Alexander von Humboldt
The naturalist and travel writer wrote more than 1000 essays over seven decades – a project team headed up by the University of Bern has compiled them for the first time and produced the most comprehensive Humboldt edition ever published.

Intercultural knowledge

The world in a thousand writings

For the first time, an international research team collected, edited and annotated Alexander von Humboldt’s complete manuscripts – headed up by Oliver Lubrich and Thomas Nehrlich from the University of Bern. Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was active in virtually all disciplines of his time. To this day, the naturalist and travel writer is very present in our culture and environment. Plants, animals and places in numerous countries bear his name: the Humboldt penguin, the Humboldt current and the Humboldt mountains, for example. And there are many towns and cities with a Humboldtstrasse – including Bern.

Did you know?

"When Humboldt climbed the Chimborazo volcano in the Andes in 1802 – at the time it was considered to be the highest mountain in the world – he attained a height never before reached by a human being: around 5,600 meters above sea level."

In time for his 250th birthday

The Bernese edition of his "Complete works" was published to celebrate Humboldt’s 250th birthday. On September 2, 2019, it was presented to the public at a book vernissage.

In these shorter writings, Humboldt reports in detail on his expeditions. They make contributions to numerous specialist areas – from anthropology to zoology and climate sciences. Humboldt talks of the indigenous peoples of America and their remaining monuments. But he also comments on political and social topics, such as colonialism, slavery, world trade and the emancipation of the Jews.

Humboldt also drafted scientific programs and visions for international observation stations, multimedia experience spaces and a Panama Canal. His writings, which were published over 70 years, also reveal a great deal of additional information on his life. And last but not least, they are also aesthetically appealing.

The essays were compiled over a period of several years. The edition, published by dtv in ten volumes with more than 6,800 pages, includes publications in 15 languages from 1,240 newspapers and journals which appeared in 450 places all over the world. Ninety-five percent of these texts had never been reprinted since Humboldt’s death.

No autographs please

The Bernese edition also contains Humboldt’s last article which he published shortly before his death at the age of almost 90 years old. In it he kindly asks the public to refrain from asking him to act as an expert, stop asking him for autographs and desist from "offering to care for me at home, divert and amuse me". 

Alexander von Humboldt

Alexander von Humboldt

The cosmopolitan and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, born in Berlin in 1769, traveled in America and Asia, and lived in Paris for many years. He wrote in German, French and Latin, but his works were also published in Spanish, English and Russian. During the seven decades of his life, he was active in virtually all disciplines of his time: archaeology, botany, geology, cartography, mineralogy, zoology and many more. Humboldt became famous for his expeditions through the Spanish colonies (1799-1804) and the Russian Empire (1829) as well as for his major treatise "Cosmos" (1845-1804), which shows "the entire world in one book".