After completion of the first 28 illustrated volumes (with four more due to follow in 2006 along with the supplement), work began on an overview of the portrait engravings in Wolfenbüttel. Library staff member Peter Mortzfeld initially worked on the catalogue. After he retired, the project continued with the assistance of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation, DFG) and was successfully completed in 2008.

The catalogue essentially pursued three ambitious goals: the first task was to give a brief but precise biographical overview of the subjects of the works – if possible, according to where they lived and what they did. This establishes a stark contrast to many portrait catalogues, which merely list the subject’s name and at most the dates when they lived: it should be possible to look at the picture of a person and get an initial impression of their life and work. Next, the artists involved in the engraving were recorded in as much detail as possible – something that should actually go without saying in a catalogue of prints. Finally, the project aimed to make the most of the fact that a picture had been taken of every engraving, so that it could be viewed directly by the catalogue’s users. This provided an ideal and unique opportunity to comprehensively describe the immense wealth of visual and textual information – beyond the mere depiction of the subject – contained in the many 16th- and 17th-century portraits in the Wolfenbüttel collection. Mortzfeld catalogued a total of 28,623 prints in the Herzog August Bibliothek. The 19 general and 7 special indexes distributed across seven volumes make the abundant material completely accessible. This includes the following:

  • all the iconographic, allegorical, symbolic, mythological, biblical and historical motifs (there are around 45,000 entries for these alone)
  • emblems (in order to make the information ‘concealed’ in many portraits available, within an extremely lively field of research)
  • maxims, symbols and mottoes
  • the incredibly common and predominantly Latin odes (which each have a precise prose translation in order to make this treasury of Latin – and German – occasional literature more accessible)
  • the verse contributors and dedicators, if possible
  • quotations from ancient authors and other writers.

The catalogue obviously includes a general register of names with references, a place name register (all birth and death locations as well as places where anyone with a bibliographical entry had been active, and with frequently occurring place names subdivided into professions) and a register of professions (with references, and frequently occurring professions subdivided into types of work). The register of artists contains all the artists’ names (of painters, illustrators, engravers), which were either found on the works themselves or ascertained through later research; there is a similar register for the publishers and printers.

Click here to access the project page.

Funding: DFG
Project participants: Dr Peter Mortzfeld, Prof. Ulrike Gleixner (contact)