Press Contacts: Kathleen Cassedy (202) 707-9191, Craig D'Ooge (202) 707-9189

March 25, 1996

A Major Exhibition of Rare Treasures from the Saxon State Library, Dresden at the Library of Congress

April 11 through July 13, 1996

"Dresden: Treasures from the Saxon State Library," a major exhibition of rare and priceless items from the High Middle Ages through the 19th century, will open at the Library of Congress on April 11.

The 185 artifacts, which will be exhibited in the Southwest Gallery and Pavilion of the Thomas Jefferson Building until July 13, provide a rich sampling of culture from the Reformation, Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods in Saxony and elsewhere in Europe (primarily France and Italy).

These items, which survived the disastrous fire bombings during World War II, have been unavailable to Westerners following World War II when Saxony was behind the Iron Curtain as part of East Germany, a communist bloc country. The exhibition will return to Dresden after July 13.

The treasures include rare manuscripts, early examples of the art of printing, maps, copper etchings, paintings, and autographed musical scores by such greats as Antonio Vivaldi, Johann Heinrich Schutz, Carl Maria Weber, Johannes Brahms and Richard Wagner. Items were carefully chosen for their beauty, uniqueness, and historical significance. Highlights include Johann Sebastian Bach's Mass in B Minor, copied in his own hand; a hand-colored woodcut engraving by master artist Albrecht Durer; and the first German-language Bible, translated by Martin Luther.

The Saxon State Library began as a royal collection in Dresden 440 years ago, when Saxony was part of the German Holy Roman Empire and was one of only seven principalities that could elect the Emperor. Under the auspices of Saxony's ruling elector princes and kings, nobility and, later, the library's administrators and scholars, the collection was carefully selected and purchased.

Saxony's rulers between the 15th and 18th centuries transformed the principality's capital, Dresden, into one of Europe's great cultural cities, attracting artisans, sculptors, artists, poets, musicians, architects and scholars through their patronage. The creative arts flourished, and the most talented and intellectual achievers of Europe spent time in Dresden during its Golden Era, under the reigns of Augustus the Strong (Frederick Augustus I) and his son, Frederick Augustus II.

The exhibition is arranged chronologically in 13 categories.


Elector Augustus I (reign, 1553-1585) collected few medieval manuscripts, which had been given to the University of Leipzig and Saxon private schools after monasteries closed following the Reformation. Several centuries later, these schools gave these rare items to the Saxon State Library, which had become the state depository. Following the loss of some medieval manuscripts during World War II, the Saxon State Library has today approximately 400 of these priceless artifacts. The sampling in the exhibition includes many important works from this period:

  • A 10th century collection of Gospel passages in Latin used in the Catholic Mass on Sundays and Feast Days. The illuminated initials--sometimes in the form of stylized animal figures-- indicate this manuscript's German origin.
  • A Jewish Holy Day Prayer Book for the Whole Year (Machsor mechol haschana). This book, published in 1290, contains prayers for the Feast of Weeks, Passover and the Feast of the Delivery of the Jews. Its beautiful Gothic-style miniatures were done by an anonymous gentile illuminator.
  • Of the Fate of Illustrious Men and Women by Giovanni Boccaccio. Although Boccaccio (1313-1375) is best known today for his Decameron, during the Middle Ages he was most famous for this work. Written around 1360, this work was soon translated into most major European languages. This 1520 illuminated manuscript illustrates that these beautiful books continued to be produced for the wealthy even after the invention of printing. Its dedicatory inscription to French King Francis I is from Charles de Bourbon. Two hundred years later, the book was presented to Saxon Elector Augustus the Strong by Prince Karol Radziwill.

Other works from this category include a 14th century copy of Ovid's Metamorphoses, a 15th century manuscript of Francesco Petrarca's Of Remedies for Fortune Fair and Foul, medieval histories of Meissen and Bohemia, and a 14th century work of the genealogy of Frankish and French kings.


The original library founded by Prince Elector Augustus in 1556 contained only 12 incunabula (books printed from movable type before 1501). By 1589, that number had increased to 500 titles. Additional incunabula were acquired during the 18th through 20th centuries by transfer from other libraries or by purchases. By the end of World War II, the Saxon State Library had 2,384 incunabula. Today more than half of these are in the Russian State Library.

