Spectacular highlights from the seventeenth-century library of Duke August of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, one the world's greatest bibliophiles, made a rare appearance outside Germany at the Grolier Club from 8 December 1998 through 6 February 1999.
Among the manuscript treasures on display was a 9th-century Gospel book from Tours, a Gospel lectionary illuminated at Reichenau in the early 11th century, the priceless 14th-century Sachsenspiegel (the first legal codex in the German language, as well as a landmark in medieval manuscript illumination), a Wycliffe Bible, and a 15th-century psalter belonging to Queen Beatrix of Hungary, formerly part of the renowned Corvine collection of Italian illuminated manuscripts.
Printed books in the exhibition included the "September Testament" Luther Bible translation printed in September 1522, and a very rare 1517 presentation copy on vellum of the Theuerdank, a chivalric poem commissioned by Emperor Maximilian I to comemmorate his wooing of Maria of Burgundy.
The works in this exhibition span seven centuries and document a lifetime of collecting by Duke August of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (1579-1666). At his death the Duke owned over 135,000 printed books and 3,000 manuscripts, and his library was celebrated as the "eighth wonder of the world." Widely travelled and the product of a humanist education, the Duke was an author and a scholar, and acted as his own librarian. The planned nature and scale of his book-buying activities, as well as the unique structure of his library and its catalogues, continue to this day to fascinate scholars and bibliophiles.
At his death, the Duke's last will and testament declared his "sincere wish, opinion and command, that the [library], with all its appurtenances, catalogues, globes, mathematical instruments, all the books, both bound and unbound … should as one entity forever be, remain, and be kept in this our residence …." And so it remains to this day.
The collections of Duke August now form the core of the Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel, a modern research center with a wide-ranging program of scholarly and cultural events, which joined the Grolier Club and the Goethe Institut in sponsoring this event. The treasures on display represent the cream of Duke August's own personal collection, and many of them appeared in America (or indeed anywhere outside Germany) for the first time. The Grolier Club was the sole venue for this exhibition.
An illustrated catalogue accompanied the exhibition.