Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften Akademiebibliothek Biography of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

History of the Library of the Academy

The Library - main features of its development
The Library in the 19th century
Development after 1945
Development after 1990

The Library - Main Features of its Development



The Library of the Academy is one of the oldest, if not in fact the oldest, institution of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

The library was founded at the start of the 18th century with the Electoral Society of Sciences of Brandenburg. In 2000, in the course of the Academy's 300 year anniversity celebrations, the library was also able to look back on a 300 year existence. Although no exact opening date has been found, both  Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz's "General-Instruction of the Society" from 11th  July 1700 and also the "Statute of the Royal Society of Sciences" from 3rd June 1710 contain references to the Library of Academy. It can certainly be seen as highly probable that Leibniz, the first Academy President in Berlin, who was also a librarian in Hanover and Wolfenbüttel, well-known for his influential work in the area of theoretical and practical development of academic libraries, will also have been deeply involved in the establishment of the Library of the Academy. It was also Leibniz who assigned the library its role as a scientific research library to be used actively by the Academy members. The assignation of such a role placed the Library of the Academy on a level alongside the Electoral, later Royal Library, today's State Library (Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz).

In the course of the 18th century the Library of the Academy was largely able to live up to the expectations of Leibniz's requirements. It took care to align its collection carefully to the needs of the Academy members and was involved in a comprehensive exchange of texts with other academies and learned societies, in order to receive their publications and also to present incoming publications to the Academy members in a circulation procedere. The exchanging of texts for Academy texts was at that point the most important form of acquisition for the Library of the  Academy.

Establishments such as the Royal Society of London, the Académie Royale des Sciences in Paris and the Imperial Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg (this since its founding in 1725) were, from the beginning, amongst the most impotant exchange partners of of the Academy of Sciences in Berlin.

On 31st October 1724 King Friedrich Wilhelm I. bestowed the status of copyright library for the Kingdom of Prussia on the Library of the Academy. Following this, a copy of all literature published in Prussia had to be given to the Library of the Academy free of charge. This happened, however, often only extremely reluctantly, and sometimes not at all. Should it not be suitable for the Academy itself, the incoming literature could also be used for text exchange, it could be sold or auctioned. Such auctions took place at the Gendarmenmarkt.

During the whole of the 18th century, the Academy was managed by esteemed scientists who were honourable members of the Academy. Initially, the Academy's secretary, Johann Theodor Jablonski, was also in charge of the library. In 1726, the Academy's two astronomers, Christfried Kirch and Augustin Grischow, were made responsible for the library, which at this point found itself in the position of being under observation. In 1735, the mathematician and astronomer Johann Wilhelm Wagner became librarian. The next holders of the position were Simon Pelloutier from 1745 to 1757, a theologist, and the philosopher Johann Bernhard Merian from 1757 to 1807, who was also Academy Director of Philology from 1771 and constant secretary from 1797. When Merian died in 1807 he had influenced the fate of the library for half a century. Many of his suggestions from this time regarding library administration still exist, amongst other things, they can also be found in his work   "Règlement pour la Bibliothèque de l'Academie Royale des Sciences et Belles-Lettres" from 20th May 1773. Following Merian's death, the librarian position was not refilled.

During Merian's period of office, the "Cabinets-Ordre ... from 9th April 1798, concerning the organisation of the Academy" of Friedrich Wilhelm III., came into effect and conferred the running of the Royal Library to the Academy. The Cabinets Ordre declared: "La grande bibliothèque publique de Berlin, ainsi que le Cabinet de curiosités naturelles seront combines à l'avenir avec l'Académie et confiés à sa direction."
With this the Academy had, even if only temporarily, two libraries. However, the close ties between the Library of the Academy and the Royal Library led to the Academy having to give the Royal Library part of its holdings, including that part which had been reassigned to the Academy previously. Only the texts of the academies and learned societies, reference works, such as encyclopaedias and dictionaries and general scientific journals were allowed to remain as part of the Academy's own collection.