The Saxon State Library collection is important because it encompasses the spectrum of 15th century intellectual life: ancient authors, Bibles, theological and historical works, juristic literature, medieval books, travel accounts and belles lettres. The seldom seen category of printing on vellum is exceptionally well represented. Exhibited highlights include:

  • The Performance of Music by Franchinus Gaffurius, who was conductor of the Milan cathedral from 1451 to 1522. He was considered the authority on musical theory, and this 1496 textbook is one of six editions during his lifetime.
  • Dance of Death, a 16th century French edition of a popular medieval literary theme. Based on a 14th century morality poem, this work evolved into a set of illustrated verses. Its hand-colored woodcuts characteristically show representatives of ecclesiastical and secular society being carried off by Death.

THE REFORMATION (Objects 15-38)

The Reformation is among Saxony's major contributions to world history. This epoch-making Christian movement decisively reshaped the early modern world. As a result of Johann Gutenberg's invention of movable type in 1448, books became more affordable to a prosperous bourgeoisie. A thriving book business grew in the cities of Leipzig, Frankfurt and Wittenberg. Martin Luther's articles, treatises and other works were printed in large numbers during this period.

In the mid-19th century, the Dresden Library acquired 317 original works--many from Saxon private schools--from the Reformation period. Twenty-four of these works offer a representative selection from the period.

Martin Luther (1483-1546), an Augustinian monk, was a popular theology professor at the University of Wittenberg, founded by Grand Duke Elector Friedrich the Wise of Saxony in 1502. Elector Friedrich became Luther's supporter, while remaining politically neutral. Luther did not originally intend to start the Reformation, but like many other clergy and learned men of the period, he was disturbed by the Catholic Church's controversial practice of selling indulgences in exchange for absolution of past, present and future sins. Luther was supported by a number of secular rulers, partly for political reasons, but his ideas were embraced by a genuine popular movement, and his theology was taught in Germany by numerous preachers. After decades of conflict, the Religious Peace of Augsburg in 1555 granted freedom of worship to Protestants.

These tumultuous developments are mirrored in the Saxon State Library's holdings, which include nearly complete runs of newspapers of the time, the controversial pamphlets, and the writings of Luther, his fellow Protestants, and his opponents. Luther attracted many learned men and women as followers, including the artist Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), who supported Luther in letters and pamphlets.

The Passion of Our Lord Jesus by Albrecht Dürer was printed in Nuremberg in 1511. This work is one of three woodcut series of Biblical themes, which include the life of the virgin Mary and the Apocalypse. The woodcuts were first gathered in one volume and printed with the Latin verses of Benedict Chelidonius. The woodcut shown in the exhibition has a colorful floral border and illumination done in Dürer's workshop.

In 1520, Luther published three principal Reformation theses in Wittenberg, all of which are in the exhibition:

  • The Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation. In this work Luther placed himself at the head of the reform movement driven by laymen and called on the Christian nobility to reform, combat abuses, and correct social and moral wrongs.
  • The Babylonian Captivity of the Church. In this thesis, Luther argues against many Catholic sacramental teachings. Luther only considered baptism, communion and, to a limited degree, confession to be sacraments. The title page displayed shows Luther's portrait.
  • On the Freedom of a Christian. In this work Luther debates against papal authority because believers, through their faith, have a direct relationship with God.
  • The Life of Saint Benno, Late Bishop of Meissen, 1512. Saxony's only saint, Bishop Benno (who died in 1006) was declared a saint in 1523. In preparation for his canonization, Hieronymous Emser (1478-1527), court chaplain to Elector Georg of Saxony, wrote this biography of him.
  • Twelve Articles by the Swabian Peasants during the Peasants War of 1524-1526 was drafted in Swabia in March 1525. Influenced by the ideas of the Reformation, the Austrian Swabian peasants led a revolt. This rare surviving manifesto shows how these peasants used the Gospels as a basis to argue for their rights for free elections of the clergy, free use of the forests, and reduction of their burdens. The document went through 25 printings within a few weeks. Most documents, however, were confiscated and destroyed when the rebellion was put down.

Followers began to apply Luther's teachings to church life. Monks and priests became pastors and proclaimed the Reformation. Luther wrote many works to instruct these new "Lutheran" clergy on how to perform baptism and marriage, teach catechism and celebrate the Mass. Many of these works are in the exhibition.

