Author: Alexander von HumboldtPeter Jones
By Alexander von Humboldt
Translated By Elise Otté
Printed In London By Harrison & Sons For Henry G. Bohn
The Volumes are in Very Good Condition bound in red half morocco over marbled boards, with the spines divided into five compartments by four blind bands, with gilt lettering in the second compartment from the top, and with the leaf edges red speckled. Externally, the boards and spines are lightly scuffed in general, with some wear to the head and tails of the spines, with no chipping, and with the board corners bumped a bit.
The Volumes are Complete in All Respects With Portrait Frontispiece in the first Volume. See below for pagination & dimensions.
Kosmos was Alexander von Humboldt‘s multi-volume effort in his later years to write a work bringing together all the research from his long career. The writing took shape in lectures he delivered before the University of Berlin in the winter of 1827–28. These lectures would form “the cartoon for the great fresco of the [K]osmos”. His 1829 expedition to Russia supplied him with data comparative to his Latin American expedition. The first two volumes of the Kosmos were published between the years 1845 and 1847 were intended to comprise the entire work, but Humboldt published three more volumes, one of which was posthumous. Humboldt had long aimed to write a comprehensive work about geography and the natural sciences. The work attempted to unify the sciences then known in a Kantian framework. With inspiration from German Romanticism, Humboldt sought to create a compendium of the world’s environment. He spent the last decade of his long life — as he called them, his “improbable” years — continuing this work. The third and fourth volumes were published in 1850–58; a fragment of a fifth appeared posthumously in 1862.
His reputation had long since been made with his publications on the Latin American expedition. There is not a consensus on the importance of Kosmos. One scholar, who stresses the importance of Humboldt’s Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain as essential reading, dismisses Kosmos as “little more than an academic curiosity.” A different opinion is that Kosmos was his “most influential book.”
As with most of Humboldt’s works, Kosmos was also translated into multiple languages in editions of uneven quality. It was very popular in Britain and America. In 1849 a German newspaper commented that in England two of the three different translations were made by women, “while in Germany most of the men do not understand it.” The first translation by Augustin Pritchard — published anonymously by Mr. Baillière (volume I in 1845 and volume II in 1848) — suffered from being hurriedly made. In a letter Humboldt said of it: “It will damage my reputation. All the charm of my description is destroyed by an English sounding like Sanskrit.” The other two translations were made by Elizabeth Juliana Leeves Sabine under the superintendence of her husband Col. Edward Sabine, and by Elise Otté (5 volumes 1849–1858, the only complete translation of the 4 German volumes). Otté’s translation benefited from a detailed table of contents, and an index for every volume; of the German edition only volumes 4 and 5 had (extremely short) tables of contents, and the index to the whole work only appeared with volume 5 in 1862.
Pagination & Dimensions
The volumes are paginated as follows: Vol. I; [v]-xvii-[xviii], [[i]]-[ix]-[[x]], -369, , []-: Vol. II; [v]-xxi, 370-742, -16: Vol. III; , -289, , -8: Vol. IV; [v]-xv, , 291-601, , -7, : Vol. V; [v]-viii, -500. The volumes collate as follows: Vol. I; [a]2, b-8, c4, B-2B8, 2C4: Vol. II; [a]2, b8, 2B-3B8, 3C4, : Vol. III; [a]3, B-T8, U5: Vol. IV; [A]-X8: Vol. V; [A]4, B-2I8, 2K2. Each volume measures about 18 cm. By 11.5 cm. By 2.5 – 3.5 cm. Each leaf measures about 175 mm. By 110 mm.