The Library in the 19th Century



After the Royal Library and the Academy were again separated and the Academy had again achieved its independence, the Library of the Academy concentrated on its previous collection focus area. The continuation of the Royal Library copyright library status by means of the Statute of the Academy from 24th January 1812 meant that this was also a mandatory regulation.

The 46th paragraph of the "Statutes of the Royal Academy of Sciences in Berlin" has the following wording: "The Academy has its own library in which only the collections of proceedings of other learned societies and similary comprehensive and encyclopaedical works and lexica belong. All other works which the Academy receives as gifts or by any other means should, after a given period to enable usage by the Academy members, be transferred to the larger Royal Library." This regulation remained valid principle, with minor changes which were laid down in later statutes, for more than a century. This cannot be viewed as negative on principle, as the Academy members had the right to borrow literature from the Royal Library and take it home with them. Much more serious was the fact that the librarian's position was not refilled. The idea was for the Academy's archivist to fulfil the tasks as an extra to his own area of reponsibility and this had very negative consequences for the library. Active library work did not take place any more, order within the library became noticeably worse and only the incoming academy texts were collected. However, even this "Texts archive" left a lot to be desired! It became even worse as theoretical works within the Academy were hindered due to the non-functioning of the library- experimental work could not take place due to lack of support mechanisms. Preparations for the 200 year anniversary celebrations made the library's dire circumstances all the more obvious.  

In a letter dated 31st January 1895 and signed by a number of Academy members, including Hermann Diels, Max Planck, Eduard Sachau und Adolf Tobler, the following complaints were detailed: „Each person who has tried to use the library is all too aware that the order and henceforth usability of the Library of Academy have declined more and more over a long period of time. Books cannot be found immediately, it isn't easy to use the last issues of journals regularly either. How things have been and how they lie now is not a criticism of anyone in particular, be it would certainly seem that a remedy of this situation be most urgently recommended". This appraisal was underlined and supported with concrete examples by Adolf (von) Harnack when he began to write the "History of the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences of Berlin". His letter from 29th April 1896 to the Academy's office ends with the conclusion: "Even the preliminary work for a plan to write a history of the Academy will not be possible as long as the library finds itself in such a desolate state".

A radical change in this state was initiated in the very same year. In its resolution from 26th November 1896, the Academy put the newly employed, (he had been employed in the previous year), archivist and former librarian of the Friedrich Wilhelm University of Berlin, Otto Köhnke, in charge of the running and general order of the library. Köhnke reorganised the library in a quite revolutionary manner, ensured access to holdings and developed instructions for general library administration and increases in holdings. His principle for ordering and positioning periodicals was based on the publication source. As a result, in a very short span of time, it was possible for him to position all academy texts of each academy under the name of the respective place (where the academy was based) in the stacks.

The reorganisation of the Library of the Academy at the turn of the century, between the 19th and 20th centuries, laid a foundation, the efficiency of which lasted until the end of the 2nd World War.
Alongside the holdings of the Library of the Academy were book collections, part of huge cooperative ventures of the Academy and later commissions, ventures dating back to the early 19th century, which were exclusively available for the purposes and tasks of these and which were only accessible for the employees directly concerned. Reference libraries were later developed from these collections; these were of extreme importance for the continuation of the ventures.

Development after 1945


After the Academy's re-opening in 1946 as the German Academy of Sciences of Berlin, the Library of the Academy saw itself faced with a new situation. It wasn't just a matter of bringing back library holdings which had been outhoused during the war and resuming the day today work of the library. Following the Academy's developments, (the Academy took over research institutes from the East Germany and founded new institutes), it was also necessary to build up new working relationships with the new libraries and so to gradually build up an Academy Library network.

