Kant portrait


Herder portrait


The Herder notes from
Immanuel Kant’s Lectures

Herder NL XXVI.5, p. 123

General Introduction ] [ Metaphysics ] [ Moral Philosophy ] [ Physical Geography ] [ Logic ] [ varia ]

NB: This is a working draft (December 2020). The transcript of the notes is not in final form, and many of the editoral materials are still incomplete. Please send comments and questions to: [ssnaragon@manchester.edu]

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)[1] lectured on philosophy at the university at Königsberg for forty-one years, from the winter semester of 1755-56 until the summer semester of 1796. He eventually assumed the professorship of Logic and Metaphysics (beginning with the summer semester 1770), but for his first fifteen years he taught as an unsalaried Privatdozent.

Midway through this time an almost eighteen-year-old Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803) arrived from his hometown of Mohrungen and enrolled during the 1762 summer semester at the university as a theology student. Kant invited Herder to attend his lectures for free, which Herder did – all of them, and sometimes more than once – and he took extensive notes over the course of two years. The largest set of notes come from the metaphysics lectures, followed by physical geography and moral philosophy, and just a few pages of notes on logic. Under the title “Varia” we include Herder’s notes on physics and mathematics (here the attribution to Kant’s lectures is more tenuous), as well as related passages from several of Herder’s student notebooks.

These are the earliest notes that we have from Kant’s lectures, and the only notes from his years as a Privatdozent.

Previous transcriptions of some of these notes were published by Menzer (1911; fragments from the Physical Geography and Metaphysics notes), Irmscher (1964; all that was available to him at the time on Logic, Mathematics, Physics, Metaphysics, and Moral Philosophy), and by Lehmann in the following volumes of the Academy edition of Kant’s gesammelte Schriften: 24 (1966; Logic), 27 (1974; Moral Philosophy), 28 (1968, 1970; Metaphysics), and 29 (1980; Mathematics, Physics).

This website provides an improved transcription of Herder’s notes from Kant’s metaphysics, moral philosophy, and logic lectures, and the first transcription of his notes from Kant’s physical geography lectures.

Herder’s Studies in Königsberg ] [ Herder’s Notes ] [ Ordering and Format ] [ Writing the Notes ]
Complete List of Transcribed Manuscripts ]

Using this Website

To access the Herder notes, click on one of the sets here – Metaphysics [MP], Moral Philosophy [MO], Physical Geography [PG], Logic [LO], Varia [VA] – or in the links above. The Bibliography and Name Index can be accessed from any page. Clicking on their titles (in the windows to the right) expands them to the main window. We include them on this opening page to facilitate searches using your browser search function. A final page contains Excerpts of source material used by Kant in his lectures (other than the official textbooks used).

Each set of notes has its own introductory page with information for that transcription.

Herder’s Studies in Königsberg [top]

Herder was born and spent his childhood and early education in Mohrungen (today: Morąg, Poland), a large town of about 1800 inhabitants lying inland and equidistant from the port cities of Danzig (Gdanzk, Poland) to the north-west and Königsberg (Kaliningrad, Russia) to the north-east, roughly 120 kilometers distant. Königsberg was one of the larger German-speaking cities, with about fifty-thousand inhabitants when Herder arrived in the summer of 1762.

Kant’s Lecture Schedule
[‘x’ = the course likely took place; ‘H’= Herder’s notes]
1762X H

62-63XX H?X

63-64X H?X HX H(private)X
1764X H?
W/S 10-12
64-6511-12X H?
9-10X H?

Kant had been teaching as a Privatdozent[2] for seven years when Herder arrived, offering lectures every semester on logic, metaphysics, and mathematics, and nearly every semester on theoretical physics, physical geography, and less frequently on moral philosophy. Herder’s stay in Königsberg overlapped with six semesters at the university, arriving in the middle of the summer semester 1762 and leaving near the middle of the winter semester 1764-65.[3] Herder’s very first lecture notes are dated from this partial semester: 21 August 1762.[4]

Herder claims to have attended all of Kant’s courses offered[5] and we appear to have notes from each of these: physical geography (1763-64 and/or 1764), logic (any of the four semesters), mathematics (1762-63 and/or 1763), metaphysics (1762 and either 1763-64 and/or 1764), moral philosophy (1763-64, and possibly the first part of 1764-65), and physics (1763; possibly the first part of 1764-65).[6]

The records of Kant’s teaching schedule during Herder’s student years is not entirely certain. In the table, an ‘x’ indicates that the course likely took place, and with the last two semesters we also have information on time and day (the default lecture days were Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, although in 1764 the metaphysics lectures were held every Wednesday and Saturday from 10 to noon).

