Department of Early Printed Books

Responsibilities / Profile

Established in 1992 the Department is responsible for developing, cataloguing and managing the State Library’s precious special collections of printed books – at present all in all more than 250.000 volumes. Moreover, the Department augments and catalogues the library’s General Collection of Printed Books up to and including the publication year 1912. In the context of its activities concerning research and documentation of provenance information the Department is also in charge of handling Nazi-looted books identified in the library’s collections.

In line with the funds available the Department of Early Printed Books continues the universal collection policy of the former Prussian State Library. Thus gaps are being closed continually and the library’s historic collections are being expanded successively. In this context it is particularly important to close those gaps that were caused by dislocation and destruction of books during World War II. In day to day acquisitions a special emphasis is put on works related to the fields of law and Slavonic studies and also on the time segment 1871-1912 of the cooperative collection development programme “Sammlung Deutscher Drucke”.

Cataloguing / Digitization
All antiquarian acquisitions are recorded in the “StabiKat”, the library’s online catalogue. Moreover, the Department of Early Printed Books places an emphasis on the compilation of printed catalogues and bibliographies (e.g. its catalogue of Secular and Sacred Songs), and also on the development of special databases, such as the VD17 or the EBDB Database of Bookbindings. On the basis of such projects broad segments of the library’s holdings are being digitized successively. The project “Preußen 17 / Digital” may serve as an appropriate example, where high quality catalogue data on a national bibliographic level were supplemented by digital images and sub-structural metadata.

Readers’ Services
Special collections items are only handed out in the Rare Books Reading Room, where a wide range of printed and electronical information tools are available for further research. Experts of the Department are available for any information concerning the collections, but also with view to bibliographic questions, matters of typography or the history of printing.
The Department curates exhibitions from its precious special collections and also coordinates the management of incoming loan or reprint requests.

Special attention is given to the preservation of the Department’s collections. Appropriate restoration strategies attuned to the damage scenarios are developed in cooperation with the Department for Preservation and Digitization and highly specialized firms of the private sector. The scope of measures ranges from the repair of damaged bindings over the treatment of the paper to the complex restoration of the block. It is our ultimate ambition to keep invasions into the historical substance of the book (including the technical features of its binding) as minimal as possible in order to preserve to the highest possible degree the informative value of the non-textual parts of the book. In this context the importance of our “Adopt-a-Book-Programme” has very much increased in recent years. Even donations of no more than 100.00 EUR may allow effective and lasting measures to be carried out. Lists

Provenance Research / Nazi-looted Books
Provenance information on the basis of authority files is established and recorded for selected segments of our holdings as well as any new antiquarian acquisition. With regard to the problem of the illegal dispossession of cultural assets in the era of National Socialism the Department carries out investigations of the General Collection of Printed Books. It also gives support to relevant research projects (e.g. concerning the “Reichstauschstelle”) and, where ever necessary, arranges the restitution of Nazi-looted books in consultation with the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz.