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"Carnival" collection

The "Carnival" collection of the University and State Library (ULB) Düsseldorf is an important source for the cultural history of the Rhineland. Posters, speeches and lectures, sheet music, songbooks, plays, caricatures, jesters’ calendars, postcards, programmes, carnival newspapers and parade regulations bring to life the history of carnival clubs and societies, especially in the Rhineland metropolises of Düsseldorf and Cologne. The collection comprises more than 700 items, of which almost 250 are already available in digital form. For copyright reasons, it has only been possible to digitise documents published before 1920. Documents published later can be searched in the library catalogue. Alternatively, you can browse the collection using the classification system.

After the end of the Napoleonic era under Prussian rule, carnival experienced its first heyday in the Rhineland. In 1823, in Cologne, and in 1825 in Düsseldorf, citizens and artists formed the “Carnevals-Comité”, a forerunner of today's Committee Düsseldorfer Carneval, to give the carnival a more organised structure. The oldest documents in the collection therefore date from the 1930s: an „Eintritt-Billet zum maskirten Nachtball in der Musik-Akademie“ (Admission ticket for the masked ball at the Academy of Music) in Düsseldorf and a „Sammlung von 11 Düsseldorfer Karnevals-Lieder[n] für das Jahr 1838“ (Collection of 11 Düsseldorf carnival songs for the year 1838). Artists from The Düsseldorf School of Painting, such as Andreas Achenbach and Wilhelm Camphausen, designed tickets and postcards for the Düsseldorfer Carnevals-Verein (Düsseldorf Carnival Association). There are also many historic photographs of Düsseldorf carnival societies in the collection.

The militarisation of Wilhelmine society is also evident in carnival: in 1897, for example, the Düsseldorf Citizens' Defence Force published „Lieder für die erste große Feldschlacht mit Gepäck“ (Songs for the first great field battle with baggage). The colonial era also left its mark on carnival activities: „Gruß aus dem Carnevals-Verein Pempelfroter Bure. Lacht mit den Pempelforter Buren über die Briten.“ (Greetings from the Pempelforter Bure Carnival Association. Laugh at the British with the Pempelforter Buren).

Protests against carnival activities are also found in the collection, such as a printed letter from the Protestant associations to the mayor of Düsseldorf, Wilhelm Marx, and all the city councillors in 1904. The Protestant Prussians expressly objected to the city's financial support for the Carnival Monday parade, arguing that they had to reject carnival activities on moral and social grounds.

The collection offers an insight into the diversity of carnival activities in the Rhineland.


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