Album Amicorum – Matthew Mickelson (May 2018)

Watch the video story of how Count Ludwig Eberhard’s Album Amicorum traveled from his own personal archives to the University of Wisconsin Special Collections.

Listen to the DHRN (Digital Humanities Research Network) interview where Matthew talks about his experiences researching the Album Amicorum and making the videos for this project.



Written by Matthew Mickelson

Location: UW-Madison Special Collections

Video 1: The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Special Collections division holds many rare books and manuscripts in their collection. Among their many rare books is a rather plain looking one that probably wouldn’t catch one’s eye, which gives proof to the saying that one cannot judge a book by its cover. The book is an album amicorum, attributed to Count Ludwig Eberhard von Hohenlohe-Waldenburg. Album amicorums, or “stammbuchs” in German, are the precursor to what is commonly known today as autograph books and yearbooks. They were popular among university students from the 15th to the 19th centuries and often included short poems, illustrations, and coats of arms. Ludwig Eberhard’s album amicorum is no exception. It includes thirty-five pages of drawings and text featuring the coats-of arms of several prominent European families from the 1600s. Eberhard came into contact with these families while studying at the University of Strasbourg between 1605 and 1609. Some of the names include Johann Albertus dux Megapolitanus, Victor Welzer ab Ebersfain, and Rúdolpho de Haberland. In line with contemporary practices, Eberhard’s friends sign their names under their respective coats of arms. For example, Rúdolpho de Haberland Geneva Allobrogúm writes, “to the illustrious and noble Lord Ludwig Eberhard, count of Hohenlohe and lord of Langenburg, I have written this little thing by Rudolph de Haverland. Geneva, September 24, 1607.”

Location: Pfedelbach

Video 2: To better understand the man behind the album, let’s take a closer look at the life of Count Ludwig Eberhard. Ludwig Eberhard was born on January 19, 1590 to Count Georg Friedrich I and Dorothea. Eberhard grew up in the town of Pfedelbach, located in the Baden-Württemberg state of what is today Germany. When Ludwig was ten years old, his father passed away, leaving Eberhard and his younger brothers, Philipp Heinrich and Georg Friedrich II, as heirs. The estate was divided equally among them and each created a new family lineage. Eberhard continued the Pfedelbach line and took up residence at the Castle Pfedelbach. Between 1605 and 1609, he studied at the University of Strasbourg, which is where he compiled his album. Upon graduating, Eberhard married Dorothea Erbach, the daughter of Count Georg of Erbach on October 28, 1610. Together, the couple had eight children, five daughters and three sons, including his youngest son Hiskias.

Location: Obermarchtal

Video 3: Much of Ludwig Eberhard’s adult life was spent either in war or protecting the interests of his family as well as the region of Pfedelbach. During the Thirty Years War, Ludwig supported Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden. The Thirty Years War was a conflict fought primarily between the forces of the Holy Roman Empire and the forces from Sweden, the Dutch Republic, and France. The cause of the war was the Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand II of Bohemia, attempting to limit the freedom of his Protestant subjects. The resulting conflict laid waste to much of continental Europe and was finally resolved with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. The peace treaty led to a greater toleration of Christian religions in the European states and more territory was granted to Sweden and France, thus limiting the role of the Holy Roman Empire in European politics. In return for his service, Ludwig was granted the monastery at Obermarchtal in Germany in 1632. Soon after, he traveled there with Michael von Freyberg-Öpfingen, his wife Countess Amalie of the Rhine, and Johann Lehausen, the royal secretary to Adolphus. Though expecting a warm greeting, the four were arrested upon arriving in Obermatchtal while their company of guards was massacred by Imperialist forces of the Holy Roman Empire. While Amalie was immediately released, the other three were handed over to Wolf Rudolf von Ossa. In April of 1633, Eberhard and Freyberg were exchanged for two counts held in Swedish captivity. Following the defeat of Swedish forces at the Battle of Nördlingen in 1634, Eberhard felt it too dangerous to remain in Pfedelbach and decided to move his family and his library to Worms. Eberhard died in 1650 at the age of sixty, shortly after the family had returned to Pfedelbach. His son Hiskias inherited the comital title and with it the album amicorum book that his father had scribed while at university. The album was later given to Hiskias’s son Ludwig Gottfried von Hohenlohe-Waldenburg-Pfedelbach when he died in 1685. What is amazing is that through all this turmoil, Ludwig held on to the album, something others may have left behind had they been forced to relocate their family.

