The rich and diverse collection of manuscripts owned by the Sächsische Landesbibliothek (Saxon State Library), was acquired over the course of 400 years. Founded by the Saxon Elector August in 1556, the Library initially contained very few Medieval manuscripts, since the holdings of monasteries dissolved during the Reformation went to the University of Leipzig. With the acquisition of other libraries at the end of the sixteenth century, and especially in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, more Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts were added to the collection. They were further enhanced by unique, even spectacular, purchases (such as the Mayan manuscript in 1739), and by other Dresden collections and gifts. A number of oriental manuscripts were part of the "Turkish booty" acquired during the wars against the Ottoman Empire at the end of the seventeenth century.
The collection expanded to include all areas of knowledge: fourteenth-century copies of Ovid and Petrarch; Medieval histories of Meissen and Bohemia; Biblical, legal, and medical manuscripts; and a fourteenth-century genealogy of the Frankish kings.
With the destruction of some of these priceless possessions during the bombings of 1945, the Library now has approximately 400 Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts. This exhibit displays a small sampling, from the tenth-century Evangelia and the superb Hebraic Machsor, to a fine manuscript of Boccaccio, and a fifteenth-century history of the ancient world.
Latin Gospel passages used in Catholic Mass
This collection of Gospel passages for use in Catholic mass is one of the oldest, most priceless manuscripts in the library. The tenth-century manuscript, of German origin, has colorful initials, sometimes in the form of stylized animal figures, connecting it with very early Germanic art. The manuscript is open to the text of St. Matthew's Gospel describing the passion of Jesus Christ.
Evangelia dominicalia et festivalia (Lord's Day and Feast Day Gospels). Tenth century, leaves 59b, 60a. Vellum (1)
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Moses receives the Ten Commandments
Machsorim ("cycles") are special prayer books for the Hebrew Sabbath and other Holy Days. This book, a testimony to German Jewry of the Middle Ages, contains prayers for the Feast of Weeks, Passover, the Feast of delivery of the Jews from a Persian plot, poetry by Rabbi Meir von Rothenburg (1215-1293) and the Hebrew poet Juda Halevi (1075-1141). Both parts — part two is in Wroclaw, Poland — were written by Reuben, a pupil of Rabbi Meir, probably in Esslingen ca. 1290. The beautiful miniatures by an anonymous gentile illuminator are in the Gothic style.
Reuben Machsor mechol haschana (Jewish Holy Day Prayer Book for the Whole Year). Germany, ca. 1290, leaves 59b, 50a. Vellum (2)
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A fifteenth-century interpretation of the history of the ancient world
At the beginning of the fifteenth century, Henri Romain, a learned Parisian jurist, composed a history of the ancient world, borrowing freely from St. Augustine's The City of God. This manuscript of Romain's work is particularly remarkable for its first leaf. Framed by stylized plants, the building of Rome is depicted. Included are the arms of the French noble family Montmorency, that commissioned the work.
Henri Romain. Gestes et faits des anciens (Acts and Deeds of the Ancients). France, Early fifteenth century, leaves 3b, 4a. Vellum (5)
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Francesco Petrarca and a disciple at home
The renowned Italian poet Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374) wrote Of Remedies for Fortune Fair and Foul in 1365. Cast in the form of dialogues between Reason and Agony, Petrarca's work offers advice on thinking clearly in times of happiness and sorrow. This manuscript translation by Jean Daudin is dedicated to King Charles VII and is an outstanding example of Flemish fifteenth-century workmanship, with its delicate gold initials and arabesques and two miniatures by Jacques de Besançon.
Francesco Petrarca. Des remedes de l'une et l'autre fortune (Of Remedies for Fortune Fair and Foul). France, ca. 1450, leaves 14b, 15a. Vellum (6)
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Boccaccio and his audience
Though Boccaccio (1313-1375) is best known today for his Decameron, up to the 1550s he was famous for his Of the Fate of Illustrious Men and Women. Using Biblical, classical, and mythological examples, he shows how a change in fortune can destroy even the powerful. Written around 1360, the work was soon translated into all major European languages. The dedicatory inscription indicates that Charles de Bourbon gave the volumes to King Francis I of France. Two hundred years later, they were presented to the Saxon Elector Augustus the Strong by Prince Karol Stanislaw Radziwill.
Giovanni Boccaccio. Des cas des nobles hommes et femmes (Of the Fate of Illustrious Men and Women). France, ca. 1520. Vol. 2, leaves 1b, 2a. Vellum (8)
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Choir and musical cherubs
From 1451 to 1522, Franchinus Gaffurius, conductor of the Milan Cathedral, was considered the authority on musical theory. His textbook, Practica Musicae, was published in six editions during his lifetime. He greatly influenced music theory by relating theory and practice and by enhancing the application of intervals and musical notation.
Franchinus Gaffurius (Gafori). Practica musicae (The Performance of Music). Milan, 1496, pp. a, 1a. Vellum (12)
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The original Library founded by Prince Elector August in 1556 contained only twelve incunabula, or books printed before 1501. With the purchase in 1589 of Dietrich von Werthern's library, that number increased to nearly 500 titles. Additional incunabula were acquired during the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries by transfer from other libraries or by purchase.
Currently, the permanent collection of the Saxon State Library contains 2,384 incunabula (1,539 of which are still in the Russian State Library). In comparison to other libraries, this is not a large collection, but it encompasses the entire spectrum of fifteenth-century intellectual life: ancient authors, Bibles, theological and historical works, juristic literature, medieval books, travel accounts, and belles lettres. Exceptionally well-represented is the seldom displayed category of printings on vellum.
The exhibited pieces — an ancient classic, a medieval chronicle, a German missal, a work on music theory, and a Dance of Death poem — demonstrate the variety of the Library's early printed books.
A sixteenth century French edition, from Troyes, of the "Dance of Death"
Based on a fourteenth-century morality poem, the "Dance of Death" evolved into a set of illustrated verses depicting a dialogue between Death and people of all rank. The theme was very popular in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Christian Europe, reminding the living that rank and station in life were meaningless in the face of death. The hand-colored woodcuts of the Troyes edition characteristically show alternating representations of ecclesiastical and secular society being carried off by Death. The pages on display show the Pope, the Emperor, a cardinal, and a king.
