Penultimate version | The Mnemosyne Atlas, August/September 1928

Between a first photo session in May 1928 and the establishing of a new series, the so-called penultimate series, in August and September 1928, Warburg reorganized his materials. The new order followed subject categories and topological aspects; in a major shift he moved the theme of cosmology from the second half of the series to the beginning. Warburg believed that illustrating both the practice and the history of converting constellations in the heavens from powerful demons into abstract symbols was a significant new way of demonstrating the so-called self-awareness of thinking men. On 28 August 1928 the second series, comprising 77 panels with 1292 reproductions, was ready and photographed, but soon Warburg made changes to yield a visually clearer argument. Over the next three weeks he established a new order. Some panels had to be re-photographed, some were added, others omitted; all in all, concerning 11 panels that differed from the 28 August series. This was finalized on 13 September, two weeks before he left Hamburg for Italy. The photographs, later glued on white sheets of paper, record the work done between late August and mid-September 1928, in particular the move of panels within the sequence, and the renumbering. The series on display here does not contain the panels Warburg eliminated in this process of reorganization of the series. [C.W.]