Die Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geiste der Musik.

Leipzig: E.W. Fritzsch, 1872.

First edition in exceptionally rare original publisher's cloth binding. This copy previously handled by Bill Schaberg: "When I wrote The Nietzsche Canon: A Publication History and Bibliography (The University of Chicago Press, 1995), I had never even heard of these cloth copies of Nietzsche’s first book, put out by his publisher, Fritzsch. So, it was quite a shock when someone offered this copy to me. It turns out that Fritzsch’s contemporary advertisements for the book mention a cloth binding, so this is not just a figment of some bookseller’s imagination."

This, Nietzsche’s first book, is a compelling argument for the necessity for art in life. It is fueled by his enthusiasms for Greek tragedy, for the philosophy of Schopenhauer and for the music of Wagner, to whom this work was dedicated.

Nietzsche argues that the tragedy of Ancient Greece was the highest form of art due to its mixture of both Apollonian and Dionysian elements into one seamless whole, allowing the spectator to experience the full spectrum of the human condition. The Dionysian element was to be found in the music of the chorus, while the Apollonian element was found in the dialogue which gave a concrete symbolism that balanced the Dionysiac revelry. Basically, the Apollonian spirit was able to give form to the abstract Dionysian.

In contrast to the typical Enlightenment view of ancient Greek culture as noble, simple, elegant and grandiose, Nietzsche believed the Greeks were grappling with pessimism. The universe in which we live is the product of great interacting forces; but we neither observe nor know these as such. What we put together as our conceptions of the world, Nietzsche thought, never actually addresses the underlying realities. It is human destiny to be controlled by the darkest universal realities and, at the same time, to live life in a human-dreamt world of illusions.

The issue, then, or so Nietzsche thought, is how to experience and understand the Dionysian side of life without destroying the obvious values of the Apollonian side. It is not healthy for an individual, or for a whole society, to become entirely absorbed in the rule of one or the other. The soundest (healthiest) foothold is in both. Nietzsche's theory of Athenian tragic drama suggests exactly how, before Euripides and Socrates, the Dionysian and Apollonian elements of life were artistically woven together. The Greek spectator became healthy through direct experience of the Dionysian within the protective spirit-of-tragedy on the Apollonian stage.

The Birth of Tragedy was the best selling book that Nietzsche ever published; still, it did not sell quickly. The Wagners had feared that there might not be an audience for the work and their apprehensions proved to be well-founded. A prediction that Nietzsche had once made to Rohde proved true: "The philologists won't read it on account of the music, the musicians won't read it on account of the philology and the philosophers won't read it on account of the music and the philology." False hopes for brisk sales plagued the first half-year. In mid-April, Nietzsche was writing home that "a new edition of my book will be needed soon,"34 but the necessity of printing a second edition did not materialize quickly. By 20 July, Fritzsch complained that there had been "no results" even though he had "sent out a fair number of copies." (Schaberg, The Nietzsche Canon, p. 27)

8vo (216 x 138 mm) pp. [i-iii] iv [1] 2-143 [144]. Original publisher’s dark-rust binding with an ornate blind-stamped design on the front and rear covers and the spine lettered and filleted in gilt. There is some light browning to the edges of the page margins and light foxing throughout. Rear hinge with a 10 cm split. Entirely unrestored copy in its original state. An extremely well preserved copy of this unusual and all-but-unobtainable original publisher’s cloth binding.

Item #4535

Price: $14,500.00

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