Sunday, February 20, 2005


Tractatus Logico-Merriam Websterus

Yesterday's Guardian reveals the sale of page proofs of a children's spelling dictionary by Ludwig Wittgenstein:

...Proofs of the 42-page guide annotated in the teacher's handwriting went on sale for £75,000. For it is rare and famous among collectors as Ludwig Wittgenstein's "other book" - only the second work published between hard covers in his lifetime by the thinker acknowledged as the pre-eminent genius of 20th century philosophy.

The proofs, which are being sold by Bernard Quaritch, the London antiquarian bookshop, have been taken to the US where a director of the firm, Ian Smith, is displaying them at the San Francisco book fair.... The most curious feature of the dictionary, titled Wörterbuch für Volksschulen, is that it was published in 1926, when he was 37, and written several years after the Tractatus [Logico-Philosophus] had begun to make him famous among philosophers...

Wittgenstein had decided to devote himself to teaching in rural Austrian schools, where the pupils were too poor to afford costly textbooks. "I had never realized dictionaries would be so mightily expensive," he complained. So I guess textbook publishers never really change...

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