Ludwig Heinrich von Nicolai

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Ludwig Heinrich von Nicolai (better: Nicolay) (1737–1820) (after adopting Orthodoxy Russian: Андрей Львович) was a poet of the Enlightenment, librarian, secretary, academician and the President of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences.


Ludwig Heinrich von Nicolai, age 80
Ludwig Heinrich von Nicolai

Nicolai was born in Strasbourg to a German aristocratic family. He graduated from the University of Strasbourg with a degree in law and afterwards quickly moved to Paris. There he acquainted with Voltaire, Diderot, d'Alembert and other Enlightenment famous men. In 1769 Nicolai was invited to the Russian Empire to be a teacher for future Emperor Paul I of Russia. When Paul became emperor, he promoted Nicolai to a member of cabinet and President of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences (15 April 1798 – 2 June 1803). His estate Monrepos was in the city of Vyborg, formerly a Finnish city, since 1945 a part of Russia. His private library, collections (cameos, letters and other documents) and pictures are now in the possession of the Finnish National Library in Helsinki. His library is a very rare example of the Russian libraries of the age of Enlightenment including for example many rare examples of Russian books in French.[1]

In 1782 on the same day as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Nicolai was granted the title of baron by Joseph II.

Collected Works[edit]

  • Elegien und Briefe. Straßburg 1760
  • Verse und Prosa. Basel 1773 (2 Bde.)
  • Vermischte Gedichte. Berlin 1778-1786 (9 Bde.)
  • Vermischte Gedichte und prosaische Schriften. Berlin 1792-1810 (8 Bde.)
  • Theatralische Werke. Königsberg 1811 (2 Bde.)
  • Poetische Werke. Wien 1817 (4 Bde.)


  • Peter von Gerschau: Aus dem Leben des Freiherrn Heinrich Ludwig von Nicolay. Perthes & Besser, Hamburg 1834.
  • Edmund Heier: L. H. Nicolay (1737-1820) and his contemporaries. Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague 1965.
  • Edmund Heier: L. H. Nicolay (1737-1820) as an exponent of neo-classicism. Bouvier, Bonn 1981.