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)
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.
Johannes Kentmann, with illustratios by David Redtel Kräuterbuch (Book of Herbs) 1563, leaves 146b, 147a Paper (57)Image of title page
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)
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)
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.
Georg Engelhart Loeneyss Gründlicher Bericht und Ordnung der Gebisse (Thorough Report on Equestrian Dentistry) 1576, leaves 22b, 23a Paper (62)Image of title page
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.
Thomas Harriot Customs of the Savages in Virginia Frankfurt am Main, 1590, leaves 47b, 48a Paper (67)Image of title page
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)
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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