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The Erfurt Private Library of Carl Theodor von Dalberg (1744-1817)

About Carl Theodor von Dalberg and his literary and scientific interests

Life and works of the politician and church leader Dalberg were regarded as controversial to the present day. His years as governor of Electoral Mainz in Erfurt (1772-1802) are well documented. The humanist-Enlightenment educational program of his youth reflects the horizon of Dalberg's later literary and scientific activities. They ranged from writings on jurisprudence, political science and criminal law over works relating to archaeology, history and the natural sciences to essays on aesthetics and architecture. In Erfurt Dalberg had contacts with the Weimar poets Wieland, Schiller and Goethe, who also found their expression in his library, or to Prince August of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg. Among his most intimate acquaintances was Johann Gottfried Herder, whose writings Dalberg referred to as "pure source".
1802 Dalberg left Erfurt, to accept the Archbishop’s Chair and Elector of Mainz’s office. He promoted numerous public collections of books. In the places of his work he also had private libraries, such as in Regensburg, where he spent his last years in 1814 as archbishop and diocesan administrator.

Origin, Extent and Morphology of the Private Library

During his reign in Erfurt Dalberg created a library which he left 1802 after his departure from Erfurt to the Protestant and Catholic high school in the city, for that they would be "shared and raffled for the greatest possible equality". Thus he reflected the dual confessialism of Erfurt.
The newspaper reports at the library division spoke of 5,500 volumes, the catalogue contains 3,200 titles. The numerous small documents are bound in plain blue-gray paper envelopes, but also with gold or silver bronze envelopes, other works in brown calfskin or precious maroccan loose leaf books. Where and when Dalberg bought books is hardly researchable, there can be found only a few possession records of approximately 2,500 traditional volumes, when they were brought from two high school libraries in the city library of Erfurt during the middle of the 19th Century. Today, the books are in the University Library Erfurt, separated on the shelf according to the high school libraries.

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Character and Structure of the Private Library

Von Dalberg postulated in his writings, that the bundling of different fields of knowledge in a survey-show may be the motto of a characteristic of his Erfurt library that holds together almost as a kind of encyclopedic bracket the whole width of the subject canon. Between the collections on justice, theology, science and technology, medicine and the "belles lettres" there are only minor differences quantitatively. Only the history and especially the contemporary history surpass those fields. Dalberg's efforts to acquire knowledge about the city of his work are reflected by his writings on Erfurt and Thuringia history. It can not be illuminated, however, whether Dalberg had to actually seek this literature, as numerous books were given to him. Approximately 60% of the books are written in the German language.

The Catalogue of the Private Library

At the division of the Dalberg library between the Protestant and Catholic grammar school in 1802, where Placidus Muth participated as provost of the Catholic and Johann Joachim Bellermann as chief director of the evangelical school, Johann Jakob Dominicus (1762-1819), a protégé and confidant of Dalberg, created  a directory (city Archives Erfurt 1-1/XB XV-21). It lists 3,200 titles and is divided into two columns, one for the Protestant (Column A) and one for the Catholic High School (Column B). The titles are not numbered, but probably listed in the order of their division.

Used Literature

  • Färber, Konrad M. (Hrsg.): Carl von Dalberg. Erzbischof und Staatsmann (1744-1817). Regensburg 1994.
  • Paasch, Kathrin: Die Erfurter Privatbibliothek Carl Theodor von Dalbergs. In: Mitteilungen des Vereins für die Geschichte und Altertumskunde von Erfurt (1996), N.F., H. 4, S. 81-103.

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