I’m sure many Library visitors will miss the richness, beauty and textures of the manuscripts they saw in Handwritten. I, for one, will greatly miss the privilege of seeing works by Mozart, Bach, Michelangelo and Galileo on a regular basis.
In this post, I want to offer some consolation, not just to myself, by exploring some of the links between the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin’s manuscripts in Handwritten and the National Library of Australia’s collections. All you need is a reader’s card and a means of getting here.
The Library’s entire collection is vast at over 10 million items. It holds the published correspondence of many names in Handwritten including Descartes, Voltaire and Dickens, relevant secondary research and facsimile and early printed scores of most of the music. Of greatest interest, when considering links to Handwritten, are some rare first editions and works of art.
Many people know the Library’s collection is very rich in material relating to Cook’s three Pacific voyages (1768-1779), highlights from which are exhibited in the Library’s Treasures Gallery. Johann Reinhold Forster’s journal, one volume of which was included in Handwritten, captures Forster’s experiences on the second voyage (1772-1775), and complements the Library’s chalk portraits of people encountered by William Hodges, official draughtsman on that voyage. Two portraits are currently on display in the Treasures Gallery.
Isaac Newton’s Handwritten letter to a diplomat has a counterpart in a 17th-century book once owned by Newton. He has signed his name inside the front cover. The Library has the rare 1813 Russian account of Krusenstern’s voyage around the world (1803-1806), which Tilesius von Tilenau accompanied as artist and naturalist. It also has a first edition of Johannes Kepler’s Rudolphine tables, work for which Kepler requested payment in his Handwritten letter.
The Library also has strong collections of material relating to the Dunera Boys, the c.2500 mostly Austrian and German men and boys interned and sent to Australia from Britain in 1940. We drew on these for an exhibition in 2010. These items relate to the short story in Handwritten by Dunera Boy Walter Kaufmann. Further, the Library has a watercolour by artist and adventurer Jacques Arago to whom Louis Braille wrote his Handwritten letter, pictured below. This is an Australian bird encountered on Arago’s voyage with Freycinet on the Uranie (1817-1820).
Yet perhaps the Library’s collection with some echo of the manuscripts of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin benefactor, the industrial chemist Ludwig Darmstaedter, is that of Edward Augustus Petherick whose staggering collection includes letters by some of the greatest names in history. Within it are letters by Roald Amundsen, Jane Austen, George Eliot, Florence Nightingale, Mark Twain, the Duke of Wellington and William Wordsworth to name but a few. And there’s much more in store …