SAECVLA SPIRITALIA 17
William S. HECKSCHER: Art and Literature. Studies in Relationship. Edited by Egon VERHEYEN. 2nd edition, revised and enlarged. 1994.
648 pages, 260 illustrations.
A collection of the author's major essays, primarily on the survival of the classical tradition, emblematic research, and German literature. Throughout, his indebtedness to the tradition of the Warburg School stresses the mutual relationship between art and literature. Heckscher devotes nine essays to the revival of themes in classical antiquity in post-classical times. One essay illustrates his particular interest in the history of science: it serves as a locum tenens for the author's monumental work on Rembrandt's »Anatomy Lesson«. Bernini, Hans Holbein, the Master of Flémalle are among the artists discussed in detail. Shakespeare and Goethe are dealt with extensively. Five essays are devoted to books of emblems – those curious works of art and literature in which image and word are kept in perfect balance. Heckscher reinterprets the Grimm household stories, the Sturm und Drang movement, and the philosophical consideration which Leibniz formulated in regard to petites perceptions. Most items appear in their original English, one is in German, one in Dutch, as well as several attempts at rendering prose and poetry in decidedly post-classical Latin. The essays were offered to the author in celebration of his 80th birthday. The editor, Egon Verheyen, contributed a careful and critical evaluation of Heckscher's achievement and a bibliography of Heckscher's work up to the year 1984.
The volume makes accessible the findings, hypotheses, and methods employed by a remarkable scholarly mind with which only a few cognoscenti had been familiar prior to Egon Verheyen's edition. This new and enlarged edition includes Heckscher's challenging commentary on Camerarius' description of Dürer's Melencolia I, as well as his Art and Literature. Reproductions of some of Heckscher's numerous drawings are included as juxtaposition and complement to the poems published in the first edition of this collection.
»We should be extremely grateful to the editors of the book and the series, to the holders of copyrights and to the publisher, for this collection of articles, reprinted in the languages (mostly English), in which they were published, and combining scholarship, readability, and important topics to an almost incredible degree.«
Peter Calmeyer in German Studies. Section III: Literature, Music, Fine Arts. Volume XXI (1988) Number 1, pp 124f.
»The table of contents comprises no less than two dozen contributions. They are arranged in chronological sequence, and starting in 1937 cover almost a half century. [...]
Any reader interested in the general relationship between art and literature, and especially in emblematics as a fascinating topic and a rapidly growing academic discipline, will appreciate this collection because it assembles important articles that originally were widely scattered both in terms of publication dates and, sometimes, remote places. [...] Worthwhile discoveries can, indeed, be made in this collection, and not just by new readers, even when – to quote the editor one last time – »final conclusions seem unconvincing or wrong«.«
Klaus Haberkamm in Emblematica.
»The welcome edition of essays by the hand of our amicus William S. Heckscher who refers to himself as hamburgensis natione sed non moribus is splendidly presented thanks premarily to the efforts of Professor Egon Verheyen who supplies a thorough, critical Introduction. [...] Ad summam: I consider Heckscher's Art and Literature stimulating, and if even now and then diffuse, an inexhaustible gold mine of information, or, as the Germans would say, »eine Fundgrube des Wissens«.«
Virginia W. Callahan in Moreana XXIII, 89 (Feb. 1986), pp. 89-92
See also Festschrift Heckscher: Emblematic Perceptions