Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

16th-Century Friend Books as Social Networking, or, At Least, Status-Gathering

The Van Harinxma thoe Slooten family's "friend books" (really, autograph books) have been on display at the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, in the Hague, and much is being made of the 16th and 17th century custom of alba amicorum in terms of our current devotion to Facebook. The April issue of World of Interiors writes: "The fashion for these albums began after the Reformation in German universities, where they were called Stammbücher… [Note: the Reformation, history buffs will note, did not happen in German universities. Sorry! Pedantic!] Students would ask classmates and teachers to sign their personal copy of the Bible as a souvenir of their academic career; from the 1550s, books of blank pages were specially produced for the purpose. An album was a record of one's friends and acquaintances, to be displayed and admired, and a method of exchanging messages and images." Also, back then it was really hard to get rid of people who constantly left messages on your "friend book" wall. There are marked differences with how we do this now: for one, historically this was often less a diary than a big pile of social credentials. Anyway, the pictures are very pretty!

5 Comments / Post A Comment

Wow, first a Curator of Decorative Arts was chosen as a Random New Yorker and now you have a post about 16th- and 17th-century autograph books?!! The Awl is really aligning with my rather obscure personal interests of late!

Also, I think I need to make like Choire and shell out for a subscription to World of Interiors.

jfruh (#713)

I know we all have to make everything about Facebook now, but isn't this basically just a high-school yearbook?

roboloki (#1,724)

Dear Athenian Society,
I was recently scandalized when I opened my Friend Book and discovered that the rascal Donatien Alphonse François had "poked" me. How should I respond?

oh my god, i LOVE this. here's some some translation. the top left corner: "my hope in god and the lady, one for the body, and the other for the soul." except that it rhymes in french… so with some translational license, "my hope rests in a lady and in god, one for the soul, one for the bod."

and in the upper right, "it's a natural thing to sleep with a young lady," but again it rhymes in french.

and holy shit, i'm pissed i remember so little those four years of latin. otherwise i could maybe string together a translation of the stuff at the bottom.

and this one: http://www.kb.nl/galerie/alba/menu8-pics.html

"good wine, pretty girls, and good meat; hanged be he who asks for more." and again, it rhymes in french.

Post a Comment