University of Erfurt

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The Private Library of Duchess Luise Dorothea (1710 - 1767)

About Luise Dorothea of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg and her philosophiscal and literary interests

Abbildung: Kupferstich aus Alexander Pope: Lockenraub. 1744

Luise Dorothea of Saxe-Meiningen was married at the age of 19 years to Friedrich III of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (1699-1772). She influenced the courtly life in Gotha, which was referred to as "siècle de la Duchesse Louise". She succeeded, to establish an atmosphere of French salon culture, and to anchor the court in the network of the European "République des lettres". She subscribed to the "Correspondence litteraire", this handwritten mimeographed magazine with news of the literary life in Paris, which was sent exclusively to royal courts under the condition of secrecy. Among the correspondence of Luise Dorothea, Voltaire was the most outstanding, who had stopped during his escape from Berlin to Paris in 1753 for several weeks in Gotha. She devoted herself to the education of her two sons with daily written questions. Governmental activities were always for Louise a joint venture with her husband, subordinating her personal interests, but this corresponded to her strong personality and the character of Friedrich III encouraged this very much. She gave birth to nine children, only four of whom reached the youth or adulthood.

Origin, Extent and Morphology of the Private Library

The library Luise Dorothea was situated in her private chambers in the north wing of the castle Friedenstein. It was maintained by the Gotha librarian and writer Christian Gottfried von Freiesleben (1716-1774). Unlike the books that she and her husband Friedrich III bought for the public court library, the gilded, intricate initials "LD" adorned the front mirror or the front cover of her books with the hat of a prince. In addition, the shelfmarks listed in the catalogue of her collection were also entered into the books. Her collection included about 3,600 volumes.

Character and Structure of the Private Library

The library Luise Dorothea was a collection of contemporary texts. The French language dominated – a typical finding for libraries of the female German nobility in the 18th Century. Almost half of her collection was taken by the Belles lettres, followed by historical works as well as philosophical sciences and arts. Her library is a place of the Muses, expression of patronage and at the same time a working tool. Well represented are the works of French, English and German Enlightenment. She had, probably even earlier than the Ducal Library, all before her death in 1767 published volumes of the "Encyclopedie". With 112 titles unusually rich is the collection of Voltaire's writings, plus the numerous polemics against him and reviews of his work.

The Catalogue of the Private Library

Abbildung: Eine Seite aus dem Katalog von Luise Dorothea

The Catalogue of the Library Luise Dorothea (FB Gotha Chart. B 1234) was created by the Gotha librarian and writer Christian Gottfried von Freiesleben (1716-1774). The exact date of origin is unknown. It is the counterpart to the also by Freiesleben created catalogue of Friedrich III. The underlying classification is derived from the Parisian bookseller Gabriel Martin (1678-1761). Martin had used this so-called "French classification system", which was developed during the 17th century for a Parisian Jesuit College, in his book trade catalogues and introduced it in Europe. The classification system consisted of the main groups of theology, law, arts and sciences, the Belles lettres and history. Freiesleben adapted the classification system of the Gotha collection of books by assigning Louise's negligible titles of legal or medical literature to the books on politics and physics.

Used Literature

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