  • German Mass and Order of the Worship Service. Luther gradually and cautiously changed the traditional worship service to make the sermon and communion dominant features. His new mass was first celebrated in October 1525 in Wittenberg and appeared in print in 1526.
  • Consolation for the Christians of Halle. This 1527 manuscript is in Luther's own hand.

The favorite art form of Protestantism was music, and music education was emphasized in schools of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Luther himself composed the music and words for 41 hymns. His "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" is often sung in churches today.

Among exhibition highlights of musical manuscripts from the Reformation period are:

  • A rare pre-Reformation choir book from the early 16th century, which was acquired from the St. Annen Kirche in Annaberg in 1968 and restored by the Saxon State Library.
  • A hymnal prepared by Johann Spangenberg, at Luther's request, is the earliest and most important collection of liturgical music for Protestant services. This 1545 book is divided into German and Latin sections.

THE BIBLE (Objects 39-51)

The Saxon State Library has 2,800 editions of the Bible in 72 languages. Sixty-three Bibles are incunabula, usually in Latin, French or German, and were most often made in German or Italian workshops and printed on vellum. Bibles from the 10th to 15th centuries are in Greek and Latin, but by the 16th century, Bibles are represented in many European languages. The German editions are richly illustrated, especially 17th and 18th century baroque examples, which have full-page engravings. Several 19th century New Testament editions were printed for missionaries in African and Asian languages.

The examples in this exhibition show the great care and expense devoted to binding these sacred Christian books. Highlights include:

  • A 1479 Bible produced on vellum in Venice by renowned printer Nicolaus Jensen. The Antiqua type re-creates the letter forms of Roman inscriptions in modern print, reflecting the ideals of humanism, a popular movement at the time. In this copy, the major initials are illuminated and the smaller ones are in blue or red.
  • A 1514 Polyglot Bible in Hebrew, Chaldaic, Greek and Latin, printed in Spain. This Bible, considered the first and finest polyglot Bible, was commissioned by a cardinal, based on ancient manuscripts from the Vatican Library. Only 600 copies of this six-folio work were printed between 1514 and 1516. The printing cost was an astronomical sum of 50,000 gold guilders. (During this period, a schoolmaster earned fewer than 10 guilders a year.)
  • The New Testament in English. This early 15th century manuscript is translated by John Wycliffe, a "pre-Reformer," into colloquial English with assistance of Nicholas of Hereford. Wycliffe recognized the disparity between the Bible's teachings and the autonomy of the Catholic church in 1380, and wanted to change it. This manuscript testifies to the enduring popularity of Wycliffe's Bible.
  • The Apocalypse of My Lord St. John. This illuminated Bible manuscript from the 14th century was created in Lorraine, France. Although it is written in old French, it follows the English tradition of book illuminations: 72 miniatures of St. John, who is either writing, listening or watching, are placed in the book's margins on a gold, blue or red background.
  • A German Historical Bible from the early 15th century. From the 13th to 15th centuries, folksy, adaptations of Biblical stories were called "historical" Bibles. Since the cloisters could not satisfy the growing demand for them, private copying workshops developed to produce and stock these Bibles. This Bible was copied in sections at a workshop in Alsace; its illustrations show a spontaneous and naive quality.
  • Deluxe 1531 edition of the Zurich Bible. This Bible was produced by theologians at the Great Cathedral in Zurich. A special typeface and 198 woodcut illustrations, based on drawings by Hans Holbein the Younger, were commissioned just for this Bible.
  • John Eliot's Algonquian-language Bible. This is the second edition (1680) of the first complete Bible printed in the North American colonies, between 1662 and 1663. The Bible was sponsored by the London-based Corporation for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England and printed at the Indian College in Cambridge for the Algonquian Indians of Massachusetts. Two thousand copies of the second edition were printed between 1680 and 1685.

Of particular importance is Martin Luther's translation of the Bible.

