The Mnemosyne Materials

From Zettelkasten (index card box) via Bilderreihen (sequences of images) to the Bilderatlas (picture atlas) Mnemosyne





 Warburg’s projects were all interconnected and conceived as part of a greater totality. His 98 index card boxes, containing collections of thematically organised bibliographical references and notes,   supplemented by newspaper clippings, postcards and exchanges in writing with other scholars, made these the starting point for all of Warburg’s scholarly endeavours.










Box 117, entitled “Aberglaube im Krieg / Kirche und Krieg”, contains materials relating to his research on the occult and the First World War.











If Warburg’s lectures were based on materials collected and stored in the index card boxes, the photographs that were included in the Bilderreihen were part of a continuously growing collection of images. Warburg’s collection of photographs is the nucleus of the present Photographic Collection of the Warburg Institute. Only a small number of Warburg’s own reproductions -- made with the copying machine he owned, a “Photo Clerk” -- survive in their frame, purpose-made for display in an exhibition. The present frame shows seven woodcuts by Hans Burgkmair, showing planetary deities.
























This particular arrangement appeared in a panel on “Realismus des deutschen Mittlealters - Realism in astrological practice in the German middle ages”, part of a mock exhibition which was conceived in 1928. Its purpose was to introduce Oscar von Müller, director of the Deutsches Museum Munich, to a Bilderreihe on the pre-history of astronomy which Warburg wanted display it the Museum’s newly opened astronomical section. The frame with Burgkmair's prints reappear in the right hand image.










  The same frame reappears on Panel 59 of the picture atlas Mnemosyne-- displayed here in Martin Warnke’s facsimile edition of 2000 (Volume II.1 of the series “Aby Warburg: Gesammelte Schriften”).





















Another item from the 1928 exhibition, still extant, is the small text label. It informed the viewer about the migration of the Zodiac from the Middle East to Egypt in the Hellenistic period, and how its figures were integrated into the Egyptian cosmos.