The first conclusions regarding the development of the central Academy Library's new orientation were drawn in 1949. On 5th December 1949 one of the then two Library of the Academy scientific librarians, Heinrich Roloff, presented the President and the Director of the Academy responsible for the library with an "expose of the state, the tasks and the future organisation of the Library of the German Academy of Sciences of Berlin". In this expose, Roloff defended the position that the Library of the Academy had to be extended and developed to become the central Library of the Academy and also that, alongside the promotion of its own development as Academy library, it also had three task complexes to fulfil as follows:

  • the procuring of foreign literature and literature difficult to acquire for the institute libraries, Acquisition of this literature primarily through the Academy Library's exchange of texts,
  • the organisation of the bibliographic information system for all the Academy's literature holdings, development of a central catalogue and introduction of uniform cataloguing guidelines on the basis of the "Prussian instructions", the then mandatory rules for scientific libraries,
  • and the realisation of an inter-library loan system (interlending) for the institutes in Berlin and for other of the Academy's institutions.

The outcome was that these task complexes developed more and more to become the Academy Library's central tasks. The procurement sector was given responsibility for the administration of contingency funds for the acquisition of literature from te so-called "capitalistic countries" for the whole Academy. The indexing sector became the registration office for the Main Catalogue for Journals (Zentralkatalog der Zeitschriften ZKZ) and the Main Catalogue for Monographs  (Zentralkatalog der Monographien ZKM) - both of which were run by the German State Library. Thanks to this situation, details of Academy's holdings were made accessible to the whole field of scientific librarianship, above and beyond the Main Catalogue of the Institute Libraries (Zentralkatalog der Institutsbibliotheken ZKI).

In 1953, following a resolution from the Academy's chair, a library commission on code of practice and supervision of the Library of the Academy was formed and the honourable Academy member Hermann Grapow was appointed its chair. One year later this commission was, however, disbanded again and Grapow was named Academic Library Head. An advisory board was formed in order to support him - in 1956 this became a scientific council and in 1964 it was converted into an archive and library commission. However, already since 1956, the Library of the Academy was being run by a director who should also be scientific librarian.

With resolution no. 103/64 of the managing chair of the Academy, the "Order of the Main Library of the German Academy of Sciences of Berlin from 16th July 1964" was decreed and in consequence a coordination point for the Academy's network was established in the main library.

As a result of the "Academy reform" of 1968, the creation of the Scientific Information Centre of the Academy (Wissenschaftliches Informationszentrum der Akademie - WIZ) began in the spring of 1970 with the joining of the Main Library and the Scientific Editorial Department of Central Gazettes. The official founding of the institution, which was henceforth to be found in 19 Schiffbauerdamm, took place on 1st January 1973. The Main Library had lost its independence, even though it was able to continue with its main tasks, at least within certain limits, independently. Its chair remained in the Academy wing of the no. 8 Unter den Linden building.

Its affiliation to the Scientific Information Centre and the consequent responsibility for procuring literature, which was only needed for evaluation in the Scientific Information Centre's information areas, particularly in the area of management information, led to holdings, particularly in the area of natural sciences, which didn't belong to the holdings of an academy library. On the other hand, the Library of the Academy had no possibility of securing its previous holdings, of making them accessible, or even of administering them. They had neither the means necessary to complete such tasks, nor the understanding of the various circles and bodis surrounding the library.

Alongside its connection with information / documentation and its responsibilities for the Academy's library network, the Academy had been a member of the cooperation ring operating between the four big central libraries in Berlin (German State Library, Humboldt University Library, Berlin Public Library and the main library of the Academy of Sciences of the GDR) since 1977. As member, the Library of the Academy was involved in the coordination of acquisition and accessibility work as well as the creation of aligned user terms and conditions. On the subject specific level of the cooperation, the Library of the Academy dealt with the development of library subject networks of fundamentals research, especially in the areas of mathematics and physics. These subject specific libraries, regardless of whether they belonged to the Academy, university or industrial establishments from the counties, were to cooperate directly with each other.

