Berlin State Library

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Berlin State Library - Prussian Cultural Heritage
Logo of the Berlin State Library

founding 1661
Duration 25.3 million (as of 2018)
Library type universal scientific library
place Berlin
ISIL DE-1 (SBB, Unter den Linden house)
DE-1a (SBB, Potsdamer Platz house)
DE-1w (SBB, newspaper department in the Westhafenspeicher)
management Barbara Schneider-Kempf

The Berlin State Library - Prussian Cultural Heritage ( SBB for short ) is an institution of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation and the largest academic universal library in Germany. Founded in 1661 by Friedrich Wilhelm , Elector of Brandenburg , it collects literature from all fields of science, languages ​​and countries. The traditional successor to the Prussian State Library owns two main buildings, the Unter den Linden house and the Potsdamer Straße house . With a stock of more than 25 million works, it is one of the largest libraries in Germany and the most important in the world .


Today's Berlin State Library has had various names over the course of history:


In 1659, Friedrich Wilhelm von Brandenburg ordered his collections to be organized in an electoral library at Cölln on the Spree . This first library order was established in 1661 (which is why it was founded). In 1668 the librarian Johann Raue prepared the first catalog. In 1701 she was due to the coronation of Frederick III. from Brandenburg to the Royal Library of Berlin . After the monarchy in Prussia was abolished by the November Revolution, the library was called the Prussian State Library . With the end of the Second World War, the institution was split up between the two political camps in East and West Germany and only merged again in 1992.

Opening ceremony in the domed reading room in 1914 in the presence of Kaiser Wilhelm II , keynote speaker Adolf von Harnack as general director

From November 1941, almost all of the holdings, which had grown to around three million volumes and important special collections, were relocated to the Reich in order to protect them from being destroyed by bombing . The collections were ultimately located in 30 mines, churches, castles and schools, only the reading room holdings, some objects that could not be transported and the items in the display collection remained in Berlin. The holdings relocated to the eastern areas of the German Reich have been in Polish possession since 1945 under the name Berlinka ; they are kept in the University Library in Krakow. Further stocks that were transported away by Soviet troops after 1945 have since been in what is now the CIS countries . As a result of the Second World War , the library lost around 600,000 books as well as parts of the special collections. It can be proven that they were destroyed or are missing or did not return to Berlin. The unique card catalog created by Georg Hermann Valentin over decades with evidence of 150,000 mathematical works published before 1900 was also destroyed in the bombing war .

In 1945, when the war ended, Germany was divided into Allied occupation zones. The opposing forces of the occupying powers that soon broke out during the Cold War prevented the state library from amalgamating the scattered holdings and records at its location in East Berlin . Operations on Unter den Linden were provisionally resumed under Soviet supervision in February 1946. The institution was initially given the name Public Scientific Library , which it continued until the 1950s. The holdings under the administration of the Western Allies initially found a new “home”: The Western Allies decided not to bring the holdings back to Berlin. The holdings of the State Library in West Germany were brought together in 1946 as the “State Library in Exile” in the cleared building of the Marburg University Library and opened there as the Hessian Library , which in 1949 became the West German Library . Other parts of the special collections were brought together in Tübingen.

It was not until 1957 that the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (SPK) was established, a legally responsible foundation under public law established by federal law with the task of "returning cultural goods that were relocated from Berlin due to the war". However, due to constitutional disputes between the federal and state governments, the foundation was only able to start work in Berlin four years later.

In 1961, the 300th anniversary of the State Library took place in both parts of Berlin, at which the two libraries ( West German Library in Marburg, German State Library in East Berlin) became a political issue in the Cold War . A journalistic campaign by the GDR about the “Marburg book grave” increased the pressure to act on the western side. The German State Library was of the opinion: "The return of the old holdings of the former Prussian State Library to its ancestral building on Unter den Linden is the only sensible way out of this misery [...]"

In 1963, the Board of Trustees finally announced a competition for the new building of the State Library at the Kulturforum , which Hans Scharoun won in 1964. After a construction period of eleven years, the State Library of Prussian Cultural Heritage opened in 1978 . This meant that there was an institution in both East and West Berlin that referred to the Prussian State Library.

