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ALBUM AMICORUM of Carl Heinrich Georgy

In German, Latin and Greek, illustrated manuscript on paper
Germany, Friedeberg, Hirschberg, Berlin a.o., 1802-1822

TM 341-4

148 leaves, modern foliation in pencil on each tenth leaf. Collation: i8 wants 1 and 8 (ff. 1-6), ii8 (ff. 7-14), iii8 wants 3 (ff. 15-21), iv8 wants 1 (ff. 22-28), v4 (ff. 29-32), v4 wants 1 and 4 (ff. 33-34), vi-vii8 (ff. 35-50), viii8 wants 1, 2 and 3 (ff. 51-55), ix8 + one leaf after 3 (ff. 56-64), x8 (ff. 65-72), xi8 wants 3, 6 and 7 (ff. 73-77), xii8 wants 1 (?), 5 and 6 (ff. 78-82), xiii-xiv8 (ff. 83-98), xv6 (ff. 99-104), xv10 wants 2 (ff. 105-113), xvi6 + one leaf before 1, wants 4 (ff. 114-119), xvii10 (ff. 120-129), xviii8 (ff. 130-137), xix12 wants 12 (ff. 138-148); with 13 full-page and smaller illustrations (3 loosely inserted) in gouache, watercolor, silhouette and 2 embroideries [see below], a garland in watercolor (f. 25r), embroidered text (ff. 17r, 89v) and flowers (ff. 48v, 82v), three hairpieces (ff. 42v,48v, 64v), two red feathers (f. 67r). Contemporary binding of violet silk over pasteboard, pastedowns of green paper, edges gilt. Binding worn. Dimensions 111 x 190 mm. (oblong).

The Album Amicorum of Carl Heinrich Georgy spans his entire adolescence and adult life, first as a student in Berlin and later as a leading resident of Friedeburg, Saxony, where he practiced as a physician and was active in municipal administration. Significant not only for its association with a known individual, important in his community, the Album is noteworthy for its diversity, written in three languages and including silhouettes (one hidden by an intricate paper gauze), embroidery, hair art, feathers, pen-and-ink sketches, and Romanticist gouaches (sold with TM 341a, b, and c).


1. Although the title page only makes mention of “C.H. Georgy,” the first owner of the album can undoubtedly be identified as Carl Heinrich Georgy, born in Friedeberg, Silesia, in 1783/84 as the son of the vicar Johann Heinrich Georgy and his wife Johanna Christiana Georgy, née Singert. In 1802, Carl Heinrich went to Berlin to study medicine, after which he returned to Friedeburg to become a practitioner. Over the years he held several offices in the city’s administration: he was municipal councilor, chief of police and, for a period of fourteen years, mayor. He died on 17 June 1824 at the age of forty. See Johann G. Bergemann, Beschreibung und Geschichte der Stadt Friedeberg am Queis, Hirschberg, 1829, pp. 549, 632, 663-664.

2. On 2-3 November 1976 the manuscript was auctioned at Karl & Faber’s, Munich, as lot 1357.


The album contains 140 contributions, mostly with place and date. The majority has been inscribed in 1802, in Georgy’s hometown Friedeberg (Silesia), and in towns and villages in the neighborhood: Bad Flinsberg, Egelsdorf, Falkenhain, Giersdorf, Greiffenberg, Hirschberg, Niederwiesa, Petersdorf, Röhrsdorf and Schreibenau. Among the many contributors in 1802 are his parents (ff. 86v-87r), his brother Jonathan (ff. 88v-89r), as well as several members of the Fischer family in Hirschberg, the Friedrich family in Hirschberg, the Kersten family in Giersdorf, and the Zimmermann family in Falkenhain. During his academic years in Berlin, 1802-1805, Georgy collected inscriptions from fellow-students. Among them are C.F.W. Benekendorff (ff. 35r-37r), Benjamin Gottlieb Forckert (f. 19r), Carl Christian Freytag (f. 115r), A.W. Langenmayr (f. 134v) and Georg Friedrich Muhlhausen (f. 13r). Georgy himself filled some pages with anecdotes from his student life (ff. 27v-29r, 63r-64r). After he had settled in Friedeberg, his album was enriched incidentally by friends and colleagues, mostly in Friedeberg itself, and furthermore in Löwenburg (1812) and Erlangen (1822). One of those contributors is Johann G. Bergemann (ff. 21v-22v), who would commemorate Georgy warmly after his death, in his Beschreibung und Geschichte der Stadt Friedeberg am Queis.

