The Akademie Edition

Akademie volumeAkademie volume

When Leibniz died in 1716 he left behind him a vast collection of manuscripts—everything from polished versions of now famous essays such as the Discourse on Metaphysics and the Monadology to fragmentary notes and random jottings. Because only a small portion of his writings appeared in print during his lifetime, contemporary critics were limited in their understanding of his thought. From the time of his death, efforts began to make more of Leibniz's texts available to the public. Among the results were the important editions of Dutens, Foucher de Careil, Klopp, Gerhardt, Couturat and Grua.

At the beginning of the twentieth century planning started on what was to become the definitive edition of Leibniz's writings and correspondence. Because the execution of such an edition depended on the cooperation of French and German academics, progress was long delayed and desultory. Prior to the Second World War only a handful of volumes had appeared and it seemed that completion of the edition lay far in the future. An illuminating account of its history has been published by Hans Poser.

The last two decades have witnessed the accelerated publication of volumes of the Akademie edition, which is organized in eight series and edited at four research centers in Germany. Happily, many of the volumes are now available online in open-access format, in some cases along with preprints of material that will appear in future volumes. The following table summarizes the eight series, along with the centers responsible for them and links to material available online.

Reihe I: Allgemeiner, politischer und historischer Briefwechsel
(General, Political and Historical Correspondence)
Leibniz-Archiv Hannover Volumes
Reihe II: Philosophischer Briefwechsel
(Philosophical Correspondence)
Leibniz-Forschungsstelle Münster Volumes
Reihe III: Mathematischer, naturwissenschaftlicher und technischer Briefwechsel
(Mathematical, Natural Scientific and Technical Correspondence)
Leibniz-Archiv Hannover Volumes
Reihe IV: Politische Schriften
(Political Writings)
Leibniz-Edition Potsdam Volumes
Reihe V: Historische und sprachwissenschaftliche Schriften
(Historical and Linguistic Writings)
Series inactive
Reihe VI: Philosophische Schriften
(Philosophical Writings)
Leibniz-Forschungsstelle Münster Volumes
Reihe VII: Mathematische Schriften
(Mathematical Writings)
Leibniz-Archiv Hannover Volumes
Reihe VIII: Naturwissenschaftliche, medizinische und technische Schriften
(Natural Scientific, Medical and Technical Writings)
Leibniz-Edition Berlin Volumes

English-language Scholarship

Today, those researching Leibniz's thought have access to a much larger collection of texts than any previous generation. The challenge at this point is to come to grips with this vast array of material: reading, analyzing and synthesizing thousands of pages written over the 50 years of Leibniz's career. There is a special challenge for those who depend on English-language versions of Leibniz's texts. Although many excellent collections of Leibniz's writings have appeared in English, including most of his better-known philosophical works, they represent a small fraction of his literary output. Moreover, existing English translations have often been based on inferior editions of the texts, though this situation is now improving. The disparity between the current state of textual scholarship and the availability of Leibniz's writings in English is most evident when it comes to the Akademie edition. The recently published Volume 4 of Series 6 contains the totality of Leibniz's philosophical writings between 1677 and 1690, amounting to 522 distinct documents in some 3000 pages of text. Among these texts is one high-profile work, the 1686 Discourse on Metaphysics, which has been translated into English many times. The Discourse is undoubtedly an important expression of Leibniz's philosophy; nevertheless, it is impossible to say how important it is and how it fits into the larger scheme of his thought without studying it in conjunction with the hundreds of other documents (as well as the hundred of letters) he wrote during the same period. Unfortunately, when it comes to these other texts, the situation is less salutary. Of the 522 items in Akademie 6.4, approximately 30% are available in English.

A pressing task for the next stage of Leibniz scholarship in English is to redress this imbalance, with the aim of making commentary on Leibniz's philosophy more responsive to the full range of his philosophical writings (not to mention his writings on theology, politics, mathematics and natural science). As a first step, it is essential to have a clear idea of what has and has not appeared in English. To this end I have prepared a concordance (ver. 2.0) that cross-references the contents of Akademie 6.4 to available English translations (including some on this site). This is a work in progress. Pointers to translations I have missed, in print or online, would be appreciated and will be incorporated in future versions of the concordance.

Other Sites