Private library

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Part of Theodor Heuss's private library in the study of his home in Stuttgart
Goethe's library in his house on Frauenplan in Weimar

A private library is a privately owned collection of books that has been brought together by a private person. Private corporate libraries or private school libraries are usually not referred to as private libraries.

Features, special cases and examples

Under certain circumstances, private libraries can also be open to the public with the permission of the owner. The aristocratic libraries privately owned by aristocratic families are a special case . Sometimes the public has legal rights to use them (almost exclusively according to entails law ).

The best known private libraries are the libraries of well-known scholars and bibliophiles (book collectors). If they are not sold or remain in the possession of the heirs, private libraries are often transferred to the library holdings of public libraries as a gift or as a library estate after the owner's death . There they are partly kept together as a special stock.

Examples of well-known private libraries are the Bibliotheca Bodmeriana of the Swiss bibliophile Martin Bodmer , the Otto Schäfer library of the German industrialist Otto Schäfer in Schweinfurt, the Adolf Brehm library in Bad Arolsen and the library of the Swiss architectural historian Werner Oechslin in Einsiedeln , all four of which are established as foundations. An excellent example of a ruler's private library is that of Emperor Franz I of Austria (1768–1835), who was declared a Fideikommiss after his death and in 1878 with the private libraries of his successors, Emperor Ferdinand I (1793–1875) and Emperor Franz Joseph I (1830–1916) was merged to form the family entails library of the House of Habsburg-Lothringen. Today it is part of the Austrian National Library (Image Archive and Graphics Collection Department). Own buildings were often built for private libraries of this size and appropriate specialist staff were employed to look after them. In contrast, the Bibliotheca Tiliana owned by the entrepreneur and hunting scientist Kurt Lindner , auctioned and sold in 2003, was scattered to the wind after Lindner's death. Lindner's library contained around 12,000 books and manuscripts from several centuries, all of which were related to hunting, making it one of the world's most extensive libraries on this subject.

Another example is the private library of the outstanding German poet and statesman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832), which with 5,424 titles in around 7,000 volumes is still in his home on Frauenplan in Weimar . The contemporary private library includes around 50,000 books by the Italian writer and semiotic Umberto Eco (1932–2016), which are located at his main residence and various secondary residences.

Reference management programs can be used to catalog private libraries . In the internet-based library management program LibraryThing , in addition to the private libraries of the users registered there, libraries from the estate of numerous historical people can also be viewed publicly. The origin of a book from a well-known private library is seen by collectors as adding value and is therefore usually expressly mentioned in auction or antiquarian catalogs .


  • Jürgen Busche , Christine Eichel (Eds.) / Thomas Kierok [u. a.] (Photos): Of love for books and reading happiness - bright minds and their libraries. Knesebeck Verlag, Munich 2008, ISBN 978-3-89660-558-0 . (in a conversation women read differently with Elke Heidenreich )
  • Eugenio Canone (Ed.): Bibliothecae selectae da Cusano a Leopardi , a cura di Eugenio Canone. Olschki, Florence 1993 ( Lessico Intellettuale Europeo , 58).
  • Dominique Dupuich (texts), Roland Beaufre (photos): How we live with books . Brandstätter, Vienna / Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-85033-414-3 .
  • Umberto Eco , Jean-Claude Carrière : The Great Future of the Book - Conversations with Jean-Philippe de Tonnac . Hanser, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-446-23577-9 .
  • Estelle Ellis, Caroline Seebohm, Christopher Simon Sykes: Living with books. Book lovers and their libraries. Gerstenberg, Hildesheim 1996 (most recently 2008), ISBN 978-3-8369-2983-7 .
  • Gernot U. Gabel, Wolfgang Schmitz: Cologne collectors and their book collections in the University and City Library of Cologne. University and City Library, Cologne 2003, ISBN 3-931596-25-7 .
  • Leslie Geddes-Brown: Rooms for people who love books . Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-421-03817-3 .
  • Gerhard Loh: Directory of catalogs from book auctions and private libraries from German-speaking countries. Self-published, Leipzig from 1995 (five volumes published by 2008)
  • Susanne von Meiss (texts), Reto Guntli (photos): Book Worlds - Of People and Libraries . 2nd Edition. Gerstenberg, Hildesheim 1999, ISBN 3-8067-2855-0 .
  • Alan Powers: Living with Books . Augustus, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-8043-0784-1 .
  • Klaus Walther (writer) (texts and ed.) And Dieter Lehnhardt (photos): Have you read all of that? A book for readers and collectors. Mironde Verlag, Niederfrohna near Chemnitz 2014, ISBN 978-3-937654-80-5 . (Textual and photo documentary presentation of 16 contemporary and 10 historical private libraries of various poets, writers and scientists in the German and French-speaking areas)
  • Reinhard Wittmann (ed.): Book catalogs as sources of book history in the early modern period . Otto Harrassowitz in commission, Wiesbaden (1985) ( Wolfenbütteler Schriften zur Geschichte des Buchwesens , Vol. 10).
  • Thomas Huber-frischis, Nina Knieling, Rainer Valenta: The private library of Emperor Franz I of Austria 1784–1835. Library and cultural history of a princely collection between the Enlightenment and Vormärz. Böhlau, Vienna 2015, ISBN 978-3-205-79672-5 ( PDF download, 28.2 MB ).

Web links

Wiktionary: Private library  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikisource: Private Libraries  - Sources and Full Texts

Individual evidence

  1. Examples: Special collections in the ZB MED
  2. Martina Giese: On the sale of Kurt Lindner's hunting library in 2003. A short report. In: Würzburg medical history reports. Volume 22, 2003, pp. 532-537.
  3. ^ Umberto Eco, Jean-Claude Carrière : The great future of the book. Conversations with Jean-Philippe de Tonnac. Hanser, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-446-23577-9 , p. 277.
  4. cf. LibraryThing: Legacy Libraries