11 December 2019
[GOETHE, Johann Wolfgang von (1749-1832)]. Die Leiden des jungen Werthers. Leipzig: Weygand, 1774.
First edition, first issue of a major landmark of European literature. Composed rapidly over three months in early 1774, Werther is the story of a deeply sensitive young man whose inability to reconcile his extreme passion with the demands of the real world lead ultimately to his suicide. ‘By its intense sensibility and astonishing life-likeness Werther conquered the reading public, not only of Germany, but of Europe. Probably the best known work of the Sturm und Drang, it made Goethe famous overnight and generated a wave of imitation’ (Garland, p.518). Ahead of a jubilee republication fifty years later, he recommended the use of the first edition as a template, prizing its uncompromising fierceness, which was, in his own words, somewhat ‘tempered’ in the subsequent, revised editions. Outer formes of sheets A and G in the first state, with the misprints on pages 16 and 101, and with the errata on the final page. Henry and Mary Garland. The Oxford Companion to German Literature. Oxford: 1976; Hagen 80.
Octavo (158 x 94mm). Engraved vignette by Adam Friedrich Oeser on the first title, woodcut vignette on the second title (tiny stain in upper margin of m2). Contemporary mottled calf, gilt spine with red morocco lettering-piece, patterned endpapers (lightly rubbed, trivial splits at joints).
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