Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published the first edition of their fairy tale collection in 1812 (first volume) and 1815 (second volume). This collection was republished in 1819, 1837, 1840, 1843, 1850 and 1857. This collection eventually contained 211 fairy tales and is known as the "big edition" (große Ausgabe). In addition, there was a "small edition" (kleine Ausgabe) containing 50 fairy tales, which was printed in 1825, 1833, 1836, 1841, 1844, 1847, 1850, 1853 and 1858.
The idea to collect fairy tales had been suggested by Clemens Brentano and Achim von Arnim, but when the brothers Grimm sent their manuscript to Brentano in 1810, Brentano didn't do anything with it and the manuscript disappeared, only to be rediscovered in the 20th century. Fortunately, the brothers Grimm had made a copy of the manuscript, so the could proceed to publish the collection.
Especially Jacob was interested in publishing the fairy tales as faithfully as they had been recorded, without embellishments. Even though the fairy tales had been collected in Hessen, later research has shown that some fairy tales indirectly derived from texts published by Charles Perrault, Madame d'Aulnoy or Mademoiselle de La Force. One of the brothers Grimms' sources was Marie Hassenpflug, who descended from Huguenots who had once fled France. The fairy tales she told the brothers Grimm include Little Brother and Little Sister (Brüderchen und Schwesterchen), Briar Rose (Dornröschen; collected by Perrault in France) and The Girl Without Hands (Das Mädchen ohne Hände). In addition to oral sources, the brothers Grimm also used manuscripts and books dating from the 16th to the 18th centuries.
Whereas Jacob Grimm emphasised faithfulness, his brother Wilhelm, who was the main editor starting with the second volume, tended to amplify. For example, Wilhelm tended to replace the present tense with the preterite, indirect speech with direct speech and foreign words with German or Germanic words. He also liked proverbs, archaic expressions, diminutive forms and emotion words.
From the second edition onwards, Wilhelm Grimm increasingly fashioned the fairy tale collection as a children's book and some of his modifications can be explained by this: he removed objectionable passages or euphemised them to make them compatible with bourgeois decency. The "small edition" was even more strongly conceived as children's literature, both in its selection (a preference for fairy tales involving children) and in it style.
Those who wish to read the fairy tales in versions that come closest to what the brothers Grimm recorded should consult reprints or facsimiles of the first edition:
- Heinz Rölleke (editor): Die älteste Märchensammlung der Brüder Grimm. Synopse der Urfassung von 1810 and der Erstdrucke von 1812. Cologny-Genève, 1975.
- Friedrich Panzer (editor): Die KHM der Brüder Grimm. 1913.
- Heinz Rölleke and Ulrike Marquardt (editors): KHM, Faksimile der Erstauflage (1812/1815) mit den hs. Nachträgen der Brüder Grimm (Transkription, Kommentar, Nachwort). 3 volumes. 1986.
(KHM = Kinder- und Hausmärchen. hs. = handschriftlich, manuscript (adjective))
Source: Max Lüthi: Märchen. 8th edition, revised by Heinz Rölleke. Stuttgart: Metzler, 1990.