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the Complete Review
the complete review - non-fiction

Schopenhauers Kampf um sein Werk

Alfred Estermann

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To purchase Schopenhauers Kampf um sein Werk

Title: Schopenhauers Kampf um sein Werk
Author: Alfred Estermann
Genre: Non-fiction
Written: 2005
Length: 221 pages
Original in: German
Availability: Schopenhauers Kampf um sein Werk - Deutschland
  • Der Philosoph und seine Verleger
  • Schopenhauers Kampf um sein Werk has not been translated into English
  • An earlier version of this text was published in Archiv für Geschichte des Buchwesens 47 (1997)

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Our Assessment:

B+ : fascinating account, well presented

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 14/3/2005 Helmut Mayer
NZZ . 11/5/2005 Hans-Albrecht Koch
Die Welt . 30/7/2005 Jochen Schimmang

  From the Reviews:
  • "Alfred Estermann, langjähriger Leiter des Frankfurter Schopenhauer-Archivs, hat auf Grundlage einer um einige Funde arrondierten und durchgesehenen Sammlung der Briefe einen Parcours durch die von 1818 bis zum Tod Schopenhauers 1860 sich ziehende Korrespondenz vorgelegt. Er bewältigt ihn kenntnisreich und elegant, indem er Zitate aus den Briefen und aus den Briefkonzepten mit Erläuterungen zu einer Geschichte von Schopenhauers Kampf um sein Werk verknüpft." - Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Helmut Mayer

  • "Es gibt nicht viele Bücher zu Schopenhauer, die so informativ und vergnüglich zugleich zu lesen sind wie diese Monographie, die aus zahlreichen unveröffentlichten Quellen schöpft und an deren frischer Sprache auch der stilbewusste Schopenhauer sein Vergnügen gehabt hätte." - Hans-Albrecht Koch, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Alfred Estermann's study examines the relationship between Arthur Schopenhauer and his publishers, focussing in particular on the three editions of Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung (The World as Will and Representation), published by Brockhaus in 1818/9, 1844, and 1859. Based closely on (and quoting extensively from) the correspondence between author and publisher, it is a fascinating account of an author-publisher relationship, and offers an entertaining picture of Schopenhauer as well as considerable insight into the publishing business of the time (which proves not to be so different from the publishing business at any time, including now). As happens so often, the author's grand expectations (and demands) and reality were pretty far apart; remarkably Schopenhauer's publishers were indulgent and patient enough to stick with it (and him) as acceptance and recognition of this now-classic work slowly came.
       Like many authors, Schopenhauer was certain of the brilliance and significance of his work when he first offered it to Brockhaus -- though he hadn't even finished the manuscript. He was in a rush to get The World as Will and Representation published, and having something (though not yet much) of a reputation and willing to accept what was apparently fairly low compensation, Brockhaus signed on. Interestingly, the edition was limited to 800 copies; Brockhaus was not allowed to publish any more -- an apparently common sort of restriction that presumably would then allow Schopenhauer to cash in on a second edition.
       As it turned out, 800 copies was way too many, as were the 750 actually printed: in the first year less than a hundred copies were sold, and some 500 were apparently remaindered within a few years (the paper re-used, in this case -- not sold at discount outlets ...). The book was a flop, with far too many copies printed. In 1830 a batch of 97 copies was remaindered, leaving 50 copies on hand in case anyone wanted them -- and it took quite a while to unload those.
       Eager-beaver Schopenhauer, ever optimistic, continued to offer projects to Brockhaus (and others) -- including translations. In 1825 he wanted to do Tristram Shandy (available in German, but -- though he'd never looked at the 1774 translation -- he was sure a new one was called for), or a Giordano Bruno title that he proposed to present in an Italian and Latin version. In 1829 he just sent over his translation of Gracían's The Oracle and generously said they could print a thousand copies (Brockhaus declined).
       Eventually Schopenhauer focussed on his own work again -- certain that if he could only get a couple of hundred readers he'd soon enough -- because of their enthusiasm and the resulting word of mouth, no doubt -- have ten thousand. With The World as Will and Representation truly out of print by the early 1840s -- no more copies available -- the time finally did seem ripe for a second, revised edition. This time Schopenhauer proposed to publish two volumes -- with most of the new material in the second volume. It seemed obvious to him, then, that there needed to be 250 more copies of the second volume than the first -- since everybody who had bought the first edition (only about 250 people) surely couldn't pass up these new additions. Amazingly, Brockhaus agreed, publishing 500 volumes of the first volume of the second edition, and 750 of the second volume.
       By the late 1850s Schopenhauer was actually known well enough that Brockhaus approached him before the second edition was even sold out to get ready for a third edition -- he wasn't exactly a fast-seller, but he wasn't the business-disaster of the first edition any longer. (Still: they didn't print as many copies as he wanted and expected them to.)
       Much of the fun in this account is in Schopenhauer's demands and claims. He was punctilious -- getting in arguments about the number of lines per page (which did, admittedly, affect how much he got paid, since that was essentially on a per-page basis) -- and about the typographical errors. One feels great sympathy with the typesetters: Schopenhauer claims to present them with easy-to-read manuscript pages and notes (corrections, etc.) -- all handwritten, of course, in the pre-typewriter age -- but a few reproductions of the manuscript pages show it was remarkable that the typesetters could decode anything on them. (Schopenhauer couldn't even be bothered to submit a clean, final copy -- he just sent over the manuscript pages as he wrote them, often crossing out and re-writing large sections.) He picked on many (most ?) details, down to the claim of how many additional pages a new edition included. And, of course, he complained about the review coverage (or lack thereof) .....
       Schopenhauer's humility and joking complaints also have a very familiar ring, as when he says he won't ask for the kind of money popular authors are getting for their schlock:

Ich bin bescheiden, weil ich nicht das Glück habe, ein schlechter Schriftsteller zu seyn.

(I'm humble [with my demands], because I'm not lucky enough to be a bad writer.)
       The oblivious but cocksure author comes alive wonderfully in these pages, his wild ideas and demands (and his passion) contrasting nicely with the dry restraint from several generations of Brockhaus-ers. The more publishing changes, the more it stays the same .....
       Estermann relies heavily on the actual correspondence, but fashions a very entertaining and readable account out of it. Among the few significant failures of the book is that he doesn't make clear what the currencies of the day were worth, leaving the money-questions -- from Schopenhauer's advances to the sales-prices -- incomprehensible to the uninformed reader (with matters not helped by the fact that a variety of currencies crop up). Otherwise, however, this is a very enjoyable read, and certainly recommended for all Schopenhauer fans, as well as those with any interest in author-publisher relationships.

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Schopenhauers Kampf um sein Werk: Reviews: Arthur Schopenhauer: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Alfred Estermann was born in 1938. He teaches at the University of Mainz.

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© 2005-2022 the complete review

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