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Marx at 200
Introductory remarks
Gilbert Faccarello and Heinz D. Kurz ∗ †
The recurrence of debates concerning the work of an author, the lively
controversies it raises among opponents and followers and the redirection
of its interpretations as time goes by is a sign of its continuing fascina-
tion and complexity. These debates do not follow a steady path, but
have their own ups and downs, change their topics and shift the empha-
sis, are carried out in academic circles or in the media, and are often
linked to some socio-economic or political event. But the most intense
periods of ferment, in terms of intellectual achievements and additions to
our knowledge, are often closely linked to the publication of new, more
comprehensive editions of the works under consideration, which allow
novel and more accurate readings and perspectives. This was obviously
Gilbert Faccarello, Panthéon-Assas University, Paris, France. Email:
gilbert.faccarello@u-paris2.fr. Heinz D. Kurz, Graz Schumpeter Centre, Graz, Aus-
tria. Email: heinz.kurz@uni-graz.at.
Published in The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, 25(5),
October 2018, pp. 665-678.
1
Marx at 200 2
the case with regard to David Ricardo and the Sraffa edition of his Works
and Correspondence (1951-1973), Adam Smith and the 1976 edition of
his writings published on the occasion of the bi-centenary of the Wealth
of Nations, or John Maynard Keynes and the publication of his Collected
Writings from 1971 to 1989.1
A return to Marx’s texts
The work of Karl Marx is no exception to the rule, all the more so as Marx
wrote a lot during his lifetime, only parts of which have been published
every once in a while during more than one century after his death in
1883. As regards political economy, for example, some manuscripts were
brought out rather quickly: Volumes II and III of Capital contain a
selection of manuscripts made by Friedrich Engels and published res-
pectively in 1885 and 1894; and the three volumes of Theorien über den
Mehrwert (Theories of Surplus Value) contain another selection edited
and published by Karl Kautsky in 1905-10, presented as Volume IV of
Capital. But some other important works had to wait much longer: the
so-called 1857-58 Grundrisse der Kritik der politischen Ökonomie were
first published in a not widely circulated edition in 1939-41, then in a
more accessible one in 1953, and were only translated two decades later
into different languages; the fragment of a draft (“Urtext”) of the 1859
Zur Kritik der politischen Ökonomie (A Contribution to the Critique of
Political Economy) had to wait until 1939-41 to come out, together with
the Grundrisse; and some important material for Volume I of Capital
was only available, for a small part, from 1933 — this is the case, for
example, of the so-called “unpublished Chapter 6”.
As regards philosophy, things are still more striking.2For a long
1This is also the case, but to a lesser extent, with regard to the publication, from
1987 to 2005, of Œuvres économiques complètes de Auguste et Léon Walras, and the
ongoing edition of Jean-Baptiste Say’s Œuvres complètes.
2Marx’s more openly political writings were much better known and circulated,
Marx at 200 3
time, only Marx’s introduction to the critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of
Right, “Zur Kritik der Hegelschen Rechtsphilosophie. Einleitung”, and
his article on the “Jewish question”, “Zur Judenfrage” (both published in
1844 in the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher), were known. The pieces
of Marx’s 1841 doctoral thesis that have come down to us — Differenz
der Demokritischen und Epikureischen Naturphilosophie (The Difference
Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature) — were
only published in 1902; the 1843 essay Zur Kritik der Hegelschen Recht-
sphilosophie (Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right) in 1927; and the
celebrated Ökonomisch-philosophische Manuskripte von 1844 (Economic
and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844) and the 1845 Die deutsche Ideolo-
gie (German Ideology), in 1932.
These facts ought to be recalled when trying to understand the history
of the debates over Marx’s thought, as well as the present state of the
Marx studies. Without going into details, five main points deserve to be
stressed.
(1) First of all, it is clear that the availability, or lack thereof, of
manuscripts, some of them of fundamental importance, had an impact
on the various interpretations of Marx. During several decades after
Marx’s death, numerous writings that are now considered as essential
to a correct understanding of his views were simply not available to the
general public, and very often it was not even known that such writings
existed. Yet the first interpretations, sometimes very sketchy and ad hoc,
adopted and frequently promoted by political organisations, dominated
the debates for a long time. This is true, for example, with regard to the
general understanding of the content and “method” of Capital, especially
in the theory of value and price, the falling rate of profit or the approach
to economic crises. This is also the case with regard to the philosophical
aspects of Marxism. Engels’ writings, sometimes tinged with Darwin-
ism, coined a vocabulary and an orthodoxy, and were highly influential
— whether on Ludwig Feuerbach and the Young Hegelians, the alleged
during and after his life, as pamphlets and newspaper articles.
