Wolfenbiuttel Fragments

Wolfenbiuttel Fragments (or Fragments of the Wofenbuttel Anonymous Work) is the name of a work written from the deistic point of view to contest the truth of the gospel history, of which Lessing (q.v.) began to publish fragments in 1774. As early as 1771, during a visit to Berlin, he tried to find a publisher of the work, in spite of the advice of Ch. F. Nicolai and Moses Mendelssohn to the contrary, but as the royal censor (though he promised not to interfere with the publication) refused to authorize it, he gave up the plan for the time. In 1773, however, he began to issue a kind of periodical publication, Zur Geschichte und Litteratur aus den Schatzen der herzoglichen Bibliothek zu Wolfenbuttel, which was exempted from the control of the ducal censor; and in the third number of that publication appeared, in 1774, the first instalment of the work, Von Duldung der Deisten, Fragment eines Ungenannten, accompanied with a few cautious remarks by the editor, but very adroitly introduced by the preceding article. The fragment attracted no particular attention; but when, in 1777, the whole fourth number was occupied by fragments, of which some, Unmoglichkeit einer Offenbarung, Durchgang der Israeliten durch das rothe Meer, Ueber die Auferstehungsgeschichte, etc., were of a rather pronounced character, quite a sensation was produced; and Lessing did not fail to deepen the impression by publishing, in 1778, in the form of an independent book, a new fragment, Von dem Zwecke Jesu und seiner Junger. He immediately lost his privilege of publishing anything without the permit of the censor, and a violent controversy with the orthodox party began, the most prominent figure of which was the Lutheran pastor, Johann Melchior Gotze (q.v.). After the death of Lessing, the seven fragments which he had published appeared in Berlin in 1784 (4th ed. 1835). Some more fragments, which Lessing had had in his possession, but had not published, appeared in 1787, edited by C.A.E. Schmidt, a pseudonym for Andreas Riem, canon of Brunswick. The anonymous author of the fragments, which form one of the most remarkable productions of German deism, was Samuel Reimarus (q.v.). Lessing tried to lead public curiosity on a wrong track by hinting that the author probably was Johann Lorenz Schmidt, editor of the Wertheim Bible (q.v.). But already Hamann mentions Reimarus as the author in a letter to Herder, of October 13, 1777; and the authorship was afterwards established beyond any doubt by the declaration of the son of Reimarus, made in a letter addressed to the managers of the Hamburg town-library, to whom he also presented a complete manuscript of the entire work of his father. The letter, written in 1813, a year before the death of the younger Reimarus, was published by Gurlitt in the Leipsic Literatur-Zeitschrift, 1827, No. 55, and by Klose, in Niedner's Zeitschrift fur die historische Theologie (1850), page 519 sq. See Rope, Johann Melchior Gotze (Hamburg, 1860), page 152 sq.; Strauss, Herman Samuel Reimarus und seine Schutzschrift fur die vernunftigen Verehrer Gottes (ibid. 1862): Monckeberg, Hermann S. Reimarus und Johann Christian Edelmann. (ibid. 1867); Fischer, Geschichte der neueren Philosophie (2d ed. Heidelberg, eod.), 2:759-772, Plitt-Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v. "Fragmente." (B.P.)

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