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21 December 1999

Ricarda Huch Manuscript Discovered in Heidelberg University Library

Heidelberg historian Petra Schaffrodt chanced on the original manuscript of Ricarda Huch's important historical work Römisches Reich Deutscher Nation – Authenticity confirmed by Marbach Literature Archives

Petra Schaffrodt and Dr. Hermann Josef Dörpinghaus
Petra Schaffrodt and Dr. Hermann Josef Dörpinghaus (director of the Library) with the manuscript

At present the bequest of social politician and university lecturer Marie Baum (1874-1964) is being systematically re-examined and re-catalogued at the University of Heidelberg. The project is financed by the City of Heidelberg Foundation and is being conducted in conjunction with the University Library and the University Archives. In the course of her work on these papers Heidelberg historian Petra Schaffrodt has come across the hand-written manuscript of Ricarda Huch's (1864-1947) important historical study Römisches Reich Deutscher Nation ("Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation"), a find of considerable interest for the academic world.

The manuscript has 435 pages and was found in an ordinary large brown paper envelope. It bears neither a date nor any reference to the writer but graphological comparison has established beyond doubt that it is the final hand-written manuscript prepared by Ricarda Huch for the publisher. The authenticity has since been confirmed by the German Literature Archives in Marbach.

In its printed form the work was first published by the Atlantis-Verlag (Berlin) in 1934 as Volume 1 of a trilogy entitled "German History". The new find shows that after preparatory studies Ricarda Huch was in the habit of writing fair copies of her works without any major corrections, thus justifying the assumption that this is probably the only extant manuscript of the work. The elegance and fluency of the writing bears the unmistakable imprint of its author's hand and reflects the vivacious style characteristic of all Ricarda Huch's works.

The discovery of the manuscript among Marie Baum's papers is on the one hand relatively easy to explain. At the time of writing Ricarda Huch was staying at her home. The surprising thing about it is that Marie Baum was thought to have given all such documents in her possession to the Ricarda Huch Archives, which she co-founded as a subsection of the German Literature Archives in Marbach, leaving only the rest of her personal papers to the Heidelberg University Library in her will.

Marie Baum came to Heidelberg to live in 1928. Her close friendship with Ricarda Huch lasted over 50 years. Marie Baum was at her side through all the numerous stages of her eventful career. At various points the two women lived together, one of these being the period from autumn 1932 to autumn 1934, when they shared Marie Baum's Heidelberg flat (Friesenberg 1). Ricarda Huch's hand-written dedication to her friend on the flyleaf of the printed version of Römisches Reich Deutscher Nation makes a poetic reference to the location at which it saw the light of day. This copy is also in the possession of the University Library.

Ricarda Huch was a novelist, philosopher and historian. On the occasion of her 60th birthday Thomas Mann referred to her as "Germany's first lady", a reflection of her reputation as an outstanding intellectual of the day. Today, Ricarda Huch is seen as a representative of neo-Romantic German prose and poetry, though her main interest was in fact historical. The central and structurally dominant motif in her historical works was the idea of the Reich (notably in Der große König in Deutschland and Deutsche Geschichte, both three-volume works).

Römisches Reich Deutscher Nation is a late work. In 48 chapters the book examines the circumstances favouring the flowering of the Reich in the Middle Ages. Huch's diction is poetic, the links she establishes between individual figures and ideas are ingenious and convincing. Her attempt to draw parallels between the intellectual and political forces operative in medieval Germany and various features of contemporary life in the 1930s made the book unpopular with the authorities. Recognising the critical tenor of the book, a reviewer in the National Socialist Monthly called on her readers to "reject it with passionate indignation", closing with the words: "Adolf Hitler's Germany has no place for sorceresses of this ilk."

Though Volume 2 of Deutsche Geschichte, entitled Zeitalter der Glaubensspaltung ("The Age of Schism"), was actually published in 1937, Volume 3 and a new edition of Volume 1 fell foul of National Socialist censorship. Ricarda Huch's Römisches Reich Deutscher Nation is now in its third edition (1996), published by the Manesse-Verlag (Zurich).

Please address any inquiries to
Dr. Armin Schlechter (University Library)
phone: 06221/542399

or: Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 542317

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