Vienna Edition. Introduction

Ludwig Wittgenstein: Wiener Ausgabe
Edited by Michael Nedo


Ludwig Wittgenstein published only one philosophical text during his lifetime, the "Logisch-Philosophische Untersuchung" ("Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus" in its translation into English).

After Wittgenstein's death in April 1951, his heirs (Rush Rhees, Elizabeth Anscombe, and Georg Henrik von Wright) hurriedly set about publishing writings from his estate. The first volume, "Philosophische Untersuchungen" ("Philosophical Investigations") was published by Blackwell and Suhrkamp in 1953. Further volumes have appeared until 1993, yet representing a mere 20% of the writings preserved in the estate. These editions were duly criticized for their incompleteness and problematic choices in editing, thus preventing a proper view of the work in its entirety.

In October 1974, Wittgenstein's heirs commissioned Michael Nedo to publish a complete edition edited according to substantially grounded philological criteria with "The Big Typescript" corpus providing the fundament. Between 1993 and 2000, fifteen volumes were published by Springer Publishers, Vienna, including an introductory volume, two apparatus volumes, and a five-volume study edition. More than 500 reviews appeared internationally, all approving, most of them emphatic. The Times Literary Supplement wrote: "All in all, the Vienna Edition combines readability with accuracy, elegance with lavish detail. It will be a valuable source to scholars, an example to philologists, and a pleasure to bibliophiles." And Karl Popper called the Vienna Edition "the most essential book edition of the century."

When the Vienna branch of Springer Publishers ceased production, it no longer seemed possible to continue the edition, especially since in the meantime the assessment of the situation on the book market had also changed radically: Many academic librarians were convinced that the legacy database of Wittgenstein's manuscripts offered by the University of Bergen (Norway) provided a sufficiently adequate basis for research.

But as helpful as an electronic edition may be, the access to and understanding of a philosophical text provided by the printed book remains unsurpassed. This is especially true of Wittgenstein's writings, a fact readily corroborated by comparing the printed texts with those available online. Michael Nedo demonstrates this very clearly by comparing a Wittgenstein page in the Bergen edition and the corresponding page in the printed volume: see "Digital versus Print".

From 1994 to 2001, the edition was funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), as well as by the Jubiläumsfonds of the Austrian National Bank and the Wissenschaftsförderungsfonds of the City of Vienna. Currently, the City of Vienna supports the project through the Austrian Academy of Sciences. And since 2011, the Wittgenstein Edition has been a research project of Clare Hall: 'A College for Advanced Studies in the University of Cambridge'.

To bring the edition of the Wittgenstein-MSS corpus The Big Typescript from 1929-1934 to completion, seventeen more volumes are to be published in the course of the following years. Beginning with volume 8.2, the Vienna edition is now being published by Vittorio Klostermann. Apparatuses beyond this and complementing the printed volumes of the Vienna Edition will be published in electronic form in the future. A detailed edition plan can be found here. And for a graphic overview of the architecture of the Big Typescript, go here.

The volumes of the Vienna Edition contain between 150 and 600 pages in the format 21,5 x 33 cm. They feature thread stitching, full cloth and dust jacket; more extensive manuscripts are published in volumes of several parts. The volumes of the Studienausgabe are published in the format 16,5 x 24 cm in a thread-stitched brochure.

May 2019