The first traces of the Library date from 1698, the founding year of the Francke Foundations. In his 1709 account of the origins of the Foundations August Hermann Francke reported about book donations and his wish “that hopefully, in time, a good library can be built up out of them.” As there was no budget for the Library it was reliant on the book production of the Orphanage Publishing House, on exchanges, gifts and estates until into the nineteenth century.
The first significant extensions to the Library took place between 1704 and 1708 through the estates of three theologians: Friedrich Breckling (1629-1711), Johann Friedrich Ruopp (1672-1708) and Justus Lüders (†1708). In 1719 and 1721 the important collections of Carl Hildebrand Freiherr von Canstein (1667-1719), the founder of the Canstein Bible Centre, and Andreas Achilles (1656-1721) found their way into the Foundations. In 1721 18,000 volumes had already accumulated and there was no longer enough space in the main building of the Foundations, where the library was originally housed.
In 1728 the special library building as we know it today with its book cases arranged in the manner of a theatre set was completed. It was high time as the Library continued to grow despite having no budget and merely voluntary directors including the theologian Johann Heinrich Callenberg (1694-1760). The lawyer Samuel Stryk (1668-1715), the Orientalist Christian Benedict Michaelis (1680-1764) and the theologian and Slavist Heinrich Milde (1676-1739) donated their collections to the Library: In 1756 13,000 copper-plates and wood engravings were added when Jacob Gottfried Bötticher left his portrait collection to the Library. It portrays scholars, worldly and spiritual dignitaries and a few women mainly from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries . In 1792 the library of the Institutum Judaicum et Muhamedicum merged with the Library of the Orphanage and in 1811 some of the books from the Benedictine monastery Berge near Magdeburg came to the Foundations. A significant gift during the nineteenth century was the library of the geologist and mineralogist Christian Keferstein (1784-1866) containing 2,041 volumes. When the holdings of the library of the Latina Grammar school “”were integrated into the Foundations, it received its own budget for the first time since 1834. This made it possible to systematically expand the library. It focused on the interests of modern pupil and teacher training. In addition, in exchange with schools in and out of Halle a collection of school programmes developed
The collection survived the Second World War without noteworthy losses in the former salt-mine tunnels near Bösenburg. After the dissolution of the Foundations in 1946 the Library was assigned to the Educational Faculty and in 1952 subordinated to the University and Regional Library of Saxony-Anhalt. Special collections, which up until then had still been independent in the Foundations were assigned to the Library, such as the Library of the East-Indian Mission Institute, the Archival Library of the Orphanage’s Publishing House, the Library for Teachers and the Collection of the Canstein Bible Centre. From 1955 Jürgen Storz (1927-2002) took over joint direction of the Library and the Archive of the Francke Foundations. However, until 1992 hardly any books could be bought. Only with the revival of the Francke Foundations did the 300 year-old Library, with the help of the German Research Foundation, again enjoy serious support. Where possible, the Foundations strive to complete the historical holdings (Altbestand). Thus a collection of hymnals was acquired and the library of the theologian Friedrich August Tholuck (1799-1877) is on permanent loan from the Tholuck Seminary to the Library.
Between 1996 and 1998 the historical building was renovated. Structural additions from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were removed so that the original appearance of the eighteenth century once again emerged. On the ground floor there is today a reading room for the use of the Archive and Library holdings and – continually growing – a modern research library. A modern glass structure connects these facilities with the Catalogue Room and Cafeteria in the neighbouring building.