The mathematics lectures for 1763-64 were a set of privatissima lectures – these are lectures to a select group of auditors who privately hire the professor for their own lessons (in this instance, to a group of army officers).[7]

Entering the university

A new student arriving at the university would sit for an entrance exam administered by the dean of the philosophy faculty, as well as register with the dean of one of the higher faculties (theology, law, or medicine). With papers in hand showing he had passed the exam and was properly registered, the student would then present himself to the rector of the university to be matriculated as an “academic citizen” of the university itself. Johann Christoph Bohl, the second full professor of medicine, was serving as rector[8] when Herder arrived and so he would have registered the new student, writing down his name and place of origin, whether he had studied elsewhere or had previously matriculated at Königsberg, his religious affiliation if not Lutheran, and occasionally mentioning the intended area of study, the gymnasium attended, membership in the nobility, or whether all or part of the matriculation fee was waived (the level of detail varies considerably from rector to rector). Herder’s entry in the matriculation records, the only one for that day, reads simply: “Herder Joh. Godfr., Mohrungen-Boruss.” (‘Borussia’ is the Latin name for Prussia).

Herder next registered with Friedrich Samuel Bock,[9] the dean of the theology faculty, on Saturday, August 7th, passed the entrance exam with Christoph Langhansen[10] two days later in the philosophy faculty on Monday, and matriculated into the university with Bohl on Tuesday (10 August 1762).[11]

Herder recounted this adventure in a letter of 22 September 1770 to Caroline Flachsland, the woman he would later marry:

“Due to a thousand prejudices, my parents didn’t want me to pursue an education. A hypocrite, through whose example hypocrites became for me the worst of all people, and who mixed himself into the affairs of my family, infinitely increased this difficulty. Dazed, ignorant, I had to follow blindly: I went to Königsberg with a Russian surgeon, a friend of my parents, in order to cure my eye. Fortunately he was quickly called to Petersburg, made me the most enticing offers, and I – went off and matriculated. Ignorant and unknown as I was, without my parents’ permission and against the will of him to whom I was entrusted; indeed, with neither money nor prospect, after just three weeks I entered the academy. And I have not regretted it yet …” (Briefe, 1: 228-30).

Teaching at the Collegium Fridericianum

Herder was impoverished, but also determined not to ask for what little financial help his parents might have been able to offer, so finding a paying job to support his studies was a necessity. Either through Johann Georg Hamann[12] or the bookseller and publisher Johann Jakob Kanter[13] – both of whom Herder had met not long after arriving in Königsberg – Herder was able to secure a position at the Collegium Fridericianum immediately after matriculating at the university. In Herder’s day the Collegium served as a model Latin school for all of Prussia, having been started privately about sixty years earlier and eventually receiving a royal privilege. Kant had studied there as a grade school and then as a high school student (from 1732-40), and apart from taking in day students like Kant, there were also quarters to lodge between forty and fifty boys – and these boys needed supervisors, called Inspicienten. This was Herder’s first position at the school, bringing with it room and board, the room being shared with two boys whose studies, prayers, and general demeanor he supervised. This school (and perhaps to some extent the other three city Latin schools) was predicated on the cheap labor in the form of theology students at the university who formed much of the teaching staff. Although initially hired as an Inspicient, Herder was given teaching responsibilities beginning with the very next semester (winter 1762-63), teaching arithmetic (Rechenunterricht) to elementary students in the German school, and then promoted to teaching Greek, French, Hebrew, and mathematics to the high school students in the third class (summer 1763), and in winter 1763-64 Latin to the second class and history and philosophy to the first class.[13] So while Herder was attending classes and taking notes at the university he was also preparing and writing notes as a teacher at this local high school.

In the end, Herder grew dissatisfied with teaching at the Collegium, secured a teaching position at the Cathedral School in Riga, and left Königsberg (after some delays caused by the great fire that occured on November 11) on November 22, 1764. In total, Herder was in Königsberg and at the university for four full semesters (winter 1762-63, summer 1763, winter 1763-64, summer 1764), as well as the last four weeks of summer 1762 and the first four or five weeks of winter 1764-65. The various notes that he took in Kant’s classrooms all came from this period.

Coursework at the university

A list of the philosophy and theology instructors at Königsberg during Herder’s stay can be seen here.

Apart from hearing all of Kant’s lectures (which would have included metaphysics, physical geography, moral philosophy, mathematics, logic, and physics, and some of which he was said to have repeated), Herder is claimed to have heard dogmatics with T. C. Lilienthal, church history with D. H. Arnoldt, philology with G. D. Kypke, physics with J. G. Teske, mathematics and physics with F. J. Buck, and possibly also New Testament with C. Langhansen and F. S. Bock.