Author unknown. Danse macabre (Dance of Death). Troyes, after 1500, leaves a ii/b, a iii/a. Paper (14)
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The Reformation is Saxony's most significant contribution to world history. This epoch-making Christian movement decisively reshaped the early modern world.
Martin Luther's stand on the indulgence controversy and the rapid circulation of his writings turned smoldering discontent with the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy into raging flames. Luther was supported by a number of secular rulers, partly for political reasons. His ideas were also embraced in a genuinely popular movement, and his theology was spread in Germany by numerous preachers. Church liturgy was transformed, congregational singing stimulated, and new modes of communal living evolved. The decrees of rulers and cities gave the Reformation a firm organizational foundation through independent state churches. After decades of conflict, the Religious Peace of Augsburg granted freedom of worship to Protestants in 1555.
These tumultuous developments are mirrored in the Saxon State Library's holdings, which include nearly complete runs of contemporary newspapers, controversial pamphlets, and the writings of Luther, his fellow Protestants, and his opponents. Of special value are the holograph manuscripts and letters of the reformers, a representative selection of which are included in the exhibition.
A crucifixion by Albrecht Dürer, ca. 1498
This work contains illustrations by the renowned artist, Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528). The book includes three woodcut series: the Life of the Virgin Mary, the Passion of Jesus Christ, and the Apocalypse. The woodcuts were first gathered in one volume and printed with the Latin verses of Benedict Chelidonius in 1511. This example owes its special charm to the colorful floral border and its illumination probably done in Dürer's workshop.
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Theuerdank, an allegorical poem by Emperor Maximilian I
Maximilian's (1459-1519) Theuerdank, is one of several planned literary works to be published during his lifetime. No other book of the time compares with it in typographic and artistic workmanship. Written with the assistance of the court poet, Melchior Pfinzing, in the tradition of the heroic epics, this poem describes the courtship of young Maximilian (Theuerdank) and Maria, heiress of the Kingdom of Burgundy. It is one of the earliest books written in Fraktur, a German text style, and is enhanced with woodcuts of everyday life by Hans Burgkmair, Hans Schäufelein, and Leonhard Beck.
Melchior Pfinzing. Theuerdank. Augsburg, 1519, pp. 364, 365. Paper (16)
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Elector Frederick the Wise
The Elector Frederick the Wise (1463-1525) played an important role in the Reformation and in the life of Martin Luther. A man of profound religious beliefs and broad education, his court was a vital center of humanistic studies, the arts and music. In 1502 he founded the University of Wittenberg, where Luther became a professor in 1512. When Luther's actions ignited the Reformation, the Elector granted him protection. In 1521, for example, he provided Luther safe conduct to the Imperial Diet in Worms and then asylum in Wartburg.
Author unknown. Wahrhaftige Abcontrafactur und Bildnis aller Grossherzogen von Sachsen (Authentic Representations and Portraiture of All the Grand Dukes of Saxony). Dresden, 1586, p.24a. Vellum (19)
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Luther's On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, 1520
This work, which features Martin Luther's portrait, first appeared in Latin and was directed against Catholic sacramental teaching. Of the seven sacraments, Luther considered only baptism and communion, and to some degree, confession, sacraments of Christ. In the case of communion, he rejected the notions that it was a sacrifice to God and that the elements are transformed (transubstantiation).
Martin Luther. Von dem babylonischen Gefängnis der Kirche (On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church). Wittenberg, 1520, title page. Paper (21)
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Twelve Articles of the Swabian peasants made during the Peasants' War, 1524-1526
The twelve Articles drafted by the Swabian peasants, March 1525, is the best known manifesto of the Peasants' War of 1524-1526. Relying on the Gospel, the peasants demanded free election of the clergy, abolition of serfdom, permission to hunt and fish, free use of the forests, and reduction of their burdens. The document went through twenty-five printings within a few weeks. At the collapse of the revolt all copies were confiscated. This is a rare surviving copy of the pamphlet.
Author unknown. Handlung, Artikel und Instruction von allen Rotten und Haufen der Bauern (Act, Articles and Instruction Concerning all Gangs and Mobs of Farmers). 1525, title page. Paper (26)
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This genealogy contains portraits of secular and ecclesiastic princes and other persons of rank, with their wives. It begins with legendary times and continues to the mid-sixteenth century. Accompanying the colored drawings, in the style of Lucas Cranach, are coats of arms and explanatory texts in verse form. This opening shows Elector Frederick the Wise (1463-1525) and his brother and successor Johann the Constant (1468-1532), who supported the Reformation and introduced the Lutheran worship service in Saxony.
Author unknown. Sächsisches Stammbuch. Sammlung von Bildnissen sächsischer Fürsten (Saxon Genealogy. Collection of Portraits of Saxon Electors), ca. 1550. Paper (28)
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Letter from Luther to Duchess Katharina of Saxony, 1539
Duke Georg, ruler of Albertinian Saxony (1471-1539), opposed Luther's Reformation in his state. However, his successor and younger brother, Heinrich (1473-1541) sympathized with the Reformation, supported by his wife Duchess Katharina (1487-1561), for years a follower of Luther. The Reformation proceeded in the Duchy, though with resistance in Leipzig on the part of monks, university theologians and members of the City Council. In his letter of July 28, 1539, opening with the words, "Because my esteemed Lord Duke Heinrich [is] old and frail…," Luther sought Katharina's encouragement for the Reformation in the Duchy.
Martin Luther to Duchess Katharina of Saxony. Wittenberg, July 28, 1539. Autograph letter (34)
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Commentaries on and portraits of Saxon Electors, 1570
Johann Friedrich the Magnanimous, depicted here, was Elector from 1532 to 1547. He maintained close relations with Luther, whom he regarded as his "spiritual father." A defender of Protestantism, he was instrumental in founding the Schmalkaldic League (1530), designed to resist the Catholic Emperor Charles V; in reforming the church through the second visitation (1533-1535); and in establishing consistories (1539). In 1547 he was taken prisoner by Charles V in the Battle of Mühlberg and lost his territory and title of Elector.
