Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2024 Issue

Twenty-seven Lost Books from the Brothers Grimm Library Have Been Discovered

Jacob Grimm's study in Berlin (German National Museum collection).

Generations of children have been thrilled by the stories of the Brothers Grimm. They were the writers of the fairy tales we all grew up with. They include Hansel and Gretel, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin, Snow White, the Frog Prince, and Rapunzel. The Grimm Brothers never got rich on their stories, but Walt Disney sure did.


The Grimm Brothers didn't actually write their stories. They were preservers. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were scholars, amateur ones at first, who tracked down all the old German folktales they could find and put them to paper. The Brothers Grimm came from a family of nine, but these two were particularly close, just a year apart in age. They shared an interest in the old stories. Most of their lives they followed a similar path. They lived in the same home, though Wilhelm married while Jacob did not. Both were serving as librarians in Kassel during the most productive part of their careers as fabulists. Eventually, both became professors at the University of Gottingen and lost their jobs in 1837 for political associations. Unemployed, in 1838 they took on the major writing task of their life. No, it wasn't a great new fairy tale. It was a dictionary.


Most Americans are probably unaware of this, but the Brothers Grimm are noted as the foremost lexicographers of Germany. They are Germany's equivalent of Noah Webster. However, Webster, to the best of my knowledge, never wrote any fairy tales.


The Brothers Grimm were back in the news recently when some of the books in their library, missing since World War II, were rediscovered. Many of the books in their library ended up in the University of Poznan library in Poland after the Second World War. However, some had been lost, or more precisely, overlooked. Prof. Eliza Pieciul-Karminska and Renata Wilgosiewicz-Skutecka from the Poznan Library recently undertook the task of searching through their collections to see if they could find any more books that once belonged to the Grimms. They found twenty-seven. That sounds like a large number, and it is, but that should be tempered by the fact that the Brothers Grimm had 8,000 books in their library. It's not that surprising 27 were lost, and it's possible that still more will be found in the Poznan Library.


Finding books from someone's large library may not ordinarily be important, but in the case of the Grimm Brothers, their books were research tools and they filled them with annotations. In an article entitled The working library of Brothers Grimm and the portion of their book collection found at University Library, Poznan, in Biblioteka magazine, authors Pieciul-Karminska and Wilgosiewicz-Skutecka wrote, “It [the collection] is particularly valuable primarily as a source of knowledge on the research methods used by the two researchers. In the footnotes and indexes to their publications of fairy tales or folk legends, both Jakob and Wilhelm were very meticulous in providing their written source material, i.e. the sources that they held in their book collection, the items of which had purposefully been acquired by the duo to preserve for subsequent editions of old relics of European and German literature. Equally important for the research on the literary output and research activity of the Grimm Brothers is the analysis of handwritten underlining, notes and annotations that the texts were typographically enhanced by during the reading.” Sleeping Beauty has awaken from her long sleep.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Sotheby’s, July 11: Galileo, Document annotated and signed by Galileo, dated Padua, 1595. £500,000 to £700,000.
  • Bonhams, July 15-25: THE AUTOGRAPH COLLECTION OF ISRAEL WITKOWER. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: GEORGE WASHINGTON SIGNED DISCHARGE. June 9, 1783. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: "Shhhhh!" A DAVID SHANNON ILLUSTRATION FROM DAVID GETS IN TROUBLE. $2,500 - $3,500
    Bonhams, July 15-25: PICASSO, PABLO. Le Carmen des Carmen. Paris, 1964. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: KARA WALKER SILHOUETTES FOR TONI MORRISON'S FIVE POEMS. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: FIRST APPEARANCE OF PINOCCHIO IN ENGLISH. COLLODI, CARLO.New York, 1892. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: BONAPARTE, JOSEPHINE. Autograph Note (unsigned) in French. $1,000 - $1,500
    Bonhams, July 15-25: FROST ON MATTHEW ARNOLD.Autograph Letter Signed to Adams, July 27, 1934. $800 - $1,200
    Bonhams, July 15-25: ELIAS BOUDINOT'S COPY OF BARLOW'S COLUMBIAN EPIC. $800 - $1,200
  • Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    18th July 2024
    Forum, July 18: Rowling (J.K.) Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, first hardback edition, 1997. £40,000 to £60,000.
    Forum, July 18: Binding.- Lucian of Samosata Opuscula Erasmo Roterodamo interprete, first Aldine edition, Venice, Heirs of Aldus Manutius and A, 1516. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, July 18: Bacon (Sir Francis). De Dignitate et Augmentis Scientiarum Libri IX, Pierre Gassendi's copy gifted him by Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc, Paris, Typis Petri Mettayer, 1624. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    18th July 2024
    Forum, July 18: Shakespeare (William). The First Part of Henry the Fourth, with the Life and Death of Henry, Sirnamed Hot-Spurre…, Printed by Isaac Jaggard, and Ed. Blount, 1623. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, July 18: Darwin (Charles). On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, third edition, presentation inscription 'From the Author' in a secretary's hand, John Murray, 1861. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, July 18: Teague (Violet). Geraldine Rede. Night Fall in the Ti-Tree, first edition, Melbourne, Sign of the Rabbit, 1905; and another. £10,000 to £15,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    18th July 2024
    Forum, July 18: India.- Primrose (Gen. James Maurice). Collection of 24 original drawings from his time in India with the 43rd Regiment of Foot, circa 1855 to 1864. £10,000 to £15,000.
    Forum, July 18: Manet (Édouard). Trente Eaux-fortes originales, the complete portfolio, Paris, A. Stroelin, 1905. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, July 18: Bible, English. [The Holy Bible], first edition of the King James Bible, the Great 'He' Bible, [Robert Barker], [1611]. £6,000 to £8,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    18th July 2024
    Forum, July 18: America.- Mathews (Alfred E.) Pencil Sketches of Montana, first edition, New York, Published by the Author, 1868. £6,000 to £8,000.
    Forum, July 18: Bawden (Edward). Original dust-jacket artwork for 'The Outsider' by Albert Camus, [c.1946]. £4,000 to £6,000.
    Forum, July 18: World.- Fries (Laurent). Tabula Nova Totius Orbis, woodcut map, [c.1541]. £3,000 to £5,000.

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