- Raymond Klibansky and the Warburg Library Network: Intellectual Peregrinations from Hamburg to London and Montreal ed. by Philippe Despoix and Jillian Tomm
edited by Philippe Despoix and Jillian Tomm with the collaboration of Eric Mechoulan and Georges Leroux
Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2018. 360 pp.
$49.95 CAD (cloth), $44.95 CAD (ebook)
This excellent book draws extensively on published and archival unpublished sources (found in repositories such as the Warburg Institute Archive in London, the Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach, and McGill [End Page 391] University), including correspondence, memories, and diaries, concerning the Warburg library known as the Kulturwissenshaftliche Bibliothek Warburg (KBW), which was founded by Aby Warburg in Hamburg, Germany, in the 1920s. It shows how the KBW fostered intellectual exchange, transmission, and transformation in the fields of art, myth, religion, medicine, philosophy, intellectual history, and the classics. It takes the reader on a journey into almost half a century of intellectual life at one of the most important cultural research organizations. The essays explore the history of the KBW as a vital cultural institution and the personal relationships of the researchers associated with this institution. The book includes the intellectual peregrinations and dynamics of the network of scholars associated with this institution, particularly the intellectual Raymond Klibansky (1905–2005), who embodied prewar standards of European learning. Klibansky's "magnetic character" (99) also charmed those who came into his orbit, such as scholars at Oxford (84).
As an institution the KBW allowed collaboration among academics and intellectuals such as Fritz Saxl, Gertrud Bing, Ernst Cassirer, Erwin Panofsky, Edgar Wind, Raymond Klibansky, and others. The book describes how the library relocated to London as a result of Nazi persecutions after the rise to power in 1933 of the Nazi Party, causing many of these fleeing "outsider" German Jewish émigrés to take refuge from Nazi persecution in England (London), the United States (Princeton University, New Jersey, and Bowdoin College, Maine), Sweden, and Canada (McGill University of Montreal). Across geographical space these intellectual kindred spirits continued to engage in collective research projects established from their intellectual friendships born in the KBW. Such intellectual collaborations resulted in scholarly contributions by this academic network in the transmission of cultural history on topics such as the Saturn and Melancholy multiple editions, which blends art history with philosophical and cultural history; the Latin and Arabic Corpus Platonicum Medii Aevi (1940–62), which contributed to research on the continuity and vibrant influence of Platonic thought by gathering medieval and Renaissance commentaries on Plato as a part of Quellengeschichte; and the Journal of Mediaeval and Renaissance Studies (1941–68).
The focus in this book revolves around the perhaps most remarkable member of the KBW network: the genius and classically trained Raymond Klibansky, whose scope and breadth of intellectual interests are truly admirable and quite rare today in the culture of narrow specialization. Klibansky, however, did not skimp on depth and was a true researcher who consulted multitudes of rare book collections throughout the world, examining manuscripts for his scholarly work. Klibansky knew a lot about a lot rather than a lot about a little. [End Page 392]
Like Jewish German émigré philosophers Leo Strauss and Hannah Arendt (although Klibansky was born in France), all three studied in Germany and like the young Nietzsche at a young age were awarded elite professorships. Klibansky, like Strauss and Arendt, was deeply pained and affected by the persecution he suffered as a result of the Nazi movement, which banned him from his university post. Klibansky's sincere and deep scholarship in the work of Christian theologians such as Nicholas of Cusa and Meister Eckhart was spurned by the Nazis, who dictated that a Jew has nothing to share on such foreign subjects to the Jews' soul. Klibansky was forced to give up his work on editions of Nicholas of Cusa and Meister Eckhart, although he continued to visit libraries and examine related manuscripts. Klibansky's scholarship was also plagiarized by Nazi scholars of the Stuttgart team, who produced a full edition of the works...