Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Johann Andreas Silbermann

One of the recent great moments in German cultural history was the acquisition of Johann Andreas Silbermann's travel diary by the University of Dresden at Sotheby's London.

©Uni Dresden

The Silbermanns of the 18th century are known as organ builders. While many of the clan were busy in Thuringia and Saxony, Johann Andreas Silbermann worked in Strasbourg. He built 57 organs in Alsace during his life.

On February 24, 1741, Johann headed out to visit his relatives on the other side of the Rhine. During his trip, he kept a diary that the University of Dresden has made accessible on the Internet as a facsimile. Red Baron likes to read old travel diaries like the one by Peter Hagendorf written during the Thirty Years' War, Johann Wolfgang Goethe's description of his trip to Italy, or Johann Gottfried Seume's book about his long walk to Syracuse.

Frequently Silbermann decorated his handwritten diary with sketches and marginal notes. The following map shows his itinerary.

©Uni Dresden
Red Baron tried hard to read some of Silbermann's handwritten text. Here I present a menu card the author copied in Berlin. He marked the paragraphs placing astronomical symbols in front of them.

A good friend of mine made me aware that Silbermann had actually copied the "restaurant's weekly lunch." The astronomical symbols stand for the days of the week. In English, most days are named according to Nordic mythology. It goes like this: 

Sun > Sunday

Moon > Monday, 

Mars > mardi in French > Tuesday > day of Tyr or Tew (Nordic god of combat), 

Mercury > mercredi in French > Wednesday > day of Woden or Odin (Main Nordic god), 

Jupiter > jeudi in French > Thursday > day of Thor or Donar (Nordic god of thunder) > Donnerstag in German, 

Venus > vendredi in French > Friday > day of Freya (Nordic god of beauty) > Freitag in German, 

Saturn > Saturday. 

With difficulty, I figured out that Magsamen is Mohnsamen (poppy seeds), Schmalbraten is Schmorbraten (pot roast), and Blätzer means tripe but only in Koblenz. However, according to Silberman's footnote, the word is known in Strasbourg too. There are five words in the text below that I could not make out. Therefore Red Baron is impatiently waiting for the transcription of the handwriting the University of  Dresden has promised to provide.

©Uni Dresden

Allgemeiner bürgerlicher Mittags
Kosten in Berlin 1744

Linssuppe mit Milch, Eyer und Butter

Kleine Rosinen mit Zucker und Zimmet
Schaaf Kaldaunen* mit Kohl
Braten mit Pflaumen
*sind bay uns Blätzer
Public bourgeois lunch
table in Berlin 1744

Lentil soup with milk, eggs, and butter
Small raisins with sugar and cinnamon
Tripe* of sheep with cabbage
Roast with plums
*are called Blätzer in my place
Mond: Sauerkraut und Bratwürst
oder eingebächelte (eingemachte) Schink[en]bohnen
oder Reiß
Moon: Sauerkraut and brats
or preserved beans with ham
or rice
Mars: Fisch in gelber Brühe
Rosinen, Zestiablau? und Citronen
Mars: Fish in a yellow broth
Raisins, ??, lemons
Merkur: Schög-sauflaisch mit klainen Rüblan
Mercury: ??pork meat with small turnips
Jupiter: Kälberbraten, Schmalbraten (Schmorbraten)
oder Sauerbraten
Jupiter: Roast of veal, pot roast,
or marinated pot roast
Venus: Erbsen und Häring, oder ander Fisch
auch Butter
Venus: Peas and herring, or other fish
also butter
Saturn: Kaldaunen klaingehackt mit Rüben
Weißkraut klaingehackt mit Milchgetapt (mit Milch abgeschmeckt?)
Saturn: Tripe finely chopped with turnips
White cabbage finely chopped and seasoned with milk.
Sonsten wird auch viel Magsamen (Mohnsamen) gegeßen. Vorher in agasten (aus Ahornholz gefertigt) hölzren Schüsseln gerieben daß er öligt wird. Semmel in Milch gescharigt? in dem Magsamen herum gedulgret?, und kalt gegeßen. Apart from that, lots of poppy seeds are eaten. First, they are crushed in bowls made from sycamore until they become oily. A roll macerated in milk is rolled in crushed poppy seeds and eaten cold.

Here is another highlight. In Berlin, Silbermann met the tall Englishman Kirkland serving in the Royal Guard of Frederick the Great. Frederick had inherited die Langen Kerle (the tall guys) from his father, the Soldier King. Silbermann was so impressed that he bought an engraving and placed it in his diary.

Picture of the tall and handsome Englishman in Berlin
 called Kirkland, 7 feet tall, presently serving his Royal Majesty
 as a haiduk (bodyguard) (©Uni Dresden)
©Uni Dresden
On his way back home, Silbermann visited Magdeburg. Here in the corner of the cathedral, he noticed as a curiosity a Tetzelkasten (Tetzel box), made a sketch, and noted: An einer Seite ist Johann Tetzels eines Dominicaner Mönches von Pirna Ablas Kasten zu sehen, er ist sehr groß und wohl mit reichen Beschlagen verzier hier zu sehen (On one side you can see Johann Tetzel's box in which the Dominican Friar from Pirna collected the money for the indulgences he had sold. The box is big and nicely decorated with copious metal fittings). 

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