Some of this information comes from Herder himself. In a letter from early 1768, Herder offered a brief account of his university course-work: “philosophy according to its parts with Magister Kant, philology with Professor Kypke, theology in its various fields with Doctor Lilienthal and Arnold [sic]” (Briefe, 1: 95). Herder also offered the following reminiscence to Karl August Böttiger, who entered it into his journal on December 2, 1798 (so, about thirty-five years after the fact):

“In Königsberg there was at that time such a deplorable dryness and barbarity among the teachers. Langhansen, the senior court chaplain, was the most boring wind-bag and polemicist, and wholly unpalatable to Herder. A certain Bock was professor of ancient languages, a pitiful fellow, who analyzed the New Testament and at which Herder could last only an hour. Otherwise this Bock is a known author in several fields. Kypke was also a professor of theology then, but lived far out in the suburbs where he sold carrots and onions from his garden and gave quite unpalatable lectures on Genesis. A certain Buck lectured on mathematics, but always only according to Wolff’s Anfangsgründen, and never more than that, although Herder nevertheless attended with great diligence, likewise with his physics, that he delivered quite clumsily. In part the professors had to give such school-level lectures because the students were wholly unprepared. The Albertinum was there for the Poles, where the most deplorable hazing reigned, with the young fellows waiting on the older ones, and these students populated the entire university. And from this was the university populated. Kant shone from the lectern, a god to all. The Livland and Curland students attended only his lectures, as they pursued only fashionable studies. But he spoke a lot of confusing things as well. Herder could make use of his lectures only by noting the main points in the classroom, and then setting out and re-working what he had heard in his own way once back home.” (Böttiger 1998, 125)[12]

At about the same time that the above reminiscence was recorded, Herder wrote this encomium to his favorite professor:

“I had the good fortune to know a philosopher, who was my teacher. He was in his best years, and possessed the cheerful vivacity of youth that, I believe, has accompanied him even into old age. His open, thoughtful brow was the seat of undisturbed cheerfulness and joy; language rich in thought flowed from his lips; jokes, wit, and good humor were at his command; and his instructive lectures were the greatest of entertainment. In the same spirit with which he investigated Leibniz, Wolf, Baumgarten, Crusius, and Hume, and traced the laws of Newton, Kepler, and the physicists generally, he also examined the writings then appearing by Rousseau, namely, his Émile and his Heloise. He appreciated every physical discovery that came to his notice, and always returned to an impartial knowledge of nature and the moral worth of man. The wellspring of his lectures was the history of men, of nations, and of nature, as well as natural science, mathematics, and his own experience. He was indifferent to nothing worth knowing. No cabal, no sect, no prejudice, no ambition for fame, had the least influence over him compared with the development and clarification of the truth. He encouraged and pleasantly compelled his hearers to think for themselves; despotism was foreign to his mind. This man, whom I mention with the greatest thankfulness and esteem, is Immanuel Kant; his picture stands pleasantly before me.” (From Herder’s Letters on the Advancement of Humanity, #79; Suphan, 17: 404; FHA 7: 424-25)

We also find fond recollections of attending Kant’s lectures that Herder wrote down in his travel journal from 1769, along with plans for a school modeled after Rousseau’s Émile. Herder’s future school would involve not mere speculation, but rather “the result of all the empirical sciences, without which it would admittedly be just idle speculation.” It will include psychology (“a rich physics of the soul”), cosmology (“the crown of Newtonian physics”), theology (“the crown of cosmology”), and finally ontology (“the most cultivated science of them all”):

“I readily admit that we do not yet have a philosophy following this method, such that would really teach students, nor especially ontology – that most excellent teacher of great prospects has become a mere web of jargon! Oh, what might be accomplished with a metaphysics in this spirit, to expand its prospects from one concept to another in the spirit of Bacon, what would that be for a work! And a lively instruction in the spirit of Kant, what for heavenly hours!”[13]

Anecdotes from two of Herder’s classmates – Karl Gottlieb Bock and Jakob Friedrich Wilpert – have also been recorded. Bock (1746-1829) matriculated at Königsberg on September 27, 1762, a month after Herder, and forty-three years later offered these memories of their student days together:

“Kant offered to let him hear, free of charge, all his lectures on logic, metaphysics, moral philosophy, mathematics, and physical geography. It was here, in the years 1763 and 1764, that I made his acquaintance. We heard Kant’s lectures together which he wrote to me about in a letter of August 11, 1788, on his way to Italy from Nuremberg: ‘I still see you, real as life, sitting at the table at which I also sat. Where has the time gone?’

