The Handbuch deutscher historischer Buchbestände in Europa provides a survey of German collections in selected libraries of the non German-speaking countries of Europe. The term `German' is used in this context as a shorthand to summarise the criteria for including collections in the Handbuch. It embraces on the one hand material printed in German-speaking areas of Europe (however these have been defined over the centuries), whatever the language of the text, and on the other hand material in the German language printed outside the German-speaking area. Included, for example, are Latin books printed in Basel, works in French published in Leipzig and works in German produced in St Petersburg. The descriptions try to take individual account of the relevant circumstances.
Historical collections in the context of the Handbuch are books, periodicals, newspapers, prints, atlases, maps, music scores and printed ephemera which were published or produced between the birth of printing and 1900. The terms `historical collections' and `early collections' are used synonymously by the contributors to the Handbuch. The cut-off date of 1900 was a pragmatic choice based on the fact that ongoing retrospective cataloguing projects tend to be divided by century. It is, however, flexible and the 1900 boundary has been overstepped where this is warranted by the particular structure of a library's collections. Special twentieth-century collections and manuscript collections have been included in the descriptions where this was considered necessary or desirable. In a few cases collections of incunabula have been noted only summarily. This has been done for the security of the collections concerned.
The survey is divided by country. Within this arrangement one country may be covered by one or more volumes while, conversely, several countries may be included in one volume. Within each country the libraries of the capital are described first, giving national and university libraries precedence over other institutions which follow in alphabetical order of their vernacular names.
The listings for each country are preceded by an introductory survey. These surveys are conceived as topographical and historical sketches. Their aim is not to provide a full library history but merely to highlight important historical connections and to offer a historical and systematic context for the individual entries. The choice of libraries is in most cases the result of cooperation with national libraries or with other libraries of national significance. In many countries national libraries have established their own offices which have worked closely with the editorial team of the Handbuch over a number of years, overseeing the preparation and translation of contributions and acting as branch offices of the central editorial office. Elsewhere the editorial team has communicated directly with individual libraries regarding their cooperation and the preparation of their contributions. In one case the work has been based on the efforts of two voluntary contributors to coordinate the libraries in their country. In all cases the attempt has been made to identify the most important libraries in Europe for German collections, whatever their context, and to present them in a manner appropriate to their significance. The description of collections has been limited where problems with cataloguing and processing or staff shortages have prevented the preparation of a detailed description at present. Gaps have emerged where cooperation was either impossible or came up against insurmountable problems.
As a rule the entries for each library conform to a set six-part structure. Each begins with administrative details. These are followed by five numbered sections comprising a history and a description of the collection, a survey of the catalogues, a summary of sources and accounts of the library's history and a bibliography of works relating to the collections. This structure is always maintained, even where, as in the case of some smaller libraries, one of the last two sections contains no entries.
Given the number and variety of libraries, factors strongly influenced by national traditions, entries vary in length and complexity. Thus the sections of each entry are subdivided as the content requires. In shorter entries, each section constitutes a single subdivision. In longer ones, appropriate subheadings have been added within sections. Particularly comprehensive entries have a separate contents list at the head of the section on collection history. To aid orientation, all paragraphs within the five numbered sections have been given a running number (1.1 ff.; 2.1 ff.) to which the index also refers.
Administrative details for each library are given according to standard international practice in library directories. The library's name is given first in the language of the country or region with a German translation where appropriate. Then follow telephone, fax and telex numbers, e-mail and Internet addresses if available, and, in countries which use the system, a library code. Details of the parent institution, the library's functions, collection areas, conditions for access (including borrowing facilities), and provision of technology for users are also given, the latter without reference to special rules for the use of historical material. Finally there are details of any printed information issued by the library and directions for travel to the library (for institutions in large cities these directions only cover transport within the city).
The histories of collections are not presented in tabular form, but rather as a complete essay. As far as possible this provides information about the library's origins and foundation and details of other libraries incorporated within it, the long-term goals of its collection-building and the continuities and discontinuities in the growth of collections. This section is not meant to provide a comprehensive history of all aspects of the library but rather to present the most extensive possible background for the user wishing to work with its historical collections. In these histories, as elsewhere, the names of places and institutions are given both in the national language and in German when they first appear. It has been left to individual contributors to decide which language will be used for names thereafter. The entries for Great Britain and Ireland, which have been written in English, form an exception to this rule.
The description of the collections forms the central focus of each entry and aims to present a richly nuanced picture of German historical collections from the perspectives of both scholarship and librarianship. Each collection is described in terms of its chronological profile, linguistic composition and subject arrangement.
The statistics on which the collection descriptions are based have been obtained either by counting, by projecting figures from parts of the collection or catalogues, or by estimation. The method used is generally stated at the beginning of the description. In the same place details are given of the size of the collection as a whole and of the historical collections, in order to show these in their wider context. Figures are given in terms of titles or of volumes depending on the practice of each library. Since in many libraries German collections are not kept separately but form an integral part of the library's whole collection it has only been possible to give approximate figures in some cases.
The chronological profiles of historical collections are based on the internationally accepted division of retrospective catalogues by century. Occasionally further divisions have been made, for example by half-centuries or even by shorter periods. Incunabula almost always form a separate category.