The Album amicorum (Latin for “book of friendship”) began to appear in the middle of the sixteenth century, perhaps originating in Wittenberg and associated with university life as students travelled around Europe to different universities. Students collected autographs of professors and fellow-students whom they met at universities far from home. Such contributions include biblical, classical and literary quotations, proverbs and personal tokens of affection, and could be embellished with coats of arms, emblematic or allegorical representations, and scenes from daily life. At first, inscriptions by friends, acquaintances, teachers, and family members were made on the spare pages of printed books, then on copies of emblem books, and finally on books printed sometimes with borders for album use. By the seventeenth century, the oblong format was preferred, and blank copy books, often with lavish gold tooling, could be bought for this purpose.

The practice flourished in Germany and Switzerland, and then particularly in Leiden, which had a strong university community, and The Netherlands became after Germany the most important area of circulation for the album. Albums were soon compiled by people other than students, mainly members of the bourgeosie, including women. Members of the nobility used them as heraldic notebooks containing watercolors of shields and mottos (hence the German word “Stammbuch”). Frequently they contain drawings and watercolors, sometimes by famous artists (there are albums with drawings by Rembrandt, for example). Sometimes they include sheets of music. In German- and Dutch-speaking lands, the album remained in fashion through the early nineteenth century. As a genre, many such manuscripts survive. They offer an unparallelled source for cultural and historical research, including biography, prosopography, the history of universities, social networks, literary and artistic taste, popular and highbrow imagery, among many other subjects.

The German professor and theologist Philipp Melanchthon (1497-1560), who was closely associated with the Reformation, early on recognized the utility of the Album Amicorum (quoted in Nickson, pp. 9-10): “These little books certainly have their uses: above all they remind the owners of people, and at the same time bring to mind the wise teaching which has been inscribed in them, and they serve as a reminder to the younger students to be industrious in order that the professor may inscribe some kind and commendatory words on parting so that they may always prove themselves brave and virtuous during the remainder of their lives, inspired, even if only through the names of good men, to follow their example. At the same time the inscription itself teaches knowledge of the character of the contributor, and quite often significant passages from otherwise and unknown and little-read authors are found in albums. Finally, they record biographical details which would otherwise be forgotten.”

Public collections with important holdings of German Alba Amicorum are the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin, the Staatsbibliothek in Bamberg, the Sachsische Landesbibliothek -- Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek in Dresden, the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg, and the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel. The Royal Library in The Hague is the major repository of Dutch examples. The British Library in London has a huge collection of albums, purchased en bloc in 1850 from the estate of Erhard Christoph Bezzel, a scholar of Nuremberg history (especially Egerton MSS 1178-1498; later supplemented as Egerton MSS 1536-1607). Princeton University Library has an autograph collection of more than 200 examples dating from the mid-nineteenth century (see below).


f. 26v, Two pens in the shape of suspenders, writing an invoice (pen-and-wash), which lists spendings for, among others, shoes and soles, and ends with the reminder “Ich muß bitten mir so bald wie möglich zu entrichten, weil ich schon über 1 Jaar gewartet habe” (I have to ask you to pay as soon as possible, since I am waiting already for more than a year), with a quotation from Horace: “Non, si male nunc, et olim sic erit” (Though matters may be bad today, they may be better tomorrow);

f. 32v, Schematic study of street with houses (pen and watercolor, full-page), by August Friebel, “Studiosus Architecturae” (student in architecture);

f. 38r, Young man called Klemend (silhouette, hidden behind a paper gauze which can be pulled open);

f. 39v, Personification of Time (gouache), with the caption “Flügle du immerhin, an unsere felsenfesten Freundschaft wird doch deine Sense zertrümmern” (You flutter what you want, but your scythe will break against our rock-solid friendship);

f. 48v, Roses and forget-me-not (embroidery), being part of a rebus, which forms a pun: “Wandle auf [Rosen] und [Vergißmeinnicht]” (Walk on roses and forget-me-not), in a roundel of human hair;

f. 50v, Garden with gate (gouache, full-page);

f. 51r, Butterfly on a branch (gouache), with a movable wing hiding a skull, with the caption “Was ist’s, was dieser Schmetterling mit seinen Flügel deckt? / Das, was dem Weisen lehrt, dem Thoren aber schreckt” (What is it that this butterfly covers with its wings? It’s what teaches wise men, and frightens fools);

f. 59r, Temple (embroidery on silk), “der Dankbarkeit geweith” (consecrated to gratitude);

f. 75v, Young man (silhouette);

f. 84r, Two travelers in a landscape (gouache);

f. 88v, Mountainous landscape (gouache, full-page);

f. 114r, The castles Mühlburg, Burg Gleichen and Wachsenburg, known as the “Drei Gleichen von Gotha” (pen-and-wash, full-page);

loosely inserted, Landscape with mountains (gouache);

loosely inserted, People dancing in a ring (gouache);

loosely inserted, Cupid mourning in a landscape with a temple (pen-and-wash).