With strained attentiveness he took in every idea, every word of the great philosopher, and at home ordered his thoughts and expression. He often shared these notes with me and we would discuss them in an isolated summerhouse in a seldom-visited public garden by the Alt-Roßgarten church.” (Herder 1846, 133-34; Herder’s letter to Bock is printed in Briefe, 6: 20-22)

Bock goes on to recall an especially lively lecture where Kant was quoting from his favorite poets (Pope and Haller) to illuminate certain points on the nature of time and eternity. Herder was so moved by this that he returned to his room, set Kant’s lecture to verse, and then handed it to Kant the following morning before the lecture began. Kant was so impressed by Herder’s poem that he read it aloud – “with fiery praise” – to the class. The poem is lost, but if Bock is correct that it “sprang out of Kant’s lecture on time and space like Minerva from Jupiter’s head,”[14] then Herder presumably found poetic inspiration sitting in Kant’s metaphysics lectures – a rather stark contrast with the observation made by Herder’s widow that he “most preferred hearing Kant talk about astronomy, physical geography, and in general about the great laws of nature,” but that “he had much less taste for the metaphysics lectures. … After many of these metaphysical lectures he would hurry outside with some poet or Rousseau, or some such author, so as to free himself of the impressions that agreed so little with his mind.”[15]

Jakob Friedrich Wilpert (1741-1812), a later mayor of Riga, recalled attending with Herder …

“… Kant’s lectures on metaphysics, moral philosophy, and physical geography. We sat at a table; at that time he was shy and quiet, his gait was stooped and quick, his eyes often sick-looking; from his appearances, one could see that he was poor; but his spirit was rich, even then – and when he discussed the lectures of his teachers, it was so thorough and firm, that he commanded respect and affection from his colleagues. We all heard dogmatics together from Dr. Lilienthal;[16] otherwise I didn't have any closer relations with him.” (Herder 1846, 137)

Near the end of his life, in the latter years of a bitter falling out with Kant, Herder offers one more glimpse of his student days in the preface to his Kalligone (1800):

“For more than thirty years I’ve known a youth [viz., Herder himself] who heard all of the lectures, some more than once, of the founder of the critical philosophy himself – and indeed in his early, flourishing years. The youth marveled over the teacher’s dialectical wit, his political as well as scientific acumen, his eloquence, his intelligent memory; he was never at a loss for words; his lectures were meaningful conversations with himself. But the youth soon noticed that, when he set aside the gracefulness of the presentation, he would become wrapped in one of its dialectical webs of words, within which he himself was no longer able to think. He therefore set himself the strict task, after each hour of careful listening, of changing it all into his own words, making no use of pet words or phrases of his teacher, and even diligently to avoid this.” (FHA 8: 651-52)

Herder’s Notes [top]

Wolter Physical Geography

The Wolter

Kant lectured at the university at Königsberg for about 40 years and from those years around 150 sets of student lecture notes have been cataloged, with over 100 of these still extant, although many only as fragments, and with perhaps just as many vanishing without a trace. Many of the extant notes (all handwritten, of course) were nicely bound by their original owners, often with calligraphically-written title pages. The Wolter set of notes on physical geography, for instance, has a title page that reads: “Die physische Geographie / vorgetragen / vom / Herrn Professor E: Kant”, with “K. Fried. Wolter. / d. G. G. B. aus Curland” written at the bottom right and “Königsberg / im Sommerhalben Jahr / 1796” written to the left.

None of the Herder notes are like this.[17] They are not nicely bound together in a book with Kant’s name on the title page. Instead they come to us on loose signatures or single sheets, in varying formats, most in ink, many in pencil, and some nearly illegible from physical wear or hurried writing – and virtually none with a note at the top of the page stating that they come from Kant’s lectures. (The group image shown here is of the first pages of the various signatures of notes on metaphysics.)

Herder Metaphysics

The Herder Metaphysics Notes

The one exception to this shadowy provenance are those few pages of notes from Herder’s very first day attending Kant’s lectures, where Herder wrote in his notebook: “bey Kant. 1sten mal. d. 21 Aug” followed by two pages of notes from Kant’s metaphysics lectures concerning Baumgarten, §§796-808. All the other notes come with some degree of conjecture, and the provenance of a few of the notes – specifically, the physics and the mathematics notes – are rightly questioned.[18] We discuss the relevant evidence for them in the introduction to the Varia.

Herder is thought to have attended all of Kant’s lectures, but it is important to remember that Kant was not lecturing on everything he ever taught during those two years that Herder was a student. Kant did not begin offering his popular lectures on anthropology until winter semester 1772-73, and he first lectured on natural law during summer semester 1767, philosophical encyclopedia the semester after that (winter 1767-68), and natural theology and pedagogy (each of which Kant taught only four times in the 70’s and 80’s) were first given during summer 1774 and winter 1776-77, respectively.

Manuscript Page Count

The notes we do have from Herder come from Kant’s lectures on Metaphysics, Moral Philosophy, Physical Geography, and Logic. We also have notes on Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, although whether these come from Kant’s lectures is less clear. These sets of notes are discussed more fully in their own sections, with the last two discussed under Varia.

Of these texts, the metaphysics notes are the longest, and the 4° notes on physical geography are the most polished. The logic notes are scant (about 10 pages) and the notes on physics and mathematics a bit longer (each with about fifteen pages).

