Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Rainer Maria Rilke

December 5th, 2016

Rainer Maria Rilke is one of the most beloved German-language poets of the twentieth century. So in honor of his 141st birthday yesterday, we’re highlighting some of our amazing books by Rilke from Spencer Library’s Special Collections.

Duineser Elegien (English: Duino Elegies), which is considered one of his masterpieces, was begun in 1912 at Duino Castle near Trieste, Italy. The inscription by Rilke pictured below was probably created as he was beginning to write these poems.

Inscription by Rainer Maria Rilke, "Herrn Justizrath Löwenfeld in dankbarer Erinnerung...Schloss Duino...Januar 1912” located on the front page from volume 1 of his work, Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge, Leipzig : Insel-Verlag, 1910. Special Collections, call number: Rilke X18.
Inscription by Rainer Maria Rilke: “Herrn Justizrath Löwenfeld in dankbarer Erinnerung…Schloss Duino…Januar 1912”
located on the front page from volume 1 of his work, Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge, Leipzig: Insel-Verlag, 1910. Special Collections, call number: Rilke X18. Click image to enlarge.

The first edition of Duineser Elegien was published in 1923 in Leipzig. Here is Spencer Library’s copy of this first edition printed on handmade paper with the beginning of “Die Erste Elegie” (English: “The First Elegy”).

Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duineser Elegien, Leipzig: im Insel-Verlag, 1923: cover. Special Collections, call number: Rilke Z50.   Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duineser Elegien, Leipzig: im Insel-Verlag, 1923: title page with unicorn watermark. Special Collections, call number: Rilke Z50.
Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duineser Elegien, Leipzig: im Insel-Verlag, 1923: “Die Erste Elegie”. Special Collections, call number: Rilke Z50.   Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duineser Elegien, Leipzig: im Insel-Verlag, 1923: back page stating that this is the first edition, copy 48 of 300 printed on handmade paper. Special Collections, call number: Rilke Z50.
Pictured from top left to bottom right: Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duineser Elegien, Leipzig: Im Insel-Verlag, 1923: cover, title page with unicorn watermark (below and the the right of Leipzig), “Die Erste Elegie” and back page stating that this is the first edition and copy 48 of 300 printed on handmade paper. Special Collections, call number: Rilke Z50. Click images to enlarge.

Rilke’s works were translated into English, helping to bring his poetry to an international audience. Here is the beginning of “The First Elegy” from Duino Elegies translated into English by J.B. Leishman and Stephen Spender and published by Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s Hogarth Press in 1939.

Rilke’s Duino Elegies, with part of the “The First Elegy” in the original German with the English translation by J.B. Leishman and Stephen Spender placed side by side. Special Collections, call number: Rilke Y26.

Rilke’s Duino Elegies, beginning of “The First Elegy” with German and English translation
by J.B. Leishman and Stephen Spender placed side by side.
Special Collections, call number: Rilke Y26. Click image to enlarge.

Mindy Babarskis
Reference Specialist
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