After German reunification , on January 1, 1992, both locations were merged into one library in two buildings under the name Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin - Prussischer Kulturbesitz . As the traditional successor to the Prussian State Library, it is one of the libraries of national importance. It receives continuous support from the German Research Foundation based in Bonn .


Pharmacy wing of the castle (1661–1780)

The pharmacy wing of the castle, the location of the library until 1780

From its foundation in 1661, the Electoral Library (from 1701 the Royal Library of Berlin ) was housed in the pharmacy wing of the Berlin Palace until 1780 . The pharmacy wing was located on the northeast corner of the palace building, in the area of ​​today's group of trees at the transition from the baroque to the modern facade of the Humboldt Forum. As the holdings grew continuously, a separate library building was to be built.

"Dresser" on Opernplatz (1780–1913)

The “chest of drawers” ​​was the library's location until 1913

The building, completed in 1780, is located on the west side of Bebelplatz , formerly Opernplatz . Because of the curved shape of the building, Berliners have been lovingly calling it the “ dresser ” for almost two hundred years . The building on Unter den Linden was built according to plans by Georg Christian Unger . These plans were based on a design by the Austrian architect Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach , which is why the building is strongly reminiscent of the Michaeler tract of the Vienna Hofburg (1889). Today the law faculty of the Humboldt University is located in this building .

When the Royal Library moved there, it contained over 150,000 volumes. But over 100 years later, space was running out. The almost exploding book production from the middle of the 19th century also brought enormous increases in the library's holdings. A suitable construction site for a new building was found opposite.

House Unter den Linden

State Library Unter den Linden around 1935

According to plans by the architect Ernst von Ihne , the new building in the street Unter den Linden was built between 1903 and 1914, which at the time was the largest library building in the world. The library moved into the newly constructed building Unter den Linden 8 in 1913/1914 ; today this is one of the two major locations of the Berlin State Library, the historical research library .

At 170 meters long and 107 meters wide, this is the largest historical building in Berlin-Mitte . In 1941, as a result of the war, the building lost its functional and architectural center, the domed reading room. On April 12, 1975 the remains of the dome were blown up, and in 1977 the dome reading room was completely demolished. The vestibule and the cubature above the representative outside staircase were then suspended with a flat ceiling. Above the flat ceiling were the remains of a barrel vault, a cross vault and a representative majolica ring, which had now been invisible for decades.

In the years 2005 to 2019 the building was renovated according to the plans of the architect HG Merz and supplemented with new buildings: A central reading room in the form of a glass cube, the directly adjoining open-access storage room, and safe storage rooms on two floors below the reading room, the one on the level The Rara reading room located next to the lounge and the book edition ; in the southern part of the building on Unter den Linden there are event rooms. The renovated reading rooms for the special collections of manuscripts, music, maps, books for children and young people, newspapers and an information center with group work rooms are located in the old building. After relocating and merging the relocated stocks, the building was virtually reopened on January 25, 2021. On the websites of the Berlin State Library and the Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning, all important information on this extensive building project, including the basic design, equipment, costs and the construction process, is presented. The federal government bore the full cost of the general overhaul and additions to the building. Total costs of 470 million euros are 4400 euros per square meter built or renovated. A primary goal of the general renovation was to return the building to its original plans and room layouts 100 years ago. This was inter alia. achieved with the dismantling of intermediate ceilings and walls that had been drawn in over the decades - as a result, among many other things, the cubature of the vault above the representative outside staircase and the dome cross above the vestibule were restored. The dome on the central projection on Unter den Linden has also been completely reconstructed, and this too was lost due to bombing in the Second World War. A high-performance digitization center was housed in the old building (in operation since 2010). The renovation of the magazine in the upper part of the building, which extends over seven floors through the entire building, was particularly complex: In addition to the renovation of the Lipman shelving system, the integration of the air conditioning and the book transport system into the existing building structure was an extreme engineering challenge. A special moment on November 3, 2019 was the restoration of the connection between the vestibule and the central reading room through a high, plain glass door: for 78 years, the path from south to north was interrupted at this point.

