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A rediscovered manuscript: J. J. Winckelmanns “Anmerkungen über die Baukunst der Alten” (1762)

“and now I like this little work almost more than anything else I’ve done” – – the rediscovered manuscript for the second, never published edition of J. J. Winckelmanns “Anmerkungen über die Baukunst der Alten” (1762)

by Martin Dönike

Anton Raphael Mengs: Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717–1768)
Ill. 1: Anton Raphael Mengs: Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717–1768), ca. 1777, oil on canvas, 63.5 x 49.2 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1948, Inv. 48.141 (public domain)

As the author of the Geschichte der Kunst des Alterthums (History of the Art of Antiquity) published in 1764, Johann Joachim Winckelmann is regarded as one of the founders of scientific archaeology and art history in the 18th century. Due to the prominence of this extremely influential work, other of his writings have faded into the background. These include, not least, his Anmerkungen über die Baukunst der Alten (Remarks on the Architecture of the Ancients, Leipzig 1762).The Anmerkungen, which he wrote in parallel to his Geschichte der Kunst, are Winckelmann’s only major work on ancient architecture, which he himself held in high esteem: “It seems to me that I have done nothing that is so neat and at the same time so useful”, he informed the baron and collector of gems Philipp von Stosch on 30 August 1760 (WB II, no. 372, p. 97).

Parallel to the publication of the Anmerkungen, Winckelmann had already collected material for a second and enlarged edition, which he repeatedly refers to in his letters. In 1808 Carl Ludwig Fernow was able to edit some handwritten revisions of the text, which were found in an interleaved copy of the Anmerkungen that he had access to. According to Fernow, this copy, which was destroyed in 1943, had not been revised throughout, but the corrections and additions broke off on page 19. The complete “ready for printing” and therefore certainly more extensive manuscript for the second edition of the Anmerkungen, however, has been considered lost to thisday.

Dr Martin Dönike, research associate at the IZEA (MLU Halle-Wittenberg) research project on Winckelmann’s excerpts (https://exzerpte.uzi.uni-halle.de/), has now succeeded in discovering this manuscript in the Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon (Bibliothèque de la Part-Dieu, shelfmark 400085). It is once again an interleaved copy of the Anmerkungen published in Leipzig in 1762, in which Winckelmann successively entered his corrections, deletions and additions – unlike in the copy accessible to Fernow, however, they now run from beginning to end of the book, which comprises a total of 68 printed pages. In particular, the additions made in very small print on the blank interleafs mean that the volume of the text has indeed “greatly increased” compared to the first edition, as Winckelmann noted in his letters. Furthermore, handwritten entries on the flyleaf, in which Winckelmann documents the progress of his work, indicate that he began his revision in October 1762 at the latest and continued at least until April 1763.

J. J. Winckelmann: Anmerkungen über die Baukunst der Alten, Leipzig 1762 (Lyon copy), title page Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon | Numelyo, 400085
Ill. 2 J. J. Winckelmann: Anmerkungen über die Baukunst der Alten, Leipzig 1762 (Lyon copy), title page. Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon | Numelyo, 400085

How the interleaved copy of the Anmerkungen got to Lyon, where it was initially kept in the Bibliothèque du Palais des Arts, requires further investigation: in 1798 Winckelmann’s estate was confiscated in Rome by French troops under the command of General Louis Alexandre Berthier and brought to France. This is the reason why a large part of Winckelmann’s excerpt books is not kept in Germany or Italy today, but in the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris and the Bibliothèque de la Faculté de Médecine in Montpellier. It is therefore quite possible that Winckelmann’s manuscript copy of the Anmerkungen also arrived in Lyon at this time.

In order to make the second, corrected and greatly enlarged, but never published edition of Winckelmann’s Anmerkungen über die Baukunst available to researchers, Martin Dönike is planning an edition of the manuscript copy kept in Lyon.