Chapter 23: Johann Conrad Fischer's Souvenir Album (1791-1841)

Johann Conrad Fischer's Souvenir Album (1791-1841)

Published March 2022

The favorite book of Artemis Yagou

Artemis Yagou was a Scholar in Residence at the Iron Library in June-July 2021. She visited the library to investigate the connections between Johann Conrad Fischer and watchmaking. Her research resulted in the article "Material expertise and networks: The case of Johann Conrad Fischer (1773-1854)", to appear in Antiquarian Horology (2022).

The reader

Artemis Yagou

... (PhD), is a historian of design and technology. Currently, she is Research Associate at the Deutsches Museum (Munich). Her main research interests are design history, the cultural history of technology, museums, horology, construction toys, and Greek material culture (18th-21st c.). She has published widely, including the book "Fragile Innovation: Episodes in Greek Design History" (2011) and the edited volume "Technology, Novelty, and Luxury" (forthcoming, 2022).

The book in which I would like to play a role in…
… is The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin. I am fascinated by the thought of being aboard the vessel, experiencing the excitement of reaching distant lands and exploring first-hand a staggering variety of life forms.

 

The books, for which I would like to read a sequel...
…are Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. I imagine a book focusing on Ulysses’ life after the Trojan war and his ten-year adventures to return to his native island of Ithaca. How would the poet’s imagination respond to the challenge of describing everyday life with all its small wonders? How would ordinary, daily activities be presented and transformed through poetic sensitivity and imagination? In particular, both the Iliad and the Odyssey include an abundance of references to technological findings and inventions. How would a peacetime sequel describe the numerous technical aspects of everyday life in pre-classical times? Answering this question is just one of the reasons why I wish such a book existed!


The books that are currently on my bedside table…

are quite diverse, as I like to read many books in parallel, depending on my various interests (or even moods on any given day). Currently, the books on the top of the stack are About Time: A History of Civilization in Twelve Clocks by David Rooney, and The Greek Revolution: 1821 and the Making of Modern Europe, by Mark Mazower.

The book

Johann Conrad Fischer's Souvenir Album (1791-1841)

My favorite item from the Corporate Archives of Georg Fischer Ltd is not a book in the strict sense; it is the notebook started by Johann Conrad Fischer during his travels as an apprentice in the 1790s. By leafing through the small notebook, similar to a contemporary A5 drawing pad, one gets a very vivid impression of Fischer’s experience as a young man travelling across various European countries. Dresden, Copenhagen, London, are among the places mentioned in the notebook. People he met during his trips would write a short message and sometimes draw sketches. For example, the exquisite portrait of Fischer, made in pencil by S. Graenicher in Dresden in 1793, shows the young journeyman as a confident person about to explore the world. Similarly, the portrait by the same artist of the apprentice carpenter J.C. Vogler offers a wonderfully detailed impression of a craftsman’s workshop. A sketch of clasped hands is a "souvenir d’amitié" by a man from Basel, as is a flower drawing by a lady in Copenhagen. These and other dedications offer a fascinating record of the more personal aspects of his trip. They enable us to reimagine and reconstruct the late 18th century as a time of openness and creativity.