The Gymnasium collection, with its approximately 50,000 volumes, forms by far the smaller part of the works in the Gotha Research Library from the invention of printing until 1945. The collection encompasses the the surviving book collection of the library of the Gymnasium Illustre founded in 1596 in Gotha. The school was renamed the Gymnasium Ernestinum in 1859. The library was universal and geared to serve as teaching material in the Gymnasium (Latin school). In the course of its history, it also included books from the private collections of the scholars working at the Gymnasium. Although theological prints formed the basis of the library, philological, philosophical, educational and historical works also comprise substantial parts.
The Gymnasium Library often received those books that had been considered dispensable by the Dukes of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (1640–1825) or the duplicates that were in excess after the purchase of complete book collections for the Ducal Library. Thus, the purchase of the library of the theologians Johann and Johann Ernst Gerhard at the end of the 17th century resulted in a significant increase for the Gymnasium Library since it received copies already available in the Ducal Library.
The Gymnasium Library was moved from the rooms of the Latin school to the rooms of the former Ducal Library at Friedenstein Palace when the Red Army invaded in 1945, and remained there when the Ducal Library was almost completely transported to the Soviet Union in 1946 as spoils of the Second World War.
Until the return of the former Ducal Library in 1956, which was not foreseeable at the time, the remains of the Ducal Library that had not been taken to the Soviet Union were also integrated into the Gymnasium Collection. These remains were reintegrated into the Ducal Library when it was returned.
The former library of the Gymnasium Ernestinum, which has been preserved in the Gymnasium Collection, is today one of the largest surviving historical school libraries in Germany.
Structure of the collection
The original arrangement of the books in the Gymnasium Library has not survived. The reorganisation of the Gymnasium Collection occurred after it was moved to the rooms of the former Ducal Library at Friedenstein Palace from 1945 onwards. The subject groups were formed on the basis of the Ducal Collection: Theology (Th), Jurisprudence (J), Historiography (H), Philosophy, Philology (P), Mathematics, Natural Sciences (N), Geography (E), Art (K) and Music (M).