University of Erfurt

Welcome to the Gotha Research Library

Library History: From the Books Hobby of the Nobility to Modern Research Library

The Research Library preserves the Collections of the Duke House of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg.

The Beginnings in the 17th Century

  • In 1640, the Duchy of Saxe-Gotha was founded. As a result, castle Friedenstein was built.
  • The new Regent Duke Ernst the Pious (1601-1675) founded the ducal library. It was initially placed above the art chamber in the west wing.
  • The library is growing rapidly through numerous donations and purchases, e.g. the extensive library of the Jena theologians Johann and Johann Ernst Gerhard.
  • After the reconstruction of the burned east tower of the castle the library is transferred there 1687, where it exists up to this day. 

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Development to the Universal Scientific Court Library

  • Duke Ernst's son, Friedrich I (1646-1691), adds extensive parts of the Altenburger Hofbibliothek to it.
  • Under the direction of the librarian and theologian Ernst Salomon Cyprian (1673-1745), the library finally wins its academic profile.
    Despite the focus on the theological literature, the stock has a universal alignment.
  • Numerous scholars at the court contribute through targeted individual purchases to the further enlargement of the stock.
  • Ernst II (1745-1804) enriched the collection with precious manuscripts and rare old prints and makes the library accessible to the public. 
  • His private collection of books is left after his death, to the Ducal Library, as usual with almost all educational zealous and scientifically interested members of the royal family.
  • Ulrich Jasper Seetzen (1767-1811) acquires for Ernst II numerous Oriental Manuscripts on his research travels in the East.

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The Library in the 19th Century

  • Before the expiration of the Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg lineage the Ducal Library is brought to a Fideikommiss on 13 December 1824 and thus secured its stay in Gotha permanently.     
  • With the establishment of the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the city of Gotha loses importance as a residence.
    The library can no longer hold expansion of the stocks on the universal scale, due to the increasing production of literature and the insufficient financial resources.
    New acquisitions focus on humanities literature.

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The Library in the 20th Century

  • After 1918, the ownership of the library becomes controversial, so the development of the collections undergoes heavy damage.
    Numerous works are sold in the following period.          
  • During World War II precious pieces of the collection are moved to Coburg. 
  • In 1946 the ducal collection is almost completely transported to the Soviet Union.
  • The Gotha library now includes the 1945, at the end of World War II recorded stock of the dissolution of Gotha Ernestinum Gymnasium and the Gothana collection, parts of Thuringia literature and German Fiction.
  • From 1953 to 1959, there is set up the "Central Office for Scientific old stock" in the premises of the library.
  • In 1956 the Soviet Union gives back the stocks that were transported away in 1945, except for some small items. 
  • In 1969 the library receives the name of "research library" and is assigned to the Methodological Centre for Scientific Libraries in (East) Berlin.
    It is reported as a substantially "completed collection", further additions to the stock takes place within very narrow limits.
  • In 1991, the library becomes the research and national library Gotha under the Thuringian Ministry for Science and Art.

Losses and Sales

Throughout the history of the the library, war and division were the cause that many valuable books from Gotha went to other collections. As far as is known former Gotha manuscripts and prints are now in Germany, Great Britain, Luxembourg, Switzerland and the USA.

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