversations Lexicon Trial and the Written Tradition’], pp. 89–100.

Wiener, Jon 2005: Historians in Trouble: Plagiarism, Fraud, and Politics in the Ivory Tower. New York/London: The New Press. ISBN 978-1565848849.




How to Cite

Fazekas, C. . (2021). The case of “a crow dressed in borrowed feathers”: Debate of the church historians on plagiarism in the 19th-century Hungary. Studia Historiae Scientiarum, 20, 789–820.