The founding of the Churfürstliche Bibliothek zu Cölln an der
Spree (Electoral Library) 350 years ago established the basis for
what is today the most important academic research library in the German speaking countries. Since its year of foundation (1661), the library's collections and holdings systematically grew to their present-day status as a result of the targeted acquisition and cataloguing of all manner of materials.
The Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz (Berlin State Library – Prussian Cultural Heritage) collects texts, media and cultural works from all fields of knowledge in all languages, from all eras and all countries of the world, providing the materials which are of interest for academic and research purposes. The current holdings and collections are accordingly impressive: They include printed works from many centuries, manuscripts, music autographs, maps, globes, atlases, estates, newspapers and periodicals, parliamentary documents, books for children and young people, microform collections, digitally presented texts as well as extensive databases.
The historical prints constitute another special area of focus, especially those books published in the German-speaking countries between1871 and 1912 as well as material on legal studies and the special collection field East/South-East Asia. Organisationally attached to the Staatsbibliothek is the Bildagentur für Kunst, Kultur und Geschichte (bpk) (Picture Agency for Art, Culture and History). As a central service institution, the bpk is the contact for editorial and commercial use of images from the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz.
A Library on Two Sites
The development of the library was interrupted by World War II.
The entire holdings – some three million books and other material at the time – had to be brought to safety in 30 monasteries, castles and shut-down mines. The division of Germany during the post-war years and following decades had an adverse effect also on the library's holdings: After 1945, only some of the collections were returned to the original site on Unter den Linden in Berlin (East). The by far greater part of relocated holdings was initially brought to West Germany and as of the late 1970s stored in the new building on Potsdamer Straße in Berlin (West).
Another part of the evacuated holdings is still located in Poland and on the territories of the former Soviet Union. In divided Berlin, both sites continued to maintain the library's collections, pursued an active acquisition policy and supported the work of researchers from all over the world.
Since 1992, the reunited Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz provides its services at both its sites Unter den Linden 8 and Potsdamer Straße 33 in the district of Mitte.
- more than 10 million books, amongst them 206,700 rarities
- 4,400 incunabula
- 18,400 occidental manuscripts
- 41,700 oriental manuscripts
- 320,000 autographs
- 67,000 music autographs
- 1,600 estates and personal archives
- 460,000 editions of printed music editions
- more than 1 million maps and atlases
- 25,000 subscription periodicals and publication series; 22,000 licensed electronic newspapers and periodicals
- 180,000 newspaper volumes and 350 subscription newspapers
- 4,300 databases
- 2,7 million microfiches and microfilms
- 13,5 million images at the picture agency
The Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin receives considerable support through the work of the following organisations: the Freunde der Staatsbibliothek zuBerlin e.V. (Friends of the Berlin State Library); the Mendelssohn-Gesellschafte.V. in Berlin (Berlin Mendelssohn Society); the InternationaleCarl Maria von Weber-Gesellschaft e.V. (International Carl Maria von WeberSociety); the Freundeskreis für Cartographica in der Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz e.V. (Friends of Cartographica at the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation) and the Arbeitskreis für die Erfassung und Erschließung Historischer Bucheinbände (The Association for the Recording andIndexing of Historical Bookbindings).
Outstanding Cultural Assets
Among the library’s most precious treasures are the Psalter Ludwigs des Deutschen (Psalter of Ludwig the German) dating from the 9th century and a copy of the exquisitely adorned Gutenberg Bible. The oldest handwritten book is a Coptic codex of the biblical Book of Proverbs, dating from the 3rd century; the oldest printed book is an 8th century Buddhist text from Japan, the Hyakumantó Darani.
The most famous music autographs include Johann Sebastian Bach’s Mass in B Minor, the St Matthew and St John Passions, Ludwig van Beethoven’s 4th, 5th, 8th and 9th Symphonies, as well as an almost complete collection of operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.Other notable items are the Germania-Karte (Map of Germany) by Nikolaus von Kues from 1491, the Atlas des Großen Kurfürsten (Atlas of the Great Elector Frederick William) and the Jahangir-Album from around 1600, which is of great significance to the history of Islamic-Indian book illustrations.
Academic Research Services
Some 1.2 million library transactions are recorded annually, including regular loans, written and verbal information services, inter-library loans and direct delivery of ordered documents. Furthermore, the Staatsbibliothek pays special attention to the preservation, maintenance and digitalisation of the cultural assets it is entrusted with.
The library regularly affords scientifically substantiated insight into its abundant collections by way of numerous publications and exhibitions. As Germany's largest academic universal research library, the Staatsbibliothek has taken on a series of central functions within the German library system – for example the administration of nine special collection focus areas, as well as the editorial responsibility for the Zeitschriftendatenbank – ZDB (German Union Catalogue of Serials, the worldwide largest database for title and ownership records of periodicals, newspapers etc.).
The library is also in charge of coordinating several national databases, for example the Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke (Union Catalogue of Incunabula), the database of 17th century printed books from German-speaking countries VD 17, the Datenbank der Historischen Druck-Einbände (Database of Historical Print Bindings), the database for estates and autographs Kalliope, the IKAR-Database of Old Printed Maps and the database of medieval manuscripts Manuscripta Mediaevalia.
The House Unter den Linden was constructed for the former Royal Library between 1903 and 1914 under the supervision of court architect Ernst von Ihne. The General and Special Reading Rooms currently accommodate 300 study desks. On the site of what used to be the Central Domed Reading Room, which was badly damaged during the war and later demolished, a new translucent Reading Room designed by the architect HG Merz is nearing its completion.
The House Potsdamer Straße was built following plans by architect Hans Scharoun and with substantial participation of Edgar Wisniewski and inaugurated in 1978. The building is internationally renowned for its open, impressive architectural reading room landscape with a total of 810 study desks and carrels in the General and Special Reading Rooms.
To the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (Foundation of Prussian Cultural Heritage in Berlin).