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Nietzsche's Library

A note on this document by Rainer J. Hanshe

The phrase “NIETZSCHE’S LIBRARY” must be taken liberally, if not expansively. This is an extensive document that traces not only the books which Nietzsche read throughout his life, but also lectures he attended as well as professorial work he was engaged in, the music he listened to and composed, and, finally, denotes when and where he wrote his philosophical works. Its primary concern though is with the books Nietzsche was reading; the most abundant references are to those books.

As far as those books are concerned, there are lists of them, but they are strictly alphabetical and therefore not as valuable as they could be. “NIETZSCHE’S LIBRARY” traces his reading chronologically, month by month when possible, in order to help map out the intersection between his reading and his writing. To know exactly when Nietzsche was reading what is more beneficial for gaining a deeper understanding of his relationship to other thinkers, writers, poets, etc. Whether or not there is always a direct correlation is to be discerned by each and every reader and researcher, but this document was created in order to facilitate work of this kind. For others, this may be a strict amusement or curiosity, but it does not seem that any such document exists; perhaps it will be helpful.

This statement must be qualified though, for some time after I began working on this, someone alerted me to the work of Thomas Brobjer, who has conducted the most significant and important research on Nietzsche’s reading, born of direct contact with the actual books Nietzsche owned. He has patiently, and exhaustively, documented not only Nietzsche’s reading, but the marginal notes Nietzsche made in the books he owned, in numerous articles (see the bibliography of Works On Nietzsche in the Nietzsche’s Work section of this website) as well as in Nietzsche’s Philosophical Context and Reading: An Intellectual Biography, which is forthcoming from University of Illinois Press. In constructing this document, Mr. Brobjer’s work has proved invaluable; much of it would not have been possible without his work. But it has also been made through consulting other articles, biographies, and, most importantly, through examining Nietzsche’s letters, wherein he not only mentions what he is reading, but makes striking, insightful, or simply expressive comments on these books. This is one of the best and most accurate records of Nietzsche’s reading. When pertinent, extracts from the letters are included; fragments from those which deal with Nietzsche’s own writing and its affect upon his life are also quoted.

At nearly eighty pages, this document is considerable but it is far from complete; it is a work in process and, time permitting, will be updated as frequently as possible. In the future, it will include not only images of first editions of Nietzsche’s works and, if possible, of the works he read, but also a correspondence to Nietzsche’s own works, citing where he mentions in his publications any of the books he has read, or where there is an explicit or implicit dialogue, polemic, et cetera with these works.

I have benefited from the valuable and patient editorial assistance of Aaron Simon, a friend and poet, who, rather surprisingly, joyfully and without reservation took on the painstaking task of examining “NIETZSCHE’S LIBRARY” with necessary precision and care. However, whatever mistakes or other problems that may exist in this document are mine and mine alone. In order to perfect “NIETZSCHE’S LIBRARY” as much as possible, critical comments and suggestions are welcome. If anyone offers detailed criticism for discrepancies they may find in this document, please include references and in as timely a manner as possible, they will be taken into consideration; if any emendations need be made, they will be and whatever help is offered will be acknowledged. On to “NIETZSCHE’S LIBRARY”!

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