The First Nine Months of Editing Wittgenstein - Letters from G.E.M. Anscombe and Rush Rhees to G.H. von Wright


  • Christian Eric Erbacher University of Bergen & University of Siegen
  • Sophia Victoria Krebs Saarland University



Wittgenstein Ludwig, Wittgenstein's Nachlass, scholarly editing, history of analytical philosophy, Philosophical Investigations, Anscombe Elizabeth, Rhees Rush, Wright G.H. von


The National Library of Finland (NLF) and the Von Wright and Wittgenstein Archives at the University of Helsinki (WWA) keep the collected correspondence of Georg Henrik von Wright, Wittgenstein’s friend and successor at Cambridge and one of the three literary executors of Wittgenstein’s Nachlass. Among von Wright’s correspondence partners, Elizabeth Anscombe and Rush Rhees are of special interest to Wittgenstein scholars as the two other trustees of the Wittgenstein papers. Thus, von Wright’s collections held in Finland promise to shed light on the context of decades of editorial work that made Wittgenstein’s later philosophy available to all interested readers. In this text, we present the letters which von Wright received from Anscombe and Rhees during the first nine months after Wittgenstein’s death. This correspondence provides a vivid picture of the literary executors as persons and of their developing relationships. The presented letters are beautiful examples of what the correspondence as a whole has to offer; it depicts – besides facts of editing – the story of three philosophers, whose conversing voices unfold the human aspects of inheriting Wittgenstein’s Nachlass. Their story does not only deal with editing the papers of an eminent philosopher, but with the attempt to do justice to the man they knew, to his philosophy and to his wishes for publication.

Author Biographies

Christian Eric Erbacher, University of Bergen & University of Siegen

Christian Erbacher was born in Marburg (Germany) in 1979. He received his diploma in psychology from the University of Regensburg (Germany) in 2006 and his PhD in philosophy from the University of Bergen (Norway) in 2010. He has conducted the postdoctoral project “Shaping a domain of knowledge by editorial processing: the case of Wittgenstein’s work” (NFR 213080) at the University of Bergen (Norway). Currently he is preparing a comprehensive account of the social and intellectual history of editing Wittgenstein’s writings.

Sophia Victoria Krebs, Saarland University

Sophia Victoria Krebs is currently reading for a PhD in German Literature at the Saarland University. Beforehand, she studied Philosophy, German literature/language and Scholarly Editing and Documentology at the universities of Düsseldorf, Marburg and Wuppertal. Her scientific interests include the topics of Enlightenment, Intellectual History and digital and analogue editing.


Wittgenstein, L. (1979). Wittgenstein’s lectures on the foundations of mathematics, Cambridge, 1939, edited by Cora Diamond, Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Wittgenstein, L. (2012). Wittgenstein in Cambridge. Letters and Documents 1911-1951. Edited by Brian McGuinness. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Von Wright, G. H. (2001). Mitt liv som jeg minns det. Helsingfors: Söderstrom.