  • Luther's New Testament in German. Luther completed his translation in 11 weeks. By September 1522, 3,000 copies had been printed. They sold so quickly that the publisher produced a second edition three months later, called the "December Testament." The book of Revelation is illustrated with 21 woodcuts from the Wittenberg workshop of Lucas Cranach, who modeled them after Dürer's woodcut of Apocalypse figures.
  • Luther's German Translation of the Entire Bible, published in 1534, is considered Luther's greatest linguistic accomplishment. The Bible is richly illustrated with decorative initials and 117 woodcuts by Cranach. An unbound copy of the Bible sold later that year at the Leipzig book fair for two guilders, eight groschen. (A schoolmaster earned about 5 guilders annually at that time.)
  • Erasmus' translation of the New Testament from the original Greek to Latin. This 1519 translation by Erasmus of Rotterdam is the second and revised edition, which Luther used as the source for his German translation. It was printed by Johann Froben with woodcut borders by Urs Graf.

THE ELECTORAL LIBRARY (Objects 52 to 69)

Saxony had become one of the most powerful territorial states in German by the mid-16th century. Prince Elector Augustus (reign 1553-1585) concentrated on stimulating the economy, especially through mining and trade. Many books he collected are about local industry and the professional trades.

Because a large portion of the royal collection was uniformly bound by Dresden bookbinders in 1556, that year is used as the founding date for the Saxon State Library. By 1580, the Library's catalog shows a truly modern reference library, containing books on theology, history, philosophy, medicine, surgery, law, mathematics, architecture, astronomy, tournaments and festivals, warfare, mining, numismatics, mineralogy, biology and agriculture. The collection also included maps, engravings and illustrations of court festivities.

Highlights from this period are:

  • Book on Mining. This 1580 book by the Saxon scholar, physician and natural scientist Georg Agricola, remained the standard handbook on mining and metallurgy until the 18th century.
  • Art Book Containing a Thorough Report on Kidney Stones. At the request of Elector Augustus, the Dresden surgeon Georg Bartisch (1535-1607) wrote this comprehensive work, published in 1575, which historians view as the first scientific German urology textbook.
  • A Treatise on Fencing, Wrestling and Jousting. In the Middle Ages, these war exercises were also popular entertainments during social events. Champions traveled from town to town participating in exhibition bouts and giving lessons. This 1550 manuscript contains 242 vivid illustrations.
  • Panoramic Painting of the Funeral Procession of Elector Augustus, who died February 11, 1586. The ceremonial procession by the royal household from Dresden to the cathedral in Freiburg was accurately documented on March 14, 1586.


Prince Elector Augustus decided to bind a large portion of his collection in 1556, and summoned to court the most acclaimed bookbinders of the day. Of these, the greatest were Jacob Krause and his assistant Caspar Meuser.

Krause, who came to Dresden in 1566, meticulously produced more than 1,000 bindings for the library. Krause used white parchment, pigskin or costly calfskin to make bindings, which bore the coat of arms, insignia, and often the portrait of Prince Augustus. He used a German Wittenberg style with Italian, French and oriental ornamentation. Meuser was influenced by Krause, but developed his own style using profuse vinework.

  • From the Last Supper. This 1575 book was bound by Krause, using calfskin over paper boards, with gilt vinework and Moorish leaves. A monogram of Elector Augustus, who owned the volume, is in the center.
  • Small Prayer Book for All Occasions. This unique heart- shaped, gilt-embossed leather book, which was bound by Meuser in 1580, belonged to Princess Anna, the wife of Elector Augustus.
  • Equine Veterinary Book. This 1589 binding by Meuser is reddish-brown calf over boards, decorated with Moorish vine leaves in gilt. The electoral arms and initials of Elector Christian I (1560-1591) are in the center, and massive silver- gilded corner fittings and clasps complete the work.

THE HOFKAPELLE (Objects 77-88)

In 1806, Saxony became a kingdom and the library was renamed the Royal Public Library. Later that century (1887-1907), the library began to collect the printed music collections from Saxon churches and schools to complement its royal collection of 4,000 volumes and 300 cases of 18th and 19th century court music. This archives is still heavily used by the music industry.

The Hofkapelle was a celebrated musical performing group, featuring vocalists and instrumentalists, which traveled with Saxon Electors when they visited the Reichstag and other European courts.

Founded in 1548 by Elector Moritz, the Hofkapelle participated in festivals, state celebrations, sporting events, tournaments, lavish opera productions, weddings, festive processions and court worship. The Hofkapelle is featured in several exhibition illustrations.

