To our friends
This is a typical but nonetheless remarkable example of an album amicorum or stammbuch, a book of friends or autograph book. Primarily intended to record friendships, these manuscripts also collected commonplace and unusual quotations from literature, especially poetry.
Friendship books seem to have been first popular in German- and Dutch-speaking regions in the second half of the 16th century among graduating students at universities and then to have gained a wider public acceptance for use at social gatherings and during travels. Many included colored drawings, often of coats of arms. Heraldry, which originated in the 12th century and makes frequent use of animal imagery, is essentially a secular art form.
This stammbuch was gathered by Wolfgang Christoph Kress von Kressenstein and was mainly inscribed to him by friends at Jena and Altdorf. It includes miniature paintings of the four seasons. It was designed for portability and durability, and thus is wrapped with Yapp edges, for want of a better term, to form a sort of book-in-a-box.
Wolfgang Kress von Kressenstein (d. 1615), Album amicorum (Germany, c. 1597-1601), MSS Codex M0442
This article was originally published in ReMix, Stanford Libraries' monthly e-newsletter, in February 2014.