Schöne Erinnerung aus der Jugend
[Bruggen, Switzerland]: . 9-3/4 x 8 inches. pp of on 55 leaves, including two laid-in plates painted recto only. Unbound bifolia and a handful of loose leaves housed inside a paper-covered portfolio with linen ties and holograph title on front cover; an additional paper folder inside helps protect the leaves. Holograph text in German script, watercolor illustrations throughout. Paper covering portfolio boards dampstained and lightly soiled, with tears and small loss to spine; protective folder splitting at spine; outer margins of last few leaves appear to have been exposed to dampness and separated, with slight paper redidue to some leaves; black paper residue to inside rear cover and rear leaf of protective folder. Minor occasional soiling, else text in clean and highly legible condition. Good+.
A stunning early 20th-century illustrated manuscript about a boy's childhood in Bruggen, Switzerland, written when he was twelve or thirteen years old. Karl Messmer (or Meßmer) (1909-1996) was born in Herisau and emigrated to the United States with his family in 1922, shortly after he wrote this. He appears to have lived in Webb City, Missouri at least through early adulthood, then moved at some point to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he spent his last years.
The manuscript was created as a school project, with Messmer noting in his foreword, "In Year 6, we pupils are allowed to write compositions on little sheets of paper. The best thing was that we could draw and paint between the compositions. When we were in school and the teacher said 'Composition!' we were very excited and called out 'Oooh!' and diligently began to write ... I have now finished putting together my own book ... and am excited that I can take it home. Here it is ... Mother and the rest of the family will look through it, and then Grandmother and so on. Lots of other people will see my memories ..." (our translation).
In separately titled chapters, he tells the reader about the pleasures of going swimming, going sledding, getting the hay in, looking after the goats, encountering wild animals (hares, a chamois, a weasel, an owl), gathering nuts, baking with his mother, and much more. Throughout, these experiences are charmingly illustrated in watercolors on nearly every page, with some pages having two or three small vignettes.
Of particular note, Messmer also writes about attending the German festival of Fasching, during which he dresses up as a devil and frightens people. This section includes illustrations of other people's costumes as well, including a remarkable one of a Plains Indian, suggesting the German fascination with Native Americans was shared at least in Messmer's village.
An altogether extraordinary record of rural Swiss childhood, as seen through one boy's eyes.