11 December 2019
[GOETHE, Johann Wolfgang von (1749-1832)]. Von Deutscher Baukunst. [Frankfurt:] 1773 [but 1772].
Rare first appearance of Goethe’s landmark essay in praise of German architecture. This copy with a non-autograph presentation inscription gifting the book from the author to Dr Emmerich von Strassburg, with whom Goethe met on 7 July 1808. Conceived after a visit to Strasbourg in 1770, Von Deutscher Baukunst is a paean to the city’s medieval cathedral, to its presumed architect Erwin Von Steinbach (d.1318), and to what Goethe believed was its distinctly German aesthetic. It is one of the most characteristic statements of the Sturm und Drang movement, ‘advocating freedom of art over restrictive rules, the artist as genius, and the artwork as a live organism, always in process’ (Allert, p.197) and was reprinted by Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803) in his pioneering collection Von deutscher Art und Kunst (1773), the manifesto of Sturm und Drang. Goethe’s awe at the beauty and power of the cathedral played a large part in the revival of the Gothic style in Germany: ‘for the first time since the Middle Ages someone has stood before a great Gothic building and has seen it for what it is – one of the supreme achievements of the human spirit’ (Robson-Scott, p.43). Excepting reviews in periodicals, this essay was the first of Goethe’s prose works to appear in print. Extremely rare: this work is the only item missing from Meyer’s famous Goethe collection; ABPC/RBH record no copies at auction. Beate Allert. ‘Goethe and the visual arts’. In: Lesley Sharpe (ed.). The Cambridge Companion to Goethe. Cambridge: CUP, 2002; W.D & E. Robson-Scott. The Younger Goethe and the Visual Arts. Cambridge: CUP, 1981; Hagen 36.
Octavo (150 x 92mm). (Closely cropped at lower margin just into some letters). Early 19th-century cloth-backed boards (upper hinge splitting). Provenance: author identified on title in ink in early hand – ‘Geschenk des Verfassers an Emmerich von Strassburg’ (inscription on title) – ‘Fr. Riff’ (inscription dated 1858).
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