The Auction of 1849/50 and the Structure of Tieck’s Library

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Many libraries of poets and scholars have come down to us at least indirectly via normally posthumous auction catalogues. Tieck was 76 years old when he released his books for an auction. We can assume a number of motives for this decision: his landlord of the flat in Friedrichstraße 208 objected to the massive expanse of books due to their weight, and his brother was in urgent need of money, but the main motive for parting with his books in the year after the March revolution most likely pertains to psychological reasons and bad health. On 25 February 1849, Tieck sold his library to the Berlin auctioneer Adolf Asher for the comprehensive price of 7000 Taler, with a down payment of 2000 Taler. The question remains unsolved why he undertook the legal risk of this transaction at a time when the library was no longer in his possession: on 8 June 1839, Tieck had already sold his library to the publisher Heinrich Brockhaus for 6000 Taler, to be paid as an annual pension of 300 Taler, and under the condition that Tieck would be guaranteed the usufruct during his lifetime. When Brockhaus, informed by a third party, found the sale confirmed by the auctioneer, a scandal could only be avoided by the intervention of Tieck’s friend Friedrich von Raumer, who convinced Brockhaus to officially sell the library back to Tieck on 14 April 1849. Thus the auction could take place as announced in the Börsenblatt on 30 November 1849. The antiquarian Albert Cohn had already begun in 1848 with an examination of the library to prepare an auction catalogue, Catalogue de la bibliothèque célèbre de M. Ludwig Tieck… This rare and important source was published with a short preface by Erich Carlson in 1970 under the title Bibliotheca Tieckiana as a reprint, which lacks the original fly leaf and the cover with an important list of abbreviations. Only this list allows a full usage of the catalogue, where an asterisk marks copies with notable marginalia. Of similar importance is the (not always reliable) hint “n.r.” (“non rogné”), marking uncut copies. The catalogue, lacking detailed description, was conceived for the standards of that time, i.e., no longer dividing the books according to their size, but is still difficult to use as Asher’s main concern was not to present the library as an organic unity of books, but to meet the demand of potential customers. The catalogue contains the following categories: A. “Langue et litérature” [sic] with German, English, Asian, Spanish and Portuguese, French, Greek, Dutch, Italian, Latin, Scandinavian, Slavic literature, B. “Histoire” with general history, biographies, geography and travel literature, C. “Histoire litéraire [sic] et biblio-graphie” and D. literature concerning theatre. The categorie E. “Miscallenées” contains all other books. All in all, the catalogue lists 7930 items, many of them consisting of works with more than one volume. The fact that the numbers BT 1603-1619 of German literature and BT 7856-7930 are dedicated to “livres omis” allows the deduction that Asher insisted on the complete delivery of all books, including those which were actually in use or which had only just been acquired. Also the mysterious manuscript after Fiorillo (ÖNB Wien, Ms. 12.821; Hölter 1987, 134-150) must have been sold via this business connection. The division of books into categories is not helpful for scientific usage, as works of the same author are separated into different groups. Furthermore, the catalogue contains a large section of American literature which did not belong to Tieck’s library. After the auction had been postponed to 18 December 1849 out of consideration for the Russian collector S. Sobolevsky, Asher started with the section of Spanish literature and went on to the history section before Christmas. The auction terminated on 10 January 1850. We have reports about the course of the auction from Ferdinand Joseph Wolf, agent of the Court Library in Vienna, and his superior, Hofbibliothek director Eligius Franz Joseph Frh. von Münch-Bellinghausen (known as a playwright under the pseudonym of Friedrich Halm). Asher’s business policy caused a scandal because he had already sold parts of the library en bloc. The curate of the British Museum’s library, Antonio Panizzi, had gained a right of preemption especially for German literature (works of Goethe and Tieck) and for precious English books, so that about one tenth of the offered items went to London before the auction even started. Asher simply skipped over these numbers as “missing” and omitted German, Scandinavian and Dutch literature (up to BT 1620) altogether. Not all of the great European libraries had sent agents – it appears that Paris, Leipzig, Wolfenbüttel and Dresden did not participate. The libraries of Göttingen, Halle/Saale and Munich bought some dozen books each. Apart from London, the largest contingent seems to have gone to Vienna, where Wolf had also secretly made preemptive arrangements with the auctioneer. The Royal Library in Berlin bid for 344 titles, but obtained only 125. Unsold books were offered for fixed prices (Catalogue d’une collection précieuse… 1850). In addition, one has to consider the returns from the auction. The situation is complicated by the fact that King Friedrich Wilhelm IV had bought some of the Spanish dramas back from Asher beforehand and restored them to Tieck as a Christmas present. Tieck himself regretted the dispersion of his collection, which was even more lamentable as Brockhaus had written in 1844: “I do not know yet what to do with Tieck’s library, which will come into my possession sooner or later. It is likely I will donate it to a public institution.” Following a rash impulse, Tieck began to build up a second library in only two years’ time. . It is difficult to understand: with whose money, in what dimension and from which sources? And on 19 May 1852, history repeated itself: Tieck sold his second library to his friend, the Silesian Count Yorck von Wartenburg, again for the sum of 6000 Taler and again under the condition that the books become Yorck’s property as a complete collection only after Tieck’s death. The Spanish books bought back by the King, which were to go to the Berlin library, were excluded from this legacy. During this last year of his life, Tieck had his library catalogued by his secretary Dammas (no such document found) and his servant Glaser put the seal of Yorck von Wartenburg into each book.

Further information: Achim Hölter und Paul Ferstl: „Die Bibliothek Ludwig Tiecks und ihre Rekonstruktion. Mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der an die K.K. Hofbibliothek verkauften Bestände.” In: Biblos. Beiträge zu Buch, Bibliothek und Schrift 64.1 (2015), S. 85-95.

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