Monday 16 January 2012

Meissner's Translation of The Invisible Spy

Until this morning August Gottlieb Meissner did not have a Wikipedia page—in English anyway. So I have created one by translating the German Wikipedia page (see here). Anyone who is able to improve on my feeble efforts, please do so.

If you look at the Wikipedia page I have created you will see why I thought it worth adding: Meissner translated Eliza Haywood's The Invisible Spy as Der Unsichtbare Kundschafter in 1791 and 1794.

In my Bibliography of Eliza Haywood I dated this translation to 1756, a particularly stupid—and embarrassing—goof on my part because Meissner was three at the time! To be fair to my younger self, I repeated the dating of this translation to 1756 by Wilhelm Heinsius (in 1812), Karl Goedeke (1916) and Mary Bell Price and Lawrence Marsden Price (1934), but since I give the date of birth and the date of publication on the same line I really have no excuse. As I said, embarrassing.

[1791/94 edition, vol. 1]

If we pass over the ghost of Ab.69.8 (the not-first edition), there appear to have been five editions of Der Unsichtbare Kundschafter: 1791/1794, 1795, 1800, 1812 and 1814. Of these I now have four (see image at top). The one I don't have is one of the few works I have not seen (Ab.69.12; the 1812 edition),** so I am pretty keen on finding a copy. I was only able to locate a single copy of this edition, but the same was true of the 1800 edition and—well—here it is, so I may get lucky!

[1791/94 edition, vol. 2]

When you put these four editions side by side, the most striking thing about them is their illustrations. Each edition has a vignette on the title-page to both volumes, and it is the same illustration in each edition. But each differs from the others in terms of the frontispieces.

[1800 edition, vol. 1]

The 1795 edition (Ab.69.10) has no frontispieces, while the 1791/1794, 1800 and 1814 editions (Ab.69.9, Ab.69.11 and Ab.69.13) each have frontispieces unique to themselves. I have not had a chance to scan these images properly, or to take better photos, but, as you can see, some of these illustrations are stunning!

[1800 edition, vol. 2]

I particularly like the ones in the 1814 edition from Meißner's Sämmtliche Werke (two copies of which are now available on Google Books, see the frontispieces below; on Google Books here and here; see also my updated list of Haywood Facsimile Texts and Downloadable pdfs here).

[1814 edition, vol. 1]

[1814 edition, vol. 2]

**In fact, it is a work I had to create a special category for in my Bibliography, because the librarian responsible for protecting it took his job so very seriously that he refused to divulge anything at all about it. I sent a series of emails to him, his colleagues and his superiors and then to random staff members at the university concerned. Nothing. He would promise to respond in emails copied to others, but I never got a word out of him. I believe the technical term for someone like this is a bibliotaph.

[UPDATE: 2 July 2016: After all my pictures disappeared again I decided to give up on external hosts for large versions (1000px) of my image files and, for now on, will stick with the smaller images (500px), which Blogger is prepared to host.]