All the time while Stefan Zweig was working on his literary productions, he was equally busy building a wide-ranging personal collection of manuscripts from the fields of literature, history, art, and music, which soon counted among the most important of its age. He had begun collecting autographs at grammar school, mainly by chasing signatures of the actors and operatic singers of his native Vienna. After he had completed school, he continued to expand his collection, now aiming for a considerably higher standard. Meanwhile he had embarked on his career as a writer and had long discovered the special allure that manuscripts held for him: unfinished productions, they afforded a rare window into a literary or musical work in progress, allowing the reader to follow the artist’s trail and observe him at the very moment of creation.

Over the next decades Zweig spent considerable sums on developing his collection, which was much more to him than a mere hobby: it was a companion to him from his school days up until the final months of his life, often providing the stimulus for investigating a new subject. Zweig’s collection, therefore, plainly mirrors his biography: first his beginnings as a young poet, then the commercial success of his books which allowed him to pursue costly acquisitions, and finally his last years in exile, when he shed most of his material belongings and confined himself to essentials.


“The Meaning and Beauty of Autographs”

In building his collection, Stefan Zweig placed a clear emphasis on contemporary works and manuscripts by 19th century writers. The texts were mainly in German and included Der gute Kamerad by Ludwig Uhland and Joseph von Eichendorffs In einem kühlen Grunde, poems which were particularly well known for having been set to music. But Zweig’s interest in French literature and history is similarly in evidence from the very beginning: the pre-eminent item in this department is probably Honoré de Balzac’s novel Une ténébreuse affaire, the galley proofs of which Zweig acquired as early as 1914. Comprising more than 700 pages, they contain innumberable handwritten annotations by the author.

Throughout the 1920s, Zweig repeatedly published features on manuscript collecting in newspapers and specialist journals, including such pieces as Die Autographensammlung als Kunstwerk (“The Autograph Collection as a Work of Art”) and Die Psychologie des Autographensammelns (“The Psychology of Collecting Autographs”). In his article Sinn und Schönheit der Autographen (“The Meaning and Beauty of Autographs”) Zweig gives an extensive account of the meaning that manuscripts had for him as “documents of creation”. Other aspects that informed the design of his collection were his wish to preserve outstanding documents of cultural heritage, and apparently also something akin to relic veneration. It is therefore little surprise that Zweig, when the opportunity presented itself, bought as distinguished mementoes Ludwig van Beethoven’s writing desk, one of his violins, and other objects formerly owned by the composer. These items may be counted among the addenda to his manuscript collection, as is true of several original drawings by such artists as Leonardo da Vinci, William Blake, or Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.


Auctions and gifts

Most of Stefan Zweig’s acquisitions came from rare book sellers who specialized in autographs and manuscripts, such as Karl Ernst Henrici and Leo Liepmannssohn in Berlin or Charavay in Paris. In later years, Sotheby’s in London became an important source. His frequent travels allowed him to keep in personal touch with dealers and other collectors and to follow market developments. Also, his correspondence contains numerous letters in which he pursues new purchases or gives an expert opinion. At important auctions Zweig nearly almost chose to be represented by an agent or placed absentee bids in advance, lest he drive prices up by attending in person.

Yet Stefan Zweig also was highly successful in soliciting items for his collection by applying directly to contemporary writers and composers. Hermann Hesse, Heinrich Mann, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, and Richard Strauss were among the artists who responded to his requests for working manuscripts. Eventually, Zweig’s collection became so well known among writers that they would send him new autographs unprompted, as did Thomas Mann in 1920 when he gifted Zweig with the manuscript for his novella, Die Hungernden (“Hungry Souls”).

While such working drafts, or “Werkschriften”, as he called them, remained the focus of Zweig’s interest, it is clear that relevant examples from many writers would not be available on the market. With increasing frequency Zweig would therefore also buy fair copies, so as to achieve as comprehensive an overview of literature as possible. And although he tried strictly to exclude letters from his collection, certain exceptions were made – especially if the writer were Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or Ludwig van Beethoven.

From the late 1920s onwards, Zweig considerably expanded the section of music manuscripts, which had previously played a fairly minor role. In this field, as well, he succeeded in making several spectacular acquisitions, including Franz Schubert’s song An die Musik (“To Music”) and, by Ludwig van Beethoven, fragments of his music for Goethe’s Egmont and the song Der Kuß (“The Kiss”). Among his pieces by Mozart were the song Das Veilchen (“The Violet”), one of Cherubino’s arias from Le nozze di Figaro and a handwritten list of his works.

Considering how broadly Zweig had conceived his collection and how willingly he spent ever-increasing sums on it, it is only reasonable that he tried to own at least one autograph by most of the historical personalities whose lives he investigated in his literary and biographical studies.