Author unknown. Imagines Electorum Saxoniae (Images of the Electors of Saxony). Wittenberg, 1570, p. 9. Paper (35)
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Luther placed great value on congregational singing, a view shared by Johann Spangenberg (1484-1550), a Protestant preacher in Nordhausen. His Cantiones Ecclesiasticae, prepared at Luther's request, is the earliest and most important collection of contemporary liturgical music. The book was intended for learned and unlearned alike and was divided into a German and a Latin section.
Johann Spangenberg. Evangelisches Kirchengesangbuch (Protestant Hymnal). Magdeburg, 1545, leaves 532, 533. Paper (37)
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The Library's collection of about 2,800 editions of the Bible in seventy-two languages, offers a representative selection of Bibles published in Germany and throughout Europe. In the manuscript category there are several beautifully illuminated Bibles, such as the Library's oldest occidental manuscript, the ninth-century Codex Boernerianus; Greek and Latin Bibles from the tenth to the fifteenth centuries; and German "historical" Bibles from the fifteenth century.
The sixty-three Bible incunabula in the Library, showing examples printed on vellum, include French and English examples, although they are mostly from German and Italian workshops, with texts in Latin, Italian, and German.
Sixteenth-century Bibles are represented in all languages. Of particular importance are Luther's German translation of the New Testament (1522) and his later German translation of the entire Bible (1534). Typical of the editions from German presses are richly illustrated Bibles, especially seventeenth- to eighteenth-century Baroque examples. A substantial number of nineteenth-century Bibles are editions of the New Testament for Christian missions in African, American, and Asian languages.
A bible printed by Nikolaus Jenson, 1479
Venice's early reputation as a printing center was largely due to the works of Nikolaus Jenson, who, from 1470 to 1480, printed ninety-eight known works, primarily ancient classics, legal, and theological literature. His Antiqua type, based on Roman inscriptions, is considered the perfect embodiment of humanistic ideals.
This 1479 Bible, printed on vellum, is an outstanding incunabulum, with illuminated initials, and precious miniatures such as that showing scenes from Genesis: the Creation of Man, the Fall, and the Expulsion form Paradise
Biblia (The Bible). Venice: Nikolaus Jenson, 1479. Vellum (43)
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Luther's German translation of the Bible, 1534
This Bible is considered one of Martin Luther's (1483-1546) greatest linguistic accomplishments. He first translated the New Testament in 1522 and the Old Testament in 1534. Luther revised and completed the Bible in 1534 with the assistance of the Wittenberg scholars Philipp Melanchthon, Justus Jonas, and Caspar Cruciger. It was sold at the Leipzig Fair for two guilders, eight groschen for an unbound copy — comparable to half the salary of a schoolmaster. The Bible is richly illustrated with decorative initials and 117 woodcuts from the workshop of Lucas Cranach.
Biblia deutsch. Übersetzt von Martin Luther (The Bible in German. Translated by Martin Luther). Wittenberg, 1534, frontispiece and title page. Paper (48)
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Because of its wealth of natural resources and the political skill of its rulers, Saxony became one of the most powerful territorial states in Germany by the mid-sixteenth century. Prince Elector Augustus concentrated on stimulating the economy, especially through mining, trade, agriculture, and forestry, as well as the sciences and arts. He collected books which would be useful in his endeavors, following the advice of professors at the University of Leipzig, and taking advantage of the great Frankfurt and Leipzig book fairs. Foreign printed matter was supplied by the Elector's French agent. Since a large part of his collection was uniformly bound by Dresden bookbinders in 1556, that year is accepted as the founding date of the Saxon State Library.
The 1580 catalogue of the Library suggests a truly modern reference collection, systematically organized and containing books on theology, history, philosophy, medicine, surgery, law, mathematics, architecture, astronomy, tournaments and festivals, warfare, mining, numismatics, mineralogy, biology, agriculture, and stewardship. Among them are books written expressly for the Prince Elector, as well as maps, engravings, and illustrations of court festivities, a sampling of which is exhibited. Also included are many fine bindings by the best craftsmen of the time.
Personal bible of Elector Augustus
In 1565, Saxon Elector Augustus (1526-1586) had printed in Wittenberg at his expense a twenty-volume Bible, in Latin and German, partly on vellum, beautifully bound, and richly decorated with colored miniatures and initials. In each volume is an illuminated woodcut portrait of the Elector after a painting by Lucas Cranach the Younger. A number of these sets was given to friendly princes. The private copy of Elector Augustus, displayed here, includes a unique vellum sheet with the inscription: "His Lordship the Elector of Saxony began reading this Bible on June 9 in the year 85 and finished on August 23 of the same year. It took 10 weeks and 5 days."
Biblia Germanico-Latina (German-Latin Bible). Wittenberg, 1565. Vellum (52)
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An early illustration of American tomato plants, entitled "Red Apples from the New World"
The German scientist Johannes Kentmann (1518-1574) was born in Dresden, and he studied in Leipzig, Wittenberg, and Bologna, Italy, where he earned his doctorate in medicine and surgery. During many years as a physician at Torgau, he wrote on many scientific subjects. In 1563, Elector Augustus commissioned him to compile his Kräuterbuch (Book of Herbs), a systematic arrangement of approximately 600 illustrations of trees, bushes, domestic and wild plants, executed by the Torgau artist, David Redtel. The Kräuterbuch was never printed and is a special treasure of the Saxon State Library.
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A treatise on fencing wrestling, and jousting, ca. 1550
Since the Middle Ages fencing and wrestling not only prepared one for war, but were also favorite social entertainments. Champions traveled from town to town giving exhibition bouts and lessons. Hence, books on these subjects were popular, particularly in the sixteenth century. This manuscript by Paulus Hector Mair (1517- 1579) contains 242 vivid illustrations depicting duels with swords — a long-sword contest is displayed here — halberds, and even with toothed sickles. Ironically, the author's tragic death occurred not in battle, but by hanging for misappropriation of public funds.