Among them are:

Two gouache paintings of court processions: one published in 1581 features a drummer and trumpeters; the other, published in 1582, shows Elector Augustus with Hofkapelle members dressed as women, carrying their instruments for a wedding party. This latter item was originally a scroll, but has been bound as a book.

The opera was as popular in the 17th century in Dresden as it is today. More than 1,000 operas were either composed for or performed at the Dresden court. From 1662 to 1816, opera was sung in Italian, reaching its musical zenith under the direction of Hofkapelle director Johann Adolf Hasse (1734-1763).

The Royal Public Library established one of the first music departments in a German library in 1816. Early musical acquisitions came from Paris and Venice, since German operas were not produced until 1817. The German opera had two outstanding periods under Hofkapelle directors, Carl Maria Weber (1817 to 1826) and Richard Wagner (1842 to 1849). The exhibition features original scores by musicians Weber, Wagner, Johann Sebastian Bach, Johann Hermann Schein, Johannes Brahms, Robert Schumann, Heinrich Schätz and others who were associated with the musical life of Dresden.

Among the exhibition's musical highlights are:

  • The 119th Psalm of David by Heinrich Schutz. This 1671 manuscript is autographed by the great composer and is from a late work. The portion displayed has six vocal parts.
  • An exact copy of the opera Daphne from 1672 by Giovanni Bontempi and Guiseppe Peranda. This work was used in early Dresden opera practice.
  • A drawing of the stage setting for the opera ballet Judgment of Paris and the Rape of Helen at the Dresden opera house in 1667. This set was included in opera's text edition, published in 1679.

TWILIGHT OF A CENTURY (Objects 89-104)

The Library's growth slowed during the Thirty Years' War (1618- 1648). Later, other libraries were incorporated into the Saxon State Library so that Saxony's history is well preserved with regard to theology, history, its judicial system, music and court life.

  • The only known copy of the Celebratory Motet, from 1617, by Johann Herman Schein, the cantor of the St. Thomas Church of Leipzig, on the 100th anniversary of the alleged posting of Luther's theses in Wittenberg.
  • Electoral Saxon Ordinances, Constitutions, Mandates, Patents and Rights. The first printed collection of 17th century law shows the detailed manner in which the life of the citizenry was regulated.
  • A rare hand-colored map of Germania, printed on silk in 1680, was produced in Amsterdam by the engraver Frederick de Wit, an important map publisher and dealer.
  • A 1650 Engraving of Dresden on the Elbe River by Matthñus Merian, which depicts the Electoral Residence.
  • The first year's issues of the oldest German daily newspaper, 1660, published in Leipzig, which contains international news only a few weeks old.
  • A rare treatise on the making of fireworks, from the 17th century.

THE AUGUSTAN ERA (Objects 105-136)

During the reigns of Electors Frederick Augustus I and his son and successor, Frederick Augustus II, Saxony enjoyed its "Augustan" Golden Age (1694-1763). Influenced by Florence and Venice, these two rulers fashioned an environment in Dresden where creativity, craftsmanship and scholarship flourished. They opened their art collections and library to the public, and built an opera house to showcase free performances.

Pageants and festivities demonstrated the Electors' power and wealth. As a center of cultural and intellectual life, Dresden attracted artists and scholars from all over Europe. Its court became one of the most beautiful and cosmopolitan in Europe, rivaled only by that in Versailles. Likewise, the Royal Library became the pre-eminent German library. In 1728 it moved to new quarters at the just-completed Zwinger, a palatial arena for court functions.

Several exhibition items illustrate the splendor of the Augustan age:

  • An 18th century engraving of the view of the Zwinger court pavilion.
  • Two color wash architectural sketches by Matthaus Daniel Poppelmann, the important baroque architect. One is of a design for an elevated pavilion in the Zwinger (1712); the other is an elevated interior for a temporary Pantheon for use during the Elector's 49th birthday celebration (1718).
  • Costumed figures for a masquerade from the 18th century. These pageants and masquerades were important festivities held by the nobility during the baroque period.
  • The largest and most important 18th century German encyclopedia, published in 1733. The volume displayed shows a portrait of Augustus the Strong, for whom the tome is dedicated.
  • A letter from Augustus the Strong to Joseph Kos (tutor to the crown prince), written in French, which commands Kos to keep his son in Venice "due to certain circumstances." Several months later the young prince's conversion to Catholicism is announced in Vienna.
  • Mass in B Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach. This 1733 musical score, which was transcribed in his own hand, was appended to his application for a court appointment.
  • Concerto composed by Johann Georg Pisendel. A collaborative work by Antonio Vivaldi and Pisendel, the future Dresden Hofkapelle director, which is autographed by Vivaldi. It was published between 1717 and 1730 in Dresden and Venice.
  • Requiem for Frederick Augustus I of Saxony and Poland, by Jan Zelenka, published in Dresden 1733. The magnitude of the choir is illustrated by numerous vocal parts.
  • A 1749 view of Dresden and the court church by Bellotto, also called Canaletto (1721-1780). The fashionable Bellotto came to the Dresden court in 1747 to record Dresden's architecture and daily life in large paintings.

