18th Century German Literature and its Authors. An Introduction
The beginning and end of the 18th century saw two crucial turning points in German literary life. Around 1700 courtly late Baroque reached its high-point, coinciding with the Early Enlightenment, which was heavily influenced by France and in particular England, and which questioned for the first time the rationality of divine order. By around 1800 the Enlightenment as understood by Immanuel Kant - "use your own mind" - had touched upon all areas of society. At the same time however, classical authors and romantics began to shift attention away from the utilitarian thinking of the Enlightenment philosophers, whom they despised as rationalists, and onto the autonomy of art.
Although one cannot simply equate the 18th century with the era of Enlightenment in Germany, the period did see a smooth transition from the Early Enlightenment that originated in the universities of Halle and Leipzig, to the Late Enlightenment, whose most famous protagonists were Friedrich Nicolai and his friends in Berlin. The various tendencies, events and groups within literary life were essentially all tied up with the Enlightenment, and later on with the emancipation of the bourgeoisie: the Hamburg "Patriots" around 1720, Johann Christoph Gottsched and his Leipzig school, the Halle Anacreontics, the Copenhagen circle of Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock, latter on the Hainbund in Göttingen, the genius era of the Sturm und Drang, the cult of sensitivity, and finally the impact of the French revolution on German literature, which has wrongly been termed the Jacobin revolution.
During the course of the 18th century German literary language slowly took shape, poetic theory and aesthetics fell under the influence of Enlightenment philosophy, and ancient poetic styles and genres were adopted and adapted, with didactic poems and fables being the most popular forms at Enlightenment's peak. The bourgeois tragedy overcame the rigid conventions of the heroic tragedies and academic dramas of previous centuries, and the theatre increasingly came to regard itself as a moral institution and in some places enjoyed considerable esteem as a national theatre. Fiction increased in popularity as the century progressed, and sophisticated narrative works began to be published alongside widely-distributed light fiction, including chivalrous epics, ghost stories, love stories, and stories about robbers.
The book market underwent comprehensive reform in the second half of the 18th century with the abolition of the mediaeval barter system and the introduction of a net payment system. The Leipzig Book Fair became the centre of the book trade, with Leipzig book dealers playing a very active role in the Enlightenment. Following the Seven-Years' War, book production increased dramatically in Germany. Whereas around 1700 only approx. 1000 new books were published each year, primarily in Latin, by the end of the 18th century this figure had increased to 6000, almost all in German. Latin no longer played an important role in public life. At the beginning of the century the market had been dominated by theological literature. By the end of the century, however, belles-lettres had taken over, and the book trade came to be characterised by novels and stories, poetry compilations, plays, fables and anecdotes, alongside Enlightenment literature, magazines and almanacs.
The Enlightenment in Germany was primarily enlightenment through books. People in towns and cities as well in the countryside demanded books, and not just the ruling cast of society, but also women, officers, merchants, and students. This growing demand meant that production too had to increase accordingly, and the result was a reader revolution during the last decades of the century that gradually spread through more and more layers of society, resulting in the creation of an established market for belles-lettres. Readers wanted to be entertained, but reading was also used as a way of acquiring knowledge and facts. The fact that the "reading craze" was discussed in magazines shows the change that was taking place and how a multi-layered reading culture was gradually establishing itself. Other elements of the culture included the establishment of reading rooms and reading societies whose members of could get hold of the literature they desired. Soon the first commercial lending libraries were established, remaining in existence until far into the 20th century.
Apart from the book dealers and publishers, printers and binders, also participating in the book and reading culture at the time of the Enlightenment were, of course, the writers themselves, in the case of belles-lettres, poets and authors. They mostly belonged to the bourgeoisie, with aristocratic authors being fewer in number. The majority wrote and published in their spare time, i.e. outside working hours. They were primarily academically-trained civil servants and lawyers, as well as ministers, and the middle of the 18th century saw the appearance of the first "free" authors, i.e. authors who attempted to live from their literary earnings. Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock, often quoted as an example of such an author, is in fact not a good example. Although he pursued no normal profession, he lived from the money handed to him by thesovereigns. Adolph Freiherr Knigge on the other hand succeeded in supporting his family during the last two decades of the century with his writing, until finally securing a regular income as a county administrator in Bremen.
