Under current restrictions, our shops are closed to the public, but we are still processing online, telephone and email orders as normal.

EHLERS, Martin.

Ueber die Lehre von der mensclichen Freyheit und über die Mittel, zu einer hohen Stufe der menschlichen Freyheit zu gelangen.

Dessau: Buchhandlung der Gelehrten, [1782] Stock Code: 132784
Reserve Ask us a question

Franziska von Hohenheim's copy

First edition of the Kiel professor of philosophy and educational reformer's treatise on liberty, this copy from the celebrated Franziska von Hohenheim collection. The work was printed by the Buchhandlung der Gelehrten at Dessau in Saxony-Anhalt, founded in 1781. The press allowed authors greater freedom than usual over size, type, and paper, and the works were published at the author's own expense, the press charging only a relatively small fee for distribution and sale. Ehlers chose a superior, thick laid paper for the publication of Lehre von der mensclichen Freyheit, and some of his statements are emphasised through the use of a larger font.

Having completed his studies in theology and philosophy at Kiel and Göttingen, Martin Ehlers (1732-1800) became rector first of the Latin school at Segeberg in 1760, and then at Oldenburg in 1768. Ehlers' subsequent proposal to reform the school system expressed his thoughts on the introduction of a national education program, the secularisation of schools, and the professionalisation of teaching - thus marking the beginnings of pedagogical discussion in the German Enlightenment. When strong opposition to his ideas surfaced, Ehlers left Oldenburg for Altona in 1771 to take up a post at the Gymnasium Christianaeum. Here Ehlers was more successful in establishing new rules and, in collaboration with three of his colleagues, he reshaped the curriculum with an emphasis on modern languages and historical studies, independence of thought, and a religious education guided by tolerance. After he was awarded his doctorate in philosophy from Göttingen University in 1775 Ehlers acted as the primary reviewer of pedagogical literature for Friedrich Nicolai's Allgemeiner Deutscher Bibliothek, while at the same time accepting a position at Kiel University, where he taught philosophy until his death in 1800.

Though now relatively little known, Ehlers' work had some marked influence upon his contemporaries. Kant referenced Lehre von der mensclichen Freyheit in his 'Review of Schulz' (1783), and he also engaged with Ehlers as part of the ongoing controversy about book piracy. On the Injustice of Book Piracy According to Natural Penal Law (1784) by Ehlers prompted Kant's article of almost the same name in the Berlinische Monatsschrift the following year, an essay that would eventually form the basis of a section in the Metaphysics of Morals entitled 'What Is A Book?'

This copy is from the Bächingen an der Brenz estate library of Franziska Theresia Reichsgräfin von Hohenheim (1748-1811). First the official mistress, and later wife, of Duke Carl Eugen of Württemberg, Franziska was referred to during her lifetime as the "Angel of Württemberg", in recognition of her important charity work and donations. The binding is in a style typical to her library: mottled or speckled Buntpapier boards, with her monogram to the spine.

Confused? Read our glossary


Small octavo (157 x 91 mm). Contemporary mottled paste paper boards, smooth spine decoratively tooled in gilt, twin green paper labels, Franziska von Hohenheim's initials tooled in gilt to the first, date tooled in gilt to the second, central red label titled in gilt, edges red, green silk book marker.


Engraved head- and tailpieces.


Early library stamp, "Baechingen a/ Brenze", hand numbered with shelfmark "no. 422", to title page. Spine ends and corners lightly worn, overall a crisp, clean copy.


With the exception of framed items*, Peter Harrington offers free delivery on all UK orders of rare books, maps and prints placed through this website. Delivery to USA and the rest of the world is similarly free for orders over £200.

View Full Delivery Details



Established in 1969, Peter Harrington is one of the leading rare book firms in the world. It is a proud member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association – along with ILAB, the PBFA and Lapada – and from shops in Mayfair and Chelsea, London, sells rare books, prints and ephemera to customers across the world.

Email: mail@peterharrington.co.uk

Tel: +44 (0)20 7591 0220

ABA Antiquarian Bookseller Association ILAB International League of Antiquarian Booksellers LAPADA The Association of Art and Anatique Dealers PBFA Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association

Our Guarantee Page

Ask us a question


Contact us with details of the book you are interested in or selling and we will contact you

Sell Old Books Help me find a book