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ALBUM AMICORUM of Amalia Bernhardina Sophia Marburg

In German, illustrated manuscript on paper
Germany, Bad Berleburg, Elsoff, Siegen a.o., 1793-1798 and 1816

TM 341-2

99 leaves, contemporary pagination in ink: [i-iii], 1-11, [11a-b], 12-33, 36-43, [43a-b], 44-75, [75a-b], 76-93, [93a-b], 94-123, [123a-b], 124-131, 134-139, [139a-d], 140-151, 154-155, [155a-b], 156-184, [185]. Collation: i8 wants 1 (pp. i-ii, 1-11), ii8 + one leaf before 1 (pp. 11a-b, 12-27), iii8 wants 4 (pp. 28-33, 36-43), iv8 + one leaf before 1 (pp. 43a-b, 44-59), v8 (pp. 60-75), vi8 + one leaf before 1 (pp. 75a-b, 76-91), vii8 + one leaf after 1 (pp. 92-93, 93a-b, 94-107), viii8 (pp. 108-123), ix10 + one leaf after 8, wants 5 (pp. 123a-b, 124-131, 133-139, 139a-d), x8 + one leaf after 8, wants 7 (pp. 140-151, 154-155, 155a-b), xi8 (pp. 156-171), xii8 wants 8 (pp. 172-185); singletons pp. 11a-b, 43a-b, 75a-b, 93a-b and 123a-b, and the bifolium pp. 139a-b + 155a-b are of colored paper; singleton pp. 139c-d has slightly smaller dimensions: 100 x 165 mm.; with four full-page illustrations in watercolor, pen-and-wash and pencil, three pasted-in silhouettes [see below], a smaller watercolor [see below], a small embroidered flower (p. 79), and a tipped-in envelope a small embroidered flower (p. 79), and a pasted-in envelope (onto p. 170). Contemporary binding of brown morocco over pasteboard, goldstamped with fillets and small ornaments on both covers and on the spine, on the spine also a ticket with gilt lettering: “Denkmahl / der / Freundscha[ft]”, pastedowns of decorated paper, edges gilt; a silhouette once pasted onto p. 75a is missing. Dimensions 109 x 183 mm. (oblong).

The manuscript of Amalia Marburg is a fine specimen of a woman’s Album Amicorum reflecting middle-class family life in Nordrhein-Westfalen at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth century. The inclusion of silhouettes, including one the owner used as a kind of title page, is an interesting feature of the present Album. Other imagery in the album is also associated with women (cf. p. 60). (sold with 341a, c, and d).


1. Although her name is mentioned nowhere in the album, the first owner must have been Amalia Bernhardina Sophia Marburg. This can be concluded from an added inscription on the back of a tipped-in envelope (onto p. 170), dated 1 January 1816, by her son Ludwig Franz Carl Althaus, who calls himself “ihr Sie stets liebender Sohn” (your always loving son). Amalia Marburg was born on 21 June 1798 as a member of the Marburg family in Berlenburg, nowadays called Bad Berleburg, in Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany. On 21 June 1798 she married Ludwig Heinrich Philipp Althaus; their son Ludwig Franz Carl was born on 19 August 1800.

2. Later the album was apparently in the possession of Johanna Schulz, née Althaus, according to a note in modern handwriting on the upper pastedown: “Warscheinlich Vorfahre von Johanna Althaus (verheiratet Schulz).”

3. On 18-19 November 1959 the album was auctioned at Karl & Faber’s, Munich, as lot 606.


The album contains 44 contributions, mostly with place and date. They have been inscribed in Bad Berleburg (Nordrhein-Westfalen) in 1793-1794, 1796 and 1798, Siegen (Nordrhein-Westfalen) in 1793 and 1795, Gütersloh (Nordrhein-Westfalen) in 1795, Elsoff (Nordrhein-Westfalen) in 1796-1797, Geismar (Thüringen) in 1796, Gießen (Hessen) in 1797 and Kirchheim (Hessen) in 1797. As mentioned above, one contribution is of a later date: 1816. The inscriptions are of relatives and friends. Among the relatives are the owner’s brothers Carl and Daniel Marburg (pp. 9 and 90). There are several inscriptions by members of the Bettelhäuser family in Bad Berleburg (pp. 117 and 118), the Gläser family in Siegen (pp. 29, 30, 86 and 88), the Koltrop family in Bad Berleburg (pp. 7, 19 and 20), the Jüngst family in Elsoff (pp. 103, 105, 110, 112, 116 and 142), and the Werner family in Kirchheim (pp. 70, 79, 82, 130 and 139). An interesting feature is the index (pp. 176-183).

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).


p. i, Lady en profil, possibly Amalia Bernhardina Sophia Marburg herself (silhouette);

p. 11a, M. Koltrop (silhouette);

p. 43a, Christiane Lousa Kesler (silhouette);

p. 60, Landscape with a castle, a sailing ship, a lady sitting ashore, lightning hitting a tree, and a dove preventing lightning to cause further damage (watercolor, full-page), illustrating the inscription: “O könte ich doch der Pfadt Ihres Lebens mit Rosen bestreuen, alle Ihnen trohende triebe Wolken verjagen und dies Erden Leben Ihnen in Paradies verwandeln, stolz wolte ich allen Stürmen tro[t]zen, um so meine Danckbahrkeit und Freundschaft zu zeigen” (Oh, I wish I could strew roses on the path of your life, dispel all the gloomy clouds that threaten you and alter this earthly life for you into paradise, I would proudly brave all storms and thus show you my gratitude and friendship);

p. 86, Landscape with dilapidated monument (watercolor, full-page), inscribed on a tombstone with “Zum höchsten Gut gab Gott den Menschen Liebe und seine Leiden” (As the highest good, God gave man love and sufferings) and in the lower left corner with “Vergies mein nicht” (Don’t forget me);

p. 88, Landscape with ruins (pen-and-wash, full-page), with the caption “Diese Federstriche verdilgt einst der Zahn der Zeit, / Doch meine Freundschaft nicht–die ist für die Ewichkeit” (The tooth of time will once destroy these penstrokes, / But not my friendschip–that will last forever);

p. 90, Roses and forget-me-nots (watercolor), being part of a rebus, which forms a pun: “Wandle auf [Rosen] und [Vergißmeinnicht]” (Walk on roses and forget-me-not);

p. 93b, Landscape with ruins (pencil, full-page).

The inclusion of three silhouette portraits, including (possibly) one of the owner of this Album Amicorum, 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. The Swiss physiognomist, Johann Caspar Lavater (1741-1801), who used silhouettes to analyse facial types, is thought to have promoted the art. One of the most famous silhouette artists of the 18th century, August Edward, cut thousands of portraits in duplicate. In England, the best known silhouette artist was John Miers, who travelled and worked in different cities, but had a studio in London. But it was an art form at which many, amateurs and women included, tried their hand, as in this album.

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