Berlin: Voss, 1766. "Opened up a New Prospect in the Appreciation of Greek Literature" (Printing and the Mind of Man)Lessing, Gotthold Ephraim (1729-81). Laokoon: Oder über die Grenzen der Mahlerey und Poesie. Erster Theil (all published). 8vo. , 298pp. Berlin: Christian Friedrich Voss, 1766. 196 x 122 mm. Half sheep, gilt spine ca. 1766, light rubbing and edgewear. Minor foxing and toning, but very good. Former owners’ signatures on front endpaper and title. First Edition. The German philosopher and critic Gotthold Lessing was one of the most outstanding representatives of the Enlightenment era; “it was he, more than any other who laid the foundations of the intellectual primacy of German writers and thinkers in the nineteenth century” (Printing and the Mind of Man 213). His Laokoon, probably his best-known work, had an enormous influence on the development of art and literary criticism: "[Laokoon] takes its name from the famous statue discovered at Rome in the sixteenth century. It analyzes the differences between the sculptor’s treatment of Laocoon wrestling with the serpents and Virgil’s treatment of the same theme, and from there does on to discuss the limits and limitations of all the arts. It contains the first clear statement of the truth, which is now considered axiomatic, that every art is subject to limitations, and can achieve greatness only by a clear understanding of a self-restriction to its proper function. The most telling passages, and those which have borne most fruit, are those on poetry . . . [Lessing’s] exposition of the themes of Homer and Sophocles is especially effective, and he opened up a new prospect in the appreciation of Greek literature” (Printing and the Mind of Man). (Inventory #: 42808)
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