William A. Speck collection of Goetheana : manuscripts
Scope and Contents
The manuscripts are arranged alphabetically by author or by title, if the author is unknown. Authors represented prominently include Goethe himself, Thomas Carlyle, Frank Claudy, the Faust collector Georg Ehrhardt, Walther Wolfgang von Goethe, August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben, University of Illinois professor Julius Goebel, Anna Jameson, Johann Caspar Lavater, Friedrich von Mueller, Henry Crabb Robinson, Friedrich Schiller, Carl Frederick Schreiber, Horatio Robinson Storer, Bayard Taylor, Marie (Hansen) Taylor, Karl August Ludwig Philipp Varnhagen von Ense, and Albert Wuensch. The Rilke manuscripts, chiefly letters to F. A. Huenich (folder 565) and Clotilde Sacharoff (folders 567-568), came into the collection by historical accident and are unrelated to Goethe.
Despite his persistence and the financial resources provided by Yale, Speck could not gather a large number of Goethe autographs, which were already in the great collections at Weimar and Frankfurt and in the Kippenberg Collection. The Speck Collection does, however, include some 25 letters and manuscripts in Goethe's hand, among them the poem "Den funfzehn englischen Freunden" (folder 254), sent in thanks to the group of British writers who, at the suggestion of Thomas Carlyle, had presented Goethe with a gold and enamel seal for his 81st birthday. Goethe's fair copy of the scene "Offene Gegend" from the second part of Faust is another treasure (folder 224). There are in addition many letters to Goethe, and letters from Goethe in secretarial hands. Among the other, related correspondence in the collection are many letters to Johann Peter Eckermann, including seven from Thomas Carlyle (folders 50-56).
The manuscript collection (both literary and music) is particularly strong in Faust-related materials, including two eighteenth-century Hoellenzwang manuscripts, bound, (folders 797-798) and a number of late nineteenth century handwritten copies of Faust puppet plays. There are also several manuscripts by the Swiss theologian Johann Kaspar Lavater, a branch of whose family migrated to Connecticut and became Yale benefactors.
- 1542 - 1967
- Majority of material found within 1770 - 1900
Language of Materials
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
Immediate Source of Acquisition
14.22 Linear Feet ((20 boxes) + 41 volumes)
WILLIAM A. SPECK (1864-1928) and THE SPECK COLLECTION OF GOETHEANA
Life as a Haverstraw pharmacist allowed Speck ample time to pursue his true passion: Goethe. The New York City antiquarian bookshops were only a day's trip away, and Speck was able to make two European journeys during these years. The destination was, of course, Weimar, where Speck went from door to door, up and down the streets, looking for Goethe relics, buying pictures from inn-keepers, and often gaining access to private collections.
After more than two decades of collecting, Speck saw that his books belonged in an academic setting. Personal ties suggested Columbia as the recipient of the collection; but it was Yale, having heard of the marvelous Goethe museum on the banks of the Hudson, that sent a delegation to visit Speck in 1912. In March, 1913, the Yale Corporation announced that the Goethe Collection, which then numbered about 6,000 items, had been deposited in New Haven, and that Speck had been appointed its curator.
Between the time of Speck's appointment and his death in 1928, the Collection, benefitting from University support, trebled in size. While World War I cut off the source of acquisitions for a time, the 1920s saw the purchase of two major private collections, as well as a steady stream of smaller purchases from dealers around the world. During the last years of his life, Speck was appointed lecturer in the Yale Graduate School, where he offered a course called "Goethe's Personality and Personal Appearance." Publishing relatively little, Speck devoted himself instead to assiduous collecting, firm in his belief that Goethe was "one of the corner-stones ... of our moral world."
The William A. Speck Collection of Goetheana, now the largest Goethe collection outside Germany, contains over 10,000 printed volumes and as many pamphlets, scores, programs, broadsides, prints, art works, and Goethe-related ephemera, as well as the extensive holdings of literary manuscripts, which are described in depth in this finding aid, and of manuscript music, listed and classified separately as YCGL MSS 9.
For a fuller description of the contents and collecting history of the Speck Collection, consult the Guide to the Beinecke collections (New Haven, 1974 and 1994).
Related manuscript sources in the Yale Collection of German Literature include the papers of Karl Gottfried Theodor Winkler (Theodor Hell), Dresden theater director and journalist, who corresponded with many literary figures of Goethe's time. The George Eliot Papers in the Beinecke Library's General Collection of Rare Books and Manuscripts contain much material by and relating to Goethe's biographer George Henry Lewes; some of this material was originally part of the Speck Collection.
- Authors, German -- Archives
- Carlyle, Thomas, 1795-1881
- Claudy, Frank, 1844-1919
- Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, 1772-1834
- Ehrhardt, Georg, b. 1862
- Goebel, Julius, 1857-1931
- Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 1749-1832
- Goethe, Walther Wolfgang von, 1818-1885
- Hoffmann von Fallersleben, August Heinrich, 1798-1874
- Jameson, Anna Brownell Murphy, 1794-1860
- Lavater, Johann Caspar, 1741-1801
- Müller, Friedrich von, 1779-1849
- Robinson, Henry Crabb, 1775-1867
- Schiller, Friedrich, 1759-1805
- Schreiber, Carl F. (Carl Frederick), 1886-1960
- Speck, William A. (William Alfred), 1864-1928
- Storer, Horatio Robinson, 1830-1922
- Taylor, Bayard, 1825-1878
- Taylor, Marie Hansen, 1829-1925
- Varnhagen von Ense, Karl August, 1785-1858
- Wünsch, Albert
- Guide to the William A. Speck Collection of Goetheana: Manuscripts
- by Beinecke Staff
- November 1995
- Description rules
- Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
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