Marx at 200 4
“Utopian” and “scientific” socialisms, “historical materialism” (a phrase
coined by Engels) or dialectics (that is, “materialist dialectic” or “dialec-
tics of nature” based on a simplistic interpretation of Hegel’s philosophy).
It is basically Engels’ line of thought, stated mainly in the 1880s after
the death of Marx, and not Marx’s, that was developed by Marxists in
several countries, for example in works popularising the “materialist con-
ception of history”, or in a book by Kautsky on “the three sources of
Marxism”3(German philosophy, French socialism and English political
economy),4which involved a sketchy and questionable interpretation of
Marx. Engels’ views were also influential in Russia, with the development
of the alleged “dialectical materialism”, especially by Georgi Plekhanov
and Lenin. In all this history, independent intellectuals such as Rudolf
Hilferding, Isaak Illich Rubin, György Löwinger (alias Lukács), or Karl
Korsch, were rare. Over decades, the use and abuse of some words like
“dialectics” by authors whose knowledge of Hegel apparently was poor or
nonexistent, led the discussions astray into blind alleys. Even some very
usual vocabulary like the German word “Praxis”, used by Marx (and by
Kant) to mean the ordinary practice of an activity, was misunderstood
and, at best, confused with the Aristotelian distinction between “praxis”
and “poiesis”, thus obscuring Marx’s intellectual developments. Needless
to say, all this was a serious impediment to a better understanding of
Marx’s texts and thoughts.
(2) Second, this overall chaotic state of things showed the need of a
comprehensive edition of Marx’s works. Three attempts were made in
this direction.
In 1927, such a systematic and complete edition started to be pub-
lished by the Marx-Engels Institute in Moscow, under the directorship of
3The phrase was coined by Kautsky in 1908 and was taken up by Vladimir Ilyich
Ulyanov, alias Lenin, in 1913.
4It is sometimes stated that a source of inspiration for this view is to be found
in a celebrated book anonymously published by Moses Hess in 1841, Die europaïsche
Triarchie, where a fundamental role in contemporary history is given to Germany,
France and above all the United Kingdom. But Hess’ discourse was different.
Marx at 200 5
David Borisovich Goldendakh (alias David Rjazanov). However, in 1931,
Stalin ordered Rjazanov’s detention (Rjazanov was executed in 1938) and
Vladimir Viktorovich Adoratsky replaced him in the project. The result
was the first MEGA — that is, Karl Marx. Friedrich Engels. Historisch-
kritische Gesamtausgabe. Werke. Schriften. Briefe (MEGA being the
abbreviation of Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe). This project was stopped
in 1935 after 12 volumes5had been published.
After World War II, almost all work had to start again. A new pub-
lication project was launched: the Marx-Engels Werke (MEW). From
1956 to 1990, the Institutes for Marxism-Leninism in Moscow and in
East Berlin published jointly 44 volumes.6While containing some of
the most important writings and correspondence — but still deprived
of many significant manuscripts — the edition is far from complete and
lacks the characteristic features of a critical edition.
Hence, finally, a third attempt to bring out a complete critical edition.
The Marx-Engels Gesamtausgabe, that is, the second MEGA or MEGA2,
was put on track by the same Institutes in 1970, but came to an end as
a consequence of the breakdown of the German Democratic Republic
and the Soviet Union. In 1990 the Internationale Marx Engels Stiftung
(IMES) decided to resume the project in an academic context. However,
the number of the originally planned 164 volumes was reduced to 114.
This is still work in progress, but a large part of the project has by now
been accomplished: the third attempt can be expected to be successful.
(3) Third, it is also clear that Marx’s thought is much more com-
plex and wide-ranging than the various Marxist vulgates claimed it to
be as time went by, and this raises significant questions: What is the
link between all these writings? Is there a continuity, or a break, or a
more complex relationship, between Marx’s youthful philosophical ideas
developed in the 1840s and his more mature work on political economy
5Volume I been published in two parts.