THE FRAUENKIRCHE (Objects 137-142)

Dresden's first church was the Frauenkriche, built around 1142. The church was rebuilt as a Protestant cathedral from 1726 to 1734. Its enormous dome, called the Stone Bell, dominated the cityscape and was a symbol of Dresden for 200 years.

The baroque church was designed by architect Georg Bühr. To accommodate Protestant worship, Bühr created a central structure in which the altar, pulpit, baptismal font and organ were located in full view of up to 4,000 people in the congregation, beneath the bell-shaped dome. The dome was 23.5 meters wide and its tower was 95 meters tall. The church was also distinguished by a huge organ, which Johann Sebastian Bach played before the court in December 1736.

On July 6, 1843, a polyphonic work, The Love Feast of the Apostles, by Richard Wagner premiered in the church. The piece was sung by 1,200 Saxon singers of the Dresden Hofkapelle, which Wagner directed from 1842 until 1848. During World War II, bombing toppled the dome and the church. Its rubble was allowed to remain on the ground as a war memorial until recently. Private funds are currently supporting the exact reconstruction of the Frauenkirche.

Exhibition highlights from the church are:

  • The Love Feast of the Apostles, Wagner's autographed copy, 1843.
  • An original recording of the ringing of the Frauenkirche bells, 1940.
  • A watercolor of Dresden with the Frauenkirche in view.
  • A flat scale drawing of the Frauenkirche, by Bahr, in the book Plans and Elevations of Various Churches. This original drawing has handwritten approval by Count August Christoph von Wacherbarth, dated June 26, 1726.

THE AGE OF GOETHE (Objects 143-156)

Johann Wolfgang Goethe was so important a talent in Germany that he marked an era. During the last 30 years of Goethe's long life (1749-1832), he was considered Germany's greatest cultural monument. His stature derived not only from his literary achievements as a lyric poet, novelist and dramatist, but also from his significant contributions as a scientist, (geologist, botanist, anatomist, physicist) and as a critic and theorist of literature and art.

Around 1770 a literary revolution occurred in Germany, known as "Sturm und Drang" ("Storm and Stress"), roughly from 1769 to 1786. The term expresses two major aspects of the new movement -- its emotionalism and its stress on action. These outbursts of feeling are seen as a long-suppressed reaction to the dry rationalism and rococo tastes of the preceding decades.

The two greatest writers of the Sturm und Drang period were Goethe and Friedrich Schiller, who both went on to write works in a new literary movement: German Classicism. Goethe, for example, came to believe that the literature of classical antiquity could provide both a suitable form and content for the expression of modern writers.

Schiller, who is regarded as the greatest German dramatist, used the power of drama and poetry to convey a philosophy; his works contain strong assertions of human freedom and dignity.

Among exhibition highlights of this period are:

  • The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe. This rare first edition (anonymously issued) of the 18th century best-seller, marked the beginning of modern German prose. Goethe's moody character, Werther, has been described "as the Sturm und Drang protagonist par excellence: a man to whom, as to Goethe's Faust, feeling is everything; a man who is moved to commit suicide as much by anger at social injustice as by despair over a tragic love affair.
  • The Robbers by Schiller, the most significant drama of the Sturm und Drang, published in 1781. Its premiered the following year in Mannheim, where the audience was overcome with emotion. On display is a rare first edition.
  • Thoughts on the Imitation of Greek Works by Johann Winckelmann. This pioneering essay in the establishment of modern scientific archaeology and art history was published in 1755. Winckelmann became famous overnight with the publication of this book, which is a mere 40 pages, of which only 50 copies were printed.


