First off, if anybody fancies reading these fairy tales, here is a good copy of it. It's mostly translated from the final edition of the original Brothers Grimm books, but with a small part from the first edition.1
To start, the Brothers Grimm grew up in a well-to-do family in Hanau, Germany. Jacob was born in January 1785 and Wilhelm in February 1786, but their father (a jurist) died in 1796, when the brothers were only 10 and 11.
With his death, the family plunged into poverty. With the aid of their aunt, Jacob and Wilhelm were able to attend a very good school in Kassel however. Some scholars speculate that Jacob and Wilhelm's low status in society drove them to be the best they could be, to "prove something" to their high-born peers.2 This school, called the Friedrichsgymnasium, focused primarily on languages and music.
After graduating they attended the University of Marburg, where the Brothers' studies of folklore really took off. Under their law teacher, they started studying medieval folklore extensively.3
After graduating, Jacob went back home to support the family in 1805. They had been living in extreme poverty. He found a full-time job soon after, in 1808, as a court librarian in Westphalia. Wilhelm joined him soon after.
The position didn't pay much, but it afforded ample time for research. Jacob published 13 books from then until 1830, some in combination with his brother.
Between 1812 and 1864, 17 editions of Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales) were published, and have been reprinted countless times since.
The present translation is based in part on the first edition of the KINDER– UND HAUSMÄRCHEN published in two volumes in 1812 and 1815. The first 211 tales in this translation are based on the seventh and final edition published in 1857. (preface, The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm)
2: Zipes, Jack. The Brothers Grimm: from enchanted forests to the modern world. New York: Routledge, 1988. Print.
3: Grimm, Wilhelm, Jacob Grimm, Jack Zipes, and Andrea Dezsö. The original folk & fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm: the complete first edition. Princeton: Princeton U Press, 2014. Print.