Album amicorum of Loth von Weissenbach originated during his academic years at the universities of Jena, Wittenberg, and Strasbourg.

Autore WEISSENBACH, Loth von (fl. first half of the 17th cent.).
Dati tipografici Jena, Wittenberg & Strasbourg, 1600-1611
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Album amicorum


Oblong 8vo (102x133 mm). 252 unnumbered leaves, of which 106 are blank (included in numbering are also 9 removed leaves, possibly blank, of which only a stub remains). 181 entries (on 146 leaves), of which 83 are accompanied by finely executed colored coat of arms mostly heightened in gold. The entry at leaf 157v also presents, beside the coat of arms, a fine allegorical watercolor of a man half dressed as a cleric and as a soldier. The entry at leaf 159r, instead of the coat of arms, has an allegorical watercolor depicting an armored woman having a hooded falcon on her right arm (Diana?). Moreover, the volume includes a full-page watercolor showing a husband that surprises his wife and her lover inside a wine cask in a cellar. So, the overall illustrations include 83 colored arms and 3 watercolor drawings.

Contemporary limp vellum with overlapping edges, blind-stamped ornaments on spine, and center- piece on panels, on the front panel only are also the blind-stamped initials (“LVW”) of the owner of the album and the date “1601”, spine cracked, ties missing, stained, worn and soiled, front joint partially opened, first leaf loose, uniformly browned throughout, a few coat-of-arms faded, some minor marginal tears, first leaf detached, small portion of the upper margin of leaf 185 cut off, tear to leaf 174 with no loss, lower margin of leaf 170 frayed, small loss to the outer corner of leaf 13 slightly affecting the text, generally well preserved and in genuine condition.

The Weissenbach family resided at Schönfeld castle, in the district of Zwickau (Saxony) since 1459. They essentially shaped the present appearance of the castle with their alterations around 1500. In 1609, Loth exchanged the castle for other manors (cf. G.-H. Vogel, Von Stein bis Wolkenburg: ‘Malerische Reisen' durchs Zwickauer Muldenland: Burgen, Schlösser und Rittergüter, Berlin, 2014, p. 52). His father was Hermann von Weissenbach and his mother Agnes von Ende. Loth apparently started his academic education at Jena, where he matriculated in 1600 (cf. G. Mentz, Die Matrikel der Universität Jena, I: 1548 bis 1652, Weimar 1944, p. 357). He continued his studies at Wittenberg, where he matriculated in 1602 (B. Weissenborn, ed., Album Academiae Vitebergensis: Jüngere Reihe Teil 1, 1602- 1660, Magdeburg, 1934, p. 1), and eventually graduated from the Strasbourg Academy, where he studied from 1606 to 1611 judging from the entries in the present Album amicorum (unfortunately all records of matriculations of both the Gymnasium and the Academy until 1621, when the University was founded, were destroyed during the French Revolution).

In 1613 he is recorded as assessor in the Imperial Chamber Court at Speyer (cf. S. Günther, Thesaurus Practicantium: Omnibus in Imperialis Camerae iudicio postulantibus, caussasve agentibus, summe expetendus, Speyer, 1620, p. 435; and K. Zeumer, Quellensammlung zur Geschichte der deutschen Reichsverfassung in Mittelalter und Neuzeit, Tübingen, 1913, II, p. 392). The date of his death is not known, and he apparently left no heirs (cf. J.F. Gauhe, ed., Des Heil. Röm. Reichs genealogisch-historisches Adels-Lexicon, Leipzig, 1719, col. 1863; V. König, ed., Genealogische Adels-Historie oder Geschlechts-Beschreibung derer im Chur-Sächsischen und angräntzenden Landen zum Theil ehemahls, allermeist aber noch ietzo in guten Flor stehenden ältesten und ansehnlichsten adelichen Geschlechter, Leipzig, 1727-29, I, p. 156 & II, p. 277; J.F. Buddaeus, Allgemeines Historisches Lexicon, Leipzig, 1732, IV, p. 164; and K. v. Weber, ed., Archiv für die Sächsische Geschichte, Leipzig, 1865, III, p. 32).

Another testimony from his years in Wittenberg is his entry in the album amicorum of Martin Weigmann (d. 1622), a theologian and pastor from Bardejov (Slovakia) who studied in various European universities, e.g. Graz, Breslau, Frankfurt/O., Wittenberg, Leipzig, Prag, and Magdeburg. Weissenbach's entry with his coat of arms is dated Wittenberg, April 1604. The work is now in the Gheorghe Asachi Technical University library in Iași (Romania) (cf. A. Emödi, Martinus Weigmann peregrinációs albuma 1598-1621, in: “Acta Papensia”, 2007/1-2, p. 45).


