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This article is taken from PN Review 219, Volume 41 Number 1, September - October 2014.

Pictures from a Library 16:
Hiero Erasme von Holtorp
A 'mirror of the self'
Stella Halkyard
Design for stained glass by Hiero Holtorp

Design for stained glass by Hiero Holtorp, Decorative Art Collection, Special Collections, University Library of Manchester.
Copyright the University of Manchester.

The register of acquisitions received into the John Rylands Library, Manchester between 1904 and 1906 includes a receipt glued onto page sixteen recording the donation of an additional gift to the Library that was made by its founder, Enriqueta Rylands. Referred to as the ‘von Holtorp Typographical and Xylographic Collection’, it was purchased at auction in March 1906 for the sum of £742 15s from Sotheby, Wilkinson and Hodge.

Assembled over a period of fifty years by the Polish émigré Hiero Erasme Auguste von Holtorp, an artist-designer, this remarkable collection consists of over 2500 leaves of specimen texts and illustrations from early printed books as well as woodcuts, engravings and etchings by a range of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century masters including Albrecht Dürer, Hans Burkmair, and Hans Holbein the
younger.

Why did the enigmatic Holtorp, about whom we know so little, establish this ‘extensive assortment of relics’ in the first place? On the one hand, the collection acts as a ‘lasting tribute to the knowledge [he] possessed, no less to his painstaking research and unrivalled skill’ (The Connoisseur), but on the other it might speak of a different kind of knowledge that appealed to its creator, one altogether active and alive, as exemplified in the frail piece of tracing paper shown here.

This slight and ...


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