6This edition is based on the second Russian edition published from 1954 onwards.
Marx at 200 6
and politics — a question that includes an assessment of his relationship
with Hegel’s philosophy and the writings of the Young Hegelians? What
is the meaning of his constant intention to write a “critique of political
economy”? Is it possible to identify beyond reasonable doubt Marx’s
intellectual evolution and the elements of his thought that became per-
manent and stable? All these questions were, inter alia, discussed again
since the nineteen-sixties, along with the republication of the Grundrisse,
the progressive issuing of the volumes of MEW and MEGA2, and the
various translations of parts of them into English, French and Italian in
particular.7
In this context, Marx’s most important concepts and approaches have
been questioned and studied anew, as for example the definitions and
role of “alienation” and “fetishism” in Marx’s youthful writings and in
Capital, the meaning of “abstract labour” in the theory of value and its
links with “value-form” analysis and money, the precise description and
role of some Hegelian dialectical devices used by Marx in his political
economy, the meaning of his notion of “critique”, etc. For this general
work of reinterpretation — which swept aside much of the conventional
discourses of the past — some critical reappraisals of central themes
(dialectics, abstract labour, value and money, the deduction of concepts
in Capital) played an important role: see, in particular, Lucio Colletti
(1969, 1975) in Italy, Hans-Georg Backhaus (1967) and Helmut Reichelt
(1970) in Germany, and the rediscovery of Rubin’s work in the early
1970s. Many innovative developments were inspired by these analyses.
Another characteristic of the research during these last decades is a
strong revival of the studies of the young Marx and his formative years.
Warren Breckman (1999) and David Leopold (2007) cast new light on his
relationships with the Young Hegelians, thus supplementing some classic
studies like McLellan (1969) and Rosen (1977); see also the studies edited
7Attempts to assess the importance of MEGA2 for the Marx studies and the
interpretation of Capital have been made (see, e.g., the papers in Bellofiore and
Fineschi 2009; Roth 2010; or Heinrich 2016).
Marx at 200 7
by Emmanuel Renault (2008), which focus on the 1844 Manuscripts and
insist, in particular, on the crucial role of Moses Hess in the development
of Marx’s thought. For his part, Rojahn (1983) showed how the 1844
Manuscripts, traditionally presented as a coherent book, consist in fact
of a simple juxtaposition of various texts written at different points of
Marx’s intellectual evolution and thus does not have the philosophical
status attributed to them in the past. Other more or less youthful works
have also been examined, for example the Grundrisse (see, e.g., the con-
tributions in Musto 2008), and reappraisals of Marx’s overall philosophi-
cal development and its importance for his approach have been published
(see for example Renault 2009, 2014; and Fischbach 2015).
(4) Of course, a great many of the new texts in the MEGA2 have been
made available in specific contexts, which had an impact on their recep-
tion and the ensuing post World War II controversies. As regards political
economy, one major event was the publication of Piero Sraffa’s Produc-
tion of Commodities by Means of Commodities (1960), which quickly
became a focal point in the discussion of Marx’s approach to the the-
ory of value and distribution. Marx’s “law of the falling tendency of the
rate of profit” was also scrutinised with the help of Sraffa’s theory and
found to be wanting. In the course of the multiple controversies that
Sraffa’s work raised, many diverging attempts have been made to rescue
or restate certain parts of Marx’s analysis. The above-mentioned devel-
opments on abstract labour, value and money are cases in point, and so
are the new readings of the concept of alienation, which replaces, in some
authors’ views, that of exploitation, which is considered to be too much
tied to an ill-founded labour theory of value. Some other approaches
were put forward, either in favour of a more traditional understanding
of Marx’s labour value-based reasoning, at least on an aggregative level
(see e.g. Foley 1982, 2000), or in a radically diverging way. A celebrated
example of the latter is the so-called “analytical Marxism”, launched by
Gerald Cohen (1978), John Roemer (1981, 1982, 1986) and Jon Elster
(1985), trying to reformulate certain ideas of Marx within a marginalist
or neoclassical framework, using rational choice and game theory. In a
Marx at 200 8
still different perspective, some developments were inspired by the “crit-
ical theory” of the Frankfurt School (see, e.g., Postone 1993, and the
“critique of value” approach by Larsen et alii 2014).