Paulus Hector Mair. Fecht-, Ring- und Turnierbuch (Booleavesk of Fencing, Wrestling, and Jousting), Ca. 1550, leaves 77b, 78a. Paper (60)
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An important treatise on the invention and use of military weaponry
Military historians consider Veit Wolff von Senftenberg a leading authority on artillery. Around 1570 he wrote Kriegserfindungen (Military Inventions) in part to help defeat the Turks, from whose attacks Senftenberg had suffered. To assure secrecy he did not allow the work to be printed. This Dresden copy describes the different weapons and their most effective use, including how to mine a fortress, displayed here. Poisoning the Turks' water supply was considered permissible, and a secure communication network essential.
Veit Wolff von Senftenberg. Kriegserfindungen (Military Inventions), Dresden, late sixteenth century, leaves 97b, 98a. Parchment (61)
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A treatise on horses, 1576
From 1573 to 1584, Georg Loeneyss, was the Elector Augustus's equery and also responsible for all court functions. His Della Cavalleria was continually reprinted into the eighteenth century. The Dresden manuscript, owned by the Elector, depicts not only the numerous horse bits, reins, muzzles, and implements for horse grooming, but also the horses themselves outfitted with saddles, ornamental harnesses, and blankets, and a complete tournament.
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A view of the Indian Village of Secotà, 1585-1586
Thomas Harriot (1560-1621) was official surveyor for Sir Richard Grenville's expedition in 1585-1586 to Roanoke Island, North Carolina. This German edition of the expedition, published in Frankfurt by Theodor de Bry in 1590, two years after the London first edition, was dedicated to Saxon Elector Christian I (1560- 1591). Harriot presents a vivid picture of this part of the New World, its natural resources and the habits and customs of the natives. The twenty-three, full-page, hand-colored engravings, after originals by the Dutch artist Johann With, including the Indian village of Secot displayed here, make this work invaluable.
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A sled designed for the Elector Christian II
In 1602 the Dresden painter Daniel Bretschneider presented Elector Christian II with several designs for sleds, including the one depicted here, decorated in the theme of astronomy. He was awarded fifty guilders for his efforts. Emulating the great courts of Europe, the Saxon rulers used these sleds in opulent pageants aimed at enhancing the ruler's image before his subjects and other rulers, to celebrate birthdays, weddings, and baptismals. These events often had Biblical, mythological, and exotic themes, as well as every-day motifs celebrating the trades of Saxony, such as the mining industry.
Daniel Bretschneider. Ein Buch von allerlei Inventionen zu Schlittenfahrten (A Book of Various Inventions for Sled Travel). Dresden, 1602, leaf 36. Paper (68)
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Pictures depicting various types of hunts staged in Dresden's Altmarkt
Eight large leaves in this illustrated manuscript depict the Dresden Altmarkt at carnival time, entirely surrounded by buildings, such as the City Hall (Rathaus) to the north. Animals, including deer, boar, bears, wolves, and wildcats were brought in, chased, and killed before hundreds of spectators. The show, in this case a boar hunt, culminated in a battle between bears and bulls, allowing city dwellers the opportunity to experience the thrill of the hunt enjoyed for centuries by the court.
Artist unknown. Tierhatz auf dem Altmarkt zu Dresden (Animal Chase in the Old Market in Dresden). 1609, leaf 2. Paper (69)
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It is especially fortunate that soon after he began to collect books, Prince Elector Augustus employed the best German bookbinder of the Renaissance, Jakob Krause (1526/27-1585). Born in Zwickau in Saxony, Krause apparently continued his training in Wittenberg and then in France, after completing his bookbinding apprenticeship. He worked several years for the famous Fugger merchant family in Augsburg, then moved to Dresden in 1566. There he created — in just a few years — more than 1,000 sumptuous bindings in vellum, pigskin, or calf, distinguished by careful workmanship and rich ornamentation. His bindings were basically of a German (Wittenberg) style, but showed Italian, French and oriental influences, which Krause fused into a style of his own.
As apprentice and successor to Krause, Capar Meuser (1550-1593) worked in the court bindery. He continued to use his master's panels, but developed his own style, typified by vines covering the surfaces. An especially beautiful example of Meuser's skill is the heart-shaped prayer book for Princess Anne, the wife of Prince Elector Augustus.
Saxony was home to accomplished bookbinders other than the court binders, Krause and Meuser. One was Urban Köblitz, from whose shop the Library has a colorful and richly ornamented volume dating to 1574.
Binding by Jakob Krause, with Electoral coat of arms
Shortly after Elector Augustus began collecting books, he hired Jakob Krause, one of the best Renaissance bookbinders. Krause (1526/27-1585) was born in Zwickau. After completing his apprenticeship, he studied in Wittenberg and France, then served as a binder to the house of Fugger in Augsburg. In 1566 he came to Dresden, where he produced more than 1,000 magnificent bindings and purchased books for the Elector at trade fairs in Frankfurt and Leipzig. Krause's bindings are distinguished by meticulous workmanship and rich decorations which incorporate French, Italian, and oriental motifs.
Author unknown. Division Tables. Ca. 1570, part 2, cover. Gilt-embossed leather (70)
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Binding by Urban Köblitz
With the richly ornamental and colorful binding of this volume, Urban Köblitz demonstrates that he was among the outstanding bookbinders in Saxony, along with Jakob Krause and Caspar Meuser. We only know that he worked in Dresden and later in Leipzig.
Simon Paul. Postilla. Magdeburg, 1572, cover. Painted, gilt-embossed leather (71)
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Deluxe edition bound by Jacob Krause, with the coat of arms of the Elector of Saxony
This binding is by Jakob Krause, 1582. Dark brown calfskin over paper boards features gilt Moorish floral decoration and the electoral arms in the mandorla.
Caspar Peucer. Das fünfte Buch der Chronica Carionis (The Fifth Book of the Chronicles of Carion). Dresden, 1576, cover. Gilt-embossed calfskin (73)
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An unusual heart-shaped binding by Caspar Meuser
Caspar Meuser (1550-1593) was an apprentice of Jakob Krause, serving from 1574 as his successor in the court bindery. He used the panels and stamps designed by Krause, but evolved his own style, characterized by profuse vinework. This heart-shaped prayer book, designed for Anna, the wife of Elector Augustus, is a particularly fine example of his artistry.
