“LESSING, AS USUAL, ROUNDED ON HIS ADVERSARY, TROUNCING HIM UNMERCIFULLY”: FIRST EDITION OF LESSING’S LETTERS ON ANTIQUARIAN SUBJECTS
LESSING, Gotthold Ephraim. Briefe, Antiquarischen Inhalts [Letters on Antiquarian Subjects], Erster Zheil [First Part]. WITH: Briefe, Antiquarian Inhalts, Zwenter Zheil [Second Part]. Berlin: Friedrich Nicolai, 1768-69. Two volumes bound as one. 16mo, period style full speckled calf gilt, red morocco spine label. $900.
First edition of Lessing’s literary controversy with C.A. Klotz regarding ancient painting, engraved gems and other arts.
Journalist, poet and playwright Lessing, “hoping for appointment as royal librarian in Berlin, published his epoch-making essay on poetry and the plastic arts, Laokoon” in 1766 (Garland, 554). When Professor Christian Klotz of Halle University accused Lessing of errors in that work—namely, a “supposed assertion… that ancient painters found few subjects for their art in Homer” (Sime, 67)—Lessing drafted several polemical epistles in reply, letters collected in the present volume. “Lessing, as usual, rounded on his adversary, trouncing him unmercifully” (Garland, 113). The epistles “sprang from one of the deepest motives of [Lessing’s] career: his desire to foster the intellectual life of his nation by mercilessly sweeping aside whatever tended to hamper its growth” (Sime, 63). In these letters, Lessing also prepared the way for his later work, Wie die Alten den Tod gebildet (1769), in which he would attack “the macabre death symbolism of northern Europe” (Garland, 979). Text in German, set in Gothic type. Bound with Second Part title page; with the engraved plate in Second Part. Graesse IV:179.
Scattered light dampstaining, occasional light foxing. A near-fine copy, beautifully bound. Scarce.