October 16, 2012

Eberhard Psalter

With its 181 gold and silver initials, four picture pages on purple ground, and two miniature pages, the so-called Eberhard Psalter is among the most magnificent monuments of Bavarian illumination in the first quarter of the 11th century. The manuscript contains the 150 psalms with commentaries, as well as additional liturgical songs and a confession of faith. It takes its name from Count Eberhard of Ebersberg (died circa 1041–45), who is said to have donated the psalter to the Benedictine convent of Geisenfeld, which he had founded. The manuscript was commissioned by an unidentified Benedictine monk, who is shown kneeling at the feet of Christ crucified in one of the two miniatures (folio 6r). He is believed to be the former Ebersberg abbot named Reginbald (died 1039), who later became the abbot of Lorsch and finally the bishop of Speyer. The scriptorium from which the manuscript originated is unknown, but the style indicates a convent in southern or eastern Bavaria, possibly Niederaltaich in the time of Abbot Godehard (died 1038). In 1803 the psalter came into the Munich Court Library, predecessor to the Bavarian State Library, where it has remained ever since.

Der Einsiedler, Opus 144a

The manuscript score of Der Einsiedler (The hermit), Opus 144a by the German composer Max Reger (1873–1916) after the poem by Joseph Eichendorff (1788–1857), was donated by Elsa Reger, widow of the composer, to Reger’s former pupil Hermann Poppen. It was acquired by the Bavarian State Library in 1991. Reger composed the song for baritone, five-voice choir, and orchestra in Jena in summer 1915. The staff paper he used was originally prepared for the composition of his Requiem Mass (WoO V/9), which he started in 1914 but never completed. Der Einsiedler is regarded as the crowning result of Reger’s preoccupation with the poetry of Eichendorff, a German Romantic whose themes included loneliness, isolation, and longing for and, at the same time, fear of death. These were subjects that obviously long weighed on Reger’s mind. The song bears witness to a retirement from the world into a life devoted exclusively to the composer’s music. In the large-sized score, Reger’s meticulous notation is particularly admirable. Also noteworthy are specific performance indications, in the composer's hand and in red ink, regarding details of dynamics (volume) and attack (accented notes).

Leaves of Grass

Walt Whitman (1819–92) is generally considered to be the most important American poet of the 19th century. He published the first edition of his major work, Leaves of Grass, in 1855. For the remainder of his life, Whitman produced further editions of the book, ending with the ninth, or "deathbed," edition in 1891–92. What began as a slim book of 12 poems was by the end of his life a thick compendium of almost 400. Whitman regarded each version as its own distinct book and continuously altered the contents. He added new poems, named or renamed old ones, and, until 1881, repeatedly regrouped them. He developed the typography, appended annexes, reworded lines, and changed punctuation, making each edition unique. Shown here is the rare first edition, which Whitman printed without the author's name on the title page. Publication of the book was heralded by anonymous reviews printed in New York papers, which clearly were written by Whitman himself. They accurately described the break-through nature of his "transcendent and new" work. "An American bard at last!" trumpeted one self-review. Whitman also received a generous boost of publicity from the best-selling writer Fanny Fern, who befriended the newly published poet and championed Leaves as daring and fresh in her popular column in the New York Ledger on May 10, 1856.

Walt Whitman, Half-Length Portrait, Seated in Chair, Facing Left

This portrait of the American poet Walt Whitman was taken circa 1862 by the noted Civil War photographer Matthew Brady. In December 1862, Whitman saw the name of his brother George, a member of the 51st New York Infantry, listed among the wounded at the Battle of Fredericksburg. Whitman rushed from Brooklyn to the Washington area to search the hospitals and encampments for George. Whitman was pickpocketed on his journey and arrived "without a dime." With the help of friends, he secured a pass behind military lines. On December 29, 1862, a relieved Whitman wrote to his mother that he had "found George alive and well" in a camp at Falmouth, across the Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg, Virginia. He also reported that he had decided to stay in the area and find work. He soon accompanied wounded soldiers back to Washington. The search for George was Whitman’s introduction to the ghastly consequences of warfare. He began to make acquaintance of the soldiers and note accounts of those who had served in battle. Whitman was 43 years old in 1862–63, when he began volunteering in Washington, D.C. war hospitals. While working in the city, he had several portraits taken at the studios of Brady and Alexander Gardner.

Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, Head-and-Shoulders Portrait of a Woman, Facing Slightly Left

Walt Whitman is generally considered to be the most important American poet of the 19th century. Of English and Dutch ancestry, he was born on May 31, 1819, in West Hills, Long Island, New York, the second of nine children. This daguerreotype by an unidentified photographer dates from around 1855, the year that Whitman published the first edition of his major work, Leaves of Grass, and shows his mother, Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795–1873). Emotionally close to Louisa, Whitman once told a friend: “How much I owe her! It could not be put in a scale—weighed: it could not be measured—be even put in the best words: it can only be apprehended through the intuitions. Leaves of Grass is the flower of her temperament active in me. . . . I wonder what Leaves of Grass would have been if I had been born of some other mother." Mother and son frequently corresponded, and many of Louisa’s letters to Walt survive in U.S. research libraries.

Walt Whitman, 1819-1892

The American poet Walt Whitman used this three-quarter length portrait of himself as the frontispiece in the first edition of his major work, Leaves of Grass, published in 1855. It shows the 37-year old Whitman in laborer's clothes. Known as "the carpenter," the image is an icon of the American poet as "one of the roughs," or Everyman. Subsequent editions of Leaves of Grass depicted different Whitmans, ever more sophisticated and venerable. The elderly Whitman in 1891 reverted to an image of a young and urbane self, taken in Boston when he was working on the 1860 edition of the book. This work is a steel engraving by Samuel Hollyer (1826-1919) from a lost daguerreotype by Gabriel Harrison. Whitman remarked about the portrait: "The worst thing about this is, that I look so damned flamboyant—as if I was hurling bolts at somebody—full of mad oaths—saying defiantly, to hell with you!" He also worried about the portrait because "many people think the dominant quality in Harrison's picture is its sadness," but he nevertheless liked the portrait. It also appeared in the 1856 edition of Leaves, in the 1876 one, and in other subsequent editions.