Betbüchlein ür allerlei Anliegen (Small Prayer Book for All Occasions). Ca. 1580, cover. Gilt-embossed leather (74)
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Among the outstanding treasures of the Saxon State Library is the music collection of the Dresden Court Ensemble, the forerunner of today's Saxon State Orchestra. Although much of the precious legacy of the Ensemble from the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries was destroyed by wars -- the Prussian, Napoleonic, and Second World War -- enough prominent material exists to document the historic importance of the Ensemble. Three factors contribute to the Ensemble's fame and historic significance. First, the collection represents the musical culture of a European princely court, including music for Evangelical and Catholic liturgies, for Opera (predominately Italian, but with German and French works), and for court concerts and festive celebrations. Second, the collection documents the high musical standards that the Court Ensemble set for all of Europe throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Third, the collection shows that as early as 1710 the Dresden Court Ensemble consisted of a group of strings and winds that today would be called an "Orchestra," with oboes, horns, trumpets and drums, played by talented musicians, including numerous foreign virtuosi.
The musical items displayed in this exhibition can only suggest the rich musical environment of the Saxon Court, its remarkable international texture, and its significance in the development of European musical traditions.
Depiction of a courtly procession with the Elector Augustus and members of the Hofkapelle
The Dresden court had a long tradition of fancy-dress festivals, in which members of the Hofkapelle performed as musicians and dressed in lavish costumes as actors. This painting, originally a scroll later bound in book form, depicts an electoral wedding. Elector Augustus is preceded by enchained figures representing Death, the Devil, Justice, two Heralds, and the Muses, while members of the Hofkapelle follow with their instruments.
Daniel Bretschneider. Contrafactur des Ringrennens und anderer Ritterspiele auf Christians fürstlichem Beilager am 25. April Anno 82 in Dresden (Contrafactum of the Ring Competition and other Knightly Games at the Princely Consummation of Christian's Marriage on April 25 of the Year 82 in Dresden). Dresden, ca. 1582, part four. Gouache painting (80)
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Rare edition of German-language compositions by the second Italian director of the Hofkapelle
This four-part and five-part Magnificat is extremely rare in its complete form. Its composer, Pinelli, was the second Italian director of the Dresden Hofkapelle. On display is page 2, with engraved portrait of the composer.
Giovanni Battista Pinelli. Deutsches Magnificat, "Tenor" (German Magnificat, "Tenor"). Dresden, 1583, p. 2. Paper (82)
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The Library was largely dependent on the benevolence of its princely owner. However, in the seventeenth century the collection became the responsibility of the court chaplain when the Prince Elector's interest turned to other matters. The Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) further taxed Saxony's ability to maintain and expand the Library. Only toward the end of the century did the Library's position improve. Its resources became available not only to the family of the Prince Elector, but also to members of the court.
Seventeenth-century gaps in the present collection of more than 100,000 volumes were partially filled by incorporating the collections of other libraries. Yet even from the holdings of the Prince Elector alone, Saxony's history is well-preserved with regard to its theology, history, judicial system, music, and court life. The seventeenth-century bindings in the Prince Elector's Library attest to the high level of craftsmanship.
Elector Johann Georg I, one of fifty-two portraits of the Counts of Saxony
The long reign (1611-1656) of Elector Johann Georg I (1585-1656), was dominated by the Thirty Year's War, which brought an end to Saxony's role as a power in Europe. This portrait of the Elector is one of fifty-two miniatures on vellum, commissioned by him, depicting Saxony's rulers since mythical times. They were based on life-sized portraits hanging at court. The series was later continued to the reign of Augustus the Strong, Saxon Elector and King of Poland.
Artist(s) unknown. Collection of Portraits of the Counts of Saxony Seventeenth century, leaf 48. Vellum (89)
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Bible of Elector Moritz of Sachsen-Zeitz, with his coat of arms
The head of the Albertinian line of the House of Wettin, Elector Johann Georg I, proclaimed that upon his death Saxony should be divided among his four sons. His youngest son, Moritz (1619- 1681), became the ruler of the new Duchy of Saxony-Zeitz. While this may have been a politically dubious decision, the duchy benefitted culturally. The new Duke's dynamic building program soon remedied the destruction of the Thirty Years War. Moritz Castle (Moritzburg) in Zeitz was one of the first examples of early Baroque architecture. The Duke also supported the arts and music. His Bible is one of many treasures that have come to the Dresden Hofbibliothek (Court Library).
Biblia. Übersetzt von Martin Luther (The Bible. Translated by Martin Luther). Nuremberg, 1652, cover. Velvet and gilded brass binding (103)
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Lenten prayer book of Elector Johann Georg I, 1653
The Lenten prayer book of Elector Johann Georg I is a gem of book production. A court scribe wrote the text in Baroque calligraphy on vellum. The unknown artist used Albrecht Dürer's Kleine Passion as his model for the exquisite colored illustrations. The dark-brown calf binding is richly gilded and set with eight silver rosettes. The prayer book is open to the crowning of Christ with thorns.
Scribe and artist unknown. Das unschuldige Leiden … Jesu Christi (The Innocent Suffering … of Jesus Christ). Dresden, 1653, leaves 77b, 78a. Vellum (104)
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At the time of the Saxon-Polish Union (1697-1763) under Prince Elector Frederick Augustus I and his son Frederick August II, Dresden became a European cultural center. The arts flourished in the capital, where important artists of the time — architects, sculptors, painters, artisans, and musicians from several European countries — created works which to this day testify to the glory of that epoch. Court festivities demonstrated the power of the ruler and offered an opportunity for artists to exercise their talents. The royal collections were enriched by numerous treasures, which gradually led to the evolution of public cultural institutions of great importance.
For example, a new and glorious era began for the Royal Library. Its collections were reorganized; it received manuscripts, maps, and valuable prints from other sources. In 1728, it moved to the three pavilions of the just-completed Zwinger, the most beautiful Baroque building in Dresden.
This portion of the exhibit conveys an impression of the Augustan Age in Dresden with the Atlas Royal, and the original documents, beautiful bindings, rare prints, and music manuscripts on display.