This Album Amicorum is quite diverse in the types of text and illustration it contains. The inclusion of silhouette portraits is characteristic of the time. The “silhouette” is eponymous for Etienne de Silhouette (1709-1769), a French finance minister who enjoyed making cut paper portraits. Prior to the advent of photography, silhouette profiles cut from black card were the cheapest way of recording a person’s appearance. Prior to the advent of photography, silhouette profiles cut from black card were the cheapest way of recording a person’s appearance (for further information on the use of the silhouette in Alba Amicorum see TM 341b). Another interesting feature of the present Album is its use of human hair to form pictures (ff. 42v, 48v, and 64v). Especially jewelry but also other works of art from human hair were in fashion during the nineteenth century and the first few decades of the twentieth century. Hair had symbolic significance already in the Old Testament in the well-known story of Samson, who believed that long hair was a source of strength. In Europe in the sixteenth century memorial jewels often contained hair. Here, hair is used as a personal souvenir in the most striking example on f. 48v, where a rebus is composed of painted roses and embroidered forget-me-nots and encircled in strands of human hair. Other images are more typical of German Romanticism (see also TM 341c).

The magnificent Hainhofer Album achieved a record price of $2,368,000 for an Album Amicorum at auction in the Cornelis J. Hauck sale in New York at Christies on June 27-28, 2006. More modest examples like the present one are easily within the reach of most bibliophiles, as well as libraries, and remain a largely untapped resource for study and exhibition especially suited to colleges and universities. An international electronic resource records examples, both complete and fragmentary, that are in the public and private spheres, and offers much additional information, although for the moment it is only available in German (Repertorivm Alborvm Amicorvm; see below).


Fechner, Jörg-Ulrich(ed.). Stammbücher als kulturhistorische Quellen, Munich, 1981 (Wolfenbütteler Forschungen, 11).

Keil, Robert and Richard. Die deutschen Stammbücher des sechzehnten bis neunzehnten Jahrhunderts. Ernst und Scherz, Weisheit und Schwank in Original-Mittheilungen zur deutschen Kultur-Geschichte, Berlin, 1893 (reprint Hildesheim, 1975).

Klose, W. “Stammbücher–eine kulturhistorische Betrachtung,”Bibliothek und Wissenschaft 16 (1982), pp. 41-67.

Kurras, Lotte. Zu gutem Gedenken. Kulturhistorische Miniaturen aus Stammbüchern des Germanischen Nationalmuseums 1570-1770, Munich, 1987.

Lilienthal, M. Schediasma critico-literarium de philiothecis varioque earundum usu et abusu, vulgo von Stamm-Büchern, Königsberg, 1712; rev. Wittenberg, 1740 (repr. in Fechner, 1981, pp. 237-298). [the first study of Alba Amicorum].

Nickson, M.A.E. Early Autograph Albums in the British Museum, London, Trustees of the British Museum, 1970.

Rosenheim, Max. The album amicorum, Oxford, 1910.

Schünemann, Hugo. “Stammbücher,”Schrifttumsberichte zur Genealogie und zu ihren Nachbargebieten 2 (1965), pp. 67-108.

Taegert, Werner. Edler Schatzholden Erinnerns. Bilder in Stammbüchern der Staatsbibliothek Bamberg aus vier Jahrhunderten, Bamberg, 1995.

Thomassen, Kees (ed.). Alba amicorum. Vijf eeuwen vriendscap op papier gezet. Het album amicorum en het poëziealbum in de Nederlanden, Maarssen/The Hague, 1990.

Online resources

Repertorivm Alborvm Amicorvm. Internationales Verzeichnis von Stammbüchern und Stammbuchfragmenten in öffentlichen und privaten Sammlungen:

Alciato’s Emblems and the Album Amicorum by William Barker

Netherlandish Alba Amicorum

Autograph Manuscript Collection, Princeton University

Grove Art Online: Album amicorum