The notes on mathematics (Ma) and physics (Ph) are collected under the “VA” heading to indicate our uncertainty regarding their provenance.

The tabular summary of the manuscript page counts provided here includes a column labeled “copy” – these are the pages of hand-copied notes prepared c.1900 of Herder’s physical geography notes, for which the originals are missing. The copied notes are written in a much larger hand, resulting in about three pages of copy for every page of original. The copies are not included in the total manuscript page count; including them, since they represent about 24 manuscript pages, would result in a new total of 360 manuscript pages.

From Herder to Here: Tracing the Path of the Notes

Herder’s widow, Caroline, born Maria Caroline Flachsland (1750-1809) and who died just six years after her husband, spent much of those six years putting his papers in order. She had always been intimately engaged with her husband’s writings and now she wrote his biography and carried out the first collecting and arranging of the Nachlaß (two volumes, published postumously in 1820) along with a first edition of a “collected works” with the Müller brothers – Johannes von Müller (1752-1809) and Johan Georg Müller (1759-1819) – culminating in a 45-volume edition (Tübingen, 1805-20), then a 60-volume edition (Stuttgart, 1827-30). Some of Herder’s student notes may well have been sorted at this time. Herder’s sixth child, his son Emil Ernst Gottfried Herder (1783-1855) also worked with the Nachlaß in editing the six volume Lebensbild (1846), although he apparently tore pages from Herder’s notebooks while working through the material (Irmscher 1960, 1-2).

Bernard Suphan (1845-1911) undertook a new 33-volume edition of Herder’s Sämmtliche Werke (Berlin, 1877 to 1913), and while his focus was on the published writings he also clearly worked through the Nachlaß. The notes were all collected[19] into fascicles or folders and assigned an arabic number; these fascicles were grouped into boxes (Kapseln) and assigned roman numbers – there are 45 boxes altogether in the Herder Nachlaß in Berlin at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz. Suphan was likely responsible for this initial ordering (catalogued by Irmscher and Adler in 1979) and was certainly instrumental in arranging the previous purchase of a large part of the Herder Nachlass in 1870 (Irmscher 1960, 2).

All the loose sheets included in the present transcription are collected in Nachlaß Herder XXV, folders 37-46. Apart from a few notes found in notebooks (e.g., XX.188), there are also notes found in the Nachlaß Kant in the Akademie-Archiv in Berlin, and a set of copies are kept in the same archive with the Nachlass Adickes. A complete list of the manuscripts transcribed on this website is given below.

Rudolph Haym (1821-1901), in preparing his two-volume biography of Herder (published 1880 and 1885), learned of Herder’s lecture notes in the Nachlaß and understood them to come from Kant’s lectures; Haym mentions Teske’s physics lectures, Buck’s mathematics lectures (here citing Böttiger as his source), and how these all paled when compared with the lectures by Magister Kant (1880, 1: 30). Here Haym appears to be working from various accounts rather than his own inspection of the manuscripts, but he was also aware that Herder first attended Kant’s lectures on August 21, 1762 – so he must have been familiar with the Brown Notebook (Herder-NL XXVI.5), mentioning that it includes notes from that day’s lecture (1880, 1: 31). Haym also mentions seeing a Heft of Herder’s notes from Kant’s physical geography lectures, and that Herder clearly had these lectures in mind while reminiscing in one of his Weimar “Schulreden” about being drawn beyond the borders of his place of birth out into God’s wide world “in which our earth floats” (1880, 1: 33).

F. W. Paul Lehmann (1850-1930) provided a closer description of the physical geography notes in his essay over “Kants Bedeutung als akademischer Lehrer der Erdkunde” (1886):

“Unter den Papieren Herders befinden sich Nachschriften der Vorlesungen über die Physische Geographie, in die mir Herr Prof. Suphan, der bekannte Herausgeber von Herders Werken, einen Einblick gestattete. Mit Bleistift und Tinte geschrieben liegt ein nicht immer leicht zu lesendes und bei den vielen Zeichen für die häufigst wiederkehrenden Worte zuweilen schwer zu deutendes Brouillon von vielen einzelnen Vorlesungen vor, das mit manchem Abschnitten aus dem zweiten Bande Rinks oft wörtlich, in der Anordnung aber genau übereinsteimmt. Den ersten Teil, der die eigentliche physische Geographie enthält, hat Herder recht sorgfältig ausgearbeitet. Unschwere gelang es mir, die auf Quartblättern niedergeschriebenen und sich getreu an das – von einzelnen Vorlesungen ebenfalls vorhandene – Brouillon haltenden Ausführungen zu ordenen.” (1886, p. 129; qtd. in Irmscher 1964, 10)

Around 1900, Paul Menzer (1873-1960) became aware of three large groups of Herder’s manuscripts that he identified as notes from Kant’s lectures on metaphysics, moral philosophy, and physical geography (see Dilthey’s 1900 report on the Kant-Ausgabe to the Berlin Academy of Sciences), and (with the help of two others) made a handwritten copy of most (but not all) of the notes on metaphysics and physical geography, as well as a page of logic notes.[20] Lengthy excerpts from the metaphysics and physical geography notes were published in Menzer’s Kants Lehre von der Entwicklung in Natur und Geschichte (1911),[21] and with these passages Menzer clearly returned to the original manuscripts to improve his transcription (the initial copy is much rougher than the published selections).

