The Lessing Society was founded at the University of Cincinnati in 1966 as the American Lessing Society by Gottfried F. Merkel and Guy Stern. In light of the international make-up of its membership, it was renamed the Lessing Society in 1973. It was the first world-wide Lessing Society and one of the most prominent institutions supporting research on the Enlightenment in the United States, with Ruth Klüger as one of its first Presidents. From the outset, the Lessing Society's goal has been to foster an understanding of Lessing as a critic who did not shy away from conflict, as an engaged man of the theatre, and as a cosmopolitan representative of the European Enlightenment. It is dedicated to promoting an appreciation of the work of this "German Voltaire" who sought to realize in theory and practice the liberal values of his age, and to continually rediscovering the living power of his thought. Above all, Lessing's engagement on behalf of religious tolerance and his intellectual appropriation of the idea of tolerance understood in the sense of "recognition and respect" plays an essential role here. A second goal guiding the work of the society is to expand the common conception of literature. The society supports research into the whole range of Lessing's intellectual interest and the entire spectrum of his scholarship – not just his poetic works, but also his essays in literary criticism and the theory of art, his philosophical writings, his contributions to philology, medieval literature studies, and classics, his activities as a publisher and critic, and his engagement in theatre and drama, i.e. the whole range of his diverse roles in the debate culture of the Enlightenment. A third aspect of the Society‘s work expands its focus beyond Lessing himself and his work. From the outset, the Lessing Society has addressed the broader context of the European Enlightenment and paid attention to other leading German-speaking authors from that age.

The Lessing Society today is an international scholarly organization that intends to continue this tradition into the 21st Century. Lessing, for whom the search for truth and respect for the convictions of others are inseparable, remains relevant for the challenges of a pluralistic postmodernity, and thus provides the intellectual horizon for the Society's scholarly work. The Society supports and promotes research on Gotthold Ephraim Lessing as well as the literature and culture of the Enlightenment. The concrete work of the Society therefore consists in disseminating scholarly investigations of Lessing, his literary works, and their reception; research into German (and European) Enlightenment; and information about scholarly work in these fields as well as in providing a forum for discussion of research into the Eighteenth Century. The Lessing Society is thereby in contact with other organizations such as the Wolfenbüttel Lessing-Akademie, the Lessing-Museum and the Arbeitsstelle für Lessing-Rezeption in Kamenz, the Hamburg Lessing-Gesellschaft, the Gesellschaft zur Erforschung des 18. Jahrhunderts, the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies, the German Studies Association, and the Modern Language Association. This enables the Society to foster contacts between scholars who work in the field of German-language literature within the context of the European Enlightenment. It organizes lecture series and international scholarly symposia. Since 1969, it has published the Lessing Yearbook. In conjunction with the Yearbook, it also publishes numerous Conference Proceedings that are recognized as milestones of Lessing scholarship and trendsetters in the development of the contemporary image of Lessing.

The members of the Society receive intermittent the Lessing Yearbook and the Newletter Notes & Notices about the activities and business of the Society, where Calls for Papers are also published.
The citations are quoted after the Lachmann/Muncker-Edition.
The pictures were kindly provided by the Lessing-Akademie.