The 18th century produced around 18 well-known German poets and writers who can be considered part of the Enlightenment, and their works and writings are known, read, quoted and researched to this day. They therefore undisputedly form part of the history of German literature. Their number is small, and before introducing the virtual library of 18th century German literature, it makes sense to list their names here, as they are the principal authors in the broad canon to which reference will be made later: Johann Christoph Gottsched and Christian Fürchtegott Gellert in Leipzig - two leading authors of their time, Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing and his friends Moses Mendelssohn and Friedreich Nicolai, Justus Möser from Osnabrück, Christoph Martin Wieland, Johann Joachim Winckelmann - the rediscoverer of ancient art, Johann Georg Hamann and Johann Gottfried Herder, in Göttingen Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, in Zurich Johann Kaspar Lavater, and finally the philosophers of the Late Enlightenment Jacob Wilhelm Heinse, Karl Philipp Moritz, Georg Forster, Adolph Freiherr Knigge, Ulrich Bräker and Johann Gottfried Seume.
Another group of poets and authors of similar size also played a decisive role in the development of German literature in the 18th century. They, however, are nowadays of more interest to German language researchers than to contemporary book publishers. Their names include: Barthold Heinrich Brockes and Friedrich von Hagedorn from Hamburg, Albrecht von Haller from Switzerland, Johann Jakob Bodmer and Johann Jakob Breitinger, the Anacreontics Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim, Johann Nikolaus Götz and Johann Peter Uz, Hainbund members Gottfried August Bürger and Johann Heinrich Voss, the Stolberg brothers, Ludwig Hölty, the Sturm und Drang poets Friedrich Maximilian Klinger, Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz and others. Each one of these authors produced books and poetry, some of which have withstood the test of time, thereby underlining the importance of German literature in the century of the Enlightenment.
Generally literary historical research is limited to more or less this canon of 18th century writers. Another dozen well-known names can be added to them, e.g. Christian Ludwig Liscow, Ewald von Kleist, Gottlieb Wilhelm Rabener, Salomon Gessner, Heinrich Wilhelm Gerstenberg, Karl Wilhelm Ramler, Gottlieb Conrad Pfeffel, Peter Helfrich Sturz, Gottlieb Theodor von Hippel, and Karl Friedrich Bahrdt. Incidentally, the number of 18th-century female writers is very small: apart from the Karschin (Anna Louisa Karsch), Sophie Schwarz, and Friederike Lohmann, the others are all but forgotten.
The 18th century produced a far greater number of distinguished poets and authors than the mere 50 mentioned here. The online-edition 18th Century German Literature Online lists 642 authors as the creators of 2,675 books in 4,494 volumes, and makes use of the bibliographical entries in Karl Goedeke's "Grundriss zur Geschichte der deutschen Dichtung" and Leopold Hirschberg's "Taschengoedeke", both of which have been critically edited and supplemented for the purposes of this edition. In addition to the well-known poets and authors, a large number of poetae minores have also been included, most of which are only of regional or even local importance. The inclusion of so many unknown or insignificant names needs no explanation in view of the use of the two authorities, Karl Goedeke and Leopold Hirschberg. Worthy of elaboration are, however, the possibilities opened up to users by the online edition. To put it succinctly, they are unique. Users can naturally use the database to find works or texts by a particular author, the advantage compared to looking up the information in a bibliography being that users can not only find the title of a book quickly and see the table of contents, they can also view the full body of the text on-screen.
The second search method is to carry out a genre search. Each of the digitalized works has been assigned a genre term which is listed in a genre index and which can be used to search for a work. This search possibility allows previously unknown texts by the poetae minores in particular to be discovered.
Finally, there is a third search possibility: The online edition contains approx. 1.1 million book pages from the 18th century. As every text, including those in Gothic type, has been electronically scanned and read, each word that is entered can be found in the approx. 4,500 volumes with just a click of the mouse. What this will mean for literary scientific research remains to be seen. At any rate, it will render the contents of the included works accessible in a highly unusual manner.
