Department of Early Printed Books

Funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), it was the aim of the P17-project to provide digital copies of about 14,000 17th century books printed in Prussia. This not only covers an important and systematically developed segment of the library’s holdings, it also accounts for around 20 per cent of all records the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin contributed to the Verzeichnis der im deutschen Sprachraum erschienenen Drucke des 17. Jahrhunderts (VD17) [Union Catalogue of Books Printed in the German Speaking Territories in the 17th Century]. Thereby the Staatsbibliothek made a major contribution to enhancing the VD17 database by linking full text digital copies to the bibliographical records – following the DFG Action Line “Digitalisierung der in nationalen Verzeichnissen nachgewiesenen Drucke” [Digitization of Books Recorded in National Union Catalogues]. Meanwhile, the approach to digitize according to regional principles has become part of the Masterplan zur Digitalisierung des VD17 [Master Plan for the Digitization of the VD17] as so-called Type 2 Digitization.

The segment of books selected for the P17-project was defined via their places of publication. As core area pre-1866 Prussia (as reflected in the library’s historic subject catalogue) was taken as a basis. With view to the needs of scholarship in the field of regional studies, the Mecklenburg imprints were included in order to offer a contiguous historical area, while the Prussian provinces Westphalia and Rhineland were deliberately left out. Thus the P17 digitization project focused on a relatively homogenous historical area, for which the State Library has taken on special responsibilities with regard to the future development of the VD17 national bibliographic project.

For more than one third of the books selected for P17 the VD17 only lists the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin as holding library. In this context, the enormous quantity of occasional poems by Simon Dach (1605-1659) may give an example of the library’s impressive stock of unique copies. Dach was professor of poetry at Königsberg and also head of the poets’ association “Musikalische Kürbisblüte”. His writings impressively reflect the heyday of scholarship and art of Königsberg university during and after the Thirty Years’ War. His successor as professor of poetics Johann Röling (1634-1679) wrote another 700 occasional poems, some of which were set to music by Johann Sebastiani. A considerable number of them are also unique copies in the possession of the State Library and were digitized in the course of the P17 project, too.

In the Staatsbibliothek the P17 project – started in 2008 and terminated in 2015 – did, in fact, do pioneering work: It was the first large scale digitization project the library undertook, at a time when its newly established Digitization Centre had not even moved into its proper premises in the library’s Unter den Linden branch. The digitization of German books of the 17th century, however, has been continued beyond P17: In the course of the new VD17-Unica project, also funded by the DFG, another 10,000 unique copies of the library’s holdings are being digitized.