In the course of the renovation, post-war buildings such as the hall for musicology and the hall for social science were demolished. These rooms, which were redesigned from 1966 to 1968 according to plans by the house architect Wolfgang Kinckert, were considered an “outstanding monument to the history of architecture and design in the GDR and its library history”. The baroque stucco ceilings that were still in existence at the time had been carefully restored. In addition to the fixtures that were removed in the spring of 2013 despite protests by experts, the stairwell with the foyer, which was widened and redesigned in the 1950s, was also changed. In the upper landing, the floor made with Saalburg marble slabs was removed and replaced with terrazzo .

House Potsdamer Strasse

The building at Potsdamer Straße  33 has been in operation since 1978 ; it is designed like a mighty “book ship”. The building belongs to the Kulturforum Berlin and was built between 1967 and 1978 according to plans by the architect Hans Scharoun . After Scharoun's death in 1972, the building was completed by his student Edgar Wisniewski . The spatial composition of the building with its reading room landscape stands for openness and community. This location is the library of modernity. In autumn 2019, gmp architects won the Europe-wide competition for the general renovation of the building, and plans for the renovation process have been underway since then.

Storage magazine Friedrichshagen

A magazine location was put into operation in 2011. The new storage magazine was built in the Friedrichshagen district according to plans by the Munich architect Eberhard Wimmer.

Library profile


Signature mgf 474, manuscript I of the Nibelungenlied , around 1300, discovered by Beda Weber at Obermontani Castle

The Berlin State Library has documents from all scientific disciplines, languages, times and countries with a focus on the humanities and social sciences. In addition to the extensive main holdings, numerous special collections are maintained and managed in specialized departments, a total of over 32 million conventional holdings, plus digital holdings that cannot be counted individually.

The conventional stocks are mainly kept in magazines. They can be researched and ordered in the electronic catalog. Anyone over the age of 16 can use and borrow the holdings of the State Library; the library card is free of charge.

The statistics for 2018 include the following rounded inventory figures:

  • 11.9 million books, bound magazines and newspapers
  • 18,600 occidental manuscripts
  • 42,400 oriental manuscripts
  • 322,000 autographs
  • 1,600 bequests and archives
  • 67,000 music autographs
  • 470,000 music prints
  • 1.2 million maps , plans, cityscapes
  • 12.5 million images in the image archive
  • 5.5 million non-electronic materials such as microfiches and films , AV materials
  • 674,000 digital units with non-countable individual works in databases
  • 15,900 continuously subscribed newspapers and magazines
  • 30,000 electronic newspapers and magazines licensed in 2018.

National and World Document Heritage

The library's holdings include - among many other things - autographs by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing , Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Heinrich von Kleist , block prints from the early Ming period and the oldest printed work in the world from Japan (764/770), the estate of Johann Gottfried Herder , Joseph von Eichendorff , Gerhart Hauptmann , Dietrich Bonhoeffer , Gustaf Gründgens , Max Born, Otfried Preußler, Claudio Abbado, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau; The archives include those of the Mendelssohn family and those of the Aufbau , Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht , De Gruyter , Mohr-Siebeck and Wagenbach publishers .

The great treasures of world culture and national cultural heritage include the largest Mozart collection in the world, 80 percent of all autographs by Johann Sebastian Bach , the largest collection of autographs by Ludwig van Beethoven with the symphonies 4, 5 , 8 and  9 as well as his Piano concertos 1–3 and 5, Boccaccio's Decameron , the text of the German song in the handwriting of Hoffmann von Fallersleben , one of the extremely rare Nuremberg prints of Martin Luther's 95 theses , autographs and bequests from famous scientists and historical newspapers from all over the world.

Four objects that are kept in the Berlin State Library are part of the UNESCO World Document Heritage : the original score of the Symphony No. 9 in D minor by Ludwig van Beethoven, the original score of the B minor Mass by Johann Sebastian Bach, a Nuremberg print of the 95 theses against the indulgences of Martin Luther, the Hebrew hand Bible of Martin Luther.

