The 18th century is a time of flowing transitions in Bavaria: while the literature of the 16th and 17th centuries largely asserted itself in Protestant imperial cities such as Nuremberg, Old Bavaria demonstrated a certain tenacity in mystical songs or in Baroque sermons. At the same time, new intellectual currents left their mark on this period: Rococo and sensitivity on the one hand, enlightenment and illumination on the other.
The Ettal Benedictine monk Ferdinand Rosner (1709-1778) gets things started. With his new version of the Oberammergau Passion Play he becomes the mediator between the baroque Jesuit theatre and the folk play. Open to the modern, in fact the fashionable, Rosner received numerous educational impressions during the course of his life. Following the example of the Musenalmanache (Muses' Almanacs), which published the best poems and smaller works published in the previous year, among other things, he compiled several volumes under the self-ironic title "Muscae Viennenses et Ettalenses" ("Viennese and Ettal Mosquitoes"), six of which are presented here.
Individual genres also assert themselves more and more or start to now really unfold: Dialect poetry reached a climax in the 18th century in Franconia with the work by the Nuremberg craftsman Johann Konrad Grübel (1736-1809); the epic large form of the novel gained ground in Bavaria with Sophie von La Roche from Kaufbeuren (1731-1802, Geschichte des Fräuleins von Sternheim) and Moritz August von Thümmel (1738-1817, Reise in die mittäglichen Provinzen von Frankreich), who worked in Coburg for a long time. Folk song poetry takes on special importance. Old secular and sacred songs are collected in a colourful two-volume manuscript by a farmer from Stubenberg in Thal (Schachenthal today) from 1796, resulting in the largest collection of its kind in Bavaria in the 18th and early 19th centuries. The so-called "Stubenberger Liederbuch" is also important evidence of the continuity of the folk song tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages.
The records by the literary critic, poet, playwright and philosopher Heinrich Wilhelm von Gerstenberg (1737-1823), which the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek lists in its estates, are no less remarkable. With his literary letters and the tragedy Ugolino (1768), Gerstenberg was one of the pioneers of the Sturm und Drang literary movement and also influenced the young poet Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749-1832). His poetic diary, written between 1751 and 1757, can be seen as a reflection of the prevailing aesthetic theory since Johann Christoph Gottsched (1700-1766) and is significant against the background of an early pronounced aesthetic interest.
One of the most versatile personalities of the Bavarian Enlightenment is undoubtedly the Munich historian, folklorist, high school teacher, canon and Enlightment philosopher Lorenz von Westenrieder (1748-1829). He not only enriches magazine literature in Bavaria but also emerges as a novelist. In his "Leben des guten Jünglings Engelhof" (Life of the Good Young Boy Engelhof) (2 volumes), inspired by Goethe's epistolary novel Werther, he describes the (ultimately) unsuccessful efforts of a noble-minded but destitute academic to reform the judiciary, popular education and the care of the poor in the countryside using the colourful alternation of documents, letters, diary pages and direct narrative form. It is probably the most important Bavarian novel of the Enlightenment period.