Unzeitgemasse Betrachtungen

Zweites Stück: Vom Nutzen und Nachtheil der Historie für das Leben.

NIETZSCHE, Friedrich

INSCRIBED BY NIETZSCHE TO WILHELM VISCHER

NIETZSCHE, Friedrich Unzeitgemasse Betrachtungen Zweites Stück: Vom Nutzen und Nachtheil der Historie für das Leben.

E.W. Fritzsch, 1874.

First edition, first issue, one of 222 copies. Author's presentation copy, inscribed to Wilhelm Vischer Bilfinger on the front wrapper, "Herr Rathsherr Prof. Dr. Vischer / in treuer Gesinnung und mit / der Bitte um Wohlwollen und / Nachsicht überreicht vom / Verf." [Councillor Prof. Dr. Vischer in faithfulness and with a request for benevolence and indulgence presented by the author]. 8vo. Original green printed paper wrappers, rebound in later green cloth, spine lettered in gilt, patterned endpapers, edges speckled green. A very good copy indeed with a couple of repaired closed tears to the front wrapper and two initials penned in ink to the lower margin, ever so slightly trimmed in binding, rear wrapper with some wear repaired at the gutter margin, the occasional spot of foxing and a marginal stain to page 94, else a notably bright, clean copy.

A fine and early presentation copy to the man who was responsible for Nietzsche's extraordinary appointment, sans dissertation, to the First Chair of Philology at the University of Basel.
In late 1868 Professor Wilhelm Vischer-Bilfinger (1808–1874), chairman of the Basel Education Committee and a classical philologist at Basel's university, wrote to a number of his friends inviting recommendations of suitable young academics to fill a recently vacated professorship in his department. The German scholar Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl presented his protégé, the twenty-four-year-old Nietzsche, as a candidate, arguing that he had "never known a young man, never tried to advance the career of anyone in my discipline, who so early and so young was as mature as this Nietzsche … I prophesy that he will stand in the front rank of German philologists" (letter quoted in Pletsch, p. 99). It was an improbable suggestion, for Nietzsche had not yet received his doctorate from the University of Leipzig, and no German university had ever appointed a professor without this requirement fulfilled. Nevertheless, after hearing Nietzsche's name favourably mentioned by several other colleagues, Vischer persevered, and in January 1869 he formally recommended that Nietzsche be hired. When, remarkably, and against a number of other strong candidates, this was approved, Leipzig hurriedly conferred a degree upon Nietzsche in March, and he gave his inaugural lecture in May. Throughout his time in Basel Vischer acted as a kind of fatherly mentor to Nietzsche. Vischer's death in July 1874 (just five months after this edition was published) was, according to the biographer Curtis Cate, "a major loss" for the young philosopher and signalled the end of the "friendly tolerance and protection he had been accorded by his warm hearted benefactor and the members of his family".
"Vom Nutzen und Nachtheil der Historie für das Leben" is the second of Nietzsche's individually published essays in the Untimely Meditations series, originally conceived as a series of thirteen parts but with only four realised. The first published was an attack on David Strauss, author of Des Leben Jesu (1835-6), and his latest book Der alte und der neue Glaube (The Old and the New Faith). This, his second work, The Use and Abuse of History [or History Departments] for Life, is the only essay in the series not centred on a specific person. It counters the prevailing view of "knowledge as an end in itself" with an alternative way of reading history, one where living life becomes the primary concern, along with a description of how this might improve the health of a society. It also introduced an attack against the basic precepts of classic humanism. In this essay, Nietzsche attacks both the historicism of man (the idea that man is created through history) and the idea that one can possibly have an objective concept of man, since a major aspect of man resides in his subjectivity. "Among Nietzsche's early books, The Birth of Tragedy and the Meditation on history are by far the most famous" (Kaufmann, p. 122).
At Wagner's suggestion Nietzsche published the first and second essays in the series with Wagner's own music publisher Fritzsch but, finding payment slow, Nietzsche switched publishers after the second work was printed. C. G. Naumann of Leipzig printed 1,000 copies of Vom Nutzen for Fritzsch but just 222 copies were actually sold in their first issue state before the 778 remainders were sold to Ernst Schmeitzner in 1874, to be reissued under the new imprint.

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