Rare Autograph Letter Signed by the Founder of the Eponymous Psychology Test

Signed by Hermann Rorschach

Item: 19865
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RORSCHACH, HERMANN. (1884-1922). Swiss psychiatrist who devised the eponymous Rorschach test, a diagnostic procedure using ink blots to inquire into what a patient “sees” in the images to draw conclusions about his or her emotional functioning. ALS. (“Dr. H. Rorschach”). 2pp. 8vo. Waldau, October 29, 1914. To Viennese-born, Swiss scholar SAMUEL SINGER (1860-1948). In German with translation.

“Please grant the undersigned a courteous request. As I work on sectarian psychology, specifically of sects around Bern, from followers of Zinzendorf to today’s, I frequently come upon folkloristic elements, traces of superstition, local lore, etc. Since my training in medicine has not provided me with much knowledge in this area and since, despite searching in libraries, I still lack much of that knowledge, I would like to ask you if I may occasionally turn to you to fill in those gaps. I also lack the necessary critical perspective toward that literature. To mention just one example: the ample footnotes for Rochholz’ Aargau sagas seem to me here and there too bold, yet I cannot say I can tell the true from the un-true. I approach the question with psychoanalytical intentions, where one is easily tempted to take leaps of phantasy and where negligible discrepancies can turn into serious mistakes, which is why I would like to ask your occasional advice, when at all possible. I also have trouble finding the necessary literature. Supposedly in the days of Frederick II, there was a sect in the canton of Bern, called the ‘cat-kissers.’ Where would I most likely find something about them? Literature about erotic folklore, not insignificant in sects, is nearly impossible to find. May I ask you if there is some place in Bern where I can find the ‘Anthropo…[?].’ I am sorry to be bothering you. If you are too busy, would you be so kind to let me know whom I can turn to for the time being? With all my respect, signed, Dr. H. Rorschach, Doctor at Waldau…”

One of the original Rorschach ink blots

After studying painting, Rorschach chose to pursue a career in psychiatry. He studied with Carl Jung’s disciple Paul Eugen Bleuler who popularized the term schizophrenia.Rorschach’s interest in psychoanalysis led him, in 1911, to conduct experiments evaluating people’s impression of a series of inkblots and interpreting them as indicative of emotions and personality traits. A decade later he published the findings of his experiments using this technique in his text Psychodiagnostik, now considered a classic in the field. Though he died at age 37, his legacy, the Rorschach Test, has lived on, at times controversial, but overall widely accepted as a standard diagnostic tool of modern psychology.

Our letter is written shortly after Rorschach returned from a brief period in his new wife’s native Russia in order to become assistant director of the Herisau Psychiatric Hospital near Bern.

Immigrating to Switzerland because his Jewish ancestry limited his career options in Austria, Singer spent 30 years as a professor of German philology and medieval literature at the University of Bern, writing extensively on medieval literature and proverbs.

German religious reformer Nicolaus Zinzendorfer (1700-1760) was a bishop of the Moravian Church, one of the oldest Protestant denominations, who sheltered Bohemian religious refugees on his estate in Saxony and greatly shaped the theology of that church.

Our letter also refers to the work Swiss historian and folklorist Ernst Ludwig Rochholz (1809-1892) and his writings on the folklore of the Swiss Canton of Aargau. Rochholz’s work, while considered groundbreaking at the time, quickly became outdated due to his unscientific methods.

The fact that cats have been associated with heresies since the High Middle Ages, often as a symbol of the devil, would undoubtedly have been interesting to Rorschach in his study of folklore and mythology. Rorschach is looking for information on the Katzenküssers (“cat-kissers”) of Bern, which he believed to have been active during the 18th century, during the reign of Prussian King Frederick the Great (1712-1786). The term “Katzenküsser” was an insult hurled by Catholics against their protestant Bernese neighbors who were suspected of sinful behavior with cats during their religious ceremonies. Written on a folded sheet with four file holes affecting several words, otherwise in excellent condition and rare.

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