The „Goethe-Wörterbuch“ is a dictionary that analyses the use of words in the texts of a single author, presenting Goethe’s entire vocabulary in alphabetical order. On the basis of approximately three million archive slips on about 90.000 headwords, it displays their multiple usage in systematically structured entries, with selected quotations to verify and illustrate the differentiated meanings. In doing so, the Goethe-Wörterbuch pays equal attention to Goethe’s every day language as well as to a wide range of technical terminology of that period and, last not least, to the idiosyncrasies of Goethe’s poetic diction. Thus, the Goethe-Wörterbuch is not exclusively an instrument of the Goethe philology, but, almost to the same extent, a valid source of information for the History of Science and for Cultural History in general, as for the Historiographies of Concepts, Ideas and Mentalities. To linguistics it offers a solid foundation for every comprehensive description of the German language in its cultural dimension, furthermore providing a variety of clues concerning the formative era of today‘s German.
The project was founded in 1946 in consequence of a memorandum adressed to the Berlin Academy by classical philologist Wolfgang Schadewaldt. A first branch in Hamburg followed in 1947, and in 1948, the Berlin bureau expanded to Leipzig; finally, in 1951, the Tübingen branch was established. The supervision of these institutes is carried out by the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the Academy of Sciences and Humanities at Göttingen, and the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, which are each represented by two of their academicians in a common commission.