Autograph Books (also Friendship Books)

The history of the family album begins at the time of the Reformation at the University of Wittenberg. Students presented their teacher with one of his printed works and asked him to make an entry. The dedications of the humanists who taught in Wittenberg, such as Luther and Melanchthon, were very popular. Almost at the same time, it became customary in aristocratic circles to ask visitors to make an entry in a book owned by the host.

Later, people carried small, narrow books with blank pages with them when they travelled and asked travel acquaintances, fellow students and friends for an entry. This led to the usual transverse octavo format for family books, which offered a more comfortable surface for the hand to rest on and was better suited for pictorial additions.

From the very beginning, the entry often began with his personal motto, which was later replaced by a motto that now referred to the family book keeper. Quotations corresponding to the contemporary educational canon were mainly used, supplemented by place and date.

In addition, the entry was often decorated with a picture, initially usually the coat of arms of the entrant or small costume figures. Later, genre paintings that used mythological themes or topographical views came into fashion, which almost always referred to the entry. In many cases, it was miniature painters who produced such illustrations on behalf of the entrant.

As in many other cultural areas, the 30 Years' War also led to a break in the family register. It was not until the last third of the 18th century that the family album experienced a renaissance in the so-called Age of Sensibility, with its new ideal of friendship, and the subsequent Romantic period with its desire for an idealised world, which lasted until the 19th century.

It unfolded a tremendous broad impact that went beyond the original student and aristocratic circles. The use of classical languages declined, instead of quotations one finds one's own texts and the design of the illustrations was increasingly done by the entrants themselves. In addition to watercolours, drawings and gouaches, embroidery or braided hair wreaths can also be found. Instead of the bound family album, collections of loose leaves in family album cassettes also became common.

From the 20th century onwards, the term poetry album came into use, which was mainly kept by children and was later replaced by pre-printed friendship books in which pre-formulated questions about one's own person were answered. The handwritten illustrations were replaced by paper wafers called "Stammbuchblümchen" and later by photographs.

Introductory literature (selection)

Hess, Gilbert: Literatur im Lebenszusammenhang. Text- und Bedeutungskonstituierung im Stammbuch Herzog Augusts des Jüngeren von Braunschweig-Lüneburg (1579-1666). Frankfurt/M. u.a. 2002 (Mikrokosmos, 67). Link to SLUB catalogue.

Kurras, Lotte: In good memory. Cultural-historical miniatures from genealogical books of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum 1570-1770. Munich 1987. Link to the SLIB catalogue.

Loesch, Perk: Der Freundschaft Denkmal. Stammbücher und Poesiealben aus fünf Jahrhunderten im Bestand der Sächsischen Landesbibliothek - Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden, Dresden 2003. Link to SLUB catalogue.

Ludwig, Walther: Das Stammbuch als Bestandteil humanistischer Kultur. The Album of Heinrich Carlhack Hermeling (1587-1592). Göttingen 2006 (Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen, Phil.-hist. Klasse, 3rd series, 274). Link to SLUB catalogue.

Schnabel, Werner Wilhelm: Das Stammbuch. Constitution and history of a textual collection form up to the first third of the 18th century. Tübingen 2003 (Early Modern Period, 78). Link to SLUB catalogue.

Taegert, Werner: Edler Schatz holden Erinnerns. Pictures in family books of the State Library Bamberg from four centuries. Bamberg 1995. Link to the SLUB catalogue.

A comprehensive bibliography on the subject can be found on the page Repertorium Alborum Amicorum, the family book directory of the Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg.