“The State Library of Bavaria, Part II” by S.M. O’Connor

      Notably, the Royal Library of Bavaria had a Latin name rather than a German one.  Between 1832 and 1843, the Bibliotheca Regia Monacensis (Library Royal of Munich), now called the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Bavarian State Library) moved to the new library building on Ludwigstraße (Ludwig Street), designed by Friedrich von Gärtner – von Gaertner without the umlaut – (1791-1847) by the order of Ludwig I (1786-1869), King of Bavaria (1825-1848), ended the cramped storage conditions and use of the library’s collections.[1]  In 1805, he had moved the Ludwig Maximilian University from Landshut to Munich.  According to the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Bavarian State Library), known as the B.S.B. for short, “The exquisite building designed by Friedrich von Gaertner is for a long time regarded as the most modern library building of the world and gives direction to library building concepts.”

The four larger-than-life stone statues designed by the famous German sculptor Ludwig von Schwanthaler (1802-1848), ennobled as Ritter von Schwanthaler, prominently situated at the flight of stairs of the Bavarian State Library are affectionately called “the four magi” by Munich residents. From left to right, the statues represent Thukydides (Thucydides to English-speakers), a general and the founder of scholarly history; Homer, the creator of the Ilias (the Iliad to English-speakers) and the Odyssee (the Odyssey to English-speakers); Aristoteles (Aristotle to English-speakers), the philosopher and teacher of Alexander the Great; and Hippokrates (Hippocrates to English-speakers), the most famous physician of antiquity.  The four figures represent the diversity of literature and sciences, the collection of which was the mission of the Bavarian Royal Court & State Library, as it was known when the library building was constructed in the 19th Century.

In 1857, the music collection of Anton Friedrich Justus Thibaut (1772-1840), the German jurist and music theoretician of French Huguenot (Calvinist) descent, became available in Heidelberg and was acquired.  The number of music manuscripts jumped from 600 to 5,000.

During the reigns of Kings Ludwig I and Maximilian II, enormous efforts were made to complement and extend the library collections. In order to fund the purchases, duplicates were sold, among them a great number of incunabula.

The proceeds enabled the purchase of the private library of the French Orientalist Etienne Marc Quatremère (1782-1857), which contained 1,200 manuscripts and 45,000 prints of the 16th to the 19th Centuries. The holdings of East Asian literature and Oriental provenience were furthermore greatly extended by the purchases of the Sinologist Karl Friedrich Neumann (1793-1870) in China in 1833 and the collection of Sinica (Chinese studies) of the Italian Onorato Martucci.  The combination of the Widmanstetter and these collections ranked the Bibliotheca Regia Monacensis among the small group of important centers of Orientalism in Europe.

By the late 19th Century, library acquisitions focused on the humanities.  The library started a collection of Slavic literature.  The only works about literature, medicine, and technology that were purchased in this period were periodicals.

By 1900, library holdings surpassed 1,000,000 volumes, but the Bibliotheca Regia Monacensis was second to the Koenigliche Bibliothek zu Berlin (Royal Library of Berlin).  Around the turn of the century, the library developed into a modern library for public scholarly use. User catalogues were set up, the opening hours were extended, and access to the library was liberalized.

In 1919, the royal library was renamed the Bavarian State Library.[2]  While the Sinologist Georg Reismüller was Director General, he visited the Republic of China in 1928-29.  The East Asia Collection grew from 18,000 books to over 30,000 books.

During the Second Great World War, which for the Germans was between September of 1939 to April of 1945,[3] 85% of the building and a quarter of the holdings were destroyed.  Nearly 500,000 volumes – a quarter of the overall collections – were destroyed in bomb raids between 1943 and ‘45. However, the manuscripts and most valuable printed works were safe because they had been evacuated in 1940.

Due to the B.S.B.’s use of systematic shelving, complete subject areas were lost: theology including the important collection of Bibles, art history, historically-geographic publications, classical studies, academic publications, travel, and doctoral theses. Only after these losses were the rest of the collections evacuated to twenty-eight locations in Upper Bavaria.

In the postwar years between 1945 and 1970, the building on Ludwigstraße was reconstructed and the holdings evacuated during the war years were reintegrated. In 1966, the annex designed by the famous architect Sep Ruf was completed.  In 1970, the reconstruction of the south wing was concluded.

The reconstruction of the building after the conclusion of the Second Great World War started in 1945-46 with the northern part of the west wing and, divided into six construction phases, took a quarter of a century. In the autumn of 1947, the B.S.B. gained provisional quarters in the former Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (“National Socialistic German Worker’s Party,” abbreviated as N.S.D.A.P.) buildings on Arcisstraße.

In the building on Ludwigstraße, normal business operations could only begin again after 1952, because of the tedious task of reintegrating the collections evacuated in wartime.  In 1966 the annex, designed by architects Hans Döllgast (Doellgast without the umlaut), Sep Ruf, and Helmut Kirsten, was completed, as was the reconstruction of the east wing.

Only the outside walls of the east wing were intact at the end of the war.  In 1970, the reconstruction of the original library building finally concluded with the reopening of the south wing, which had been completely destroyed during the war.

The west wing and the middle section of the old library building on Ludwigstraße now host the computer center and the special departments.  The south wing now mainly hosts the Department of Manuscripts & Early Printed Books, as well as stacks.  The B.S.B. states, “The ground floor in the east section of the old building hosts the book provision section and the computer workstations at which the visitors can research the online catalogue and order items.”

The 59 x 42 x 22 meter-annex on the ground floor houses the Department of Collection Development, the Department of Cataloguing, and offices of the Department of User Services. On the first floor, the annex houses the General Reading Room with 550 working places. In the basement, one will find the Periodicals Reading Room.

view of castle tower
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Caption: This is a picture of Schloss Neuschwanstein (Castle New Swan Stone), a Romanesque Revival-style castle keep built by order of Ludwig II (1845-1886), King of Bavaria (1864-1886).



[1] Friedrich von Gärtner also designed the influential Ludwigskirche (Catholic Parish and University Church St. Ludwig) on Ludwigstrasse, and the Old Royal Palace in Athens, now the Hellenic Parliament Building, for King Ludwig’s son Otto (1815-1867) when he served as King Othon of Greece (1833-1862).

[2] At a rally on November 7, 1918, the German socialist Kurt Eisner (1867-1919) called for the abdication of King Ludwig III of Bavaria and Kaiser Wilhelm II of the German Empire and the establishment of a Bavarian socialist republic.  Eisner became premier of the republic.  On February 21, 1919, Anton Graf von Arco auf Valley (1897-1945), a hero of the First Great World War and nephew of the English Catholic historian Lord Acton (1834-1902), shot Eisner, which resulted in the declaration of the Bavarian Soviet Republic and declared independence from the newly-formed federal Weimar Republic.  It lasted a little over two months.  On April 12, 1919, Eugen Leviné (1883-1919) led a Communist coup.  They took hostage six members of the Thule Society, a group of aristocrats interested in folklore and the occult, including Prince Gustav von Thurn und Taxis (1888-1919), and their secretary, Countess Heila von Westarp.  On April 30, 1919, the Communists killed the hostages, including Heila von Westarp, along with three Freikorps members.  On May 3, 1919, the German Army and the Freikorps (socially conservative militias Hitler later absorbed into the SA, the Nazi Party’s paramilitary organization) took Munich, rounded up around 700 Communists, including Leviné, and shot them.

[3] This counts from the invasion of Poland rather than the annexations of Austria in March of 1938 and the Sudetenland in October of 1938 and invasion of the rest of Czechoslovakia in March of 1939.

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