Development after 1990


Even before the unification pact came into effect, the last President of the Academy of Sciences of GDR, Horst Klinkmann, suggested separating the main library from the Scientific Information Centre (Wissenschaftliches Informationszentrum - WIZ), in order to keep it as library of the learned society and consequently of the Academy and continue running it as such. The senate of the Academy of Sciences of the GDR followed this suggestion and made a decision to this effect in a meeting on 14th September 1990. The President of the learned society took over the library henceforth. Klinkmann was very committed to keeping Library of the Academy and consequently filed an application for an evaluation to take place with the Scientific Council of the Federal Republic of Germany. The evaluation took place on 18th March 1991, it was completed by a commission of the Scientific Council, led by Jürgen Kocka - and the result was positive.

The Senate Office for Science and Research in Berlin, the county, followed the Scientific Council's recommendation and appointed the Library of the Academy, effective as from 1st January 1992, as library of the future Academy of Sciences of Berlin. The library was given responsibility for administrative support through a coordination and development initiative, (as a registered association), for research for the following counties: Berlin, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerenia, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia (German abbreviation: KAI registered association).

The KAI of the Academy of Sciences (coordination and processing centre for the institutes and institutions of the former Academy of Sciences of the GDR) became the KAI registered association and, as it had already done previously, provided the Academy with excellent support, particularly material support, and this ensured a good level of librarianship and also further development as appropriate to the changing requirements. The "State treaty on the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities" of the counties Berlin and Brandenburg, (which came into force on 1st August 1992 and also included the library in article 12, paragraph 2), and the ceremonial act to mark the new set up of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften - BBAW) on 28th March 1993 both highlighted the new developments very clearly. A commission for library, archive and publication matters was already chosen by the founding members of the BBAW in the first plenary session. This commission soon began to tackle the development of a library system and a system for usage of the Library of Academy as well as rules regarding library usage for BBAW members and employees.

With effect of 1st January 1994, the Library of the Academy was taken over officially as institution of the Berlin Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (formerly Prussian Academy of Sciences).

The library's tasks are both traditional and new. They are traditional in that they continue work of the classical academy library type and new in that they fulfil a modern academy's needs; a modern academy which runs research in interdisciplinary working groups on current, topics relevant to society, as well as continuing long term academy projects.

The Library of the Academy arranges itself into the central library, the GRA section library and the reference libraries for the academy projects and interdisciplinary working groups.

The total holdings of the Library of the Academy amount  to roughly 680,000 volumes and micro materials and roughly 900 current journal subscriptions.

The central library particularly focuses on the following collection areas:

  • Academy texts and texts of other scientific societies from arround the whole world,
  • texts written by and about Academy members,
  • reference works and source works as well as other reading room literature,
  • texts on scientific research and scientific development,
  • periodicals and other publications of an interdisciplinary nature, as far as they are necessary for the work of the institutions of the Academy, and not available within the particular insitution. 

Necessary subject-specific literature for academic work of a particular project is collected in the reference libraries. In accordance with usage regulations, available literature of the Library of the Academy can be used. The central library is the lending library and deals with both German and international library lending.



  • Gutzeit, Sigrid & Joachim Rex, 1985: Aufgaben, Arbeitsweise und Leistungsnachweis des fachlichen Bibliotheksnetzes Physik. In: Ber. Wiss.-Inform., - Komm., Berlin, 8 (1985)1, S. 5-14.
  • Rex, Joachim, 1991a: Die Entwicklung zu einer modernen Akademiebibliothek für die Bedürfnisse der wissenschaftlichen Forschung. In: Bibliotheksarbeit in Ost und West. Beiträge zur bibliothekarischen Weiterbildung, Berlin, 6(1991), S. 73-77.
  • Rex, Joachim, 1991b: Zur Lage der Bibliothek der Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin. In: Bibliotheksdienst, Berlin 25(1991)6, S. 876-879.

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