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History


The history of the Album amicorum
"Traveling is hereditary to us and nothing will ever stop us. As soon as we learned Latin we prepared to travel. First we get a guide that describes the routes, then a little book that talks about every country's sights. If our travelers are educated, they get themselves an empty little book that is called Album Amicorum. They will visit every scholar and scientist at all the places they come to and have them write their names into the album."

(from "Sir Politick Would be", a comedy by Saint-Evremond, 17th century)

The Album Amicorum or "Memoriae causa"
The Album Amicorum or "Memoriae causa" - for good memories- was popular especially among students and travelers from the 15th to 19th century. They would ask their family, professors and friends to write wishes and dedications into their Album Amicorum. For their album they would use an empty or only partially printed bound book. Besides wishes and aphorisms it would also contain pictures, drawings or silhouettes. To carry it along while traveling it had to be small and handy.

The idea was born in Wittenberg
"Four hundred years ago these books were part of a traveling student's luggage. (…) The tradition started, as far as we know today, in the middle of the 16th century. The oldest known album was started in 1545 in Wittenberg. Its owner, Claude de Senarclens belonged to the circle around Calvin (…) The next oldest books are also in connected with Wittenberg. This justifies the opinion that the protestant university of Wittenberg is the geographical and historical starting point of this student tradition."(Lotte Kurras, Zu gutem Gedenken - kulturhistorische Miniaturen aus Stammbuechern des germanischen Nationalmuseums 1570-1770, Muenchen 1987, S. 8)
Why in Wittenberg? At that time "the big cultural trends of that era, humanism, theology and a large book and print program combined with elements of expressive emblematic met in Wittenberg. All this can be seen in the early albums". (Wolfgang Klose)

Album Amicorum - a piece of German culture
Germany, land of poets and thinkers, for example…right: Goethe.And Goethe does not only stand for poetry and thinking. He also stands for joy of life. He knew how to enjoy life and he loved to travel. Who would be surprised to hear that he also knew and used an Album Amicorum? Goethe's "Faustus" is a testament to how popular those books were at his time. Besides the Germans, the Dutch, Scandinavians, Polish and Hungarians took up the idea of the Album Amicorum. Even though these books never became popular in other nations it is remarkable that even in other foreign countries people would know how to write in this little book. With the first entries an Album Amicorum becomes self-describing."In the 19th century the fashion of the Album Amicorum declined. Maybe because of changed values that came along with the industrialization or maybe because of the increasing difficulty for people to produce special entries. Even Goethe was at a loss sometimes." (Wolfgang Klose)
Zitat Goethe

Besides the Germans, the Dutch, Scandinavians, Polish and Hungarians took up the idea of the Album Amicorum. Even though these books never became popular in other nations it is remarkable that even in other foreign countries people would know how to write in this little book. With the first entries an Album Amicorum becomes self-describing.
"In the 19th century the fashion of the Album Amicorum declined. Maybe because of changed values that came along with the industrialization or maybe because of the increasing difficulty for people to produce special entries. Even Goethe was at a loss sometimes." (Wolfgang Klose)

The Album Amicorum today
A little bit of the Album Amicorum still exists. Children use poetry albums and juveniles have books of friendship for entries of friends and family.
We let the album travel again. With an Album Amicorum in our luggage and with this homepage we want to remember and revive the wonderful tradition and bring it into the world. This is our contribution to the exchange and friendship of cultures. Therefore we bring an empty book, a "real" Album Amicorum along with us but also we invite everybody to join in on this homepage by filling in the interview questions.

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