Lessing (1780)

The Education of the Human Race (complete)

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 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.

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 online.

The formatting of the text (bold, italics, centred etc) is a reasonably accurate representation of the printed version (though I have, of course, replaced the archaic 'f's with 's's), but the pages presented here are not exact facsimiles of the original: the font (Times, Arial etc) and size of print - and therefore the number of words to a line and lines to a page - are determined by the settings you have chosen for your web browser. However, the page breaks are correct. In other words, if something is shown here as being on, say, page 52, you can be sure it appeared on page 52 in the original.

I have added three notes of explanation - these are shown [in square brackets].

The page headers (the book title across left and right hand pages) have been omitted.

  • Biographical information and Anna Rosina Lisiewska's portrait of Lessing from Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (Wikipedia)

    Lessing's The Education of the Human Race and the above notes were prepared for the web by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 12 May 2013.