August II (Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel)

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Portrait (1666)
August II in the library; Engraving by Conrad Buno , around 1650
August of Braunschweig-Lüneburg. Engraving after Anselm van Hulle .

August the Younger (born April 10, 1579 in Dannenberg , Principality of Lüneburg ; † September 17, 1666 in Wolfenbüttel ) Duke of Braunschweig-Lüneburg , Prince of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel , ruled from 1635 until his death in 1666 and was considered one of the most learned princes its time.

Due to his immense interest in manuscripts and books, he developed an intensive collecting activity and thus created the largest library in Europe for its time , the Herzog August Library in Wolfenbüttel .


August was born as the seventh and last child of Ursula von Sachsen-Lauenburg (1552 / 53–1620) and Duke Heinrich von Dannenberg (1533–1598) from the Celle line of the Welfen dynasty and, due to this position, had practically no prospect of reign . Early on, however, he impressed his teachers with his intellectual abilities, so they urged his parents to let the fifteen-year-old study.

So he finally studied in Rostock , Tübingen and Strasbourg , where he learned Latin , Greek , Italian , French and English . After his studies he traveled to Europe for several years, visiting Italy , France , Holland and England .

At the age of 25 he settled in Hitzacker on the Elbe , where he built a modest farm with a maximum of 30 servants . The rule included an Elbe fishing village with around 500 inhabitants, which did not pose a particular challenge for the talented young man. Although of robust nature and enthusiastic rider, he decided against a career in the military . He also did not seek a position in the clergy , although there he could easily have pursued his passion for science and books.

Instead he spent 30 years in Hitzacker, which he converted into a small model state, and collected books on a modest budget. An early source even reports of the first library building in Hitzacker, although profane library buildings north of the Alps were unusual even in large residences at that time. He also brought his rule through the turmoil of the Thirty Years' War with diplomatic skill .

During this time he also excelled as a witch hunter . During his reign, 40 people were executed as witches.


Monument to Duke August the Younger on the market square in Wolfenbüttel, erected in 1904

After the Wolfenbüttel line of the Welfen dynasty ( Middle House Braunschweig ) died out in 1634, the throne of the Principality of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel became vacant.

Despite a bad starting position, August showed ambitions to take over the throne and was able to prevail against six other family members in a highly complicated succession dispute. For this purpose he even got himself the backing of Emperor Ferdinand II from Vienna .

In the succession treaty of December 14, 1635, August was officially heir to the throne at the age of 56. Due to the ongoing raging war, however, he had to wait nine more years in Braunschweig at Dankwarderode Castle before he could finally move into his badly damaged residence in Wolfenbüttel in 1644. He already brought 55 boxes of books with a weight of 470 quintals, the basis of his Bibliotheca Augusta .

As in Hitzacker, he carried out extensive reforms in Wolfenbüttel ; So he first set about building a functioning church, school and judicial system and systematically recorded all war damage in all communities in his principality in order to prepare his financial planning for the reconstruction. Considerable income from mining in the Harz Mountains and his comparatively modest court management enabled the country to recover quickly.

One of his most important government measures was the planning and execution of a craft suburb west of the Wolfenbüttel castle fortress, the Wolfenbüttler Auguststadt .

Cultural achievements

August was very committed to the development of the German language as a literary language . In contrast to many educated people of his time, he was proud to have written his works in his mother tongue . He was also interested in secret doctrines and alchemy and for many years was in correspondence with Johann Valentin Andreae , the presumed founder of the Rosicrucians .

In February 1632, Duke August met Prince Ludwig I of Anhalt-Köthen at the Halberstadt district assembly . He took the meeting as an opportunity to include the prince in the fruitful society , a loose association of noble and middle-class educated people with the aim of developing German into a uniform high-level language in spelling and grammar .

As a member of the Fruit Bringing Society, Duke August was given the name Liberator . As currency, he was the stamp and as an emblem Gamanderle assigned (sheep herb, Teucrium chamaedrys L.). In Köthener society book Herzog August can be found under No. 227th. There the rhyme law was also noted, with which he thanked for the admission:

Gamanderley frees you from the blow, helps you avoid
The niggle makes it hurt
some suffer
Liberatingly, I say on the beat: It's got to be
to be sought in common in front of Vnserm body calm,
But the soul is subject to vices,
But virtue has been seen here in the village,
She makes lords of servants, she speaks the princes freely
Of so much and so long practiced tyranny.

As part of these efforts, he hired the young scholar Justus Georg Schottelius (1612–1676) as a research assistant and prince educator , who is considered by many to be the father of German grammar today. Through his achievements, Wolfenbüttel became the center of German language research , a meeting place for writers and scientists . August's library, which was considered the largest in Europe at the time, certainly contributed significantly to this. At the end of the 17th century, for the first time in Germany, more books were printed in German than in Latin .

Under the pseudonym Gustavus Selenus he published in 1616 the first German chess textbook , The chess and Bobby Fischer ( in four distinct books with special fleiss thorough and orderly abgefasset ) and in 1624 the 500-page book Cryptomenytices et Cryptographiae libri IX , the in its time as a standard work for cryptology and cryptography .

Four years after he took office, the Peace of Westphalia was concluded in 1648 , and August did not wage war until his death in 1666. In contrast, he developed Wolfenbüttel - true to his motto "Everything with care" - into an intellectual and cultural center that radiated across Europe . His library, which as prince and duke he systematically expanded with the means available to him, became the largest collection of manuscripts and printed books on the continent.