(5) Finally, some useful additions to Marx studies have been made in
synthetic or historiographical perspectives. Some collective syntheses of
Marx and Marxism in general, or Marxian economics in particular, have
been published (Carver 1991, Bidet and Kouvelakis 2008, or Fine, Saad-
Filho and Boffo 2012), together with reading guides of Capital (inter
alia Heinrich 2004 and Harvey 2010-13). Then there is the highly ambi-
tious, and necessarily only partial, attempt by Jan Hoff (2009) to review
the Marx debates across the entire world since the mid 1960s. Last but
not least, the classic biographies of Marx, sometimes politically tinted,
by Franz Mehring (1918), Boris Nikolaevskij and Otto Mänchen-Helfen
(1937), or David McLellan (1973), were complemented by several new,
more academic accounts of the life and works of Marx by Jonathan Sper-
ber (2013), Gareth Stedman Jones (2016), and the first of a projected
three-volume work by Michael Heinrich (2018).
Some new developments
The papers included in this special issue deal first with Marx’s formative
years. The main part then turns to some developments in Marx’s political
economy — among which those dealing with the new MEGA are grouped
under a specific heading. Some new research on the immediate reception
of Marx’s work in the United Kingdom and France concludes the issue.
The formative years
As was noted above, the recent Marx studies have been characterised
by a significant revival in research of Marx’s formative years and his
(sometimes quick) philosophical developments, all themes which prove
now to be of importance for the understanding of the “mature” Marx.
Marx at 200 9
The three chapters included in this part exemplify this.
The first chapter, by Herbert De Vriese, deals with the controversies
between Marx and the Young Hegelians at the beginning of the 1840s.
Focusing on an hitherto neglected novel published in 1843 by a former
close friend of Marx, Edgar Bauer, it shows how the young Marx was
negatively depicted by his former friends, and uncovers the element of
truth in this portrait but also the theoretical reason lying behind the
attitudes of the protagonists: a different conception of the role of critique.
Zacharias Zoubir then examines the concept of alienation in the 1857-
58 Grundrisse, a concept which is not confined to Marx’s more youthful
writings but reappears strategically in his mature work. Zoubir shows
that this reflects an evolution in Marx’s thought during this period, the
terminology of alienation acquiring a philosophical and economic content
different from that of his earlier work — the 1844 Manuscripts for exam-
ple — and leading to a different conception of an emancipated society.
The following chapter, by David Andrews, focuses on the related con-
cept of fetishism. Rather neglected in the course of the history of the
interpretations of Capital, the importance and centrality of “commodity
fetishism” for an understanding of Marx’s main opus was nevertheless
stressed in the past by authors like Rubin or Colletti (who directly linked
it with the concept of alienation). Andrews re-examines the “mysterious”
or “occult” quality attributed to the products of labour and shows how
in terms of Marx’s use of “natural” in the Aristotelian sense it pervades
the entire “absurd” functioning of a capitalist economy.
Around the new MEGA
The altogether eight papers in this part deal with a number of themes
spurred by the MEGA2 edition and the new material it contains, which
has not been publicly available in the past and which is bound to change
some of the received views on Marx. It also sheds light on Friedrich
Engels’ work as an editor of volumes II and III of Capital.
Marx at 200 10
The first chapter is by Regina Roth who is involved in the MEGA
project as editor and researcher and informs about the status of the
editorial work and also about the novel concept of MEGAdigital. The
latter puts Marx’s manuscripts and the published version of Capital in
the context of Marx’s overall writing and then relates it to Marx and
Engels’ correspondence and to excerpts and notes in Marx’s notebooks.
Examining Marx’s manuscripts and studies on rent, reproduction and
the rate of profit, the paper illuminates the way Marx worked and why
he failed to accomplish his huge economic project.
The second chapter, by Heinz D. Kurz, asks whether and in what
sense the MEGA2 edition will turn out to be a watershed in interpreting
Marx. The edition is said to be a watershed, because it documents that
Marx apparently got doubts as regards the correctness of his ‘law of
motion’ of modern society, centred on the falling tendency of the rate of
profits. It won’t be a watershed, since Marx unswervingly stuck to his
‘law of value’, which, however, is difficult to sustain.
