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15 August 2016

Wash on Monday? Beethoven's laundry list

Wash on Monday,

Iron on Tuesday,

Mend on Wednesday,

Churn on Thursday,

Clean on Friday,

Bake on Saturday,

Rest on Sunday

So goes the familiar rhyme, quoted here in the version that appears in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s popular children’s book Little house in the big woods (1932).

This routine of household chores had a much longer history, however, and even famous composers, it would seem, could not escape the drudgery of the weekly wash.

Amongst the British Library’s extensive Zweig Collection is Zweig MS 210, a single, handwritten leaf dating from 1827. The back of the leaf bears an intriguing inscription in red crayon: "der letzte Wäschzettel" and "von Beethoven".

Zweig MS 210, folio 1v

This unassuming document is nothing less than Ludwig van Beethoven’s last laundry list.

British Library Zweig MS 210, folio 1 recto

Scribbled in pencil, the items described include:

Hemden 12 (Shirts – 12)

Leintücher 10 (Linen cloths – 10)

Handtücher 8 (Hand towels – 8)

This is one of several documents that provide a fascinating insight into the everyday life of the great composer. Also included are his kitchen accounts (Zweig MS 209) and an itemised receipt of his funeral expenses (Zweig MS 212).

To view Beethoven’s last laundry list alongside a wealth of other manuscript material, visit