This online edition, I am sure, will open up new angles to researchers of 18th century German literature. Our thanks therefore go to all those involved in this venture at K. G. Saur Verlag.
Foreword to the Database
The online edition 18th Century German Literature Online provides access to the full texts of many first editions and historical complete editions of 642 German-language authors. Uniquely the 2,675 works in 4,494 volumes constitute a representative cross-section of the texts emerging during the whole German-language literary Enlightenment. Considerably more than a million book pages have been digitized for this edition.
The 18th century is without doubt one of the most interesting epochs of German intellectual history. With an unbelievable variety of literary and non-literary phenomena, it exerts a subliminal but decidedly powerful influence right up to the present day. It is mainly for this reason that many works from this century evade all academic chronological categorization; hence the subtitle From the Early to Late Enlightenment is to be understood as an orientation guide rather than the designation of an exact literary historical epoch. Furthermore, it was not the objective of the editor and the publishers to include the most significant authors of literary Classic and Early Romantic literature in this online edition.
The main body of the canon of authors and works, upon which 18th Century German Literature Online is based, derives from the microfiche edition Bibliothek der Deutschen Literatur. Together with the editor Paul Raabe, this canon has been critically revised and enlarged with the addition of numerous authors and works. 18th Century German Literature Online is thus not simply a digitized version of the existing microfiche edition, but rather its supplement and extension on a broader bibliographical foundation. Hence, besides editions by some 560 authors from the Bibliothek der Deutschen Literatur, the works of about 80 authors, such as Adam Bernd, Johann Anastasius Freylinghausen, Friederike Lohmann, Magdalena Sibylle Rieger and Gerhard Tersteegen, have been included for the first time. In addition, the ever-improving search possibilities offered by online catalogues facilitated the completion of several previously incomplete works such as Johann Martin Millers Predigten für das Landvolk, or Marcus Herzs Briefe an Aerzte.
In the year 1988, the Kulturstiftung der Länder (Cultural Foundation of the Federal States) created the Bibliothek der Deutschen Literatur on the bibliographical basis of the so-called Taschengoedeke. At the time its main task was to preserve the relevant holdings of German literary heritage and make them universally accessible. Now, the database 18th Century German Literature Online primarily takes the rapidly changing living and working conditions in the information society into account, and provides the individual with direct access to the full texts through their digitization, whilst conceptually accounting for changing research interests. This is the main reason why, besides the works of early representatives of the literary Enlightenment, numerous minor poets have also been included, upon whose works research in the humanities is focusing again today, even though they are mostly attributed only regional or even local significance.
Although the Taschengoedeke has long since ceased to be an unequivocal bibliographical authority, containing unsolvable gaps and a wealth of obvious mistakes and contradictions, this bibliography still remains one of the most important and most familiar aids forscholars of German Studies, book traders, antiquarian book sellers and bibliophiles. Hence, it was a pragmatic and carefully considered decision taken at the end of the 80s by the literary committee of the Kulturstiftung der Länder and its chairman, Jan Philipp Reemtsma, to use the Taschengoedeke, published in the year 1924, as an index of works for the Bibliothek der Deutschen Literatur. Compiled by the physician and cultural historian Leopold Hirschberg, the Taschengoedeke adhered to a decidedly broad concept of literature. Besides poetical works, texts from practically all disciplines have been included here. German literature from about 1650 onwards, , philosophy from Plato to Nietzsche, , musical studies from Bach to Robert Franz, countless material from related disciplines (cultural history, European ethnology, theology etc.) all this can be found in the Taschengoedeke in a clear and immediately intelligible classification , thus Hirschberg described the tenor of his bibliographical compendium. Its special uniqueness however, is not based solely on the variety of the contents as described above, but also precisely because it is not purely a bibliography of first editions. This may be regarded as a thoroughly enriching aspect, since the much later, and in some cases revised, editions or texts included here are of interest for the history of the editions.
