Wittgenstein Source Facsimile Edition of Wörterbuch für Volksschulen Materials (WFV)



(2019) Wittgenstein Source Facsimile Edition of Wörterbuch für Volksschulen Materials. Edited by Désirée Weber. In: Wittgenstein Source, curated by Alois Pichler (2009–) and Joseph Wang-Kathrein (2020–) [wittgensteinsource.org]. Bergen: WAB.


The Wittgenstein Source Facsimile Edition of Wörterbuch für Volksschulen (WFV) provides access to items related to the creation and publication history of Wittgenstein’s Wörterbuch für Volksschulen (1926). The Wörterbuch is the second of only two works published in Wittgenstein’s life time and was written while he was a school teacher in rural Austria (1920-1926). While the preface to the Wörterbuch was included in Georg Henrik von Wright’s catalog as Typescript 205, the rest of the items are less well-known manuscripts and documents that shed light on this time in Wittgenstein’s life and work. The items are:

(i) Leopoldine Eichberger Wörterbuch Exemplar

This spelling booklet is a precursor to the published dictionary and was created by one of Wittgenstein’s students – Leopoldine Eichberger – as a class project completed while Wittgenstein was teaching in Puchberg in 1923-24 (see Hübner, viii). It consists of approximately 3000 entries of German words commonly used in Austria which were likely dictated by Wittgenstein and handwritten by Eichberger. The 102 pages of octavo sheets were bound by hand into a booklet format using glue and a red string. The outer cover of the booklet bears marks of an etching process which was also the product of Wittgenstein’s class exercise on bookbinding (see Wünsche, 95). The difficulty of replicating this set of exercises for each class – and the lack of any other suitable dictionary – led Wittgenstein to the decision to publish his own dictionary.

(ii) Wörterbuch für Volksschulen Geleitwort (Preface), Ts-205

Wittgenstein composed a typewritten preface on April 22, 1925 that details his rationale and methodology in writing the Wörterbuch. This document was requested by the publisher as a supplement to the Department of Education application that would approve Wittgenstein’s dictionary for use in schools. The preface was sent to his editor at Hölder-Pichler-Tempsky Verlag but was not published with the dictionary in 1926. In the preface, Wittgenstein discusses his pedagogic approach to teaching students the spelling of words and the role of the dictionary in enabling his students to be responsible for correcting their own usage of words. He also explains his selection of words (excluding foreign words and emphasizing colloquial usage), his arrangement of words (grouping words by common roots), as well as the insufficiencies of existing dictionaries for students.

(iii) Wörterbuch für Volksschulen Corrected Proofs, Set II

During the publishing process, several sets of Wörterbuch page proofs were produced in early 1926 that contain copious editing and correction marks in at least two hands. Based on the handwriting and script, it is likely that neither hand is Wittgenstein’s own, but more likely belong to editors at the Hölder-Pichler-Tempsky Verlag. The suggested edits are handwritten in Kurrent script and are inserted over a typeset print of word entries that appear in three columns per page. The proof pages also contain inked stamps that indicate the item’s status in the production process, including one stamp on the first page of each octavo ream that bears the name of the publishing company’s director, Adolf Holzhausen. The large number of suggested insertions, deletions, and corrections reveal the process by which the Wörterbuch was shaped.

(iv) Wörterbuch für Volksschulen Corrected Proofs, Set III

This incomplete third set of corrected proofs was produced in April 1926 and bears fewer editing marks than Set II. The vast majority of the corrections that were suggested in Corrected Proofs Set II are incorporated in this typeset print which is arranged in the same 3 column layout. The same Adolf Holzhausen stamp with an adjustable date in the center is visible on the first page and includes a reference to the “K.u.K. Hof & Universitätsdruckerei” in Wien [Vienna]. The corrections indicated in this set of proof pages are incorporated into the final version which was published in the following months, suggesting that this was the last set of proof pages.

(v) Wörterbuch für Volksschulen

Wittgenstein’s dictionary was published under the title Wörterbuch für Volks- und Bürgerschulen in the latter half of 1926 by Hölder-Pichler-Tempsky Verlag, a Viennese publisher that specializes in educational materials. The title page indicates that it was published with the approval of the Austrian Ministry of Education for instructional use, though there is little evidence it was ever used widely in classrooms. The 42 pages of word entries are arranged in 3 columns per page and printed in Fraktur script. The entries consist mainly of common Austrian-German words and idioms, which are occasionally supplemented by synonyms and notes on their use.

These five items – together with the correspondence between Wittgenstein, Dr. Ludwig Hänsel (1919-1925) and the publisher (1924-1926) – document the origin of the Wörterbuch für Volksschulen.

Items (i) and (iv) are owned by the Austrian Ludwig Wittgenstein Society and facsimiles are made available with kind permission. Items (ii) and (iii) are owned by the Martin J. Gross Family Foundation and facsimiles are made available with kind permission. The reproduction of item (v) is via the permission of Hölder-Pichler-Tempsky Verlag (Vienna).

Future plans may include the addition of correspondence and biographical materials.

A new edition of the Wörterbuch with the first-ever English translation is published as: Word Book, edited by Paul Chan, translated by Bettina Funcke, with a critical introduction by Désirée Weber. New York: Badlands Unlimited Press (2020).

The editor would like to thank College of Wooster student Brianna Schmidt who served as a research assistant in 2017-2018, as well as Stephanie Pokras who served as a research assistant in 2019 and aided in the preparation of the Leopoldine Eichberger facsimiles. The editor would also like to thank Alfred Schmidt at the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (ÖNB) for his help accessing the 1926 edition of the Wörterbuch.

Facsimiles of all items are protected by standard copyright regulations and permission restrictions apply. Please note that the intellectual rights in the texts of the Wittgenstein Nachlass, including Ts-205, are with Trinity College, Cambridge.

The sale, further reproduction or use of the images for commercial purposes without prior permission from the copyright holder is prohibited. © 2019 The Master and Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge.


How to get to the facsimile files: EDITIONS > Wörterbuch für Volksschulen (WFV) > F