William A. Speck collection of Goetheana : general ephemera
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.
- Speck, William A. (William Alfred), 1864-1928 (Collector)
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.
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.
3.13 Linear Feet ((14 boxes) + 21 broadside folders)
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).
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.
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.
- Authors, German
- German literature -- 18th century
- German literature -- 19th century
- Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 1749-1832
- Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 1749-1832 (Faust, Illustrations)
- Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 1749-1832 (Characters)
- Goethe-Haus (Frankfurt am Main, Germany)
- Plaques (flat objects)
- Printed ephemera
- Quill pens
- Schiller, Friedrich, 1759-1805
- Seals (artifacts)
- Speck, William A. (William Alfred), 1864-1928
- Textor, Johann Jost, 1739-1792
- Trade cards
- Weimar (Germany) -- Intellectual life
- Guide to the William A. Speck Collection of Goetheana: General Ephemera
- Under Revision
- by Christa Sammons
- 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
P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
121 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511
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.