June 19, 2009

Anna Amalia Library, Weimar

Part of my visit to present at the Germany Library Association Annual Conference consisted of a wonderful afternoon trip to Weimar to visit the Anna Amalia Library. The Duchess Anna Amalia Library is named for Anna Amalia, Duchess of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, who arranged in 1766 for the courtly (hoefische) book collection to be moved into the library.

The main building is the Green Castle (GrĂ¼nes Schloss), Anna's residence, which had been built between 1562 and 1565. The dowager Duchess had the building converted into a library in 1761. The Duchess, seeking a tutor for her son Duke Carl August, hired Christoph Martin Wieland, an important poet and noted translator of William Shakespeare. Wieland's Shakespeare volumes formed the core of the collection. From an architectural standpoint, the library is world famous for its oval Rococo hall featuring a portrait of Grand Duke Carl August.

One of the library's most famous patrons was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who worked there from 1797 to 1832. The library also includes the world's largest Faust collection. The Duchess's significant 13,000-volume music collection is also available in the library.

In World War II, most of the collection was housed elsewhere to preserve them from Allied bombing.

Today, the library is a public research library for literature and art history. The main focus is German literature from the Classical and the late Romantic eras.

Part of the collection was burned in a fire on 2 September 2004, which destroyed 50,000 volumes[1] of which 12,500 are considered irreplaceable. Another 62,000 volumes were severely damaged. However, some 6,000 historical works were saved, including the 1534 Lutheran Bible and a collection of Alexander von Humboldt's papers, by being passed hand-over-hand out of the building. 28,000 books in the building were not affected by the fire. Other items, like Friedrich Schiller's death mask suffered damage, too. 35 historic oil paintings were destroyed.

The fire came as a particular tragedy, in part because the collection was scheduled to move to another site in late October, little more than a month later. Some of the damaged books are being freeze-dried in Leipzig to save them from rotting as a result of water damage. Book restoration is scheduled to last at least until 2015.

In June 2005, it was announced that manuscripts that were out of the building at the time of the fire, and thus saved, included a hitherto undiscovered 1713 aria by Johann Sebastian Bach titled "Alles mit Gott und nichts ohn' ihn".

The library building was restored for $18.2 million and reopened at the end of October 2007 with some 60,000 volumes. This includes the unaffected books, the first restored books and replacements which have been obtained on the international antique book market, from other libraries, or were donated. An online database lists the books the library still wants to obtain to replace lost volumes.

This photo is of the newer addition. Photography is not allowed in the older, original library. Overall, this was quite a sight to behold!

1 comment:

  1. Great that you came to Erfurt and I am glad that you had a chance to visit the Anna Amalia as well. It was a tragedy indeed when it partly burned down, but it was really amazing to see the political and public support the library got afterwards. The German president re-opened the library in October 2007 with a speech full of praise for German libraries - and librarians!