An important eighteenth-century encyclopedia, with a portrait of Augustus the Strong, 1733
Friedrich August I (Augustus the Strong) was the most popular Saxon ruler. With his assumption of the Polish crown in 1697, Dresden flourished as a cultural and intellectual center, attracting scholars and artists from all over Europe. This encyclopedia, published by Johann Heinrich Zedler, was the largest (68 volumes) and most important German encyclopedia of the century. Volume 3, displayed here, contains a portrait of the Elector and is dedicated to him.
Grosses vollständiges Universal-Lexikon (Great Complete Univrsal Dictionary). Halle, Leipzig: Johann Heinrich Zedler, 1733. Vol. 3, frontispiece and titlepage. Paper (105)
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Portrait of Queen Anne of England, in a luxurious map atlas commissoned by Augustus the Strong, 1706-1710
This unique atlas testifies to both the love of splendor and the interest in science of Augustus the Strong (1670-1733). Produced for him in Amsterdam in 1706-1710, the nineteen large-format morocco volumes contain roughly 1400 beautifully colored printed or hand-drawn leaves (maps, views, plans, portraits) of Dutch, French, Italian, English and German origin dating to the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Volume I, on display, contains seventy masterfully tinted engravings depicting English royalty and court dress around 1700.
Atlas Royal (Royal Atlas). Amsterdam, 1707. Vol. 1. Hand-colored engraving (108)
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Wash drawing by Matthäus Pöppelmann for a proposed pavilion in the Zwinger fortress, 1712/13
The Dresden Zwinger, a world-renowned masterwork of Baroque architecture, would have been inconceivable without the initiative of Augustus the Strong. Two of the foremost artists of the era, the architect Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann (1662-1736) and the sculptor Balthasar Permoser (1651-1732), executed his concept. Initially the project was to involve the construction of an orangery in the "Zwinger" section of the fortress complex, but the plans grew to include construction of a new castle. Original plans in the Saxon State Library show the grand scale of the overall concept, of which only the Zwinger was realized, in modified form.
Pöppelmann, Matthäus Daniel. Entwurf für einen Zwingerpavillon (Draft for a Zwinger pavilion). Dresden, 1712/13. Wash drawing on paper (109)
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Mass in B Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach, manuscript score, 1733
After the death of Hofkapellmeister Heinichen in 1729 and the appointment of J.A. Hasse as his replacement, Bach (who was not considered for the position for religious reasons) applied for a court appointment. To his application he appended a part of his Mass in B Minor, transcribed with the help of his wife and his eldest son. The date of the first Dresden performance of this brilliant work has never been determined. However, since 1736 the cantor of the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig has worn the title Composer to the Court of the King of Poland and the Elector of Saxony.
Johann Sebastian Bach. Missa (h moll: Kyrie und Gloria). Originaler Stimmensatz (Mass in B Minor: Kyrie and Gloria. Original Vocal Part). Leipzig, 1733, bass voice. Paper (117)
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View, by Bellotto, of the Zwinger Palace inner court, where the State Library was located
The illustration shows the inner court of the Zwinger. The Electoral library was housed in the three pavilions in the background from 1728 to 1786.
Bernardo Bellotto. (Canaletto) Zwingerhof (Zwinger Court), 1758. Engraving (122)
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Plate in artist-naturalist Maria Merian's study on Surinam insects, 1705
Trained as a painter and obsessed with a desire for knowledge, Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717) studied and drew insects in their various developmental stages, as well as plants related to them. In 1699, she journeyed from Holland to Surinam to study its insects. The results of her two-year stay in the jungle were published in 1705 in a large-format folio, which earned her a place of honor among the great naturalists. The Saxon State Library owns one of the few surviving copies of Merian's work, colored by the author herself.
Maria Sibylla Merian. Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium (Metamorphosis of the Insects of Surinam). Amsterdam, 1705, figure 46. Hand-colored engraving (123)
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Watercolor of a cavalryman in Count Moritz's treatise on military science, 1732
Moritz, Count of Saxony (1696-1750), the son of Augustus the Strong and Countess Aurora of K”nigsmarck, entered French military service in 1720 and was promoted to general field marshal of French armies in 1745. In 1732 he recorded his thoughts on military science which, when printed in 1756, became an important military textbook, influencing Frederick the Great of Prussia, among others. Early in 1733, the manuscript on display was presented by Moritz to his half brother Frederick Augustus, who had just become the Elector of Saxony and King of Poland.
Count Moritz of Saxony. Des reveries (Musings). 1732, p. 100, plate 40. Paper (125)
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For over 200 years, the "Stone Bell" towered over the dome of the Frauenkirche in the inner city of Dresden. It gave the city a distinctive silhouette, until the bombings at the end of the Second World War destroyed the church. An intensive effort over the last few years to rebuild this world famous Protestant landmark gives justifiable hope that by the year 2006 — the 800th anniversary of Dresden — the Frauenkirche will again dominate the city's skyline.
The Frauenkirche is the work of the Dresden architect Georg Bähr (1666-1738), who was one of the greatest masters of German Baroque style. His design for the church captured the new spirit of the Protestant liturgy, in that altar, chancel, baptismal font, and organ were all centered directly in the view of the entire congregation, dominated by the bell-shaped stone dome.
The items exhibited here show the Frauenkirche, its surroundings, the architect's plans with governmental approval notations, and an original music manuscript of a work by Richard Wagner, which had its premiere in the church.
The Neumarkt (New Market) at Dresden, with the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady)
This picture shows the Neumarkt at the beginning of the ninteenth century, looking from the Moritzstrasse to the Frauenkirche, the stately houses of the middle-class, and the Art Gallery, behind which the towers of the Castle and the Catholic Hofkirche rise. In the square before the Church of Our Lady is the Türkenbrunnen, commemorating Johann Georg III's victory over the Turks.
Artist unknown. Dresden, Neumarkt with the Frauenkirche. Late eighteenth, early nineteenth centuries. Watercolor, pen and ink drawing (137)
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Original elevation drawing of the Frauenkirche, by Georg Bähr, 1726
Known as the "Stone Bell," the dome of the Frauenkirche rose above Dresden for over 200 years until it was bombed during World War II. The church is being reconstructed for Dresden's 800th anniversary in 2006. Georg Bähr (1666-1738), architect of the church, was one of the great German Baroque builders. In keeping with traditions of Protestant worship, he created a central structure with the altar, pulpit, baptismal font, and organ all located in full view of the congregation beneath the bell-shaped stone dome. The original drawing is inscribed with the handwritten approval of Count August Christoph von Wackerbarth, superintendent of Saxon architecture.
