Werther travels abroad

Posted on 18th February 2020 by simonbeattie

Of the Werther-related items in Anglo-German Cultural Relations, item 37 stands out as particularly striking and visual: a group of three etchings with stipple by Bartolozzi after Bunbury and Ramberg, each illustrating a scene from the novel.

Goethe’s influential novel first appeared in English, via a French translation, in 1779, and soon grabbed the attention of the British public.  It is fitting that two of the prints here are after work by Johann Heinrich Ramberg (1763–1840), a young German artist who had come to England in 1781, where he was immediately ‘introduced to George III, for whom he made many humorous sketches and caricatures.  He is said to have been a pupil of Sir Joshua Reynolds and Francesco Bartolozzi, and in November 1781 he entered the Royal Academy Schools, where he studied with Benjamin West under the special protection of George III’ (Oxford DNB).

A copy of the second edition of the first, and most popular, English translation of Werther: with ownership signature of the Gothic novelist Henrietta Masterman. We will be featuring this copy in the forthcoming New York book fair, 5-8 March.

With the publication of Götz von Berlichingen (1773) and Die Leiden des jungen Werthers (1774), ‘in one brief year Goethe made the transition from promising young poet, to standard-bearer of a new literary movement, to rising international literary star’ (Bareikis, The Transition to Modern Germany, 1975 Lilly Library exhibition catalogue, item 92). Werther’s monumental influence can certainly be seen in the present prints, which represent just a small portion of his international reach.

Charlotte. The Shade of my Mother hovers round me …  Sorrows of Werter.  To the Honble Mrs Grenville.  This Print after an Original Drawing by H. Bunbury Esqr is with the greatest respect Dedicated by Her most obedient servant W. Dickinson.  London, Published August 21st 1783 by W. Dickinson Engraver & Printseller No. 158 New Bond Street. 
Sorrows of Werter.  To day I was sitting by Charlotte; she was playing on her harpsichord with an expression it is impossible for me to discribe [sic] to you …  London Pubd April, 21, 1785 by Ias Birchall No. 473 Strand. 

We will be bringing these prints, along with a host of other fantastic Anglo-German material, to the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair in just over a fortnight. If you plan on attending, do stop by stand C33 (just across from the bar) and say hello. In the meantime, stay tuned for the PDF versions of both our fair list and Anglo-German Cultural Relations.

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