Art dealer and diplomat Philipp Hainhofer's 227-page volume collects the signatures of over seventy-five of Europe’s most notable seventeenth-century nobles. A richly illustrated album amicorum — a kind of friendship book for preserving the autographs of acquaintances — the Große Stammbuch was renowned in Hainhofer’s lifetime, becoming one of Augsburg’s must-see artworks. This vellum Kunstkammer brings together the royal, semi-divine hands of the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II , King of Denmark Christian IV  and Cosimo II de’ Medici  with exquisite drawings, a painting on silk, and embroidered panels made by dozens of artists, including Georg Behem, Tobias Bernhard, Joseph Heintz, Johann Mathias Kager, Lucas Kilian, Jacopo Ligozzi, and Anton Mozart.
The cosmopolitan connoisseur Hainhofer rarely traveled without his Stammbuch, which he showed off to a wide network of aristocrats to win new contributions. A single entry was often the result of months spent negotiating with a signatory and artists. Though occasionally a royal would commission her own page, Hainhofer usually had the leaves painted to his taste, which the duchess or king would then sign and otherwise personalize (with mottos or brief inscriptions). Expenses — paid by the contributor — ranged from ten to fifty ducats. By 1610, Hainhofer was regularly receiving invitations for personal audiences with potential autographers. And, in September 1612, when Hainhofer visited François de Lorraine  to solicit his hand, the Count attempted to keep the book by force, only surrendering it after the diplomatic intervention of the Elector of Cologne.
Hainhofer’s passion for natural history encircles the earliest signatures, gathered from university friends while he was an eighteen-year-old law student in Padua and Siena. The borders of entries by Ludwig Eberhard , the Count of Schwarzenberg , and Georg Christoph Ursenpeckh  harbor a menagerie of Italian birds, insects, and reptiles. For Johann Christoph, Baron of Puchaim , Hainhofer had an unidentified artist feature the red admiral butterfly, hinting perhaps at the signatory’s delicate qualities. There are also two double-page paintings of flora and fauna [138 and 180], one planted with Tulipa — the Asian import that led to horticultural mania in the first half of the seventeenth century.
Coats-of-arms grace most of the Stammbuch’s pages, flanked by an array of intriguing allegorical figures and scenes that attest to the virtues of the signers, only a few of whom were sufficiently intimate with Hainhofer to be considered sui amico, “his friend”. By all accounts, the polyglot Hainhofer was as charming as the most dashing courtiers. Cultivating an insider’s ease with both trade guildsmen and emperors, he possessed expert knowledge of art, music, literature, and history. Famous for wearing a vial of fragrant rose balm around his neck, Hainhofer was genteel enough to win the favor of a dozen women royals, including Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia .
Hainhofer is best known to art historians for having overseen the creation of the Pommerscher Kunstschrank, an elaborate wonder cabinet for Philip II, Duke of Pomerania, his most important client and surely the closest friend included in the Stammbuch. Outside of Rudolf II and Cosimo II de’ Medici, Philip is the only person to merit two pages in the album. Facing the page bearing his motto and signature , we find a miniature portrait in black ink with liquid gold framing and decoration, fringed by four hymns of praise to the Lord. A Latin verse below declares that Philip’s “task was to polish the genius of the Muses”, which largely came about through his collaboration with Hainhofer. Lines of German text delineate Philip’s clothing and facial features, but they are difficult to decipher. That is one of the many labors left for the Herzog August Bibliothek’s scholars, who are in the midst of a three-year research project to fully explore the intricacies of the Stammbuch, a book the library's founder had, in fact, attempted to buy in 1648, a year after Hainhofer's death. Subsequently disappearing into private collections for nearly three centuries, it resurfaced at a London auction in 1931, and in 2020, for a princely sum of $3.1 million, the Große Stammbuch finally arrived at the library in Wolfenbüttel.
You can browse the whole book in the embedded reader above and find our highlights from its pages in the gallery below. For more on seventeenth-century friendship books check out our Curator's Choice essay “Boys will be Boys” by Lynley Anne Herbert, and for a later example see our post on the album amicorum of Anne Wagner.
Mar 17, 2022