Johann Heinrich Lambert: History of the Editions so far

There have been efforts to publish (partial) editions of Lambert's work.In a way the first edition of Lambert's work occurred immediately after his death in 1777. The Berlin Academy bought Lambert's Nachlass, his unpublished manuscripts, notes and correspondence, on the recommendation of Johann Georg Sulzer. However, because Sulzer died shortly afterwards (1779), nobody seemed capable of editing the manuscript, except for Johann III Bernoulli. On the condition that he made a large portion of the Nachlass available to the public, the Academy sold him the Lambert-Nachlass. (A side remark: Johann III Bernoulli also archived the correspondences of the other Bernoulli's and sold portions of this to interested dukes and kings)

In 1782 Bernoulli inserted a note () on his Lambert-Nachlass in the widely read journals Allerneueste Mannigfaltigkeiten and Teutscher Merkur . Around that time, Bernoulli inserted a posthumous manuscript of Lambert in the Mémoires of the Berlin Academy, he edited the first volume of Lambert's Logische und Philosophische Abhandlungen, and published the first volume of Lambert's deutscher gelehrter Briefwechsel. In subsequent years, Bernoulli published a second volume of the Logische und Philosophische Abhandlungen and four more volumes of the Deutscher gelehrter Briefwechsel (1781-1787). The edition of the Briefwechsel deserves special notice, because it is in a way a "critical" edition, viz. Bernoulli asked Lambert's correspondents to complement the letters with their notes and comments. However, these volumes did not sell well, and instead of publishing a fourth volume of Lambert's Beyträge zum Gebrauche der Mathematik und deren Anwendung, containing Lambert's manuscripts on mathematics and physics, Bernoulli gradually published them in the journals that his friend Carl Friedrich Hindenburg edited, the Leipziger Magazin für reine und angewandte Mathematik (1786-1789) and the Archiv für reine und angewandte Mathematik (1795-1799). Finally Bernoulli sold the Nachlass to the duke of Gotha, where it was rediscovered in the early 20th century by Karl Bopp.

Bopp then edited two important philosophical manuscripts, the Abhandlung vom "Criterium veritatis" (1915) and Über die Methode, die Metaphysik, Theologie und Moral richtiger zu beweisen (1918). He also published and annotated Lambert's scientific diary, the Monatsbuch (1916), and two important correspondences, the one with Leonhard Euler (1924), and the one with Abraham Gotthelf Kästner (1928).

The first modern attempt at the publication of Lambert's collected works happened under national-socialist regime. Curiously enough, Lambert's alleged tendency for privileging Anschauung over Formalismus (which is a wrong interpretation by the way) made him a good German scientist, although Lambert was of Alsacian origin. In 1943 Max Steck published Johann Heinrich Lambert: Schriften zur Perspektive, collecting all Lambert's writings on perspective, together with an edition of the manuscript Anlage zur Perspectiv and an overview of Lambert's writings and manuscripts. Steck thought of this volume as the first of a complete series of collected works. Needless to say, the edition was not pursued after 1945.

A few years later, Andreas Speiser, also involved with the edition of Euler's Opera Omnia, published two volumes that collected Lambert's mathematical work, the J.H. Lamberti Opera Mathematica (1946-1948).The volumes have a good preface to the included papers, and the edition is quite complete, although Speiser included only papers on pure mathematics. The development of mathematical ideas within texts on physics, philosophy, etc. occurs quite often in Lambert's oeuvre, but these passages are not included in Speiser's edition.

In 1965, Hans Werner Arndt undertook the edition of another part of Lambert's oeuvre, the philosophical part this time. From 1965 to 1968 Arndt published 7 volumes of Johann Heinrich Lambert: Philosophische Schriften, each volume containing photographic reproductions of Lambert's main philosophical works and an introduction by Arndt. Only volumes I to IV, VI to VII and IX were published. In 2004 the edition was taken up again by the Arbeitsstelle Lambert-Edition to supplement the missing volumes V, VIII and X.

As this history of editions illustrates, Lambert's oeuvre never got the historical-critical edition it deserved (and will most likely never get it), but the oeuvre got split up in parts according to disciplinary boundaries and editions of these partial oeuvres were attempted. In the absence of a real edition of the complete oeuvre, this website can at least make Lambert's work accessible and provide a minimum of historical-critical markers.