The Electronic Labyrinth

Album Amicorum

The album amicorum is a predecessor to the modern autograph book. Inscriptions in the amicorum, however, were contributed by personal friends and were often a few pages in length. According to the British Library:

The album amicorum or "book of friends" originated in Germany about the middle of the 16th century and very quickly became fashionable among students moving from one university to another in the course of their academic careers. Professors as well as fellow students made their contribution to these pages and some of the albums contain inscriptions by major scholars of the day.

Many of the albums also contain illustrations, sometimes contributed by the signatories themselves and sometimes commissioned by professional artists working in a manner directly descended from that of the illuminators of earlier centuries.

One of the best surviving examples is the album amicorum of Gervasius Fabricus zu Klesheim which was written during the years 1603-37. Klesheim was a student at Würzburg in 1603-4 and afterwards entered into the service of the Archbishop of Salzburg.

The album amicorum was necessarily the product of multiple authorship, in this it resembled the commonplace book. Moreover the book was authored, in a literal sense, by its contributors, and, in a literary sense, by its readers who constructed a narrative of acquaintance by interpreting the contributions.

© 1993-2000 Christopher Keep, Tim McLaughlin, Robin Parmar.
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