It was around this time that Menzer also assumed the general editorship of the fourth division – devoted to student notes from Kant’s lectures – of the Academy edition of Kant’s gesammelte Schriften. This was in 1909 following the death of the previous general editor, Max Heinze, and not long after this Menzer prepared a list of all the known student notes. Herder’s notes on physical geography, metaphysics, and moral philosophy appear on the list, but not those on logic, physics, or mathematics.

Erich Adickes (1866-1928), a philosophy professor at the university in Tübingen, was soon also making use of these notes in his Untersuchungen zu Kant’s physischer Geographie (1911) and Kants Ansichten über Geschichte und Bau der Erde (1911), as well as in his two-volume Kant als Naturforscher (1924-25), and he and Menzer (in Halle) were routinely mailing back and forth sheets of both original and copied notes.

Hans Dietrich Irmscher (1929-2009), a Germanist at Cologne and working with Gottfried Martin, a philosophy professor in Bonn, published a transcription of all of Herder’s lecture notes available to him in Immanuel Kant. Aus den Vorlesungen der Jahre 1762 bis 1764 (1964); this included all that were deposited in Tübingen at the time (save for the 6 sheets on Physical Geography, that he wrote were not worth publishing given then availability of the Holstein-Beck notes that came from about the same time and that were closer to Kant (1964, 12). None of the original notes or copies that Menzer had used in his 1911 publication were available to Irmscher, who assumed that they were lost for good (1964, 9-10), and he re-printed all but one of the passages from the metaphysics notes that Menzer published. Irmscher (1960, 12) also provided a summary list of all of Herder’s notes from Kant’s lectures that he could find: Logic (2 sheets), Metaphysics (2, 1, and 1 sheet), Moral Philosophy (4, 15, and 14 sheets), Physical Geography (6 sheets), Mathematics (8 sheets).

Most recently, Gerhard Lehmann (1900-1987), as editor of the fourth division volumes of the Academy edition following Menzer’s death, published all the Herder lecture notes that he could find on Logic (1966; AA 24: 3-6, 1099-1102), Moral Philosophy (1974; AA 27: 3-89), and Metaphysics (1968; AA 28: 5-166). A substantial portion of the metaphysics notes was drawn from the Menzer copy, since the original manuscripts were missing, but when those manuscripts came to light Lehmann published a new transcription (1970; AA 28: 843-931), followed by notes on Mathematics (1980; AA 29: 49-66) and Physics (1980; 69-71). Lehmann retired before publishing the notes on Physical Geography, although he did prepare a transcription.

Ordering and Format of the Notes [top]


All of the notes have also been numbered by a librarian in pencil, either by page or by sheet, and these numbers usually but not always follow the proper ordering of the content. When sheets are numbered, we follow the convention of designating the pages ‘r’ (= recto/front) and ‘v’ (= verso/back), with the sheet number appearing on the recto side. Usually the manuscript catalog number is also written in pencil on the first page of the manuscript. The catalog number of the manuscript group, along with the page or sheet number for that group, is always included with each transcribed manuscript page. Apart from these groupings done by librarians and recorded in pencil on the manuscripts, we have occasionally found it helpful to create additional groupings (as suggested by the content and/or format).


A signature (German: Lage) is the basic unit of manuscript as discussed on this website, and this may consist of a single unfolded sheet of paper (thus with two pages available for text); or a sheet that has been folded once, resulting in two sheets or four pages of text; or any number of folded sheets that have been nested together and arranged so as to be read as a booklet. A few of the signatures in the Herder Nachlaß were sewn together (threads are still hanging from Ont/Cos-C2).

Paper and Format

These notes are written on either quarto (4°) or octavo (8°) format sheets. A quarto (4°) sheet is where the original printer’s sheet is folded twice, resulting in four sheets (or eight pages). The size of printer’s sheets would vary from mill to mill, but the sheets in this collection are generally around 31 x 42 centimeters, resulting in quarto (4°) sheets of around 15.5 x 21 centimeters. Octavo (8°) sheets are folded a third time, resulting in eight sheets (or sixteen pages) of around 10.5 x 15.5 centimeters.

Of the 336 manuscript pages transcribed here, 225 are on 8° sheets and 111 are on 4° sheets. In addition to these, 72 pages are copies prepared by later scholars, where the original manuscript has since been lost.

