Remembering the Poesiealbum – A Book of Friendship and Verse

On one of my trips to Germany as a child, my cousin showed me her Poesiealblum. I remember it had a horse on the cover, and the inside was filled with short verses, and longer poems; almost every page was decorated with one of the shiny pictures, Glanzbilder. All of the girls in her school owned one. Only your closest friends would be allowed to write the perfect verse that captured your friendship in it.

I was deeply envious.

We rode our bikes down to the stationary store so that I could buy one for myself. Mine had an orange and red plaid cover and a lock. (And naturally, we picked up a few sheets of Glanzbilder) while we were there. With her perfect penmanship, she wrote a verse for me. I, with my crabbed writing, wrote something in hers.

And then…

I took it home and tried to get the girls at my American school to understand the concept of a friendship album. It didn’t take off the way I hoped it would. Poetry in my middle school was limited to the “Roses are Red, Violets are Blue” variety. They just didn’t get it. It was just one more difference between Germany and America. The Poesiealbum lived in my desk drawer until one day after a few moves, I saw it was just gone.

Ein Pferdchen im Stall,
und noch eins dazu.
Die lernten sich kennen,
wie ich und du.

A little horse in the stable,
and another one.
They got to know each other,
like you and me.

The Poesiealbum – A Book of Friendship and Verse

What IS a Poesiealbum? Quite simply, it’s a Poetry Album or Friendship Album. Generally, they are hardbound journal-type books with blank pages. The owner of the Poesiealbum will allow her friends or people they are close to write, and even decorate a page. The owner might add rules about HOW to treat the book on the first page. The inscription usually comes in the form of a rhyming verse. Often it describes the friendship or imparts wisdom. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s sweet. An artistic friend might even draw something on the page… or a pretty picture might be glued in.

A Poesiealbum is a beautiful memory of friendships.

Ich schreibe dir aufs letzte Blatt,
weil ich dich am liebsten hab.
Und wer dich lieber hat als ich,
der setze sich halt hinter mich.

“I’m writing you on the last page,
because I love you best.
And whoever likes you better than me,
just sit behind me.”

When you are asked to write in a Poesiealbum, you want to consider what the relationship is, and what it means to you. This isn’t like middle school yearbooks where everyone just wrote “Have a cool summer!” You aren’t expected to just dash off a line and signature. Choose your verse, or even a quote, carefully.

“Immer wenn du meinst, es geht nicht mehr,
kommt von irgendwo ein Lichtlein her.
Dass du es noch einmal wieder zwingst
und von Sonnenschein und Freude singst,
leichter trägst des Tages harte Last
und wieder Mut und Kraft und Glauben hast.”

“Whenever you think you can’t go on,
a little light comes from somewhere.
That you force it once again
and sing of sunshine and joy,
to carry the hard burden of the day more easily
and have courage and strength and faith again.”

 

Of course, not all verses were so.. um… literary

“Ich bin klein, mein Herz ist rein.
Mein Po ist schmutzig. Ist das nicht putzig?”

I am small, my heart is pure.
My bottom is dirty. Isn’t that cute?”

Where did the Poesiealbum Come From?

Believe it or not, a version of the Poesiealbum has been a part of German culture since the 16th century! In certain classes, when visiting friends, it was customary to fill in a page in a family registry… like a guest book… verses would be added, and maybe illustrations, to mark the importance of the occasion. A version of this became popular among University students who would collect autographs from teachers and reformers. Often they would write a verse on the page. (Apparently Martin Luther signed LOADS of these books, so check your attic). Until the 18th century, these books were mainly for men… but around the 18th century women started using them.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, the Poesiealbum exploded in popularity. Everyone had them. And because they emphasized good penmanship and poetry, they were encouraged, even at school. Friends wrote special verses and added drawings, pressed flowers, stickers, and collectible pictures called Glanzbilder.

By the 21st century, these old-fashioned books fell out of favor. And like so many other pieces of our past, they were relegated to the attic.

A quick word about Glanzbilder

Glanzbilder, also known as Oblaten and Poesiebilder, were first produced in the mid 1800s.  Each paper sheet contained a set of colorful images that could be cut out (or separated) and glued into a Poesiealbum or used in a decoupage project. Flowers, holiday themes, nature images and more. Don’t confuse them with stickers! Glanzbilder are still being produced for collectors and those who enjoy arts and crafts today. Click to learn more about them here-> Glanzbilder

A Collector’s Item

In these days of Social Media, where we dash off a quick Happy Birthday message in a text, those old Posiealbums might seem quaint or old-fashioned. Most, stuck away in a drawer or in the attic. But the albums are collector’s items, and are even sought after by museums. These books of verse capture a snapshot of society, from a time when things moved a bit slower, and seemed more permanent.

