Notes for a Romantic Encyclopaedia

Das Allgemeine Brouillon

By Novalis
Edited and translated by David W. Wood
Introduction by David W. Wood

Subjects: Romanticism
Series: SUNY series, Intersections: Philosophy and Critical Theory
Paperback : 9780791469743, 320 pages, July 2011
Hardcover : 9780791469736, 320 pages, February 2007

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Table of contents

Text by Novalis: Notes for a Romantic Encyclopaedia
Appendix: Extracts from the Freiberg Natural Scientific Studies (1798/99)
Notes to Introduction
Notes to Text by Novalis
Notes to Appendix
Select Bibliography

The first English translation of Novalis’s unfinished notes for a universal science, Das Allgemeine Brouillon.


Novalis is best known in history as the poet of early German Romanticism. However, this translation of Das Allgemeine Brouillon, or "Universal Notebook," finally introduces him to the English-speaking world as an extraordinarily gifted philosopher in his own right and shatters the myth of him as a mere daydreaming and irrational poet. Composed of more than 1,100 notebook entries, this is easily Novalis's largest theoretical work and certainly one of the most remarkable and audacious undertakings of the "Golden Age" of German philosophy. In it, Novalis reflects on numerous aspects of human culture, including philosophy, poetry, the natural sciences, the fine arts, mathematics, mineralogy, history, and religion, and brings them all together into what he calls a "Romantic Encyclopaedia" or "Scientific Bible. "

Novalis's Romantic Encyclopaedia fully embodies the author's own personal brand of philosophy, "Magical Idealism. " With meditations on mankind and nature, the possible future development of our faculties of reason, imagination, and the senses, and the unification of the different sciences, these notes contain a veritable treasure trove of richly poetic and philosophic thoughts.

Novalis (1772–1801) was the foremost poet-philosopher of early German Romanticism. Universally acclaimed as a poetic genius for such works as Hymns to the Night and the unfinished novel Heinrich von Ofterdingen, he especially favored the fragment form for his philosophical meditations. The latter reach their climax in this volume, his astonishing plan for a universal science. David W. Wood is a PhD candidate in German Idealism at the Sorbonne in Paris. He is the translator of Goethe and Love by Karl Julius Schröer.


"…a welcome contribution to the growing literature in English on the philosophy of the early German romantics … This book deserves to be read not simply for its many poetic moments … but for the overall vision that gives the poetry its theoretical punch. " — Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"With its lucid introduction and notes, this essential volume enables the English-speaking reader to approach the Notes for a Romantic Encyclopaedia (1798–9) for the first time as a coherent text, part of a wider search in Germany for a new scientific method, a plan only later realized in modern physics. " — The Times Literary Supplement

"…expertly translated, edited, and introduced by David W. Wood . .. There seems to be no topic, from the mysteries of the skin to the properties of minerals, which Novalis's encyclopedic ambition failed to confront. " — The New York Sun

"Wood's translation will radically change our sense of the range and shape of 'philosophy' in German Idealism and Romanticism, and will make a major contribution to our understanding of the stakes and divisions in the encyclopaedic project from the Enlightenment to the present. " — Tilottama Rajan, author of Deconstruction and the Remainders of Phenomenology: Sartre, Derrida, Foucault, Baudrillard

"Wood's excellent translation of a difficult text is of the highest quality and will be of great service to the field. " — Elizabeth Millán-Zaibert, translator of Manfred Frank's The Philosophical Foundations of Early German Romanticism