This week we received the printed copies of a catalogue that has been in the works for some time, and have finally mailed them out. Published to mark my tenth anniversary as an independent bookseller, it has been years in the making. Many people know me for selling Russian material, but in fact my interest in Germany has always been stronger. German has always been my favoured foreign language and I have enjoyed finding, researching, and writing about the books, manuscripts, music, and ephemera which make up the catalogue. It’s only when you specialize, and collect, in any depth that things start to get interesting, and that has certainly been the case here. You see connections, reactions, and developments; pieces of a historical jigsaw fall into place.
The material charts the cultural connections between the English- and German-speaking worlds in, roughly, the two hundred years between the Hanoverian Succession and the First World War. Through travel and translation, one culture discovers another; discovery then leads to influence. A German immigrant teaches music in London, the same year (1737) an Englishman in Göttingen compiles the first anthology of English literature for Germans. Later, in the 1760s, the first English translations of German literature are mirrored by the appearance of Wieland’s influential edition of Shakespeare.
The catalogue documents two major eighteenth-century European literary events: Ossian and Werther, both linked by and to the young Goethe, whose own Faust so captured the English imagination in the nineteenth century. (The web of influence within literature itself is likewise tantalising: Werther reads Ossian, Frankenstein’s monster reads Werther.) The rise of the Gothic is also documented: Bürger’s Lenore in five English translations (1796–7), one of them Walter Scott’s first book, but the influence, surprisingly perhaps, was felt even earlier (and the other way round), in Sophia Lee’s The Recess, translated by Benedikte Naubert in 1786. The English Romantics took inspiration from visiting Germany and reading its literature: the catalogue features books formerly belonging to Coleridge, and Southey. Other presentation or association copies include Isaac Watts, Thomas Carlyle, Queen Victoria, and Henry Irving. In music, there were constant connections, from Pearsall and Sterndale Bennett, through Mendelssohn, Wagner and, later, Bach (a fascinating survival).
Travel, after the Napoleonic Wars, became tourism, as Victorians discovered the delights of the Rhine, in particular. Later, strained political relations are reflected in each country’s literature, as things darken towards the end of the nineteenth century and the approach of war.
The catalogue features some very rare, and in some cases unrecorded material, both printed and manuscript, whether text, music, or graphic art. It is arranged chronologically, but there is also an index of authors and subjects at the end. Both printed and PDF copies will be made available; stay tuned.