Goethe's ranging literary genius, nimble yet luminous, resists simple classification. Poet and natural philosopher, critic and raconteur, Goethe was the most commanding literary presence of his time.
Goethe and His Publishers organizes for the first time the myriad details of Goethe's career in print. Director of the German publishing company Suhrkamp Verlag, Siegfried Unseld brings a singular perspective to this biography, focusing our attention on an essential component of Goethe's literary endeavors: his relationship to his publishers. Carefully examining each work, Unseld covers the range of Goethe's oeuvre, from first anonymous publications to eventual monumental editions brought out by Johann Friedrich Cotta, the most renowned publisher of his day.
Unseld sifts through the rich correspondence between Goethe and his publishers, as well as letters to and from friends, colleagues, and contemporaries. Analyzing publishing contracts, draft contracts, and historical documents, Unseld reveals the tremendous energy Goethe exerted on behalf of his manuscripts. During negotiations he was sometimes circumspect and reserved, other times demanding and assertive. These exchanges not only shed new light on Goethe's complex character but also show how he changed the author's role in the publishing process. Thus, this work offers a penetrating study on the intricate and many-tiered relations between author and publisher, then and today.
Goethe and His Publishers celebrates Goethe's works, his life, and his times, from the viewpoint of a publisher today. Written by an individual who has devoted much of his life to the study of the poet whom he reveres, such a personal approach not only forms an excellent introduction to Goethe's work but helps restore Goethe to his rightful place in the world of letters.