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Howard Caygill

(b Berlin, March 18, 1733; d Berlin, Jan 8, 1811).

German writer and publisher. As an apprentice bookseller in Frankfurt an der Oder in the late 1740s, he attended Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten’s lectures on aesthetics. His first and only important critical work, Briefe über den jetzigen Zustand der schönen Wissenschaften in Deutschland (Berlin, 1755), earned him the friendship of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing and Moses Mendelssohn for its irenic posture in the controversy over aesthetics between Joachim Christoph Gottsched and the Zurich School. However, Nicolai is significant less for his own writings than for publishing some of the most influential critical journals of the German Enlightenment. The Bibliothek der schönen Wissenschaften und freien Künste (1757–62), Briefe, die neueste Literatur betreffdend (1759–65) and Allgemeine deutsche Bibliothek (1765–1806) printed the aesthetic and critical writings of Lessing and Mendelssohn, among other leading philosophers and critics. Nicolai’s own chief contributions to art history are his pioneering texts on art and artists in Berlin. The ...