Leaf taken from: Plans et élévations des différentes églises (Plans and Elevations of Various Churches). Early eighteenth century. Colored pen and ink drawing (138)
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Original score for Wagner's The Love Feast of the Apostles, which premiered at the Dresden Frauenkirche in 1843
Wagner, Hofkapellmeister in Dresden from 1842 until his flight in 1849, wrote this unique work as a dialogue between several choir groups, followed by the entrance of full orchestra. It premiered under Wagner's direction at the Dresden Frauenkirche on July 6, 1843. Twelve hundred Saxon singers are said to have participated in the choirs, and the event was an extraordinary success. The piece is an impressive testimony to the musical ability of Saxon singers.
Richard Wagner. Das Liebesmahl der Apostel. Biblische Szene für Männerstimmen und grosses Orchester (The Love Feast of the Apostles. Biblical Scene for Male Voices and Large Orchestra). Dresden, 1843, pp. 22, 23. Autograph Score (139)
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Illustration of the colorful uniforms of the Elector's army garrisoned at Dresden, 1791
Dresden, the capital of Albertinian Saxony since 1485, was expanded into a fortress in the sixteenth century. It was protected by the citizenry until 1587, when a regular garrison was established. Elector Johann Georg III (1647-1691) created a standing army in 1682 and the office of Commandant in 1692. One of the duties of the Commandant was opening and closing three city gates and lowering and raising the drawbridges. The illustration shows the Commandant and an adjutant standing in the Dresden Neumarkt, with the Frauenkirche and the Art Gallery to the left.
Friedrich Johann Christian Reinhold. Uniformen der kurfürstlich sächsischen Armee (Uniforms of the Electoral Saxon Army). 1791, leaf 15. Paper (141)
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While the Augustan Age enriched Dresden with unique buildings and precious collections, the intellectual atmosphere attracted scholars and artists from all over the world. These values remained, as Saxony's political and economic strength declined in the Seven Years' War (1756-1763) and the Saxon-Polish Union dissolved.
Library administrators showed great vision in such times of austerity by buying the collections of two noblemen in 1764 and 1768, the libraries of Count Bünau and Count Brühl. Totaling 100,000 volumes, these acquisitions made the Kurfürstliche Bibliothek (or the Electoral Library, as it was then known) one of the largest libraries in Germany.
In 1786 the Library was relocated to the Japanese Palace, opening to the public in 1788. Such intellectual giants as Goethe, Schiller, Herder, and Kleist used its collections for their scholarly and literary research. The visitor's log, beginning in 1753, is highlighted with entries by Napoleon, Emperor Leopold II, and Lord Nelson with Lady Hamilton.
View of Dresden from the Southwest, early nineteenth century
The Dresden painter Christian Gottlieb Hammer (1779-1864) depicted the city from the confluence of the Weisseritz and Elbe rivers, which allowed him an attractive view of both parts of the city. To the left, the Japanese Palace (home of the Königliche Bibliothek from 1786 to 1945), the Neustadt (New Town), the Elbe River bridge (above it the Brühlian terrace), and below, the bell tower of the Frauenkirche; to the right, the steeple and nave of the Catholic Hofkirche, the castle tower (the tallest city edifice), and the steeple of the Kreuzkirche in the background.
Christian Gottlieb Hammer. Dresden. View of the City from the Southwest. Early nineteenth century. Colored engraving (143)
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Johann Winckelmann's pioneering essay, Thoughts on the Imitation of Greek Works
Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-1768) was one of the founders of modern scienctifc archeology and art history. He became famous overnight with the publication of his first work Gedanken (Thoughts), shown here, a forty-page brochure of which only fifty copies were printed. His major work, the Geschichte der Kunst des Altertums (History of Ancient Art), was published in 1764 in Dresden, where he studied archeological literature and ancient sculpture in the Dresden Art Museum, during his seven- year residence in Dresden and his tenure as librarian to Count Heinrich von Bünau.
Johann Joachim Winckelmann. Gedanken über die Nachahmung der griechischen Werke (Thoughts on the Imitation of Greek Works). Friedrichstadt near Dresden, 1755, title page. Paper (144)
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Portrait of Johann Winckelmann, ca. 1760, one of the founders of modern scientific archaeology and art history
This engraving is based on a painting by Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-1779), considered one of the most important German painters of the eighteenth century. He was active in Dresden, Madrid, and Rome, where he settled in 1755 and became friends with Winckelmann, the classical archaeologist and art critic, under whose influence he established the ascendancy of the Neoclassical school of painting.
After Anton Raphael Mengs. Portrait of Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-1789). Ca. 1760 Engraving (145)
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Letter of June 9, 1831, from Goethe to Johann Gottlob von Quandt, regarding paintings coming to Dresden from Weimar
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) stayed several times in Dresden. As a student at Leipzig, he visited the city in March 1768, recalling in his autobiography, Dichtung und Wahrheit (Poetry and Truth), the deep impression the Gemäldegalerie (Art Gallery) had made on him. He visited the Kurfürstliche Bibliothek (Electoral Library) on July 30, 1790, according to his entry in the guest book, and visited Dresden again in 1794, 1810, and 1813. Goethe also maintained a host of written contacts, with the court and the intellectual elite of Dresden, as his letter to the renowned art scholar and collector, Johann Gottlob von Quandt (1787-1859), indicates.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to Johann Gottlob von Quandt. June 9, 1831. Holograph letter (147)
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At the close of the eighteenth century, the Romantic movement influenced all areas of intellectual life in Germany. It formed a counter-movement to the rationalism of the Enlightenment and expressed displeasure with the times. Nation, religion, and history occupied people's attention. Modern historical and literary scholarship, Germanistics, and the study of legal history flourished, along with painting, poetry, and music.