Location: Region of Pfedelbach

Video 4: Ludwig Gottfried followed in his grandfather’s footsteps and became count of the family while also obtaining the rank of a German officer. During his youth, he studied at the Collegium illustre in Tübingen. His position as an officer required him to travel regularly and he took a trip to Holland in 1685, where he paid a visit to William, the Prince of Orange, and future King of England. He would later traveled to Switzerland in 1686 and two years later would leave for Spain. On his return journey, he first stopped in Paris before being forced to take a detour through Switzerland as a result of France’s invasion of Philippsburg. When he finally returned, he took over as Governor of Pfedelbach, a position his mother had held since the death of his father. On October 27, 1687, he married Luise Charlotte, Countess of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, but the marriage remained childless. Between 1712 and 1713, Ludwig built a small castle on a hill overlooking Pfedelbach, which he named Charlottenschlössle, or Charlottenburg, in honor of his wife. Sadly, the castle was badly damaged by artillery fire during World War II and was rebuilt as a barn by some local residents thereafter. Throughout his life, he suffered from bronchitis and gout, which contributed to his death on September 18, 1728, after succumbing to pneumonia. In 1730, his wife and sister placed an epitaph over his grave with a tear through the middle of his name, symbolizing that his line of the family died out upon his death. In his will, Gottfried left the album to the Historical Association for Württembergisch Franconian, a local historical society, or “Kunst-cabinet,” in Schwäbisch Hall.

Location: Schwabisch Hall

Video 5: While the book was housed at the historical society, a descendent of Ludwig Eberhard, Ludwig von-Hohenlohe-Kirchberg added an inscription to the first page of the book, detailing its creation and journey from Eberhard to the historical society. Ludwig was born in 1786 to parents Christian Friedrich Karl zu Hohenlohe-Kirchberg, Fürst, and his second wife, Countess Philippine Sophie Ernestine von Isenburg-Büdingen-Philippseich. Little is known about Ludwig aside from his inscription which is dated 1825. He passed away in 1836. The album remained at the historical society through at least 1878. Evidence of this was found in a book compiled by the University of Harvard Library detailing a list of books and manuscripts relating to the history of that region of Europe. This book was presented to Prince Henry of Prussia upon his visit to Harvard University in 1902. This volume, known as the Württembergisch Franken, Jahrbuch des Historischen Vereins für Württembergisch Franken and is available in digital version at the Harvard University Library as well as through Google Books.

Location: University of Wisconsin, Memorial Library Special Collections

Video 6: What happened to the album after 1878 is unclear. One theory is that during World War II, the album was taken by Allied troops. The region was bombed heavily during the War and was part of the area that was surrendered to forces of General Patton’s 3rd Army. During and following the War, the doors of Neuenstein Castle and the Hohenlohe Central Archive where the book may have been housed were left open, giving anyone an opportunity to come in and take the book, if indeed it was still there. Several letters written after the War reference the occupation of the area by American troops and that several things from the castle were either stolen or damaged with the total amount of damage estimated at about 262,000 Reichsmark. Of this, roughly 20,000 was a result of stolen or damaged books and manuscripts. Similar occurrences took place during the War. A great example can be found at the University of Iowa in the Digital Library division. A collection of sermons, written sometime between 1385 and 1400 by Albertus de Padua, were won in a poker game by an American soldier stationed in Europe. Books were not the only items won in poker games however. European artwork was often traded at these games and brought back to the United States by returning soldiers. Although this is just a theory, what is known is that in 1997, Eberhard’s album re-surfaced at the University of Wisconsin Madison’s Special Collections, where it has been held since then. Given that the book is around four hundred years old, it is in relatively good shape, aside from some minor fire damage and its front cover having fallen off at some point. One thing of note is that page seventy-seven of the manuscript has been torn out, leaving just a remnant of what appears to be a painting done by Eberhard. The book can be viewed in person by patrons at Special Collections and offers us a glimpse into the world of the 17th century, a world of great artistry and heraldry.