The fashion to keep an album amicorum – a book for students and theologians to collect the signatures, comments and suggestions of the noteworthy people they met on their travels – started around the middle of the 16th century. The Protestant reformer Philipp Melanchthon advised students and theologians to carry two such books: one for high-ranking persons and one for lesser mortals. Most people, however, kept only one, and the entries cut across social differences, though generally the more illustrious names are to be found in the first half of the albums. Contributors could include kings, princes, and aristocrats, academics and humble students, and other travellers whom the owners stumbled upon in their journeys across Europe and as far away as Constantinople.
The album – or as the Germans called it, Stammbuch – could simply be a book with empty pages, but in most cases it was a printed book containing emblems or portraits of famous people, perhaps in anticipation of the traveller meeting them or visiting their university. Often the album