Felix Meiner Verlag – A Publishing House for Philosophers
The heart of the publishing house is the Philosophical Library (Philosophische Bibliothek, PhB). It was founded in 1868 by Julius Hermann von Kirchmann and, when the Felix Meiner Verlag was set up, formed the basis of the programme. This is where the classical Western philosophers from roughly 2,400 years of philosophical history appear in editions that include criticisms of the text and are often in several languages. The series in unmistakable green is gradually approaching its 600th volume; its texts are constantly being revised and supplemented for each new edition. A further focus of the programme is the critical complete edition of Hegel. There is even an instance of German-Chinese cooperation linked to this work on the heritage of German systems philosophy. However, as Manfred Meiner reports, it will be some time before Hegel is absorbed into the intellectual world of the Chinese: "Just last year the translator visited me again for a few days. He has been working for years on the three editions of the encyclopaedia of 1817, 1827 and 1830 that are to appear in Peking University Press, and if one day our sons ever witness the publication they will count themselves lucky."
Little money but much enthusiasmThose who are interested in philosophy and its history can already consider themselves lucky to have the exchange of letters between Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz and the Jesuits in China. When the traditions of Ancient China rocked the foundations of the story of creation in the Bible (China is simply older), Leibniz worked through the subject together with the Jesuits. Some very daring souls even wanted to take their first traditional century away from the Chinese in order to reinstate the order found in Genesis. Here Western thinking is putting itself up for debate from the historical perspective: "That was the reason for such an ambitious publication project, namely to present these documents of a cultural exchange in the early modern world within a community of teachers and students – and, incidentally, completely without the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) or any other subsidy towards the cost of publication."
On the other hand, there is intensive cooperation with academies, philosophical institutes and the substantial use of academic staff who – especially as editors supervising the works in question – take a burden off the planned costs of the publisher for their own reasons. From the perspective of the publisher: "Enthusiasm, dedication, personal or academic interest: the correct proportion of everything is necessary. But one thing is for sure: the fees paid by the publishing house cannot even begin to recompense the time spent on editing editions of the Philosophische Bibliothek. Unfortunately the circulation of such books simply does not provide the returns." However, classical Western philosophy is now surpassing its cultural borders, and that is also good for business: "Japan in particular is of great importance as a foreign market for our books, and the bookshop with the largest offer of German philosophical literature worldwide on its shelves – Shiseido Booksellers – is to be found in Kyoto."
Special editions – Complete works – PeriodicalsAlong with the PhB, Meiner also has periodicals and edition projects lasting for a longer period of time. The German-Jewish philosopher Ernst Cassirer has been being published in individual volumes in the PhB since 1985; the Gesammelten Werke (i. e. collected works) are now available in 25 volumes. One of the outstanding current projects at Meiner is the publication of the early modern world philosopher and writer Giordano Bruno who had to pay for his philosophical thoughts with his life in 1600. He was condemned to death by the Catholic Inquisition and publicly burned in Rome. Bruno's writings have survived; during his lifetime they were published in Paris, London, Wittenberg, Prague, Helmstedt, Frankfurt and Zurich – marking points of a ‘philosophical escape route' which for the time being has ended with a comfortable home in an Italian-German edition of complete works; moreover, the books are truly fine to look at. "Incidentally, aided by the Fritz Thyssen-Stiftung (Fritz Thyssen foundation) without whose financial support such a project could not be carried out, as the sale of such books only reaches a maximum of a few hundred copies," as the publishers say.
A specialised public and interested citizensThe publishing house generally lives off its specialised public: "Mainly if you count students among these. But, in addition, one target group is also interested laypersons, that is ‘the educated public in general', whom we address from time to time with ‘special editions'; recently for example with the three-volumed single-language edition of the works of Spinoza or the small text ‘Über den Lehrer' (i. e. about the teacher) by Thomas Aquinas." For students and teachers of academic philosophy the ‘green series' constitutes the standard approach, as Ms Wiedemann, the librarian of the philosophical library of the Freie Universität Berlin can confirm: "The Felix Meiner Verlag is very important for us. Of course we have the complete Philosophical Library. They are the essential standard works with competent commentaries and authoritative texts." In 1992 Meiner took over the Helmut Buske Verlag for foreign languages and philology and thus a publishing company which – just like the philosophical publishers Felix Meiner – also offers a high level in intellectual and cultural education.
Selection of a sample of titles of the Felix Meiner Verlag:
Baruch de Spinoza: Werke in drei Bänden. Hg. Wolfgang Bartuschat. PhB Sonderausgabe, 2007, ISBN 978-3-7873-1814-8
Giordano Bruno: Über das Unendliche, das Universum und die Welten. Band 4 Giordano Bruno Werke, 2007, ISBN 978-3-7873-1804-9
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz: Der Briefwechsel mit den Jesuiten in China (1689-1714). 2006, ISBN 978-3-7873-1623-6
is a freelance journalist in Berlin
Translation: Moira Davidson-Seger
Copyright: Goethe-Institut, Online-Redaktion
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