Guest post by Ute Schneider, Gutenberg Institute for World Literature and Written Media / Book Studies, JGU Mainz
This anthology contains the contributions to a conference organised in 2016 by the project “Autorenbibliotheken: Materialität – Wissensordnung – Performanz” in the Forschungsverbund Marbach Weimar Wolfenbüttel. The conference contributions were supplemented by further thematically related studies. The centre of interest in the joint research project are author libraries, opened up as sources, as witnesses for networks and communication structures, with prominent private libraries such as Goethe’s library in Weimar or the library of the bibliophile Karl Wolfskehl in Marbach and scholarly libraries of the early modern period in Wolfenbüttel.
Two focal points of the volume “Sammlungsstrategien und Schreibverfahren” (Collection Strategies and Writing Techniques) are mentioned in the title. They are presented thematically in five clusters: (1) Inventories: Tradition and indexing; (2) Material questions: The library as “source”; (3) Reading, excerpting, quoting: Creation of contexts; (4) dedications and annotations; (5) Presentation of the library: Boundaries and demarcations. However, this structure is not quite convincing in terms of content, as you can see while reading the individual articles. In principle, most contributions are based on the materiality of the respective collection. And materiality also includes the use of pictorial sources, as Ulrike Gleixner clearly points out in her well-founded article on early modern female author libraries. But even virtual, reconstructed holdings serve to “establish context”, independent of the situation of the tradition and the depth of the indexing. A classic source of reconstruction are auction catalogues of scholarly libraries. Some of the presented libraries have only been handed down through auction catalogues. Yong-Mi Rauch, for instance, uses these sources, among others, to develop the panorama of scholar libraries at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität zu Berlin in the 19th century.
After a constructive thematic introduction by Stefan Höppner on collecting and writing books and Dirk Werle on authorship and library from a literary-theoretical perspective, 17 case studies of individual libraries are presented, in which the opportunities and limits of their expressiveness are explored through the contexts in which works were created, the horizons of experience and the interests of authors. The period covered ranges from the 17th to the 20th century: from Duke August the Younger (Alexander Nebrig) via Herder (Sarah Ruppe) and Bettine von Arnim (Yvonne Pietsch) to Stefan George (Ute Oelmann), Karl Wolfskehl (Caroline Jessen) and Maxie Wander (Doreen Mildner). The examined authors cover the spectrum from the classical book scholar of the early modern period to the literary writer of the modern age. Commonalities and similarities in dealing with the book as a medium nevertheless become evident, e.g. in the preparation of catalogues of one’s own library. Book catalogues made by Herder in 1776, Johann Christian Gottfried Jahn in 1754-1758 (Jörn Münkner), August Boeckhs around 1800 (Julia Doborosky) and Maxie Wanders in 1972 set the time frame. Alexander Nebrig examines the bookwheel catalogue Herzog Augusts the Younger, a “machine-like catalogue” (p. 174), produced 1625-1648, as a literary-critical work.
One aim of the anthology is to stimulate methodological discussion (p. 15). In my opinion, this goal is most likely to be realized in the contributions of Dieter Martin (Wieland’s private library and Weimar loans as complementary sources of his essay writing), Claudine Moulin (marginalia and other secondary entries in author libraries), and Stefan Höppner (Resonances. Book gifts in Goethe’s library). The latter testifies to Goethe’s position as the “central figure of literary life” (p. 264) not only in Germany, but also in other European and North American countries. Goethe’s collection strategies of book gifts focus on his own work politics, which led to less important literature also finding its place. Clément Fradín with Paul Celan’s poem Unverwahrt and Sascha Seiler with the example of Roberto Bolaño present concrete proof of reception and reflections on his own library.
Ulrike Steierwald (Conversations with strangers) has succinctly summed up the quintessence of the anthology: Author’s libraries are to be interpreted as “material spaces of the possible”, textual and experiential contexts become visible in author’s libraries, but their significance for the work cannot be recorded (p. 310).