The literary critic, poet, playwright and philosopher Heinrich Wilhelm von Gerstenberg (1737–1823), by means of his literary letters and of the tragedy "Ugolino" (1768), is considered one of the pioneers of the Sturm und Drang movement and also influenced the young poet Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749–1832) with his poetry.
After studying at the Christianeum (grammar school) in Hamburg-Altona, Gerstenberg began to read law at the University of Jena in 1757, but left two years later. In the same year of 1759 Gerstenberg made a successful literary debut with his "Tändeleyen" (Dalliances). During his first year of studies at the University of Jena, Gerstenberg joined the Deutsche Gesellschaft (German Society), a German language society based in Leipzig at the time of the late Baroque period and during the Enlightenment, which advocated the promotion and emancipation of the German language as opposed to the predominant languages French and Latin. In this context he made his first important literary contacts, e.g. with the writer Matthias Claudius (1740–1815).
In 1765, Gerstenberg and his family settled in Copenhagen. There he worked in the salon of the diplomat Johann Hartwig Ernst von Bernstorff (1712–1772) and in the literary circle around Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock (1724–1803). A small group of people interested in literature and music gradually developed around Gerstenberg. In addition, he maintained an extensive correspondence with influential personages such as Johann Gottfried Herder (1744–1803), Friedrich Nicolai (1733–1811) and with some members of the "Göttinger Hainbund" (Göttingen Grove), a literary association that was inclined towards the movement of the Sturm und Drang and which, for example, was also close to Claudius and Klopstock. In this phase Gerstenberg’s most important works, the "Gedicht eines Skalden" (Poem of a Skald, 1766) and the "Schleswiger Literaturbriefe" (Schleswig Literary Letters, 1766–1770) were created. In his twentieth Literary Letter, he formulated essential aspects of the concept genius for the first time. Despite his literary success, Gerstenberg was largely forgotten as a writer during his lifetime. He died on 1 November 1823 at the age of 86 in Altona.
The classicist and librarian Karl Felix von Halm (1809–1882) first acquired Gerstenberg’s fragmentary estate and presumably integrated its valuable parts with his own autograph collection. The rest of the estate was handed over to the manuscript department of the Hof- und Staatsbibliothek, the precursor institution of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Bavarian State Library) at the end of the 1880s by the librarian Georg von Laubmann (1843–1909). The collection consists of three boxes and contains, in addition to a literary diary with transcripts of poetry, his own poems, notes and drafts from 1751–1756, also correspondence and drafts for correspondence by Gerstenberg.
The poetic diary from his estate was digitised for bavarikon. In addition to his own poetry and critical essays, it contains some sort of reading list on the first page.