In surveying the linguistic make-up of collections, German-language holdings form the main focus of attention, but other material is also taken into account. This is particularly true of works in Latin but also applies to works in modern languages which have been produced in the German-speaking countries. Exact figures are given where possible but in many cases individual circumstances only allow for an (estimated) percentage figure for the proportion of German material in the collection. Libraries may also choose mention collections in other languages. This presentation of German works in the context of a library's complete historical collections should be of particular value to users of the Handbuch.
The survey by subjects does not follow a prescribed system. No universally accepted scientific classification exists, and to establish one for the Handbuch would have forced many libraries to conform to an inappropriate scheme. Furthermore, many libraries are classified according to systems of their own which in themselves form an interesting part of the history of libraries and of scholarship. Thus the system used in each library forms the basis for describing its collections. In most cases the section on collection history gives details on the development and origins of this system. Where a historical collection is organised not systematically but by period or by running number, some kind of division by classes has been attempted according to prevailing circumstances and requirements.
Within the framework of a library's own classification scheme, collections are described in subject categories. As a rule this follows the order of subjects within the classification scheme, but related holdings are also frequently described in a single context, regardless of their formal classification. Individual decisions were made as to whether a particular subject class was sufficient as the smallest `unit' for description or whether it had to be further broken down. The aim was always to describe German historical collections in the finest possible detail. In cases where `early books' have been kept separately or where there is no classified arrangement of a library's Germanica, such a detailed description is naturally subject to difficulties which cannot always be overcome.
Groups of material are often described in general terms but almost equally often the names of characteristic authors or works are mentioned. Decisions in this area were left to the library or to the author of the entry. Individual works or authors are named in this way only as illustrative examples. To avoid giving a false impression of the composition of a collection, these names are not as a rule cited in the index.
Given the number and variety of libraries involved and the differences between the library systems of different countries, it was not expected that the style of description would be completely uniform - leaving aside the question of whether such uniformity would be desirable. Thus the depth and detail of descriptions was not prescribed. It was inevitable that this would result in differences in the subject surveys, but this should be particularly emphasised. Experience has shown that smaller collections can be described more simply than larger ones and that in some cases the presentation of facts is determined not by their importance but by their complexity.
Special collections, that is, collections which are kept apart from the library's main stock because of their special character or unique form, or for some other reason (such as their origin), are also described separately in the Handbuch entries. In keeping with the aims of the Handbuch only special collections of German material or those containing an appropriate percentage of German material have been included. Descriptions of special collections follow on from those of the main stock. Periodicals and newspapers are also described separately in many cases, even if they form part of the main collection. Major collections of historical material in microform are usually referred to briefly.
In compiling the subject index the size and significance of collections has been taken into account. Collections below a certain size and level of importance are not listed in the index in order to avoid misleading users. Other principles behind the creation of the index are similarly intended to reconcile the differences resulting from the use of individual library classifications as a basis and from the range of foundations used for description. The fundamental principles for the construction of the indexes are explained in a separate `Preface to the indexes'.
The third major section of each entry offers an
overview of the catalogues of the library's
historical collections. The modern general
catalogues in current use are described first.
Where necessary, explanations of cataloguing rules
or other details are provided. If regional or
other union catalogues are available, an
indication is given at the end of this section as
to whether or not the library's holdings are
included there. Planned or existing
machine-readable catalogues are also mentioned.
Then follow details
of modern special catalogues. These are listed either alphabetically or, if they are sufficiently numerous and important to justify it, by subject, enabling users to see at a glance which historical collections have been catalogued separately. Also in a separate category are historical catalogues, that is, those which are no longer used in the library's regular work but which may be of importance in understanding and analysing collections.
The last part of each entry consists of surveys of a bibliographical nature. The fourth main numbered section lists - usually separately - primary and secondary sources for the history of the library. `Primary sources' refers to archive material. `Secondary sources' are works about the library itself or its parent institution. Titles are listed in chronological order or, exceptionally, in appropriate subject categories. Where a bibliography already exists, only important or new and supplementary works are cited in addition.
The final main section contains a list of publications which provide details additional to the library's catalogues. These may be surveys by subject, essays or exhibition catalogues. Regular reports on acquisitions are also included. The material is arranged with regard to ease of use. Thus in the case of larger libraries a subject arrangement is frequently given preference over the usual alphabetical listing.
Each entry is signed by the author. Where several authors have been involved, the individual sections within the entry tend also to be signed. Since each volume of the Handbuch was compiled over a long period of time, the date of each entry's completion is also noted at the end.
Individual indexes of personal names and subjects
have been compiled for each country so that their
collections are listed separately. Exceptions to
this rule are the Czech Republic (with separate
indexes for Prague, for the castle libraries
administered by the National Museum, and for the
libraries in Bohemia and Moravia), the
Scandinavian and Baltic countries (with one index
covering six countries) and the British Isles
(with a single index for Great Britain and
Ireland). When the Handbuch deutscher
historischer Buchbestände in Europa is complete,
all these indexes will be brought together in a
single cumulative index. This cumulative index
should reveal connections between libraries and
collections - even across national boundaries -
which have until now been perceived dimly if at
all. Especially in view of the changes to and
movements of historical collections which were a
result of the Second World War in a number of
countries, many contributors believe this
information to be particularly desirable.