Everyday Life in the German Book Trade

Friedrich Nicolai as Bookseller and Publisher in the Age of Enlightenment

By (author) Pamela E. Selwyn

Paperback - £28.95

Publication date:

15 November 2000

Length of book:

440 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271027975

In his popular book The Germans (1982), Stanford historian Gordon Craig remarked: "When German intellectuals at the end of the eighteenth century talked of living in a Frederican age, they were sometimes referring not to the monarch in Sans Souci, but to his namesake, the Berlin bookseller Friedrich Nicolai." Such was the importance attributed to Nicolai’s role in the intellectual life of his age by his own contemporaries.

While long neglected by students of the period, who tended to accept the caricature of him as a philistine who failed to recognize Goethe’s genius, Nicolai has experienced a resurgence of interest among scholars reexploring the German Enlightenment and the literary marketplace of the eighteenth century.

This book, drawing upon Nicolai’s large unpublished correspondence, rounds out the picture we have of Nicolai already as author and critic by focusing on his roles as bookseller and publisher and as an Aufkärer in the book trade.

“Selwyn’s work makes a remarkable contribution to our understanding of the book trade and publishing world during the Aufklärung in Prussia. Apart from what we learn about the specific career of Nicolai, we gain many insights into how books came into existence, what tactics prospective authors used, the joys and sorrows of the publishers and booksellers, how various governments attempted to monitor the book trade, the nature of book piracy, and a host of other matters. Selwyn’s excellent skills as a writer allow her to describe these issues in an engaging way . . . It is a marvelous piece of work—a delight to read.”

—John D. Woodbridge, Trinity International University