Schiller's Ode to Joy manuscript sells for $573,400 World Record price

Friedrich Schiller's Ode to Joy is one of the most famous texts ever to be written. It has been set to music around 100 times, most famously by Beethoven who gave it one of the most famous musical melodies in the world in his ninth symphony.

Now a private bidder has won a manuscript version of the 1785 poem at an auction in Basel for a record price of CHF500,000 ($573,400).

The recent discovery of the fresh, fine condition document was a great surprise, as Schiller was known for destroying the manuscript versions of his work.

Also, whilst the ode was his most popular work, he fell out of love with it himself, commenting to his friend Korner (whose friendship is believed to have inspired the poem) in an 1800 letter that it had "value maybe for us two, but not for the world, nor for the art of poetry".

Friedrich Schiller's Ode to Joy poem
Friedrich Schiller's Ode to Joy poem

Regardless of Schiller's view, or even modern poetical views of the work, it made its mark on history with the extraordinary impact it had which counts for a great deal in terms of determining the manuscript's value.

The rarity is also very notable: auctioneer Alain Moirandat had said before the auction he was aware of only three Schiller manuscripts.

Then there is the fact that the text has significant deviations from the printed edition which makes it an object of fascination for students of German literature.

Handwritten documents from poets and classical musicians are often more valuable than people realise. For example, an autographed working manuscript by Beethovensold for $245,000 late last year.

It's partly for this reason that we're offering a few from our stock: letters from Hector Berlioz and Richard Wagner, and even an autographed musical quotation, signed by Franz Liszt.


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