In his chapter, Izumi Omura, who is a part of the Japanese MEGA2
team on economics, turns again to the question of who was the author
of the chapter on Feuerbach in the German Ideology, Marx or Engels?
Omura elaborates an argument that has all the characteristic features of
a forensic, evidence-based account. He argues that Rjazanov’s contention
that the chapter was written by Engels alone and not dictated by Marx
is difficult to sustain. Omura also rejects Mayer’s view that the two co-
authored the piece for a lack of evidence in support of it: according to
him, the Feuerbach chapter was indeed dictated by Marx to Engels.
Nicolas Eyguesier, in the fourth chapter, re-examines the concept of
‘primitive accumulation’ against the background of Marx’s explanation
of the birth of ‘capitalism’. He compares Marx’s concept with that of
development of Sismondi and argues that while the latter was essentially
‘romantic’ and cyclical, the former was based on the idea of progress and
assumed an eschatological aim of the history of mankind. While Marx
took notice of Sismondi’s doctrine, he rejected its core message.
Marx at 200 11
The following two chapters are dedicated to an assessment of Marx’s
extensive work on multi-sector models of expanded reproduction. Chris-
tian Gehrke in his chapter shows that balanced growth, which plays a
prominent role in Engels’ edition of the second volume of Capital, is not
to be found in Marx’s original manuscripts. The reader is rather con-
fronted with Marx’s investigation of the problem of the traverse between
systems of production, which he analysed in terms of an intricate model
with six sectors. Marx also pointed out the ‘elasticity’ of industrial pro-
duction, which is due to the possibility of varying the intensity of labour
and the rate of capacity utilisation.
In the following chapter Kenji Mori, who is a part of the Japanese
MEGA2 team on economics, also deals with Marx’s six-sector model of
extended reproduction and the traverse problem. His attention focuses
on Marx’s attempt to understand the dynamics of prices in a world char-
acterised by the diffusion of new methods of production. It is shown that
Marx was well aware of some fundamental problems in dynamic analysis,
which were tackled only a century later by economists such as Adolph
Lowe.
The next chapter is also by Kenji Mori. It is devoted to Marx’s em-
pirical research in his notebooks known as Krisenhefte (Books of Crisis)
dealing with the 1857 crisis, arguably the first economic crisis in history
that affected the world economy. Marx’s studies continued the work of
Thomas Tooke and William Newmarch on A History of Prices, published
in the same year. His meticulous work has recently been published for
the first time in the MEGA edition (Part IV, Vol. 14).
In his chapter Susumu Takenaga, who is a part of the Japanese
MEGA2 team on economics, sheds new light on Marx’s various attempts
to come to grips with the problem of rent and draws the attention to
notes and manuscripts not contained in volume III of Capital, edited by
Engels on the basis of a manuscript Marx wrote in 1865. The author
shows how much Marx struggled with Ricardo’s rent theory, the concept
of ‘absolute rent’ he elaborated and his absorption of Justus von Liebig’s
Marx at 200 12
path-breaking work on agro-chemistry.
Analytical developments
This part consists of altogether six papers, which elaborate analytically
on some of the problems Marx tackled in his works.
In the first chapter Saverio Maria Fratini investigates whether Marx’s
concept of ‘absolute rent’ reflects the existence of a monopoly in agricul-
ture. Marx had argued that this kind of rent has an upper limit given
by the difference between the (labour) value and the production price of
agricultural products. Critics disputed the existence of such an upper
limit. The author argues that while the criticism is correct, it still makes
sense to distinguish absolute rent from rent reflecting a monopoly.
The second chapter is by Carlo Benetti, Alain Béraud, Edith Klimovsky
and Antoine Rebeyrol and analyses the numerical illustrations of the two-
sector model of extended reproduction in volume II of Capital. The at-
tention focuses on the problem of whether or not the economy converges
to a balanced growth path and which role is played in this context by the
way prices are determined. While Marx assumed prices to be given in
terms of labour values, they introduce an endogenous price model that
allows for an adjustment of prices according to the state of the accumu-
lation process.