Large parts of the stocks that were initially relocated to the Grüssau Monastery in Silesia during the Second World War were located on Polish territory after the end of the war . Today the collection known as Berlinka is kept in the Biblioteka Jagiellońska in Kraków . Around 300,000 books, medieval manuscripts, the Varnhagen von Ense autograph collection with letters from and to 9,000 people, part of Alexander von Humboldt's academic legacy, Schiller's doctoral thesis and, last but not least, music autographs by Beethoven and Mozart .

Specialized information services

The Berlin State Library operates a total of four of the specialist information services for science located at numerous German academic libraries (formerly: special collection areas ). In the State Library these are the FID Law ( Virtual Specialized Law Library ), CrossAsia (East and Southeast Asia), Slavic Studies ( Slavic Studies portal ) as well as cartography and geographic base data.

Organizational structure of the library

Head of the library

Since foundation until 1945

1842–1873 Georg Heinrich Pertz
1873–1884 Karl Richard Lepsius
1886–1905 August Wilmanns
1905–1921 Adolf von Harnack
1921–1925 Fritz Milkau
1925–1945 Hugo Andres Krüß

German State Library of the GDR

1946–1950 Rudolf Hoecker
1950–1976 Horst Kunze
1977–1988 Friedhilde Krause
1989–1991 Dieter Schmidmaier

State Library West Berlin

1948–1961 Martin Cremer
1963–1972 Ludwig Borngässer
1972–1987 Ekkehart Vesper
1987–1995 Richard Landwehrmeyer

After the reunification of Germany

1995–2002 Antonius Jammers
2002–2003 Graham Jefcoate
since 2004 Barbara Schneider-Kempf

Departments and special departments

Central departments

General management, central department / administration, information and data management, inventory building, scientific services and catalog system, use, inventory maintenance and digitization as well as national services.

Special departments

Historical prints, manuscript department, music department, map department, Eastern Europe department, East Asia department, Orient department, children's and youth book department, Prussian cultural property image archive .

Library tasks and projects


The annual budget for maintaining the special collections is around one million euros. Outstanding projects in recent years have been the restoration of the largest Hebrew parchment Bible Erfurt 1 and the music manuscripts of Johann Sebastian Bach . The Friends of the Berlin State Library e. V. support the library on a long-term basis in maintaining the holdings, including by awarding book sponsorships (see below).


Union catalog of medieval manuscripts, working group on European affairs for libraries, archives, museums and monument preservation (EUBAM) and operation of the Kalliope network , newspaper information system ZEFYS, which offers access to digitized historical newspapers.


The digitization of unique holdings, related collections or individual volumes is carried out in the library's digitization center according to your own priorities and at the request of the user. Outstanding digitization projects in recent years have been the digitization of all miniatures of the Shahnama manuscripts of the Orient Department, the Berlin Turfan Collection (Old Turkish, Middle Iranian, Tocharian), the 9th Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven, the Prussian official press, the archive of the Aufbau Verlag, the music manuscripts Johann Sebastian Bach; Current projects include, among other things, the indexing of the collections of cover rubbings of the Berlin State Library (cover database), of oriental manuscripts of scientific historical significance in cooperation with the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science , of Prussian legal sources.


Descriptive catalogs of the Manuscripta theologica latina in octavo of the Berlin State Library, database of single-sheet materials (DEM), indexing of the picture sheets of the children's and youth book department within the framework of the database of single-sheet materials (DEM), indexing of the collection of letters in the Busoni estate (completed), general catalog of Wiegendrucke (GW), IKAR map prints before 1850, integration of the old real catalog into the StaBiKat and inventory of the Manuscripta germanica of the Berlin State Library.

Cataloging of the legal manuscripts of the Historical Archive of the City of Cologne (completed), the medieval manuscripts of the shelf mark group  B of the University and State Library Düsseldorf, the medieval manuscripts in French (completed), the Oriental manuscripts in Germany, the music archive of the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin (Deposit) and manuscripts from Greifswald holdings.

