Aug 10, 2010

The Electronic Edition of Immanuel Kant’s Complete Works


[Source] The Academy-Edition of Immanuel Kant's Complete Works consists of four sections: (a) works (volumes 1-9), (b) correspondence (volumes 10-13), (c) handwritten remains (volumes 14-23) and (d) lectures. The academy-edition is the general reference edition for philological and philosophical investigation concerning Immanuel Kant. The first volume of the edition appeared in 1900. Since section (d) is not finished yet, the edition is still work in progress.


The volumes 1-23 (sections a-c) have been digitalized at the University of Bonn. The digitalization began in the early 1960s with the work on a general Kant-index. Diverse digitalization techniques were used – from keypunching to OCR –, and the work has been multiply interrupted for years. Recently, the data have been harmonized, complemented, largely corrected and – semi-automatically – XML-coded. We do now have an extensive, reliable, well-documented and XML-valid reference corpus of Immanuel Kant's writings. The corpus comprises more than about 3.5 Mio words.

Based on the corpus we designed an electronic edition of Immanuel Kant's works, which is available at

Arrangement and presentation of the data: (a) We provide for an HTML-presentation which is similar to the print edition. Each HTML-page conforms to a print-page of the academy-edition; line breaks and typographic features are adopted. (b) We generated HTML-pages for the letters of the second section. The letters are accessible via a table of all letters. It is now possible to link the digital transcripts of the letters with facsimiles and to add letters which were not printed in the academy-edition. (c) Kant's handwritten remains comprise notes that were left in diverse books and on loose papers. For the printed academy-edition, these notes were thematically ordered. Apart from the thematic order we provide for an order according to the provenances of the notes. (d) The handwritten remains also comprise entire manuscripts with notes on the margins and between the lines. The editors of the remains had to segment the manuscripts into text passages and bring these passages into a linear order. However, they annotated the original composition of the manuscripts. We performed some experiments in reconstructing original compositions from these annotations.

Search engine and indices: We installed webglimpse ( as a search engine in order to render keyword search possible. Moreover, the data can be accessed via indices: (a) We generated a HTML-version of the name index for Kant's writings which originally appeared in 1969 (Holger et al., Personenindex zu Kants gesammelten Schriften, Berlin 1969). (b) We performed a successful experiment on the automatic generation of a lemmatized word index of Kant's Streit der Fakultäten.

Hyper linking: (a) A lot of Kant's notes from the handwritten remains directly refer to texts of other authors, e.g. to Baumgarten's book Metaphyscia. We digitalized these texts and partly linked Kant's notes to the respective text passages. (b) In some of his letters and notes Kant comments on his own works. For instance, volume 15 of the academy-edition comprises notes on anthropology that directly refer to Kant's work on Anthropologie in pragmatischer Hinsicht (volume 7). We linked the notes from volume 15 with their reference texts in volume 7. (c) We linked the transcript of Kant's opus postumum (volumes 21, 22) with facsimiles of the manuscript pages.

Collecting data and making them available: The electronic edition of Immanuel Kant's works is freely available via the WWW. Moreover, the data of the Kant-corpus can be transformed into different formats on demand. They are made available to researchers who are working on new critical editions of Kant's works. For instance, a new edition of the opus postumum is currently prepared at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Science ( The researchers working on this edition use the data of the electronic corpus. In exchange, corrections and editorial comments that are made in the course of the new edition will be added to the corpus. Finally, we will add digitalized facsimiles and newly discovered texts.

The Electronic Edition of Immanuel Kant's Complete Works is extensively used by philosophers working on Kant. These users give feedback and make helpful remarks. Some of these remarks might be self-evident but nevertheless worth mentioning:
  • An interface to the electronic edition need not have a lot of functions but must be robust and simple to use. Most of our users were not willing to spend much time in learning to use an interface. They are rather conservative computer users.
  • Indices are useful even if there is also a search engine. You can only use a search engine if you know what you are looking for, but you can scroll through a name index without knowing which names might appear.
  • It is very helpful if a search engine can work on a lemmatized index with harmonized word spelling. In Kant's handwritten remains the same word can appear in different writings. A user cannot be expected to search for all possible writings.
  • It should be possible to find text which is only implicitly contained in the original data.
  • Linking thematically related text passages is an act of philosophical text interpretation and demands the respective knowledge.
  • A lot of editorial work has already been done without the extensive use of computers: comments have been written, different kinds of indices – the above mentioned name index, for instance – have been generated, and so on. We should not repeat this work but rather use it in order to improve our electronic editions with comparatively low effort.
  • It is a clear advantage of our electronic edition that it is based on the academy-edition and not on one of the many other editions of Kant's works. One should be careful in choosing the best text basis for an electronic edition.

1 comentários:

biju said...

the links are dead please re-up