Maxims and Reflections

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by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Goethe was probably the last true ‘Renaissance Man’. Although employed as a Privy Councillor at the Duke of Weimar’s court, where he helped oversee major mining, road-building and irrigation projects, he also painted, directed plays, carried out research in anatomy, botany and optics — and still found time to produce masterpieces in every literary genre. His 1,413 maxims and reflections reveal not only some of his deepest thought on art, ethics, literature and natural science, but also his immediate reactions to books, chance encounters or his administrative work. With a freshness and immediacy which vividly conjure up Goethe the man, they make an ideal introduction to one of the greatest of European writers.

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Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Maxims and Reflections