The present edition is the latest in a long line of publications of Van Gogh’s letters. Contrary to a widely-held belief, this history did not begin with the publication of the first major edition of the letters, the 1914 Vincent van Gogh. Brieven aan zijn broeder edited by Jo van Gogh-Bonger, since brief quotations from them had appeared in the catalogue to the Van Gogh exhibition in the Kunstzaal Panorama as early as 1892. There had already been an initial – unintentional – move in this direction some years before Van Gogh’s untimely death, when it began to dawn on a small circle of people in Paris that the extraordinary artist also wrote remarkable letters.
In this chapter we outline the history of the publication of Van Gogh’s letters.1 The subject is inextricably bound up with the reception of Van Gogh’s work, with the gradual reemergence of letters from and to other correspondents and of other documents, and with the genesis of the Van Gogh myth. Within the scope of this chapter, however, such aspects can only be touched on in passing.2 We have likewise not tried to compile a full bibliography of publications of Van Gogh’s letters in all languages, simply because it would have required a wide-ranging bibliographic study that was not feasible within the parameters of the Van Gogh Letters Project. We focus on the key moments in the publication history – the editions that marked a new step in the dissemination of his correspondence in print – and we also discuss the significance of some of the translations.