Of course, time and again the bibliographical work using the Taschengoedeke presented the editors, who had now been working on the Bibliothek der Deutschen Literatur for more than 15 years, with unusual surprises. Besides the often discussed and noted problems with citations, which Leopold Hirschberg freely admits, it is above all establishing the authors of some works that can prove to be extremely problematic. For example, the anonymous collection, Zeugnisse treuer Liebe nach dem Tode Tugendhafter Frauen in gebundener deutscher Rede abgestattet von ihren Ehemännern edited by Anton Paul Ludwig Carstens in the year 1743, was attributed without comment to Paul Gottlieb Werlhof. Attributing the writing of two particular works to Eulogius Schneider is no less peculiar. Published in the year 1792, the biography Eulogius Schneiders Leben und Schiksale im Vaterlande was actually written by Andreas Sebastian Stumpf, and Christoph Friedrich Cotta is the real author of the work Eulogius Schneiders [sic!] Schicksale in Frankreich, published in 1797. These and many other cases often necessitated very laborious bibliographical research to establish the genuine author or editor and integrate them into the list of works.
In the online database all works are presented as digital facsimiles. It is a matter of utmost editorial concern, that the user can both search and absorb the full texts. For this purpose a special software was developed and an excellent Gothic type character recognition was used, often delivering astonishing results. Nevertheless, it must be noted that in some individual cases the critical state of the original material made faultless character recognition impossible.
Systematic access is provided to all texts. Where lists of contents existed in the original works themselves, they have been reproduced. However, this was not the case for most of the works, necessitating the creation of contents lists and lists of chapters by the editors, in order to make the body of text structurally accessible to the user. For this purpose thousands of volumes were leafed through virtually in the few months available, in order to mark and systematically record the beginnings of poems and chapters, the titles of treatises, scripts, and essays, as well as the beginnings of the acts of all plays. Only thus was it possible to offer the user accurate search possibilities, allowing quick orientation even within individual works.
The digital full text displays now allow thorough editorial autopsies. Gaps and missing pages are noted and independent text contributions hidden in the appendixes can also be ascertained and verified. In addition, wherever possible, references to hidden bibliographies or notes on literary contexts such as Werther-Literatur or Fragmentestreit (Anti-Goeze) are included.
Use of the database is enhanced significantly through the attempt to specify genre terms for each work and/or an edition form (journal, almanac, paperback etc.). The volumes included are thus accessible through a classification of genres. However, as the academic controversies show, the terms are not consistent. In the process of editing, it quickly became apparent that here too the exceptionally broad concept of literature applied by Hirschberg played a strongly influential role. Anyone familiar with the sheer overflowing production and reception of literature in the second half of the 18th century knows of the difficulties confronting a scholar of literary studies concerned with classification and categorization. Thus texts, which according to current terminology could well be classified as psychological or sociological, cannot be classed as such in the light of the historical contents. In the numerous editions of poetry too, individual genres could often not all be specified. To say nothing of the numerous texts for finer entertainment as distributed in weekly periodicals or almanacs. The only way to describe these was sometimes the obviously contestable term popular philosophical reflection. The frequency with which we resorted to the term, emphasizes that our approach in this vast field could often only be of a descriptive nature.
Finally, a short biographical article is available for each author, either from a relevant encyclopedia of literature or written specifically for the database. Variations of names and pseudonyms of significance for bibliographical research are stated as a rule.
I should like to take this opportunity to express my warmest thanks for the cooperation of the libraries, almost all of which assisted the Bibliothek der Deutschen Literatur, in some cases since 1989, through providing generous lending conditions. And once again the editorial work on 18th Century German Literature Online also demanded a great deal of cooperation, uncomplicated support and a certain amount of generosity. Considering the ever more difficult daily routines with which our libraries have to cope, this is certainly not to be taken for granted and undoubtedly deserves special mention. Each lending library is stated in the bibliographical description.
With 18th Century German Literature Online a valuable research database has been created, offering unique possibilities for research and reception not only to those studying literature and languages, but also other humanities disciplines, and of course for all students and everyone interested in literature. Thus, one of the most extensive digital libraries to date is now available, which, although it does not offer the utopian whole of the 18th centurys literary heritage, still manages nothing less than an considerably large whole in a special form (Hans Wollschläger in a speech introducing the Bibliothek der Deutschen Literatur).
Leipzig, August 2007 Axel Frey