Students’ manuscript album of calligraphic samples and drawings. Johann Martin STUDENTICUM – RÖMHILDT.
Students’ manuscript album of calligraphic samples and drawings.
Students’ manuscript album of calligraphic samples and drawings.
Students’ manuscript album of calligraphic samples and drawings.
Students’ manuscript album of calligraphic samples and drawings.

Students’ manuscript album of calligraphic samples and drawings. Hildburghausen, 1767.

Manuscript, folio (332 x +/- 209 mm). [56] leaves, of which about half written on one side only, for a total of 55 pages plus 6 double-page openings: two pen-and-ink drawings (a town view in an ornamental border and a palatial garden) and four double-page calligraphic samples. Written in black and brown ink, red and green inks used for one sample [p. 56], in various scripts with abundant calligraphic capitals and lettering. Papers of varying weights, with at least three different armorial watermarks. Later pagination in pencil. Lower edge of first leaf strengthened on verso, some mostly marginal soiling and occasional browning, staining to pp. [55]-[58], slight smudging of black ink in the last double-page sample. Early 20th-century boards (worn, tears to backstrip). Provenance: Friedrich Soennecken: Schriftmuseum F. Soennecken, Bonn, printed label on front pastedown, object no. 4542 supplied in manuscript.***

A manuscript calligraphic album compiled by a group of students, including several orphans, containing calligraphic display pieces and exercises, including two fine double-page pen-and ink drawings.

The level of skill varies in the album, the most obviously accomplished calligrapher and draftsman being Johann Martin Römhildt, who identifies himself in the two lower cartouches of the opening double-page drawing of Vienna, as “Johann Martin Römhildt / In Friedrichs Anstalt erübet. Zu Hildburghausen, der 18 Julij 1767,” and who signs the other drawing and the best display pieces. The Friedrichs Anstalt (Friedrich’s Institution) in which Römhildt states he was trained may have been the Hildburghausen orphanage (Waisenhaus), which later became a hospital: several of the students are identified as orphans.

The rest of the album contains sample documents, examples of forms of epistolary address with the opening words in ornate gothic or Fraktur lettering, and prose and verse quotations from various authors, written mainly in Kurrentschrift and signed by about 25 different students. Several are identified, in a different hand (the teacher’s?) as Quartaner (fourth-year students), Secundaner (second-year students) and a number also as Waysen Knabe[n] (orphans). The last 13 written pages are arithmetical problems, with demonstrations of how to work them out, each signed by a different boy (from the same group as the calligraphic section). Except for small details of the garden drawing, the drawings and calligraphic lettering are in black ink, while the captions and Kurrentschrift passages are in brown ink.

Römhildt’s opening double-page drawing shows a view of Vienna at the center of a lavish ornate border of rococo ornamentation including acanthus leaves, shells, flowers, garlands, etc. At each side is an armored knight and at top center the double imperial eagle holding a sword in one claw and orb in the other, flanked by cartouches containing a lion rampant and a Lorraine cross atop a crown on a mound. Below the town view is a citation of Psalm 127.1, "Wo der herr nicht die Stadt behütet" in ornate twisted letters; Herr Römhildt however failed to leave enough room for the last word, which is written below in regular small script in brown ink.

Hildburghausen at the time was ruled by Ernst Friedrich III, Duke of Saxe-Hildburghausen, an intelligent Enlightenment prince, interested in the arts and science, who endowed his city with such amenities as a library and a theater, before he was eventually accused of overspending. The first double-page calligraphic sample, immediately following the city view, is an ornate dedication to the Duke; it is signed from “all the students and their teacher, Johann Andreas Geiger / written [by?] / Johann Martin Römhildt.” The Duke’s coat-of-arms is set within a trophy of emblematic military motifs at the head of the second double-page sample [pp. [14-15], an imposing decorative Urkunde (document or deed), with large ornamental capitals occupying the entire left margin, and in which the Duke’s many titles are spelled out at length. It is signed by Römhildt at the foot, with the note Erste Probe (”first sample”). The third double-page sample [pp. 66-67], an extract from a poem with the first lines in ornate calligraphy, is signed by Johann Paulus Lobenstein and dated Hildburghausen, 5 July 1767; and the fourth [pp. 80-81] is signed Johann Ludwig Theodor Tauschunberg (or Tauschenberg) and dated 29 April. Two other samples are dated 20 April and 12 July of the same year.

Römhildt’s double-page garden drawing [pp. 76-77], set within a border imitating a picture frame, shows a garden à la française in the foreground with two symmetrical parterres de broderie, each with a central fountain and border of pyramidal topiary, flanking a wide central alley in which strolls a gardener. In the background each parterre is bordered by a peristyle giving onto forest; the central alley leads to a large and ornate garden pavilion, behind which to the left can be seen the massive Schloss. Below it is the caption “Strömt der Himmel Thau und Regen / Zeicht sich gleich darauf der Seegen” (When heaven streams dew and rain, blessings will soon be revealed), and Römhildt’s signature. Römhildt may have been training as a professional scribe or clerk, but he appears more likely to have been the star pupil at a time when a high level of writing skills and draftsmanship was expected of students.

This manuscript was in the collection of Friedrich Soennecken (1848-1919), a well-known inventor and manufacturer of pens and other office supplies, whose collection on the history of writing and calligraphy became the “Schriftmuseum F. Soennecken,” which was dissolved, and the collection dispersed, in 1968. On the Hildburghausen orphanage, cf. D. Voit, Das Herzogthum Sachsen-Meiningen (Gotha 1844), pp. 146-147. Item #2997

Price: $3,800.00