WITTGENSTEIN-BINDING - A PRESENT FOR HIS BEST FRIEND

[WITTGENSTEIN]. VOLKMANN-LEANDER, RICHARD von.

Träumereien an französischen Kaminen. Märchen. Mit einer Einleitung herausgegeben vonFritz Gundlach. Sonderausgabe der Nr. 6091-92 Reclams Universalbiblithek...

Wien [Vienna], Österreichischer Schulbücherverlag, [ca. 1920]. Small 8vo. Simple cloth-backed paper-covered boards (paper in wood-pattern). Extremities rubbed. Title-page partly glued on to front board. Inner hinge weak, first many gatherings loose, lightly browned throughout. 153, (3, -advertisements) pp.

A most excellent Wittgenstein-item that combines several aspects of the most influential philosopher of the 20th century. The present little fairy-tale book was bound under Wittgenstein's supervision during his time as an elementary school-teacher I Austria (probably 1924-25). The book has an excellent provenance, as it was probably bought by One of Wittgenstein's closest friends, Ludwig Hänsel, bound under the supervision of Wittgenstein, given by Wittgenstein to the second of his two closest friends, Rudolph Koder, and given by Koder to the famous Wittgenstein scholar Professor Brian McGuinness.

When Wittgenstein wrote the "Tractatus", one of the most important philosophical works of the 20th century, which was printed in 1921, he had proposed the solution to, and thereby put an end to, all fundamental philosophical problems. He had differentiated between that which there can be said something meaningful about and that which there cannot, and as a consequence, he had not only put an end to philosophical problems, he had also put an end to all philosophical production. Wittgenstein took the consequences of this upon himself and left philosophy for what he thought was for good. He now returned from Cambridge to Austria in 1920 and started training as a primary school-teacher. He was educated in the methods of the Austrian School Reform Movement, which probably suited him well, as the intention was to arouse the natural curiosity in children and to let them develop as independent thinkers. In July 1920 he received his diploma from the teacher-training college. He did not, however, begin teaching immediately. He spent the summer working as a gardener, and in September the same year, he took up his teaching duties. First, he taught at Trattenbach, where he remained till the summer of 1922. After the summer he became, briefly, a high-school teacher at Hassbach, and then an elementary school-teacher in Puchberg am Schneeberg, where Koder also taught; he stayed here till 1924, after which he went to Otterthal to teach. During this time, Wittgenstein published a spelling- and pronunciation-dictionary for his teaching of the students - this became the only work that he published in his lifetime besides the "Tractatus".

The present binding yields from Wittgenstein's famous "lost years" after the Tractatus. More precisely, it is most likely during his tumultuous time in Otterthal that Wittgenstein had the present fairy tale-book bound. In a letter to Ludwig Hänsel written in September 1924, he asks his close friend to bring back ten copies of this edition from Vienna to Otterthal.

During his time as a school-teacher, several acquaintances had tried to persuade him to return to philosophy and scholarly life, e.g. Ramsey, who visited him several times in Puchberg 1924, after which he wrote his famous essay on the "Tractatus", and his friend J.M. Keynes, to whom he also in 1924 explained very clearly that he did not wish to return to scientific work, because everything he had to say had been said already, and that the well had been laid dry.

Though the period of 1924-25 were desperately unhappy for Wittgenstein, who often contemplated suicide, he did apparently enjoy his teaching position and took it seriously. The thought that he was appreciated by the pupils kept him at his task, but his expectations of the children of rural Austria might still have been somewhat unrealistic. He had little patience with the children that had difficulties learning, and he was extremely strict towards them. In fact, his severe disciplinary methods together with the general idea among the parents that he was somewhat mad, caused him to leave the job for good in 1926. He had struck a boy on the head, after which the boy had collapsed, and the parents instituted legal proceedings against him. Several parents were also afraid that he would persuade the brighter of the children to leave the family farm and pursue academic careers. The legal proceedings were that which made Wittgenstein finally leave teaching for good. He immediately left town but was subjected to a compulsory psychiatric examination, after which he was acquitted on a trial at Gloggnitz. He never returned to teaching again.