Because the 4° pages are roughly twice as large as the 8°, one might think that they would have roughly twice as much text, but because of the wide margin found with most of the 4° notes and the less frequent use of abbreviations, the amount of text per page is normally comparable to that of the 8° pages (about 350-400 words/page).

Writing the Notes [top]





Ink vs Pencil

All but four of the 111 quarto pages are in ink. Of the 225 octavo pages, 155 are in ink and 70 in pencil. A few signatures are mixed, written with both pencil and ink: RP/NT 763-844 of the Metaphysics notes and the 8° Asia notes from Physical Geography. Shown here as an example of the differing appearance of ink and pencil: ‘Vernunft’.

One might expect notes written in pencil to stem directly from the classroom, with notes in ink to have been written at home as clean copies, and this is certainly true of Ont 180-239 (pencil) and Ont/Cos 1-450 (ink); the latter also has wide margins, fewer abbreviations, and ornate headings – all marks of notes prepared at home from an earlier draft. But there are many 8° notes written in ink that are otherwise just like those written in pencil: without margins and heavily abbreviated. Compare pages from RP/NT 763 (ink) and EP 682 (pencil).






Herder’s notes typically involve a great many abbreviations; the 8° notes have very few sentences free of at least some abbreviations, while many of the sentences are fully written out in the 4° notes. Herder also employs two separate forms of handwriting: a Latin script used for Latin words (and often for proper names), and the German Kurrentschrift. It is not uncommon to find these handwritings combined in a single word, normally a Latin-stem written in Latin script with a German-ending written in Kurrent. Similarly, it is not uncommon to find the same word written in either script, for instance ‘simpler’ (shown here). We have attempted to retain this distinction, displaying the Latin script in a sans-serif font.



Abbreviations and Symbols

Herder used many standard abbreviations – for instance, omitting an ‘-er’ (often marked by a short horizontal stroke through the upper- or lower-flag of a preceding consonant, such as the ‘b’ in ‘aber’ or the ‘g’ in ‘weniger’ or the ‘z’ in ‘unzergliederlich’), ‘-ie-, ‘-en’, the ‘-eit’ of ‘-heit’ and ‘-keit’, the ‘-ich’ of ‘-lich’ and all of ‘-ung’. A horizontal stroke over an ‘m’ or ‘n’ indicates a doubling of the letter.

The mark for ‘und’ is a ‘u’ (usually followed with a period) with a sweeping upward loop for the circle that is usually placed over a ‘u’ to distinguish it from the ‘n’ (and often appears like ‘id’; in any event, it is comparable to the ‘u’ as typically written in ‘zu’).

These abbreviations often result in words that are surprisingly reduced, such as ‘Übereinstimmung’ (Über˚.einstimmung) or ‘Aufmerksamkeit’ (˚Aufmerks.amkeit), shown here.









Most abbreviations are used quite consistently, but some words display considerable variation, either written out in full or abbreviated in any of several ways, such as ‘denken’ (shown here).

A list of abbreviations is available – these are the words that, in this transcription, have been expanded and preceded by an abbreviation-sign, either ˚ (for German) or ʾ (for Latin). For instance, an ‘f.’ is expanded to ‘˚.auf’, ‘Zt’ becomes ‘˚Zeit’, and ‘v.v.’ becomes ‘ʾvice versa’. A general glossary provides a list of writing samples from the notes, and also collects together samples of Herder’s punctuation signs and the various symbols that he employs.



Revising the Notes

First, some terms.[22] Let Nachschrift be the generic term for any handwritten material in which the writer of the text is not the source of the text (i.e., the written down text is either someone’s speech or lecture, or another written text) but the original source is the spoken word. Different sorts of Nachschriften related to university lectures are possible:

(a) Mitschrift (the original notes): a Nachschrift written down in the lecture hall. These typically include an abundance of abbreviations and they are often written in pencil.

(b) Reinschrift (a fair copy; häuslichen Ausarbeitungen): a re-written and revised version of a Mitschrift. These normally are more neatly written, with fewer abbreviations and truncated words, and with fewer spelling and grammatical errors. The student (or Hofmeister, with wealthier students) would typically prepare this once back at home after the lecture.

(c) Abschrift (copy): a copy of another written text, often for the purpose of selling it to other students. With such copies, errors noticed by the copyists might be corrected in the text, but the intention here is simply to copy a set of notes, not to clean-up or amplify them (as typifies a Reinschrift) and new errors typical of copies (e.g., doubled words and skipped lines) will be introduced.

Most or all of the 8° Herder notes appear to be Mitschriften and most of the 4° notes are Reinschriften. It is always a possibility that Herder copied out some sections of notes into his Reinschriften from the notes of another student (for instance, if he missed a lecture), but we have not identified any such passages. In the other student notes that we have from Kant’s lectures, a large majority involve Abschriften at some level.

