Historical-Critical Edition of the correspondence between Christian Wolff and Ernst Christoph, count of Manteuffel (1738–1748)
Project managers: Prof. Dr. Jürgen Stolzenberg, Prof. Dr. Detlef Döring (†)
Researchers: Dr. Katharina Middell, PD Dr. Hanns-Peter Neumann
Duration of project: 01.03.2011 - 31.08.2017
The aim of the project is to publish a historical-critical edition of the correspondence between the philosopher Christian Wolff (1679-1754) during his time in Marburg and Halle and his patron, Ernst Christoph, count of Manteuffel (1676-1749), during his time Berlin and Leipzig. The correspondence alone includes 488 letters from the two correspondents and extends from the 11th of May 1738 to the 5th of November 1748.
The printed works of Wolff are readily available in the reprinted edition by Jean École et al. His letters, however, are still terra incognita for Enlightenment studies. The project is dedicated to meeting this need by making available the most extensive correspondence exchange of Wolff, that with Manteuffel.
The correspondence, which was gathered from the Leipzig University Library miscellany (signatures Ms 0345, Ms 0346, Ms 0347) includes 284 letters by Wolff to Manteuffel and 204 letters by Manteuffel to Wolff. To this are added 89 supplementary documents, including 33 letters by Manteuffel to third parties, 28 letters from third parties to Manteuffel, six letters from third parties to Wolff, a letter by Wolff to Frederick II, a letter from Wolff to an unnamed addressee and four letters between third parties, six handwritten texts by Wolff and ten other texts from third parties (tracts, opinions, reviews, inter alia; among others by Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Jerusalem, Abraham Gotthelf Kästner, and Johann Heinrich Winckler).
The correspondence, as its inventory is almost complete, is a unique piece of evidence for the late biography of Wolff and documents, through the variety of subjects discussed, how Wolff and Manteuffel positioned themselves within the political, philosophical, theological and scientific debates of the European Enlightenment. The scope of the interests discussed in the correspondence allows a contextualisation of the correspondence in the era, makes the themes of the early Enlightenment immediately apparent, and gives precise insights into the nature of personal and intellectual ties in the Republic of Letters.
Wolff, the embodiment of the “universal scholar”, and Manteuffel, as patron and representative of the learned nobility, were both involved in a far-reaching intellectual and scientific/political network organized and maintained by Manteuffel. Against this background, the edition of the correspondence promises a new appreciation of the impact of the philosophy of Christian Wolff, both in central Germany and Europe-wide, which will result in new insights for the assessment of Wolffianism.
The historical-critical edition of the correspondence will provide a reliable basis for the exploration of philosophical and political Wolffianism and for Wolff’s biography in the later stages of life. At the same time, the fact that most of the supplementary documents are letters from and to Manteuffel, and are related to his correspondence with Wolff, will bring to light the outstanding role of this highly educated nobleman as the heart of an extensive network, which he developed as the instrument of a specific Wolffian culture and information policy.
The edition will be published in three volumes by Georg Olms Verlag, which, among other things, plans to publish a reprint edition of the works of Wolff.
The project is carried out within the framework of a cooperation agreement between the Martin LutherUniversity of Halle-Wittenberg and the Saxony Academy of Sciences in Leipzig. The historical-critical edition of the Wolff-Manteuffel correspondence will appear in print only in three volumes. An Open Access-Edition of the transcripts of the correspondence is available online since March, 2013. This preliminary edition will be updated after completion of the final print edition.