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Item 246 - Friedrich Nietzsche Catalog 439 (Oct 2014)

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Sold Price: $31,409.00 (includes buyer's premium)


Monumentally important German philosopher (1844–1900) whose writings influenced legions of major figures across the entire spectrum of philosophy, politics, and culture. Very rare handwritten letter in German, unsigned, one page on a 5.5 x 3.5 postcard, September 28, 1877. Letter to his friend, the writer and painter Reinhart von Seydlitz, about the meaning of the phrases "pollice verso" and "pollicem premere.” In part (translated): “Did you receive my card, dear friend? Do not think ill of me if you once more fail to receive a letter today. My sincere thanks to your esteemed mother for affording me the opportunity to be a classical scholar (sometimes I forget). 'pollice verso' means: 'thumb directed against the chest', the gesture by which the people would demand the gladiator to be killed. 'pollicem premere', literally 'to press the thumb', i. e., 'clench one's fist and hide the thumb therein' is the same as our German 'Jemandem den Daumen halten’, 'to press one's thumb for someone', that is to say, 'to keep one's fingers crossed for somebody'—a sign of goodwill. By raising the index finger the gladiator would crave the spectators' mercy; when it was granted, by the said gesture, this was called 'missio.'” In fine condition.

This letter dates to the same period that Nietzsche was writing his important early work, Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits, first published in 1878. This was the first book written in the aphoristic style that would come to dominate his writings, and the discussion of the ‘free spirit’ anticipates the development of his most famous concept of the ‘Ubermensch.’ One idea he espoused in Human, All Too Human was that war was essential to maintain sophisticated culture, and that as civilization grew weary of warfare it turned to surrogates—relative to this letter, he observed: ‘When the Imperial Romans had tired somewhat of wars, they tried to gain new strength by animal-baiting, gladiator contests, and the persecution of Christians.’ An exceptional and incredibly rare letter with interesting content from this most important philosopher. Pre-certified John Reznikoff/PSA/DNA and RR Auction COA.

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