Henri de Rothschild (1872-1947) began his career as a collector in early childhood with a collection of stuffed animals. His tutor objected to the smell, however, and Henri turned his attention to collecting autographs instead. He accumulated more than 5,000 documents bearing signatures of kings, queens and statesmen, poets, dramatists and philosophers from the 15th to the 19th centuries. Combining a historian's professionalism with an amateur's interest, Henri chose two curators, Roger Gaucheron and Jean Porcher, to edit the catalogue of autographs.
They include letters and documents concerning the political, artistic and literary history of France. Henri's commitment to the subject is proved by the editions he produced of previously unedited letters by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in correspondence with Mme Boy de Ia Tour, as well as of the autographs of the playwright, Pierre Corneille which he brought out in 1929 as facsimiles of originals in Paris, Rouen and London. The collection was given to the Bibliothque Nationale in 1933.
Charlotte de Rothschild (1807-1859), Baron Anselm's wife, took advantage of the presence of three notable musicians who were staying at her parents' house in the summer of 1829 to start a collection of musical autographs. On this occasion, Mendelssohn, Moscheles and Cramer each wrote a short piece of music in her autograph book, or Livre d'or as it was known.
From then on, she continued to ask music teachers and friends to write an arietta or piano piece in her book until she died in 1859. Many of these pieces were published and became popular works. Bellini wrote the romance, Dolente immagine di Fille mia in 1821 in the book, which was the first work by him to be published, and quickly became a popular salon piece.
Meyerbeer wrote an English song, The Rare Flower in the book, while in 1836 Chopin wrote a Mazurka which is not very different from his Op. 67 no.4. Rossini, a family friend, set Metastasio's Siroe Mi lagnero tacendo, which he often used as an autograph and which he arranged nearly a hundred times.
In 1834, Louis Spohr entered a song he had had published in 1819, his Nachgefiihl. After Charlotte's death, her daughter, Mathilde (1832-1924), continued the book, and two composers, Halevy and the lesser known Rosenhain, entered pieces twice in it, once for Charlotte and later for Mathilde. Victor Massé, Franz Lachner and Anton Rubenstein were amongst the composers who wrote in the book for Mathilde. In 1869, Mathilde stopped collecting and her daughter and granddaughter, Minna Caroline and Lily Schey started collecting again in 1925.