The projected collection catalogue

As his collection grew in importance, Stefan Zweig near the end of the 1920s aimed to publish a printed catalogue which was even to contain full-colour facsimiles of the principal items. It was projected to appear on 28 November 1931, Zweig’s fiftieth birthday. However, with the onset of the Great Depression in 1929, Zweig decided to hold off the catalogue, stating that he did not wish to present his treasures to the public at such a time. He also feared that the Austrian government might place his collection under protection as cultural property, which would make it impossible for him to to sell, trade, or even ship it abroad. Ultimately, work on the catalogue was abandoned, and the draft is considered lost. Yet even without recourse to it, large parts of the collection’s former contents can be reconstructed not only from the autographs themselves, but also from surviving folders and record cards on which Zweig noted descriptions of the various manuscripts and their history. With the help of these documents it is possible to ascertain numerous items which Zweig had owned at some point but which he had later chosen to part with.

Dissolving the collection

In the mid 1930s Stefan Zweig decided to abandon his household in Salzburg and to settle in London. This decision, which was to be his first step into exile, had far-reaching consequences not only for Zweig’s extensive library, but also for his manuscripts. Zweig divested himself of most of both collections, handing them over to the trade. While there is little documentation available concerning his library, researchers are luckier in the case of his autographs: for these, Zweig approached the then fairly recently-established Viennese dealer Heinrich Hinterberger, who in the spring of 1936 offered in his sales catalogue IX, “A Famous Collection of Prestigious Manuscripts”. Nowhere mentioning his name, this volume of 304 catalogued items contained about a third of the autographs from the collection of Stefan Zweig. Unexpectedly, the pieces were not dispersed: instead, the Swiss bibliophile Martin Bodmer from Zurich took over nearly the entire inventory en bloc, also buying all foreign-language items with which Zweig wished to part. This material is today kept at the Fondation Martin BodmerStandort in Cologny-Genève. Only a very small fraction of Hinterberger’s catalogue offers went to other buyers.

To offset tax demands, Zweig in November 1937 presented another set of autographs to what was then the Theatre Collections of the Austrian National Library (now the TheatermuseumStandort). An outstanding item among this endowment is a single page from Franz Kafka’s novel Amerika (also known as Der Verschollene/The Man Who Disappeared), which Zweig had received as a gift from Max Brod. Zweig left additional manuscripts to the predecessor institution of the National Library of IsraelStandort in Jerusalem. When he gave up his home in Salzburg, he gifted the same library with the majority of the correspondence he had received from important contemporaries, in a sense a separate manuscript collection in its own right. Finally, he parted with the more than 4,000 printed auction and trade catalogues which he had assembled as a reference library, transferring them to Heinrich Hinterberger. Individual volumes from this corpus are already recorded within the catalogue of Stefan Zweig’s library on STEFAN ZWEIG DIGITAL.

This left Zweig with some 150 autographs. In spite of his downsizing he had never given up buying, and thus even during his exile in London he was able to add to his collection several exceptional pieces, including two manuscripts by George Frideric Handel, exceedingly rare in the trade. When Zweig left Europe for the USA and ultimately Brazil in the summer of 1940, he owned at least 200 autographs. Only a very few pieces did he take with him to America, while the body of his collection remained in a safe deposit box in a London bank. ">An autograph of Honoré de Balzac, on whose biography Zweig worked until shortly before his death, he presented to the National Library in Rio de Janeiro. Nearly all other pieces were later gifted to the British LibraryStandort in London by Zweig’s heirs.

The autograph collection on STEFAN ZWEIG DIGITAL

About 1,000 autographs from Stefan Zweig’s former collection can be verified today. STEFAN ZWEIG DIGITAL records only such items as either were among Zweig’s estate, are known to have been given away when he dispersed his collection, or can be inferred from the extant lists, folders, and index cards. Manuscripts merely mentioned but not clearly identified in letters or which lack sufficient documentation from other sources have not been included. Nevertheless, the vast majority of Stefan Zweig’s collection may be assumed to be compiled here.

The records on STEFAN ZWEIG DIGITAL contain essential information for each individual item and in many cases also hyperlinks to digital images hosted on the various holding institutions’ websites. More extensive information and source references are to be found in the printed catalogue of Stefan Zweig’s collection, published in 2005, which also reprints his essays on collecting autographs and contains a detailed history of the collection. For easy reference, every record on STEFAN ZWEIG DIGITAL also states the respective item number in the printed catalogue.

„Ich kenne den Zauber der Schrift“
Katalog und Geschichte der Autographensammlung Stefan Zweig
mit kommentiertem Abdruck von Stefan Zweigs Aufsätzen
über das Sammeln von Handschriften
Compiled by Oliver Matuschek
Antiquariat Inlibris, Wien 2005
ISBN 978-3-9501809-1-6

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