University of Erfurt

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The Private Library of Duke Friedrich III. (1699 - 1772)

About Friedrich III. of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg

Under Friedrich III. Gotha was the richest Ernestine duchy with the greatest influence regarding foreign policy, but essentially still a "normal" small state in the structure of the Old Reich: The expenses of the royal household also exceeded the income, the debt burden grew additionally as a result of price increases and the Seven Years War. Friedrich III tried to meet this by the sale of soldiers and by reduced remittances from the chamber box office into the royal privy purse, through tax increases and economic promotion measures. In contrast to his wife Louise Dorothea (1710-1769), who influenced the literary-philosophical life in Gotha, Friedrich remained during the 30 years of his reign (1732-1772) largely without contours. Contemporaries described him as good-natured and benevolent. However, he was one of those rulers who were able to bind well trained officials to themselves, which could ensure a stable internal and foreign policy.

Origin, Extent and Morphology of the Private Library

Abbildung: Signatur mit gegenüberliegendem Titelblatt

Together with his wife Dorothea Louise, Friedrich III purchased books for court library, which was publicly accessible since the beginning of the 18th Century. He also led a private book collection, which was probably erected in his private chambers. Responsible for the collection was the librarian of the Imperial Library, Christian Gottfried von Freiesleben, who also created a catalogue of the collection in 1772. The shelfmarks in the catalogue can also be found in the traditional books in the Research Library. Friedrich’s private library comprised a total of about 2,400 books.

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Character and Structure of the Private Library

Abbildung: Band aus dem Besitz des Herzogs Friedrich III.

The library of Friedrich III was a collection of contemporary literature, mostly titles of his reign, 1732-1772. The French language dominates - as usual in German aristocratic libraries during the 18th Century - numbering half of all titles. Theology is the leading subject, even before the historical, belletristic, spiritual, geographical, genealogical and legal titles. Present was, what a "good rule required" alongside works of war, art and architecture, and the memoirs of European royal families.

The Catalogue of the Private Library

The Catalogue of the Library of Friedrich III  (FB Gotha Chart. A 1094) was created by the Gotha librarian and writer Christian Gottfried von Freiesleben (1716-1774). It was created during the year of Friedrich’s death and was conceived as a counterpart to the, probably also created by Freiesleben, catalogue of Friedrich’s wife Louise Dorothea. The underlying classification is derived from the Parisian bookseller Gabriel Martin (1678-1761). Martin had introduced this so-called "French classification system" in Europe. The system consisted of the main groups of theology, law, arts and sciences, the Belles lettres and history. Freiesleben adapted the classification of the Gotha collection of books to this system by adding among others the history of Protestantism, which was lacking in Martin’s system.

Used Literature

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