The Education of the Human Race (1780)
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
translated by FW Robertson
London: Henry S King Co. 1872
Notes on the text
Born in Saxony in 1729, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (pictured) was a German philosopher, poet, dramatist and art critic whose works were important in the development of German literature.
He studied theology and medicine in Leipzig and took his Master's degree in Wittenberg. He worked in various places, including Berlin and Hamburg. In 1776 he married Eva König, who died two years later after giving birth to a short-lived son. He was friendly with Moses Mendelssohn, the Jewish-German philosopher.
Lessing's writing is often witty, ironic and polemical. He regarded truth not as something fixed and permanent, but as a process of development. He urged tolerance of other religions, defended freedom of thought, and rejected the notion of revelation and the literal interpretation of the Bible, trusting instead in a 'Christianity of Reason'.
He died on 15 February 1781 at the age of 52.
(Biographical information and Anna Rosina Lisiewska's portrait of Lessing from Wikipedia Gotthold Ephraim Lessing.)
The book online
Lessing's The Education of the Human Race consists of one hundred numbered paragraphs. The version presented here was translated by FW Robertson and published in 1872. The full text is presented in a single web page.
I have added three notes of explanation which are shown [in square brackets].
The above notes were prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 12 May 2013.