The reception of Goethe's work 'Zur Farbenlehre' in Berlin 1810-1832 - Project details

The starting point - everyone of the same opinion?

Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749-1832) gave posterity the impression that his work 'Zur Farbenlehre' (On the Theory of Colours), published in 1810, was above all hostile and soon disappeared from public perception. The previous historical picture, which was based on the evaluation of reviews and critical mentions in monographs and encyclopaedias, supported this view. In direct contrast to this is the actual success story of his 'Theory of Colours' in Berlin, where the work exerted a far-reaching influence on science, art and society over several decades.

The research project - on the traces of his work

As part of the research project, the extensive collection of sources on the reception of Goethe's theory of colour - letters, diaries and lecture manuscripts, as well as contemporary book and journal publications - will be collected, edited and evaluated. This provides an overview of the complex interrelationships, the people involved, and the effectiveness outside of Berlin, taking into account the resonance that such support for his work 'Zur Farbenlehre' (On the Theory of Colours) caused among Goethe and his sphere.

The official and private sources brought together in the project will not only for the first time convey a coherent impression of Goethe's multifaceted influence on the natural sciences, philosophy and visual arts, but their evaluation will also shed new light on Goethe's significance for Prussian cultural policy in the first third of the 19th century and on social life in Prussia's capital Berlin. The project also makes an important contribution to Goethe research.

The results of the project will be summarized in a monograph, which will be printed and published in electronic form. The entire source material - digitized documents, transcriptions and commentaries - will also be made available in an online research portal and can thus be used for further research questions.

The Cooperation - Work Centers and their Tasks

The project is a cooperation of the Digital Humanities Lab of the University of Basel, the Institute for Philosophy, History of Literature, Science and Technology of the Technical University Berlin and the Göttingen State and University Library. It is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and the German Research Foundation.

The sources are collected by the Basel office. Their indexing, editing and historical analysis are carried out in close cooperation by the offices in Berlin and Basel. In addition, the Berlin office concentrates on the philosophical and the Basler on the art historical aspects of the project. The Göttingen office creates a digital environment for the collaborative editing of the documents. In addition, a presentation environment will be developed in Göttingen in which the texts with the digitized documents will be stored and will later be searchable online and freely accessible.


Project board at the SUB Göttingen

Project staff at the SUB Göttingen

SUB Göttingen departments / units involved in the project

Former project staff of the SUB Göttingen

Daniel Jerome Bettin, Manikanth Dindigala, Dennis Neumann, Ali Reza Sajedi, Adnan Siddique, Dr. Maike Tech, Nils Windisch