Already during his year of training as a school-teacher, Wittgenstein had mostly enjoyed reading fairy tales to the children. In fact, the influence of fairy tales upon his career has been quite extensive. As a school teacher, he considered fairy tales the most instructive reading for children, as it both posed ethical and religious problems and encouraged their fantasy. As a philosopher, the fairy tales provide him with the most excellent of examples. In his theories of language, Wittgenstein frequently uses examples of fairy tales, e.g., he comes to conclusions about the status of logical expressions from the example that statements about elves express logical, not real, possibility. Because the grammar of the word 'elf' gives no observational criteria for that word's application: nothing we observe or fail to observe directs our use of the word 'elf'. Fairy tales do. He also frequently uses examples of fairy-tales to determine grammatical rules. In fairy-tales statements-of-fact are often found, which do not even pretend to state facts. Perhaps we say that a fairy-tale author follows his own rules or rules taken from other writers, but which of these rules are grammatical? The fact that in fairy-tales there is no difference between real and logical possibility made them of great importance to the thought of Wittgenstein. E.g. in the "Tractatus" (6.362), he states that in the fairy tale, "what can be described can happen too". "But what can be described belongs to grammar." And what does "grammar" mean in this case? Is there any grammatical difference between what can happen in a fairy tale and what does happen in that tale?

The present "Wittgenstein-binding" is thus not only a curiosity. It also constitutes an example of an item that has played a significant role in the life of one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century. Not only do these fairy-tales appeal to Wittgenstein intellectually, and not only have they served as a means of solving some of the most important questions of modern logic and philosophy of language, they also tie together the "lost years" of the great philosopher with those for posterity so important philosophically productive years. The present little volume, so simply bound under the instruction of the great philosopher, also contains markings in pencil of six of the fairy-tales, no doubt Wittgenstein's recommendations for reading.

The present fairy-tale volume is the most famous literary production by the renowned German author and surgeon Richard von Volkmann (1830 - 1889). For his literary works he used the pseudonym Richard Leander. Apart from being the author of the present famous volume of fairy-tales, Volkmann counts as one oft he most famous surgeons of the 19th century, and is one oft he greatest German surgeons of all times. His fairy-tales were among the best-loved in Germany, together with those of the Grimm brothers. They were written while he served as a general physician at the German-French war of 1870-71. They portray a healthy and beautiful world within one of misery and distress. The fairy-tales are not typically idyllic, though, they much more represent romantic castles in the air that are full of spirit and roguish humour.

Rudolph Koder was one of Wittgenstein's closest friends. They met in 1923 when both teaching at the primary school of Puchberg and stayed close friend throughout their lives. Koder was a talented pianist and music teacher, and he shared his great interest in music with Wittgenstein. After Wittgenstein's death in 1951, Mrs. Stonborough, Wittgenstein's sister, entrusted Koder with several of Wittgenstein's papers, which he loyally guarded throughout his life.

Wittgenstein did not have many close friends, but the closest together with Koder was Luwig Hänsel, who was a high-school teacher of German and literature. Hänsel and Wittgenstein, who befriended eachother in 1918 while being war prisoners in Monte Casino, also remained close friends throughout their lives.

After having quit his job as a school-teacer in 1926, Wittgenstein still did not wish to return to academic life, so he worked at a number of different jobs, first as a gardener's assistant in the Hüsseldorf monastery. The following two years he spent designing and constructing his sister Gretl's house near Vienna. He also considered becoming a monk and inquired about the requirements for joining an order. He was, however, advised that monastic life would not be able to provide him with that which he sought. In 1929 he decided, at the urging of amongst others Ramsey, to return to Cambridge.

Order-nr.: 38667


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