Clemens Brentano at Newnham College Library


Page from the manuscript of Romanzen von Rosenkranz. By kind permission of The Principal and Fellows of Newnham College Cambridge.

Back in November 2007, an exhibition celebrating European Languages special collections in Newnham College Library brought to attention the Library’s significant collection of material relating to the German Romantic writer, Clemens Brentano (1778-1842). This collection was given to the college by Miss Edith Renouf (NC 1881), whose grandfather was Christian Brentano, brother of Clemens. The collection contains a number of early editions of the works of Brentano and his circle, including works by Achim von Arnim,  Bettina von Arnim (née Brentano), Joseph von Görres and Ludwig Tieck, as well as several  books by the eighteenth-century writer Sophie von La Roche (1730-1807), the grandmother of Clemens, Christian and Bettina Brentano.  Perhaps most notable in the Renouf collection are two important manuscripts. The first was written around 1817 in the hands of Clemens Brentano and Luise Hensel (1798-1876) and is a collection of poems by Luise Hensel . The second is a manuscript of Clemens Brentano’s poetic work Romanzen von Rosenkranz (pictured), one of a number of copies of the manuscript now known to be in existence. Brentano worked on the Romanzen between 1804-12. It remained an unfinished, abandoned work, (the manuscript is not in Brentano’s hand, but was made by a friend, J.F. Böhmer), and was published posthumously in 1852. Prior to the 2007 exhibition, this particular copy of the manuscript, although known to the editors of the Frankfurt Brentano edition (it was written and bound as a presentation copy), was thought lost. Its rediscovery in Newnham College Library excited the interest of researchers from the Freies Deutsches Hochstift at the Goethe-Museum Frankfurt, who have since visited the College to study the manuscripts and other books in the collection. Newnham College Library is now on the map of institutional libraries with significant holdings in German Romanticism.

Guest author: Debbie Hodder

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