TS 213

“Big Typescript” (= BT)


There are two copies of TS 213 — a “clean” copy without handwritten corrections or additions as well as another copy bearing countless handwritten supplementary or corrective remarks in the margins or on verso pages. Just to facilitate reference I should like to introduce the following convention: in speaking of the uncorrected TS I shall use the abbreviation “TS 213”, whereas in commenting on the entire copy containing handwritten additions I shall use the term “BT”. (As far as we know, this name — “Big Typescript” — does not go back to Wittgenstein himself, who referred to it [in 1937] as his alte Maschinschrift, but rather to his heirs and trustees, who were in the habit of calling it the “Big Typescript”. Cf. von Wright’s catalogue of Wittgenstein’s papers.)

            The fact that the BT is a composite object consisting of a typewritten text plus later handwritten additions and modifications makes it difficult to count the exact number of pages. The last “official” (typed) page number is 768, the first page (the title page of the first “chapter”) bears the number 0. There is at least one mistake in the official numbering in that there is no number 261. In addition, there is a separate list of contents numbered I to VIII. All in all, there are nearly one hundred verso pages containing remarks, corrections or additions in Wittgenstein’s hand.

            The story of how the BT came to be written is a complicated one and not known in every detail. Even the most careful description will prejudge some issues of valuation. This cannot be helped. Here, I shall try to give a rough account, trying hard to stay on the safe and neutral side of most contested questions.

            TS 213 was dictated by Wittgenstein to a typist, and we can be sure that the work of dictation was done in Vienna. The immediate textual basis of this dictation is TS 212, which however is not a conventional typescript but a collection of cuttings taken from TSS 208, 210 and 211, which in their turn are based on Bände I to X, i.e. MSS 105 to 114i. The cuttings were given a rough ordering corresponding to 19 “chapter” headings as well as a fine ordering into sections, whose total number amounts to 140. In other words, TS 213 represents Wittgenstein’s own selection of remarks from all his manuscripts written between the beginning of 1929 and June 1932.

            In a way it is obvious that the “second part” of TS 213 (chapters 15 to 19 = sections 108-140 = pp. 529-768) could be regarded as a separate part of the entire “work”. It was treated this way by Rush Rhees in editing Philosophical Grammar, where this part is entitled “On Logic and Mathematics”. (This “second part” remained completely unrevised and uncorrected; the same is true of several later sections of the “first part”.) It is an interesting fact that a separate (photostatic) copy of those last five chapters was found among Waismann’s papers — a fact indicating that, probably at an early stage,  these chapters were regarded as a separate part by Wittgenstein’s collaborator if not by Wittgenstein himself.

            The following is a list of the chapter headings of the “first” part: 1. Verstehen. 2. Bedeutung. 3. Satz: Sinn des Satzes. 4. Das augenblickliche Verstehen und die Anwendung des Worts in der Zeit. 5. Wesen der Sprache. 6. Gedanke. Denken. 7. Grammatik. 8. Intention und Abbildung. 9. Logischer Schluß. 10. Allgemeinheit. 11. Erwartung. Wunsch. etc. 12. Philosophie. 13. Phänomenologie. 14. Idealismus, etc.

            Helpful evidence for dating the composition of TS 213 is provided by a letter Wittgenstein wrote from Cambridge to W. H. Watson (26 April 1933 [see Wittgenstein in Cambridge: Letters and Documents 1911-1951, ed. by Brian McGuinness, Malden, MA, & Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, first edition 2008, revised edition 2012] no. 156, cf. the editor’s comments). Here, Wittgenstein says that Watson’s last letter reached him in Vienna,


where I was busy dictating about 800 pages of my bl. philosophy. They contain all I want to say but very badly said and I have now begun to rewrite the whole business. When that’ll be done I’ll have it printed (provided that I’m alive).


There can be little doubt that the material dictated in the spring of 1933 was TS 213, and that Wittgenstein’s phrase to the effect that he had “begun to rewrite” this material refers to the first stages of modifying and supplementing his typescript. It is likely that he worked in this style for a number of weeks or a few months until he found that he needed to make a fresh start (represented by MSS 114ii and 115i as well as 140 (Großes Format)).

            There are many questions concerning TS 213 (and the BT) to which no clear or definitive answer has been given so far. For example, the relations between, and the relative weight of, the chapter headings are far from obvious: are some of them really meant to indicate precise questions which the author attempts to answer by means of his remarks, or do they tend to be very rough general labels merely serving to indicate a rough place for a large number of pre-existing remarks? The section headings may present even more worrying problems. Quite a number of them are quotations from the text, and their basic role may seem to be that of reminding the author of the remarks he happened to place in this section rather than another section (which might have offered an equally plausible home for the remarks in question).

            In some cases, the view expressed by the section heading is different from, or opposed to, that conveyed by the majority or almost all of the remarks constituting the section in question. The heading of section 7 may serve as an example. The title “Der Begriff der Bedeutung stammt aus einer primitiven philosophischen Auffassung der Sprache her” (“The Concept of Meaning Originates in a Primitive Philosophical Conception of Language”) is echoed in PI §2, and its slightly disparaging overtones stand in clear contrast to the innocuous use of the word “primitive” in the body of the the text of section 7. So, in this case the section heading can be read as indicating a path leading away from the ideas expressed in TS 213 itself and towards an approach developed in later writings.

            On the whole, one feels like agreeing to Wolfgang Kienzler’s description of TS 213 as a “quarry” from which the author could serve himself whenever he needed a few remarks for specific purposes. On the other hand, however, Wittgenstein surely made serious attempts to produce a publishable work on the basis of TS 213. The BT modifications as well as the later stages represented by MSS 114ii and 115i as well as 140 bear witness to these plans. At the same time, Wittgenstein’s work on the Blue Book (part, or most, of which must have been contemporaneous with these later stages) can be seen as a first departure from the main ideas contained in TS 213 while the slightly later Brown Book represents (the beginnings of) a new stage in the development of Wittgenstein’s thought.

            This is not the place for telling the whole story of the various roles played by TS 213 in the genesis of later writings by Wittgenstein. Two things, however, should be mentioned at this point. First, in October 1937 Wittgenstein takes out his “old typescript” (= BT), and in the diary he keeps in MS 119 he gives very instructive descriptions of the impression it makes on him while reading and copying or revising remarks he still finds interesting or useful. Second, in preparing work on Bemerkungen I (TS 228) and thus on the last, or penultimate stage, of producing the final text of Philosophical Investigations in 1945, Wittgenstein relies, not on BT but chiefly on those selections made in 1937 as well as other results of ransacking the BT copied into some of his later manuscripts.


There is one published book edition of the “clean” TS 213 and one of the entire BT:

Ludwig Wittgenstein, The Big Typescript, vol. 11 of Wiener Ausgabe, Vienna: Springer, 2000

Ludwig Wittgenstein, The Big Typescript: TS 213, ed. & trans. by C. Grant Luckhardt & Maximilian Aue, Malden, MA, & Oxford: Blackwell, 2005


See also:

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophische Grammatik, ed. by Rush Rhees, Oxford: Blackwell 1969 (Suhrkamp Werkausgabe 1984); trans. by Anthony Kenny: Philosophical Grammar, Oxford: Blackwell, 1974