Correspondence of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy and others

Scope and Content

Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy was a keen correspondent who wrote and received many letters. His incoming correspondence, 1821-47, largely preserved here intact, provides an insight into his professional and private life. It encompasses his career as a composer, and contains discussions on the composing, performing and publishing of music with several musicians and music publishers.

  • Composers and other musicians whose letters are represented here include: William Bartholomew, Sir William Sterndale Bennett, Eduard Devrient, Ferdinand David, Joseph Fischhof, Livia Frege, Aloys Fuchs, Ferdinand Hiller, Ignaz Moscheles, Clara Schumann, Louis Spohr, Wilhelm Taubert, and Karl Zelter
  • Music publishers include: Edward Buxton, Charles Coventry, Breitkopf & Hrtel, Alfred Novello, and Nicolaus Simrock
  • Mendelssohn's own letters to Charles Coventry and Conrad Schleinitz.

There is also a substantial amount of correspondence with Mendelssohn's own family, and that of his wife:

  • letters from the composer's father Abraham Mendelssohn Bartholdy, his mother Lea Mendelssohn Bartholdy, his brother Paul Mendelssohn Bartholdy, and his sisters Fanny Hensel and Rebecka Dirichlet
  • letters which Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Ccile, and other members of the family wrote to Ccile's family, especially to her mother, Elisabeth Jeanrenaud
  • letters from Ccile to Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, including letters written during their engagement
  • letters written to Ccile by members of the Mendelssohn family after Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy's death
  • letters written by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy to his family during his trip to Italy, France and England, 1830-2, often known as the Reisebriefe.

The Green Books also include a significant number of letters from the following: German painter Eduard Bendemann, Senator Franz Bernus, English writer and critic Henry F. Chorley, Carl August Dohrn, Heinrich Drrien, German historian Johann Gustav Droysen, Johann Albrecht Friedrich Eichhorn, Johann Paul Von Falkenstein, Frederick IV (of Prussia), German orientalist Julius Frst, German diplomat Karl Klingemann, lawyer Conrad Schleinitz, theologian Julius Schubring, and General Karl Von Webern.

The shelfmarks of this section are as follows: MSS. M. Deneke Mendelssohn b. 4, b. 13-14, c. 18, c. 25, c. 31-4, c. 38, c. 40-2, c. 97, d. 13, d. 18-21, d. 28-53, d. 55, MS. Autograph b. 10.


Mendelssohn himself initiated the binding of the letters he received, together with occasional drafts of his own letters, into volumes which became known as the Grne Bcher, or Green Books. The majority of the letters, over 6000 covering the period 1821-47, are still in the Grne Bcher, though the binding of the letters is not always in correct chronological sequence, and there are gaps in the correspondence where letters have been lost or removed; some autographs have also been cut away, by Mendelssohn himself and by others. Fortunately these problems affect only a small proportion of the series, and some of the dispersed correspondence has subsequently been obtained by the Library.

Acquisition Information

It was by the will of Margaret Deneke's sister Helena, who survived her, that the Grne Bcher became the property of the Bodleian in 1973.

Some of the separated material, as well as much of the correspondence with Ccile's family, was bought by the Library from Miss Wach, 1950-60; some material reached the Bodleian in other ways.

Other Finding Aids

Margaret Crum Catalogue of the Mendelssohn papers in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, vol. I, (Tutzing : Schneider, 1980). The index to the Green Books made by Lili Wach and Dora is MS. M. Deneke Mendelssohn c. 41.

Custodial History

After the death of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, and in 1853, of his widow Ccile, the Grne Bcher were inherited by their eldest son Carl. After his death, in 1897, they passed to his son Dr. Albrecht Mendelssohn, who married his first cousin Dora Wach in 1905. Dora and her mother, Mendelssohn's youngest child Lili, created an index to the books. The books and index were bought from Albrecht and Dora by another of the composer's grandchildren, Paul Benecke. Later Benecke entrusted them to his friend Margaret Deneke.


Peter Sutermeister Briefe einer Reise durch Deutschland, Italien und die Schweiz, und Lebensbild (Zrich, 1958).

Personal Names