One of the centers of the Romantic movement was Dresden. Attracted by the Baroque beauty of the city with its splendid collections, its charming surroundings, and the stimulating intellectual and cultural atmosphere, poets like the Schlegel brothers, Ludwig Tieck, Novalis (who founded the Romantic School of poetry in 1798), Heinrich von Kleist, composer Carl Maria von Weber, and the philosophers Friedrich Wilhelm Schelling and Arthur Schopenhauer made Dresden their home. Such important artists as Caspar David Friedrich and Adrian Ludwig Richter also made Dresden a center of the Romantic school of painting.
Pillnitz castle on the banks of the Elbe, ca. 1800, summer residence of the House of Wettin
Pillnitz, located on the right bank of the Elbe about six miles upstream from Dresden, was the summer residence of the Saxon rulers since the eighteenth century. With its Baroque buildings designed by Pöppelmann in 1720-1724, parks, and vineyards, Pillnitz remains a favorite excursion destination.
Artist unknown. Schloss Pillnitz (Pillnitz Castle). Ca. 1800. Colored engraving (158)
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The flower "pitcairnia," one of hundreds of plants grown at Pillnitz Castle
The Saxon State Library owns a unique compendium in nine folio volumes each with roughly 100 original pictures of the indigenous and foreign plants raised at Pillnitz Castle, the summer residence of the Saxon rulers. This extraordinary compilation was proposed and financed by Elector Frederick Augustus III (1750- 1827), an amateur botanist. He appointed as "botanical court painters" artists, already recognized as talented plant painters, who were graduates of his own Dresdener Kunstakademie (Dresden Academy of Art).
Various unnamed artists. Plantae selectae vivis coloribus depictae (Selected Plants Shown in True-to-Life Colors). Centuria I, 1785-1795, plate 22. Watercolor on paper (159)
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View of Dresden from the Elbe Bridge, in Johann Gottlieb Schwender's "family album," ca. 1800
Family albums (Stammbücher) provide remarkable insights into the lives of our ancestors. Popular since the sixteenth century primarily among the nobility, intellectuals, and students, these books later evolved into the "monuments to friendship" common among all social classes. It was common to ask friends and acquaintances to enter into these books thoughtful sayings, paintings, drawings, and also embroidery. Schwender's friends included architects and artists, explaining the fine drawings in his book, such as the view of Dresden.
Family Album of Johann Gottlieb Schwender. 1795-1810, leaves 56b, 57a. Watercolor and script (174)
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Depiction of a Saxon metalworker, from a study on the life of mine workers
Since the Middle Ages, mining was the major basis for Saxony's wealth, the power of its rulers, and its cultural development. Silver was mined in the Erzgebirge and made into coins, usually. Later, tin, copper, iron, coal, cobalt, alum, and gold were mined as well. G.E. Rost documented various aspects of the miner's life, his dress, his workplace, and his tools, in a study with illustrations of considerable significance to students of cultural history.
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Second part of Schumann's score for Senn's Farewell, with lyrics by Schiller
Robert and Clara Schumann lived in Dresden from 1844 to 1850. Since Robert could not find a permanent position, Clara provided for the family by giving concerts. Schumann nevertheless, found ample inspiration, as is manifested by the number of important compositions he created in Dresden. At the bottom of the leaf on display the composer notes, "Interrupted by the alarm bells on May 3, 1849," the day that citizens revolted. After the revolt's failure, Richard Wagner, the architect Gottfried Semper, and other notable figures deserted Dresden.
Robert Schumann. Des Sennen Abschied (Senn's Farewell) Lyrics by Friedrich Schiller. No. 22 in "Lieder für die Jugend" (Songs for the Young). Dresden, undated. Autograph score (178)
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To a Viole, by Brahms, from a personal album kept by the Schumanns
In June 1845, the Schumanns started an album of memorabilia for their children, with locks of hair, drawings, dried flowers, poems, compositions, and letters from their friends and relatives. Later, Clara added autograph music by important composers, including a draft leaf by Beethoven and an autograph score, shown here, by Johannes Brahms, who as a youth was intimate with the Schumanns. According to Clara's notation in the upper right-hand corner of page 1, Brahms gave her the score on September 13, 1872. The Saxon State Library acquired this Dresden album from Schumann's grandsons in 1934.
Johannes Brahms. An ein Veilchen. Text von Ludwig Hölty. Lied für eine Singstimme und Klavier, op. 49,2. (To a Violet. Lyrics by Ludwig Hölty. Song for Voice and Piano, opus. 49.2). Before 1872. Autograph fair copy (179)
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The interest of Prince Elector Augustus in other countries is demonstrated by the twenty-three travel books recorded in the Library's 1580 catalog, among them a volume entitled, Stories from the New World and Indian Kingdoms. The 1590 Customs of the Savages in Virginia is dedicated to Prince Elector Christian I. The first manuscripts from a different culture were added to the collection 100 years later as part of the "Turkish Booty" from the wars against the Ottoman Empire at the end of the seventeenth century. Supplementing them were manuscripts sent by diplomats in Constantinople during the time of the Polish-Saxon Union. In 1789 the Mayan Codex, which is the Library's most valuable possession, was acquired in Vienna.
In the nineteenth century, manuscripts from other cultures were acquired. These included seventy Tibetan, Kalmuck and Mongolian manuscripts from a German missionary in 1839; three Ethiopian manuscripts in 1845; palm-leaf books from Southeast Asia in 1848 and 1855; and finally, Chinese and Japanese books from a Saxon official of the Prussian Trade Expedition to East Asia in 1862.
"Muhammed splits the moon," an illustration in a Falnameh, a Persian book of prophesies
Leipzig Orientalist Heinrich Fleischer's 1831 catalogue of oriental manuscripts in the Königliche Bibliothek included a Falnameh, a Persian book of prophesies, often used to predict such things as the course of a journey or the success of a business deal. How the manuscript came the library is not known, but a notation indicates it came to Vienna around 1700, during the Turkish wars. The varying styles of painting, format, and texts suggest the leaves are of differing origin, probably based on Persian models in Turkey. It can be dated to the late sixteenth century.
Artist and scribe unknown. Falnameh. Persia, late sixteenth century, pp.73, 74. Watercolor and script (182)
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