Collaboration on the English Short Title Catalog (ESTC), collaboration on the directory of prints from the 16th century published in the German-speaking area ( VD 16 ), collaboration on the directory of prints from the 17th century published in the German-speaking area ( VD 17 ), collaboration on the European Bibliography on Eastern Europe Research (EB), Jean Paul estate indexing, Leopold von Ranke estate indexing , New Contents Slavistics (NCS), retrospective conversion and short title catalog of the 16th century prints in the holdings of the Berlin State Library - Prussian Cultural Heritage ( ST16 ). Adoption of the magazines of the Unter den Linden house of the State Library in the magazine database and the filming of historical newspapers


The selection of the acquired literature follows the principles of the collection structure, which can be found on the library website. As a special task, the management of various time segments was taken over in the Working Group on the Collection of German Prints.

Informing the public

The public is comprehensively informed about the library's collections and their expansion, maintenance and use, about the development of the library as an institution and about its role in national and international librarianship. This is essentially used

  • the website,
  • the library magazine published jointly with the Bavarian State Library in Munich,
  • the SBB blog network for research and culture,
  • Press releases,
  • Guided tours and training courses,
  • Exhibitions and events,
  • printed catalogs, accession journals,
  • topic-centered leaflets and brochures,
  • Information sheets for users and readers,
  • Twitter messages,
  • Facebook entries,
  • the online newsletter.

Other library sigla

In addition to the above, the following other library sigils are maintained:

  • 1b Prussian cultural property, picture archive
  • 1w Prussian cultural property, newspaper collection
  • 611 Prussian cultural property, "Central index of autographs" / Kalliope network

Association of Friends of the Berlin State Library V.

The association was founded in 1997. It follows the tradition of the Association of Friends of the Royal Library in Berlin , which was founded in 1914 by Franz von Mendelssohn , among others . The association primarily supports the library by awarding book sponsorships , through individual projects such as the restoration of original music manuscripts by Johann Sebastian Bach and the Erfurt Bible, as well as through publications and the award of the Max Herrmann Prize .


on the history of the State Library

  • Ralph Breslau (Red :): Relocated, lost, destroyed ... The fate of the stocks of the Prussian State Library that were relocated during World War II. Berlin State Library, Berlin 1995, ISBN 3-88053-060-2 .
  • Walter Ederer, Werner Schochow (Ed.): 325 Years of the State Library in Berlin. The house and its people. Reichert, Wiesbaden 1986, ISBN 3-88226-275-3 ( Staatsbibliothek Preußischer Kulturbesitz. Exhibition catalogs 27).
  • Martin Hollender (Ed.): “Because a state library is, please! no entertainment establishment ". The Berlin State Library in beautiful literature, in memoirs, letters and confessions of well-known contemporaries from five centuries. Staatsbibliothek, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-88053-142-0 ( contributions from the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Prussischer Kulturbesitz 25).
  • Friedhilde Krause , Antonius Jammers: "Here private circles have to help ..." The commitment of the Association of Friends to its Royal and Prussian State Library from 1914 to 1944. Stapp, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-87776-121-2 .
  • Eugen Paunel: The State Library in Berlin. Its history and organization during the first two centuries since it opened. 1661-1871. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 1965 / Reprint 2019, ISBN 978-3-11-082324-0 ( eBook, PDF - table of contents and foreword freely accessible).
  • Barbara Schneider-Kempf : 25 years of Scharoun-Bau. 25 years of the State Library on Potsdamer Strasse. Greetings from the Acting Director-General. Berlin State Library, Berlin 2003.
  • Werner Schochow: Book fates. The history of relocation of the Prussian State Library. Outsourcing, destruction, alienation, repatriation. Represented from the sources. de Gruyter, Berlin and others 2003, ISBN 3-11-017764-1 ( publications of the Historical Commission in Berlin 102).
  • Werner Schochow: The Berlin State Library and its environment. 20 chapters of Prussian-German library history . Klostermann, Frankfurt a. M. 2005, ISBN 3-465-03442-2 ( book advertisement ).
  • Werner Schochow: Stories from the Berlin State Library. 41 miniatures . BibSpider, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-936960-79-2 .
  • Gudrun Voigt: The war-related relocation of holdings in the Prussian State Library and their repatriation. A historical sketch based on archival materials. Laurentius-Verlag Dehmlow, Hanover 1995, ISBN 3-931614-08-5 ( small historical series of the magazine Laurentius  8, also: Humboldt University, diploma thesis, 1992).