Today the Herzog August Library is an important library and research facility with a special focus on the late Middle Ages and the early modern period .


Princess Klara Maria of Pomerania

First marriage on December 13, 1607: Clara Maria von Pomerania (July 10, 1574 - February 19, 1623), daughter of Duke Bogislaw XIII. of Pomerania (August 9, 1544 - March 7, 1606)

  • Daughter (* / † April 17, 1609)
  • Son (* / † May 10, 1610)

Second marriage on October 26, 1623: Dorothea von Anhalt-Zerbst (* September 25, 1607; † September 26, 1634), daughter of Rudolf von Anhalt-Zerbst (* October 28, 1576; † August 20, 1621)

  • Heinrich August (April 28, 1625 - September 30, 1627)
  • Rudolf August (* May 16, 1627 - † January 26, 1704)
  • Sibylle Ursula (* February 4, 1629; † December 12, 1671) ⚭ on September 13, 1663 Christian Duke of Holstein-Glücksburg (* June 19, 1627; † November 17, 1698)
  • Clara Augusta (June 25, 1632 - October 6, 1700) ⚭ June 7, 1653 Duke Friedrich von Württemberg-Neuenstadt (December 19, 1615 - March 24, 1682)
  • Anton Ulrich (* October 4, 1633 - † March 27, 1714)

Third marriage 1635: Sophie Elisabeth von Mecklenburg (* August 20, 1613; † July 2, 1676), daughter of Johann Albert II. Von Mecklenburg (* May 5, 1590; † April 23, 1636)


Pedigree of August II of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel
Otto V (Braunschweig-Lüneburg) (1439–1471)
⚭ 1467
Anna of Nassau-Dillenburg (1441–1514)
Ernst (Saxony) (1441–1486)
⚭ 1460
Elisabeth of Bavaria (1443–1484)
Johann Cicero (Brandenburg) (1455–1499)
⚭ 1476
Margaret of Saxony (1449–1501)

Magnus II (Mecklenburg) (1441–1503)
⚭ 1478
Sophie of Pomerania (1460–1504)

Albrecht the Brave (Saxony) (1443–1500)
⚭ 1459
Sidonie of Bohemia (1449–1510)
Johann IV (Sachsen-Lauenburg) (1439–1507)
⚭ 1464
Dorothea of ​​Brandenburg (1446–1519)
Heinrich I (Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel) (1463–1514)
⚭ 1486
Catherine of Pomerania († 1526)
Heinrich I (Braunschweig-Lüneburg) (1468–1532)

⚭ 1487
Margaret of Saxony (1469–1528)

Heinrich V (Mecklenburg) (1479–1552)
⚭ 1505
Ursula of Brandenburg (1488–1510)

Heinrich (Saxony) (1473–1541)
⚭ 1512
Catherine of Mecklenburg (1487–1561)

Magnus I (Saxony-Lauenburg) (1470–1543)
⚭ 1509
Katharina von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel (1488–1563)

Grandparents Duke
Ernst I (Braunschweig-Lüneburg) (1497–1546)

⚭ 1528
Sophie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1508–1541)

Franz I (Saxony-Lauenburg) (1510–1581)
⚭ 1540
Sibylle of Saxony (1515–1592)

parents Duke Heinrich (Braunschweig-Dannenberg) (1533–1598)

⚭ 1569
Ursula von Sachsen-Lauenburg (1552 / 53–1620)

August II of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel (1579–1666)


  • Ferdinand SpehrAugust the Younger, Duke of Braunschweig and Lüneburg . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 1, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1875, pp. 660-662.
  • Hans ButzmannAugust the Younger. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 1, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1953, ISBN 3-428-00182-6 , p. 445 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Maria von Katte: Narrow borders - wide horizons. The educational trips of August the Younger to Braunschweig and Lüneburg from 1598 to 1603. Published on behalf of the Museum Association Hitzacker (Elbe) and Surroundings eV Wolfenbüttel 2004, DNB 974145718 .
  • von Katte / Milde: August the Younger . In: Horst-Rüdiger Jarck, Dieter Lent et al. (Ed.): Braunschweigisches Biographisches Lexikon: 8th to 18th century . Appelhans Verlag, Braunschweig 2006, ISBN 3-937664-46-7 , p. 56f.
  • Joachim Lehrmann : Faith in witches and demons in the country of Braunschweig , Lehrte 2009, Lehrmann-Verlag, ISBN 978-3-9803642-8-7 (Chapter: "Duke August (1634–66) -" Scholar, Prince of Peace "and Hexenbrenner", p . 293–296)
  • Paul Raabe (Ed.): Collector Prince Scholar - Duke August of Braunschweig and Lüneburg 1579-1666 . Lower Saxony state exhibition in Wolfenbüttel, May 26 to October 31, 1979 (= exhibition catalogs of the Herzog August Library. Vol. 27). Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel 1979, ISBN 3-88373-007-0 .
  • Maresa Will (ed.): The book prince of the 17th century. Duke August the Younger. (= Vernissage. Volume 136, No. 4). Heidelberg 2004, DNB 972879374 .

Web links

Wikisource: August the Younger  - Sources and full texts
Commons : August the Younger  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. See the entry of August II's matriculation in the Rostock matriculation portal
  2. The chess or king game , 1616, digitized version
predecessor Office successor
Friedrich Ulrich Duke of Braunschweig and Lüneburg
Prince of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel
Rudolf August