Alexander von Humboldt’s famous ‘Kosmos-Lecture’ at the Berlin Sing-Akademie (1827/28): From Digital to Print Edition

A blog post by Christian Thomas (CLARIN-D, BBAW)

Book: Alexander von Humboldt, Henriette Kohlrausch: Die Kosmos-Vorlesung an der Berliner Sing-Akademie. Edited by Christian Kassung and Christian Thomas. Berlin: Insel Verlag, 2019.
(insel taschenbuch 4719, ISBN 978-3-458-36419-1) Publisher’s landing page:

Fig.1: Cover insel taschenbuch 4719, © Insel Verlag Berlin.


Background: Alexander von Humboldt’s legendary ‘Kosmos-Lectures’

Alexander von Humboldt’s legendary ‘Kosmos-Lectures’ in 1827/28 at the Berlin Sing-Akademie – then the city’s largest lecture hall, today’s seat of the Maxim Gorki Theater – are regarded as a decisive moment in the history of scientific popularization. In the winter of 1827/28, approximately one thousand Berliners and guests from abroad attended the 16 consecutive lectures. Humboldt gave a vast overview on the state of scientific knowledge of his time, spanning astronomic, geographic, geological and biological topics, but also the cultural and social spheres in an encompassing ‘portrait of nature’ (“Naturgemälde”). The audience represented a broad spectrum of the learned society and interested laymen including – following Humboldt’s explicit invitation – women, who were still excluded from Prussia’s universities until the end of the 19th century. Since the lectures were never published by Humboldt himself, the elaborate notebooks several of his auditors kept that were preserved in different archival and private holdings in Germany, Poland, Turkey and Norway, become even more valuable as authentic documents of this important moment in the history of science.

The recently published volume Die Kosmos-Vorlesung an der Berliner Sing-Akademie, edited by Christian Kassung and Christian Thomas, presents, for the first time in a printed edition, the reliable and complete text of this lecture series. The edited primary text was corrected on the basis of

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