At the close of the 18th century, the Romantic movement (roughly from 1786 to 1805) influenced all areas of German intellectual life. It was a countermovement to the rationalism of the Enlightenment. It stressed highly individualistic approaches and anticlassical styles. Nation, religion and history occupied people's attention. Modern historical and literary scholarship and the study of legal history flourished, along with painting, poetry and music.

Dresden was a major center of the Romantic movement. Attracted by the city's baroque beauty and its stimulating intellectual and cultural atmosphere, poets, composers, artists and philosophers made Dresden their home. Among those associated with the Romantic movement who spent time in Dresden were the Schlegel brothers (August and Friedrich), Ludwig Tieck, Novalis (founder of the Romantic School of Poetry in 1789), Heinrich von Kleist, composer Carl Maria von Weber, and philosophers Friedrich Wilhelm Schelling and Arthur Schopenhauer. Artists Caspar David Friedrich and Adrian Ludwig Richter also made Dresden a center of the Romantic school of painting.

August Schlegel gave Germany some of its remarkable translations of Shakespeare's plays. His younger brother Friedrich was an outstanding critic whose best work is in the form of aphorisms. Friedrich von Hardenberg, who wrote under the pseudonym Novalis, gave the romantic ideas their greatest poetic formulation.

The Saxon State Library exhibition includes many cultural achievements during this period.

  • The World as Will and Idea, published in 1819, by Arthur Schopenhauer, who wrote this, his great philosophical work, in Dresden between 1814 and 1819.
  • Works, published in 1802 by Novalis, who attempted to cover all fields of human knowledge.
  • August Schlegel's translation of Shakespeare's As You Like It in his own hand, around 1895.
  • The first volume of Athenaeum, published in 1789, of the most influential journal of the German Romantic movement, edited and founded by the Schlegel brothers.
  • The 1818 Overture of Celebration for His Majesty the King of Saxony, an autographed orchestral work by Carl Maria von Weber, which contains the melody "God Save the King."
  • "Songs for the Young" from Senn's Farewell, the autographed score by Robert Schumann, with lyrics by the poet Friedrich Schiller. This piece contains a historic footnote, which Schumann wrote at the bottom of the page: "Interrupted by the alarm bells on May 3, 1849." On that day, Dresden citizens began a revolt, incited by the failure and subsequent flight of eminent citizens, Hofkapelle director Richard Wagner and architect Gottfried Semper, who supported the democratic revolutionary movements sweeping across Europe during 1848 and 1849.
  • To a Violet, a song for voice and piano, by Johannes Brahms, written before 1872. Brahms presented this piece on ornamental paper to Clara Schumann on her birthday, September 13, 1872.
  • "A Visit to the Country" woodcut etching, from the series, "Sunday in Pictures," by Adrian Ludwig Richter, 1861.

FROM FARAWAY PLACES (Objects 182-187)

The interest of Prince Elector Augustus in other countries is evident by the 23 travel books recorded in the 1580 catalog. Among them a volume, Stories from the New World and Indian Kingdoms. 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 17th century. Manuscripts were also sent by diplomats in Constantinople during the time of the Polish-Saxon Union.

In the 19th century, manuscripts were acquired from other cultures --Tibet, Mongolia, Ethiopia, Southeast Asia, China and Japan. These testimonials to non-European cultures broaden and enhance the collection.

Among the highlights is:

  • Muhammed Splits the Moon from the Falnameh, a Persian book of prophesies from the late 16th century. This kind of book was used to predict the future.

"Dresden: Treasures from the Saxon State Library" is the result of four years of collaboration and planning by the Saxon State Library and the Library of Congress; it follows other exhibitions at the Library of Congress that featured European collections: "Creating French Culture: Treasures from the Biliotheque nationale de France" and "Rome Reborn: The Vatican Library and Renaissance Culture."

The exhibition is funded by the Dresden Hilton Hotel, the Donors' Association for the Promotion of Sciences and Humanities in Germany, the Dresden Cultural Foundation of the Dresden Bank, Friends of the Saxon State Library, the Saxon State Government and the Federal Republic of Germany.

The exhibition will be open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the Southwest Gallery and Pavilion of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E.

# # #

PR 96-51
ISSN 0731-3527

Back to top