1902 Encyclopedia > Cotta

(A family connected with the history of German literature)

COTTA, a family intimately connected with the history of German literature.

JOHANN GEORG COTTA was the founder of the illustrious Cotta publishing-house. At the time of the Reformation the family (originally of noble Italian blood) lived in Eisenach ; and we hear of them later as being settled in Dresden. Johann Georg started business at Tubingen in 1640

His son,
JOHANN FRIEDRICH (1701-1779), born March 12, 1701, devoted himself to theological study, and began his public career as lecturer in Jena University. He then travelled in Germany, France, and Holland, and, after a stay of several years in London, became professor at Tübingen in 1733. In 1736 he removed to the chair of theology in the university of Göttingen, which had been instituted as a seat of learning, two years before, by George II. of England, in his capacity as elector of Hanover. In 1739, however, he returned, as extraordinary professor of theology, to his Alma Mater, and, after succes-sively filling the chairs of history, poetry, and oratory, was appointed ordinary professor of theology in 1741. Finally he died, as chancellor of the university, on the 31st of December 1779. His learning was at once wide and accu-rate ; his theological views were orthodox, although he did not believe in strict verbal inspiration. He was a volu-minous writer. His chief works are his edition of Johann Gerard's Loci Tlieologici, and the Kirchen Historie des Neuen Testaments.

The most famous member of the family was
JOHANN FRIEDRICH FREIHERR COTTA VON COTTENDORF (1764-1832), a grandson of the theologian, who was born at Stuttgart April 27, 1764. He attended the gymnasium of his native place, and originally meant to study theology, but became greatly interested in the science of war. In 1782 he entered, as a student of mathematics, in the uni-versity of Tübingen, and on the recommendation of Profes-sor Pfleiderer, was elected tutor of Prince Lubomirski in Warsaw. While engaged in tuition, he continued his own studies with great enthusiasm ; and, in his zeal for self-cul-ture, he spent a considerable time in Paris, studying French and natural science, and mixing with distinguished literary men. After practising as an advocate in one of the higher courts, Cotta, in compliance with his father's earnest desire, undertook to conduct the publishing business at Tübingen, which, in the hands of subordinates, had very much declined. He started in December 1787, and laboured incessantly to acquire familiarity with all the details. The house connections rapidly extended; and, in 1793, the Allgemeine Zeitung, of which Schiller was to be editor, was planned. Schiller was compelled to withdraw on account of his health ; but his friendship with Cotta deepened every year, and was a great advantage to the poet and his family. Cotta awakened in Schiller so warm an attachment that, as Doering tells us, when a bookseller offered him a higher price than Cotta for the copyright of Wallenstein, the poet firmly declined it, replying, " Cotta deals steadily with me, and I with him." In 1795 Schiller and Cotta founded the Horen, a periodical very important to the student of German literature. The poet intended, by means of this work, to infuse higher ideas into the com-mon lives of men, by giving them a nobler human culture, and" to reunite the divided political world under the banner of truth and beauty." The Horen brought Goethe and Schiller into most intimate relations with each other and with Cotta ; and Goethe, while regretting that be had already promised Wilhelm Meister to another publisher, contributed the Unterhaltung Deutscher Ausgewanderten, the Roman Elegies, and a paper on Literary Sansculottisro. Fichte sent essays from the first; and the other brilliant German authors of the time were also represented. In 1798 the Allgemeine Zeitung, which is still the leading daily paper in Germany, appeared at Tübingen, being edited first by Posselt and then by Huber. It soon wielded a mighty influence, and must prove a valuable storehouse to the historian. In 1798 the editorial office was transferred to Stuttgart, and in 1803 to Augsburg. In 1799 Cotta entered on his political career, and was sent to Paris by the Würtemburg states as their representative.

where he made friendships which proved very advantageous for the Allgemeine Zeitung. In 1801 he paid another visit to Paris, in a political capacity, when he carefully studied Napoleon's policy, and treasured up many hints which were useful to him in his literary undertakings. He still, how-ever, devoted most of his attention to his own business, and, for many years, made all the entries into the ledger with his own hand. He relieved the tedium of almost ceaseless toil by pleasant intercourse with literary men. With Schiller, Huber, and Pfeffel he was on terms of the warmest friendship ; and he was also intimate with Herder, Schelling, Fichte, Eichter, Voss, Hebel, Tieck, Therese Huber, Matthisson, the brothers Humboldt, Johann Miiller, Spittler, and others, whose works he published in whole or in part. In the correspondence of Alexander von Humboldt with Varnhagen von Ense we see the familiar relations in which the former stood to the Cotta family. In 1795 appeared the Politischen Annalen and the Jahrbiicher der Bauhunde, and in 1798 the Damenalmanach, along with some works of less importance. In 1807 he issued the Morgenblatt, to which Schorn's Kunslblalt and Menzel's Literaturblatt were afterwards added. In 1810 he removed to Stuttgart; and from that time till his death he was loaded with honours. State affairs and an honourable commission from the German booksellers took him to the Vienna Congress; and in 1815 he was deputy-elect at the Wiirtemberg Diet. In 1819 he became representative of the nobility; then he succeeded to the offices of member of committee and (1824) vice-president of the Wiirtemberg second chamber. He was also chosen Prussian privy court counsellor, Bavarian chancellor, and knight of the order of the Wiirtemberg Crown. Meanwhile such publications as the Polytechnische Journal, the Hesperus, the Wiirtember-gisahen Jahrbiicher, the Hertha, the Ausland, and the Inland issued from the press. In 1828-29 appeared the famous correspondence between Schiller and Goethe. Cotta was an unfailing friend of young struggling men of talent. In addition to his high standing as a publisher, he was a man of great practical energy, which flowed into various fields of activity. He was a scientific agriculturist, and promoted many reforms in farming. He was the first Wiirtemberg landholder who did away with servitude on his estates. In politics he was throughout his life a moderate liberal. In 1824 he set up a steam printing press in Augsburg, and, about the same time, founded a literary institute at Munich. In 1825 he started steam-boats, for the first time, on Lake Constance, and introduced them in the following year for the Rhine traffic. In 1828 he was sent to Berlin, on an important commission, by Bavaria and Wiirtemberg, and was there rewarded with orders of distinction at the hands of the three kings. He died on the 29th of December 1832.

His son, FREIHERR GEORG COTTA VON COTTENDORF, who was born in 1796, and died in 1863, succeeded to the management of the business on the death of his father. He was materially assisted by his brother-in-law, Chamber- lain Freiherr von Reischach. He greatly extended the connections of the firm; and, in 1865, the house had establishments for different kinds of publications at Stuttgart, Augsburg, Leipsic, and Munich. The business is still in the hands of the Cotta family. (T. GI.)

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-19 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries