From the Reading Room – English Goethe Society Archives.

Fabienne Schopf of the University of Stuttgart has been in the Reading Room consulting the archives of the English Goethe Society and I asked her why:

I am consulting documents, e.g. letters, annual reports and the Publications of the English Goethe Society (EGS), London. I am especially interested in the period between 1886, when the Society was founded, until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.  A similar society, the Goethe-Gesellschaft was founded in 1885 at Weimar, Germany.  My master’s thesis will compare and analyze the efforts and publications of the societies

Founded in 1886 with the aims ‘to promote and extend the study of Goethe’s work and thought, and to encourage original research upon all subjects connected with Goethe’ (English Goethe Society, First Annual Report presented at a Business Meeting 1 December 1886), the English Goethe Society continues to be active today. 

Many of the Society’s records were lost in the bombing of University College London in 1940, where they were stored at the time.  The core of the papers now available to researchers at Senate House Library was in the possession of Ella Oswald, the daughter of Dr Eugen Oswald, a founder of the Society, and were depositied with The Institute of Germanic Studies in 1955.

The collection now consists of c.1500 items, with the majority of them catalogued online.  Among the the collection’s files of correspondence, administrative records and publications are some more unusual artifacts, including fragments of Goethe’s hair (EGS.5.2.PER (iii)), 18th-century silhouettes (EGS.5.2.SIL) and a bust of Goethe. 

 EGS uncat-4652

EGS 5.2 Sil-4659


Pseudo-Clemens Romanus: a 9th-century manuscript fragment

Fragments of manuscripts make up a large part of the Library’s holdings of medieval material, having come into the Library through various means: as gifts, as teaching examples, and in the bindings of other manuscripts and early printed books: the majority of the fragments originate from the practice of re-using the parchment of dismembered manuscripts as raw material for bindings.  The manuscript fragments continue to be chiefly used for teaching of palaeography and codicology, but fragments can also be an important vehicle for the survival of texts, and contribute to the reconstruction of lost or imperfect manuscripts.  An example from the collections here is a vellum binding fragment from the Auchinleck manuscript (MS593) which has been digitally reunited with other fragments to provide a fuller facsimile of the manuscript held at the National Library of Scotland.  Many of the fragments in the collection are described in Rowan Watson’s Descriptive list of fragments of medieval manuscripts in the University of London Library.   

Image of the verso of the fragment

Verso: Ref. Flood 1/Closs/ box 67/2

An image of the fragments recto

Recto: Ref. Flood 1/Closs/ box 67/2

However one of the earliest significant fragments held here, dating from the 9th century, is not covered by this list and is found in the papers of the Closs/ Priebsch Family, one of the collections of the Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies Library.  The fragment (ref. Flood 1/ Closs/ box 67/2) is a section of the Recognitiones Clementis, an important work of the early church in the form of a philosophical and theological romance, using the disciples as characters in a continuing narrative.  The text is associated with Pope Clement I, but is of undetermined authorship.  The Clementine narratives have been dated possibly to the third century CE and have survived in two forms: the Homilies of which the original Greek manuscripts survive, and the Recognitions, for which the original Greek has been lost, but the text has been transmitted through  a c.4th-century translation by Rufinus of Aquileia.  The Closs fragment includes book II, verses 8-12 of Rufinus’ version.  It appears to have been first recorded in 1991 by John L. Flood in his description of medieval manuscripts in the Priebsch-Closs Collection: Die mittelalterlichen Handschriften der Bibliothek des Institute of Germanic Studies, London.  It is in two columns written in a fine, early Caroline minuscule, the standardised European book-hand created and spread under the patronage of Charlemagne in the 8th century, on West German parchment, and has been dated to the first half of the 9th century (Flood, p. 326).  The fragment was most likely used as the endpapers in a quarto-sized binding, but of its provenance beyond belonging to Closs, nothing is known (not unusual for a loose binding fragment).  Intriguingly, Flood suggests there may be a relationship with BL Add. MS 18400, a manuscript of German origin which includes a version of the same text dated to the 10th century.

The Closs/ Priebsch papers are comprised of a range of material, including a small number of significant medieval German manuscripts and manuscript fragments collected by August Closs, a former professor of German at Bristol University.   As well as this fragment, there are also 14th-century binding fragments and a late 15th-century manuscript of Heinrich Seuse’s Buch von der ewigen Weisheit and a collection of fragments of German poetry of the 13th/14th centuries (Flood, nos.3-5 ; Closs/ box 67/ 4, i and ii).  The Priebsch-Closs collection of books forms the core of the IGRS special collections and includes material from the 15th to the 20th century.

From the Reading Room

This week Simon Mick (Albert-Ludwigs-Universitat, Freiburg) was in the reading room consulting the Friedrich Gundolf archive which belongs to the Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies (IGRS), part of the School of Advanced Study, University of London.

Gundolf was a literary scholar and a poet.  He rejected an ahistorical approach to the study of literature and his new way of thinking sought to ground great writers such as Goethe and Shakespeare firmly in their own time and culture.  He was interested not just in the texts themselves but also the wider effects that those texts had.

I asked Simon which parts of the archive interested him in particular and how they were relevant to his wider research.  “My search in the archives is mainly a quest to find unpublished poems by Gundolf concerning the death of another member of the George circle (1) – Maximilian Kronberger.  In two of the archive files I found 3 definitely unpublished poems and possibly some others.  I also found an early draft of a poem published later.  After looking at the files concerning Gundolf’s poems I consulted correspondence between several members of the George circle again looking for material relating to the death(s) of any of the circle.  I am carrying out research for my PhD concerning the ‘Poetic Sepulchral Culture of the George Circle’; I am trying to locate every piece of poetic or literary evidence concerning the deaths and/or mourning of members of the circle.  My focus is on the form of the poems regarding mourning alongside associated sociological issues.” 

(1) Stefan George was at the centre of the ‘George Kreis’ an influential grouping of academics and young writers.  He also published  the journal Blätter für die Kunst.