Rebeca Gomez Betancourt and Matari Pierre Manigat in the follow-
ing chapter turn to James Steuart’s influence on Marx’s monetary eco-
nomic thought. Steuart was critical of the quantity theory of money and
provided arguments in support of breaches of the link between the quan-
tity of money and prices, which Marx took up and elaborated in various
directions. The focus is inter alia on the functions money performs and
the difference between advances of capital and the spending of income.
The chapter by Wilfried Parys scrutinises critically Marx’s view of
the ‘common third’ in the exchange of any two commodities. Marx iden-
tified ‘abstract labour’ to be the sought substance. His idea was soon
Marx at 200 13
challenged not only by marginalist authors who insisted that ‘use value
in general’ is the tertium comparationis, but also by various scholars who
pointed out that commodities entering directly or indirectly in the pro-
duction of all commodities could serve the purpose. Energy is such a
thing.
Rodolphe Dos Santos Ferreira and Ragip Ege in their chapter have
a closer look at Marx’s concept of the labour contract, which was sup-
posed to substantiate exploitation, and confront it with the neoclassical
concept. While the latter refers to a particular service, the former refers
to the labour power the worker sells to the employer. The employer is
entitled to make the best use of labour power with the wage covering its
cost of reproduction. Externalisation of part of this cost, via the social
security system or higher flexibility of the labour contract, allows the
employer to increase exploitation.
The final chapter in this part is by Michaël Assous and Antonin
Pottier, who compare the analyses of Marx and Michal Kalecki on the
macroeconomic (in)stability of capitalism and the role of the class strug-
gle between workers and capitalists in it.
The reception of Marx’s works
The reception of Marx’s works in different countries has long been ne-
glected, first because, like for other authors, this field of study was not
really topical or fashionable, but also more probably because of the role
played, until recently, by the official discourses of political organisations.
Both obstacles being now absent, the two chapters included in this part
offer analyses of two important moments in the reception of Marx in the
United Kingdom and in France prior to World War I.
Michael White focuses on one author, Philip Henry Wicksteed, and
deals with his developments in what was called the Jevonsian critique of
Marx: how Wicksteed was led to criticise Marx while defending Henry
George’s views, and why this was done in a questionable way, based on
Marx at 200 14
some misreading of Jevons’s analysis.
Michel Bellet, in turn, studies a large group of authors who wrote in
La Revue socialiste, the main French socialist journal prior to the First
World War. He shows that Marx’s writings, while judged important,
were nevertheless received critically within an intellectual context deeply
shaped by the ideas of the main French socialist writers of the nineteenth
century (Constantin Pecqueur in particular), and how the role of Benoît
Malon was central in this reception.
All these studies bring new material and fresh results. No doubt,
thanks to the MEGA2 edition, they are part of a novel start in Marx
studies.
Acknowledgements
The present issue of The European Journal of the History of Economic
Thought offers a selection of papers presented at the conference “Marx
1818/2018. New Developments on Marx’s Thought and Writings”, Lyon,
France, 27-29 September 2017.8The financial support of the publication
by LABEX COMOD (ANR-11-LABX-0041) of the University of Lyon
— as a part of the program “Investissements d’Avenir” (ANR-11-IDEX-
0007) managed by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR) — is
gratefully acknowledged.
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Article
Full-text available
Drawing upon recent interpretation of Marx's newly published papers, a debate published in the journal 40 years ago over Marx's theory of rent is revisited, for reassessment as such and to consider its relevance for the analysis of contemporary issues.
Article
The present work is aimed at filling a hiatus in the literature dealing with the Young Hegelians and the early thought of Karl Marx. Despite the prevalent view in the past few decades that Bruno Bauer played an important part in the radical activity of Hegel's young disciples in the eighteen forties in Germany, no comprehensive work has so far been published on the relations between Bauer and Marx. In 1927 Ernst Bar­ nikol promised to write a monograph on the subject, but he never did. For the purpose of this study I perused material in numerous library collections and I would like to express my gratitude to the staff of the following institutions: Tel Aviv University Library, the Library and Archive of the International Institute of Social History in Am­ sterdam, the Heidelberg University Library, the Library of Gottingen University, the Tiibingen University Library, Frankfurt University Library, the State Library at Marburg, the Manuscript Department of the State Archives in Berlin.