The early history of the autograph albums distinguishes two types, defining them as albums belonging to the milieu of the nobility, respectively to the milieu of the academic world (cf. W.W. Schnabel, Das Stammbuch: Konstitution und Geschichte einer textbezogenen Sammelform bis ins erste Drittel des 18. Jahrhunderts, Tübingen, 2003, p. 571). The present specimen represents a very diffused hybrid form of album amicorum, which arose among student (in our case mostly of noble extraction), who usually visited more than one university during the course of their studies.

The albums begin to appear in the middle of the sixteenth century originating in Wittenberg. The oldest autograph book on record is usually considered that of Claude de Senarclens, an associate of John Calvin, sent by the latter to Wittenberg and dating back to 1545 (cf. F. Heinzer, Das Album amicorum (1545-1569) des Claude de Senarclens, in: “Stammbücher des 16. Jahrhunderts”, W. Klose, ed., Wiesbaden, 1989, pp. 95-124). Melanchthon's opinion about the Alba amicorum is verisimilarly found in a letter to Konrad Cordatus: “These little books certainly have their uses: above all they remind their 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 commemoratory 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 unknown and little-read authors are found in albums. Finally, they record biographical details which would otherwise be forgotten” (cf. R. &. R. Keil, Die deutschen Stammbücher des sechzehnten bis neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, Hildesheim, 1975, pp. 9-10).

A typical page will have a set of mottos or citations in Latin, Greek or vernacular at the top (intended not only to display the signatories erudition, but sometime also as a moral advice to the owner), and below, a formal greeting with an expression of esteem in Latin (or vernacular) to the owner with the place where the entry had been written, the date and name of the signatory often followed by the calligraphed formula m.p. (‘manu propria'). Frequently there is also found, over or under the citation, a coded motto in initial form, which the signatory usually used also for entries in other albums (cf. M. Löse, Wahlsprüche. Devisen und Sinnsprüche deutscher Fürstengeschlechter des XVI. und XVII. Jahrhunderts, Leipzig, 1883; and F.-C. von Stechow, Lexikon der Stammbuchsprüche. Stechows Stammbuchsprüche-Schlüssel (SSSS), Neustadt/Aisch 1996). The quoted authors point to the literary fashions among students. These summary details about students make these books a veritable treasure house of information on student life and allow us to trace the peregrinatio academica or educational journey that students made to foreign universities.

Despite the apparent randomness with which the pictures, dates and signatures were entered, there were always some organizational criteria, usually reflecting the social status of the signatory. Inscriptions by higher ranking individuals are usually found at the beginning of the volume, what also may explain the blank leaves left between the various sections, which allowed the owners to be open to unexpected encounters that may require a space between existing entries.

The professional quality of many of the allegorical illustrations and coat of arms indicates that they were produced by document illuminators (‘Briefmaler'). In some cases, the contributor commissioned the image, while in other cases the owner purchased the paintings during his travels.

The fashion of the album having become more general in the seventies of the sixteenth century, artists and publishers came forward to supply books specially designed for the purpose, containing woodcuts of religious or mythological subjects, and emblems or shields of arms of celebrated personages, such woodcuts facing either blank pages or pages with blank shields, intended to be illuminated with the arms and to receive the inscriptions of the owners' friends. Very popular for that purpose was also the interleaved emblem book, of which that of Andrea Alciati was by far the most popular (cf. M. Rosenheim, The Album Amicorum, in: “Archeaeologia”, 62, 1910, pp. 253- 257).

“Das Album amicorum, auch als Philotheke und Stammbuch bezeichnet, wird früh aufgrund seiner individuellen, vielfach künstlerischen ansprechenden Ausstattung als Sammlerobjekt geschätzt. Dadurch entstehen bereits zu Beginn des 18. Jahrhunderts private Sammlungen, die später häufig in den Besitz von Bibliotheken und Museen übergehen. Auf diese Weise kommen die Stammbuchsammlungen zustande, die heute zu den grössten ihrer Art zählen: Die Sammlungen der British Library [see M.A.E. Nickson, Early Autograph Book in the British Museum, London 1970], der Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek in Weimar, des Museums für Kunsthandwerk der Stadt Frankfurt am Main, die beiden Nürnberger Sammlungen des Germanischen Nationalmuseums und der Stadtbibliothek” (C. Schwarz, Studien zur Stammbuchpraxis der Frühen Neuzeit, Frankfurt/M. 2002, p. 13).

“Alba amicorum attest, in short to the potential of the material world to assemble the social. They matter today because of spaces of sociability they encouraged friendship, discourse, exchange, and debate between people known well and those never encountered before. That the albums facilitated social networking may be an obvious point, but the resonances with modern social media warrant consideration” (B. Wilson, Social Networking: the ‘Album amicorum' and Early Modern Public Making, in: “Beyond the Public Sphere. Opinions, Publics, Spaces in Early Modern Europe”, M. Rospocher, ed., Bologna & Berlin, 2012, pp. 222-223).

The full list of entries is available upon request.


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