One occasionally finds in the literature the words Urschrift or unmittelbare Niederschrift (original or immediate notes): these refer to the Mitschrift. Occasionally Nachschrift is used in the same sense as Mitschrift, but we use the words ‘original notes’, ‘fair copy’, and ‘copy’ in the senses noted above.

Two levels of revision can be seen in Herder’s notes. The first are corrections of miswrites (by crossing out a word or inserting a word above the line or in the margin, and so on) that are probably contemporaneous with writing the original notes, but it is usually impossible to distinguish between contemporaneous revisions and those occuring at some later date, except when Herder uses a different ink with the revision, in particular when he moves between a carbon based ink (which remains black over time) and an iron based ink (which turns a reddish-brown over time). A good example of this is found in the Physical Geography 8°-History notes, p. 3.

A second level of revision is where an entirely new draft is written out. Most of Herder’s first drafts to his Reinschriften have disappeared long ago, probably not surviving Herder, but we still have a few clear examples of draft revisions. Various passages in the 8° physical geography notes can be located in the second draft 4° notes, for example, and in the metaphysics notes, Ont-180 (1-4) is clearly a first draft of Ont-Cos (B6-C6).

Complete List of the Herder Manuscripts Transcribed [top]

MP (Metaphysics) • MO (Moral Philosophy) • PG (Physical Geography) • LO (Logic) • VA (Varia)[23]

At the Akademie-Archiv in Berlin, Nachlass Kant:

15a (8°): 4 pp. [PG: HumansAnimals]

15a (4°): 10 pp. [PG: EarthquakesRiversWinds]

19 (4°): 34 pp. [MP: Ont/Cos 1-450 (B1-D16)]

At the Akademie-Archiv in Berlin, Nachlass Adickes:

4 (4°): 72 pp. of text copied from original Herder 4° notes (now lost)[20] [PG: IntroOceansLandEarthquakesSpringsRiversWinds]

At the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Nachlass Herder:

XX.188 (8° notebook, pp. 120-24): 4 pp. [MP: Prol]

XX.188 (8° notebook, pp. 110-19): 6 pp. [VA/Physics: D1-D6]

XXV.37 (8°): 4 pp. [LO: XXV.37]

XXV.37a (8°): 2 pp. [LO: XXV.37a]

XXV.38 (8°): 1 p. [MP: EP 589-91]

XXV.39 (8°): 1 p. [MP: RP 742-48 (A1)]

XXV.40 (8°): 2 pp. [MP: RP 742-48 (B1-B2)]

XXV.41 (8°): 1 pp. [MP: NT 844-46 (A1)]

XXV.41a (4°): 8 pp. [MP: Ont/Cos 1-450 (A1-A8)]

XXV.42 (8°): 8 pp. [MO: XXV.42(A)]

XXV.43 (4°): 17 pp. [MO: XXV.43(B)]

XXV.43 (4°): 10 pp. [MO: XXV.43(C)]

XXV.43 (8°): 28 pp. [MO: XXV.43(C)]

XXV.44 (8°): 15 pp. [PG: HumansAnimalsAsia]

XXV.44a (4°): 11 pp. [PG: OceansSpringsRiversWinds]

XXV.44a (4°): 1 p. [LO: XXV.44a]

XXV.45 (4°): 7 pp. [VA/Mathematics: A1-A7]

XXV.46 (4°): 7 pp. [VA/Mathematics: B1-B7]

XXV.46a (4°): 4 pp. [MP: Ont 180-239]

XXV.46a (8°): 81 pp. [MP: EP 531-649EP 682-732RP/NT 763-844NT 844-46EP 516-48EP 593-644Ont 7-22]

XXV.46a (8°): 57 pp. [PG: IntroOceansLandEarthquakes •  SpringsRivers •  WindsHistory •  Humans]

XXV.46a (8°): 2 pp. [LO: XXV.46a]

XXV.46a (8°): 3 pp. [VA/Physics: A1-A3]

XXV.46a (8°): 4 pp. [VA/Physics: B1-B4]

XXV.46a (8°): 1 p. [VA/Physics: C1]

XXVI.5 (4° notebook): 2 pp. [MP: RP/NT 796-808]

XXVI.5 (4° notebook): 3 p. [VA/Mathematics: C1-C7]

[additional notes of interest, but not stemming from Kant’s lectures]

XX.188 (8° notebook, pp. 2-10, 24-25, 46-47, 179, 187): 15 pp. [VA/XX.188: 2-10, 24-25, 46-47, 179, 187]

XXVI.5 (4° notebook): 5 p. [VA/XXVI.5: 1, 25, 34, 73, 123]

XXVIII.2 (4° notebook): 5 p. [VA/XXVIII.2: 29v-32r, 34r-34v, 37r, 39r, 67r-68v, 70r-71v, 73v, 74r, 84r, 163v-164r]