Did You Have a Poesie Album?

Do you still have it today?

Vintage Poesiealbums can be found for sale…

These books, with their old German Script, are lovely bits of history for ephemera collectors… or people who want to remember a sweet piece of the past.

1943-1946 POETRY ALBUM Album linen cover1943-1946 POETRY ALBUM Album linen cover1943-1946 POETRY ALBUM Album linen coverfrom 1940 POESIALBUM family book linenfrom 1940 POESIALBUM family book linenfrom 1940 POESIALBUM family book linenJanuary 1926 POETRY ALBUM Linen d.green approx. 20 entries partly currentJanuary 1926 POETRY ALBUM Linen d.green approx. 20 entries partly currentJanuary 1926 POETRY ALBUM Linen d.green approx. 20 entries partly current

1950 POESIE album by Maria Gruber Vintage1950 POESIE album by Maria Gruber Vintage1950 POESIE album by Maria Gruber Vintage

Modern Poesie Albums

Maybe it’s time to bring this custom back? Written memories of friendship and family give more of an emotional punch than digital.

Custom Hand Embroidered NotebookCustom Hand Embroidered NotebookCustom Hand Embroidered Notebook

 

Looking for the Right Verse?

This little book is loaded with German verses.

Verse und Sprichwörter für Poesiealbum und Gästebuch.Verse und Sprichwörter für Poesiealbum und Gästebuch.Verse und Sprichwörter für Poesiealbum und Gästebuch.

The Friendship Book

All is not lost! A new trend in Germany adds a modern twist to the old Poesiealbum. These Friendship Books allow children to get to know their friends and classmates a little better. Instead of verse, they fill in favorites…foods, sports etc. There is also a page for drawings… or maybe stickers. Recently, a few publishers sent me copies of these sweet friendship books. They really are a lovely way for kids to get to know each other better. These would be a great bonding activity for Scout groups and Clubs.

My Book of Friends: MermaidsMy Book of Friends: MermaidsMy Book of Friends: MermaidsMy Book of Friends: DinosaurMy Book of Friends: DinosaurMy Book of Friends: DinosaurMy Book of Friends: An interactive FILL-IN-THE-BLANKS keepsake for you and your friends! (Friends Books - A Fill-In-The-Blanks Keepsake)My Book of Friends: An interactive FILL-IN-THE-BLANKS keepsake for you and your friends! (Friends Books – A Fill-In-The-Blanks Keepsake)My Book of Friends: An interactive FILL-IN-THE-BLANKS keepsake for you and your friends! (Friends Books - A Fill-In-The-Blanks Keepsake)My Friends and I: An Interactive Childhood Memory Book for Kids Ages 5-12 with Prompts – Learn More About Your Friends, Family, Classmates, Teachers, ... – Remember Your Childhood and Friends ForeverMy Friends and I: An Interactive Childhood Memory Book for Kids Ages 5-12 with Prompts – Learn More About Your Friends, Family, Classmates, Teachers, … – Remember Your Childhood and Friends ForeverMy Friends and I: An Interactive Childhood Memory Book for Kids Ages 5-12 with Prompts – Learn More About Your Friends, Family, Classmates, Teachers, ... – Remember Your Childhood and Friends Forever

The Poesiealbum -
 A Book of Friendship and Verse

References

Vergissmeinnicht! – Vom “Stammbuch” zum Poesiealbum 

Mein Poesiealbum – remembering my friendship book 

78 Sprüche für das Poesiealbum in 10 Kategorien

Poesie-Sprüche aus Großmutters Album

 

 

4 thoughts on “Remembering the Poesiealbum – A Book of Friendship and Verse

  1. Oh my, I just found my Poesie Album the other day. Ich habe eigentlich zwei aber das andere habe ich noch nicht wieder gefunden. So eine schoene Erinnerung aus meiner Schulzeit. War so schoen darin zu stöbern und die alten Verse mal wieder zu lesen. Schade, dass es die nicht mehr gibt.

    1. Vielleicht sollten wir das Poesiealbum wieder einführen…

  2. I am trying to learn as much as I can about friendsbooks/ poem albums/ schoolfriendsbooks in general and I think Germany has the strongest culture around it. I would love to learn more. I ‘ve thoroughly enjoyed your article. Thank you for writing it! I can’t find a contact card but I’d love to chat more about it. Please reach out if you see this [email protected] 🙂

    Thanks!

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