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In 1967, Brian McGuinness edited the first segment of Wittgenstein’s correspondence to be published, the philosopher’s letters to Paul Engelmann. In the following decades, Professor McGuinness and the late Professor G. H. von Wright were active in editing further collections of Wittgenstein’s correspondence with, among others, Bertrand Russell, C. K. Ogden, David Pinsent, Wittgenstein's Cambridge colleagues, and his family.
The Brenner-Archiv's involvement in the publication of Wittgenstein’s correspondence dates from 1969 when Professor von Wright and Walter Methlagl produced their edition of the then-known correspondence with Ludwig von Ficker (founder of the Brenner-Archiv and the person entrusted with the disbursement of Wittgenstein's inheritance in 1914-1916). In 1986, when more of Ficker’s correspondence with Wittgenstein was discovered along with a substantial collection of correspondence from other interlocutors, the idea was born of creating a fully documented master manuscript of the whole of Wittgenstein’s correspondence (Gesamtbriefwechsel) in a unified format.
Work on the Gesamtbriefwechsel originated in 1988 through research projects sponsored by the Austrian Research Council (Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung) at the Brenner-Archiv under the direction of Allan Janik and Walter Methlagl.
Through the years, the project has greatly benefited from access to Brian McGuinness’s unique fund of historical and biographical information about the man and the philosopher, as well as to his extensive collection of Wittgenstein documents.
The project currently includes approximately 2300 pieces of correspondence to and from Wittgenstein. Besides the commentary on every individual letter elucidating all names, places, dates, the edition provides some 300 biographies of persons appearing in it. The commentary also includes a detailed chronology of Wittgenstein's movements and activities throughout his life, as well as indices of the literature and music which are mentioned in the correspondence.
The collected correspondence, commentary and chronology, along with the recently published Nachlass, provide a new foundation for Wittgenstein research.
Ludwig Wittgenstein: Gesamtbriefwechsel/Complete Correspondence contains Wittgenstein's collected correspondence, edited under the auspices of the Brenner-Archiv's Research Institute (University of Innsbruck) by Monika Seekircher, Brian McGuinness and Anton Unterkircher.
Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Gesamtbriefwechsel/Innsbrucker elektronische Ausgabe. Herausgegeben von Monika Seekircher, Brian McGuinness, Anton Unterkircher. Im Auftrag des Forschungsinstituts Brenner-Archiv, 2004.
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