See also

Web links

Commons : Berlin State Library  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  3. Ursula Winter (ed. And arrangement): The manuscripts of the Churfürstliche Bibliothek zu Cölln an der Spree - Johann Raues catalog from 1668. Ms. Cat. A 465 from the Berlin State Library - Prussian cultural property, with proof of signature and commentary. In: Eef Overgaauw (ed.): Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin Preußischer Kulturbesitz: Catalogs of the Manuscript Department , First Series: Manuscripts, Vol. 10. Harrassowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden 2018, ISSN  0172-1119 .
  4. ^ Paul Hühnerfeld : Millions of books vegetate . In: Die Zeit , January 20, 1955
  5. Law for the establishment of a foundation “Prussian Cultural Heritage”. (PDF; 18 kB) Accessed December 29, 2012 . , § 3, paragraph 2
  6. ^ History of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation. In: Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz , accessed on September 15, 2015.
  7. Martin Hollender: The “Marburg Book Grave” - Political controversies about the two Berlin state libraries in East and West during the Cold War . Archive for the history of the book industry 63, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-598-24859-7 , p. 158.
  8. ^ German State Library: The Marburg Book Grave . Berlin 1961, p. 15.
  9. ^ The history of the library at
  10. ^ Libraries of national importance. Library portal
  11. ^ The new building of the Royal Library Berlin. In: Journal of Librarianship and Bibliography . Born 1908, 1st and 2nd issue
  12. History of the Unter den Linden building. At
  13. ^ Haus Unter den Linden at
  14. ^ Sebastian Höhn: The last wound is closed and Nikolaus Bernau : Old State Library. The destruction of the continues. In: Berliner Zeitung , July 11, 2013.
  15. ^ Staatsbibliothek unter den Linden: New reading rooms opened. Börsenblatt, July 20, 2015.
  16. Bernhard Schulz: Berlin's new cathedral of knowledge., January 25, 2021, accessed on January 26, 2021.
  17. The Buildings | Berlin State Library. Retrieved August 18, 2020 .
  18. ^ Berlin State Library, Unter den Linden house. Retrieved August 18, 2020 .
  19. Potsdamer Strasse at
  20. Friedrichshagen | Berlin State Library. Retrieved August 18, 2020 .
  21. Friedrichshagen storage magazine at
  22. a b collections at
  23. a b c departments at
  24. Usage / Fee Regulations from January 2nd 2013 (PDF) at
  25. Facts and Figures | Berlin State Library. Retrieved August 18, 2020 .
  26. WA Mozart | Music Department | Berlin State Library. Retrieved August 18, 2020 .
  27. JS Bach | Music Department | Berlin State Library. Retrieved August 18, 2020 .
  28. L. van Beethoven | Music Department | Berlin State Library. Retrieved August 18, 2020 .
  29. Unity and Law and Freedom - Deutschlandlied on August 26/27. displayed. Retrieved August 18, 2020 .
  30. ^ Three more items from the State Library are now in the Unesco Register Memory of the World. Retrieved August 18, 2020 .
  31. ^ Relocated holdings (PDF; 37 kB) at
  32. Further information at:
  33. ZEFYS newspaper information system
  34. a b Database of single sheet materials (DEM)
  35. website
  36. ^ Library magazine
  37. SBB blog network for research and culture
  38. See: Evidence according to the German ISIL Agency and Sigelstelle
  39. See: Evidence according to the German ISIL Agency and Sigelstelle
  40. See: Evidence according to the German ISIL Agency and Sigelstelle
  41. Book sponsorships. In: Friends of the Berlin State Library e. V. , accessed September 15, 2015.

Coordinates: 52 ° 30 ′ 23 ″  N , 13 ° 22 ′ 13 ″  E