Experience this universe of knowledge of the Baroque era
August Hermann Francke founded the library of the Francke Foundations as a public institution in the late seventeenth century. Especially through donations consisting of closed private libraries, through exchange and through the own publishing house products of the Orphanage’s Bookshop the holdings increased to about 18,000 volumes within a few years. The library could thus, considering its size, be compared to contemporary university collections. At present its antiquarian holdings (Altbestand) comprise about 90,000 books in all fields of knowledge, above all however on Church history and the history of education in the early modern period. From 1728 on the books have been housed in purposely-built premises, which today is considered the earliest surviving, freestanding, secular library in Germany (House 22 in the Lindenhof /*the Linden Courtyard). The library hall with the original furniture dating from the eighteenth century is called Kulissenbibliothek (“scenery library”). The reason for this is that, for the first time in the German-speaking countries, the book cases, which are closed off by a graceful wooden gate, were arranged in the manner of a theatre set, resembling scenes (Kulissen) in a baroque theater. In this way a library space was created that reflects its practical use as opposed to the then customary hall libraries. The construction of the library was innovative and marked an important turning point as to the internal organisation of the collections in the institutions established by August Hermann Francke. Herewith Francke spatially separated the Cabinet of Art and Natural History from the library, which originally had been created side by side under the arbor of the Orphanage and like the contemporary princely Cabinet of Art and Natural History were strongly dependent of and connected to one another. The separation of the two collections pointed towards the modern age, in which the Cabinet of Art and Natural History (Kunst- und Naturalienkammer) was to develop into a museum and the book collection into a library for public use. Nowadays, after the renovation during the late 1990s, the Kulissenbibliothek again presents itself in its impressive form of 1746.
Every book tells a story
“Already by its imposing size and weight – after all, it measures 44 x 28 x 13,5 cm and weighs 9,5 kg – for example, a Bible of Lucas Osiander ( 1534-1604), bound in black leather, stands out in the first book case of the library of the Halle Orphanage. Based on the autograph on the flyleaf, Prince Anton Günther von Anhalt-Zerbst (1653-1714) had donated it to the Orphanage’s library on 10 June 1709. (...) As early as 26 March of the same year the prince had announced in a letter addressed to August Hermann Francke that he would present this Bible to the Orphanage’s library, which he already possessed for 28 years, (...) and which ‘has served me also daily in the field and in Braband too; however, as I have read it one or two years with slightly more attention, it has happened that I underlined many dicta and expressions.’ (...) The notion that this heavy book was part of the prince’s permanent baggage, even in the turmoil of armed conflict, should disclose unsuspected perspectives into the past to the modern viewer of the book.” From: Brigitte Klosterberg, Die Bibliothek der Franckeschen Stiftungen. Picture book, published by the Verlag der Franckeschen Stiftungen.
In order to present the library’s treasures to the general public, alternating cabinet exhibitions are being held in the former reading room next to the Historic Library from 2000 on. The staff members of the August Hermann Francke Study Centre – Archive and Library will be happy to provide additional information.