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William A. Speck collection of Goetheana : general ephemera

 Collection
Call Number: YCGL MSS 27

Scope and Contents

The William A. Speck Collection of Goetheana: General Ephemera is an artificial collection of miscellaneous, non-book materials long associated with the Speck Collection but previously uncataloged. These are artifacts that were not considered important enough to catalog separately or to include in the William A. Speck Collection of Goetheana: Original Artwork. The quality and interest of the material vary widely. There are historical souvenirs of some significance, such as pens used by Goethe or his grandfather Textor’s seal, as well as cheap tourist items, probably purchased in the streets of Weimar around the turn of the twentieth century. The inflation money printed the 1920s is oddly moving: in the throes of an economic crisis that wiped out fortunes large and small, German cities and towns adorned their “Notgeld” with quotations from Goethe and illustrations from his works. Some of the items in the collection could be loved only by the dedicated Goethe afficionado—the illustration of his coach, for instance, or the pressed flowers from his garden, gathered decades after his death.

If the collection has significance, it is to demonstrate how Goethe and his works entered into the popular culture in the late nineteenth century and early decades of the twentieth. From costume jewelry to lithopanes to cigar boxes and candy wrappers, Goethe must have been present to the popular imagination, as reflected in the products and advertising of the period. Certain themes predominate in the collection: Faust in his study, Gretchen at her spinning wheel, Faust and Mephisto in conversation, Faust and Gretchen walking in the garden, Goethe and Schiller together—these iconic motifs recur again and again, on matchboxes, in wall hangings, on postcards, in jokes.

Dates

  • 1766-1999

Creator

Language of Materials

Chiefly in German; some materials in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The William A. Speck Collection of Goetheana: General Ephemera is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Acquired at various times and from various sources.

Arrangement

Organized into five series: I. Flat Objects, Paintings, Photographs and Illustrations, 1766-1999. II. Goethe in Adverstising, 1897-1949. III. Postcards and Commercial Photographs, 1897-1956. IV. Objects, 1897-1989. V. Posters and Broadsheets, 1897-1932.

Associated Materials

Associated Materials: William A. Speck Collection of Goetheana: Manuscripts (YCGL MSS 6), William A. Speck Collection of Goetheana: Music (YCGL MSS 9), William A. Speck Collection of Prints (YCGL MSS 11), William A. Speck collection of Goetheana: Theater Ephemera (YCGL MSS 24), and William A. Speck Collection of Goetheana: Original Artwork (YCGL MSS 26), Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Extent

3.13 Linear Feet ((14 boxes) + 21 broadside folders)

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL

https://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/beinecke.speckephemera

Overview

The William A. Speck Collection of Goetheana: General Ephemera is an artificial collection of miscellaneous, non-book materials long associated with the Speck Collection but previously uncataloged. The collection demonstrates how Goethe and his works entered into the popular culture in the late nineteenth century and early decades of the twentieth. The collection includes a few items relating directly to Goethe, such as pens that he used and his grandfather Textor's seal, as well as items intended for the tourist market, probably purchased in the streets of Weimar around the turn of the twentieth century. Printed ephemera in the collection includes inflation money from the 1920s, or “Notgeld,” printed with quotations from Goethe and illustrations from his works; advertising trade cards and other advertising materials; posters; cigar boxes; matchbooks; stationery; postcards; photographs of actors in Goethe-related roles; and wall hangings. Three-dimensional items include figurines of characters from Faust, plaques featuring Goethe's image, a fragment of his house, pressed flowers from his garden, and a lock of Schiller's hair.

William A. Speck (1864-1928)

William A. Speck, the son of German immigrants, was born in New York City in 1864. A pharmacist by profession, he amassed the largest Goethe collection outside of Germany. In 1913, he and his collection came from Haverstraw, New York to Yale, where he served as curator of the Speck Collection until his death in 1928. For further biographical information on William A. Speck and a general history and description of the Speck Collection, see the finding aid for the William A. Speck Collection of Goetheana: Manuscripts (YCGL MSS 6).

Custodial History

The Speck Collection of Goetheana: General Ephemera consists chiefly of material that has long been associated with the William A. Speck Collection of Goetheana but has never before been cataloged. A significant portion of the material came to the library as part of the Faust collection assembled by George Wilhelm Heinrich Ehrhardt and acquired by William A. Speck in 1923. While much of that collection was cataloged, some remained in various “miscellaneous” files or “object” boxes. (Ehrhardt items usually bear tiny stickers with a number in ink in a German hand.) Other items seem to have been saved by Speck or sent to him and his successors because people knew of their obsessive interest in Goethe—postage stamps, advertising trade cards, clippings, post cards. The provenance of particular items, when known, has been recorded in the list of collection contents.

Processing Information

Christa Sammons, Curator of the Yale Collection of German Literature, made a preliminary contents list and wrote the description of the collection in 2009. During processing, the curator discarded a few severely damaged items of little apparent worth, and placed elsewhere a few items that had no relevance to Goethe or German literature. The material was then rehoused and the list standardized into its current form.
Title
Guide to the William A. Speck Collection of Goetheana: General Ephemera
Status
Under Revision
Author
by Christa Sammons
Date
2009
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

Contact:
P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
(203) 432-2977

Location

121 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Opening Hours

Access Information

The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.