Faust, detail from the title page of the 1616 edition of The Tragical History of Dr. —Courtesy of the trustees of the British Library; photograph, R.B. Fleming
Legendary German necromancer or astrologer who sold his soul to the devil for knowledge and power. There was a historical Faust (perhaps two; both died c. 1540), who traveled widely performing magic, referred to the devil as his crony, and had a wide reputation for evil. The Faustbuch (1587), a collection of tales purportedly by Faust, told of such reputed wizards as Merlin and Albertus Magnus. It was widely translated; an English version inspired Christopher Marlowe's Tragicall History of D. Faustus (1604), which emphasized Faust's eternal damnation. Magic manuals bearing Faust's name did a brisk business; the classic Magia naturalis et innaturalis was known to Johann W. von Goethe, who, like Gotthold Lessing, saw Faust's pursuit of knowledge as noble; in Goethe's great Faust the hero is redeemed. Inspired by Goethe, many artists took up the story, including Hector Berlioz (in the dramatic cantata The Damnation of Faust) and Charles Gounod (in the opera Faust).