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In this late period of the age of the book, the importance of the printed text is becoming clear in new ways. As the major constituent of our text-based culture the book has acquired a symbolic value over and above its practical function, and this creates a particular responsibility towards our printed heritage. It is no coincidence that recent years have seen an increase in attempts to gain a perspective on the history of books and libraries which is relevant to the present while also looking to the future.

Many countries are giving new attention to their own literatures, in order to ensure that these remain a central component of their cultural tradition. On all sides retrospective national bibliographies are being created or planned to supplement existing records of current book production. In many libraries the introduction of modern technological aids is making historical collections accessible in new ways and increasing their availablity while ensuring their physical preservation. These bibliographies and library catalogues are indispensable as inventories of the printed heritage, enabling users to access individual books, the elements from which this heritage is made.

The Handbuch der historischen Buchbestände represents a new kind of inventory with a basis and a method which have developed only in recent years. The aim is to document not books themselves but libraries, not individual titles but collections. Entries are based on the group of collections in a library. The task of the Handbuch is to describe libraries in a way which has many uses. In the context of individual libraries' history it illuminates the profile and structure of the collections. It identifies those specific elements which together make up the distinct character of a library and, beyond this, form the basis of its particular efficiency.

The Handbuch was first conceived in the early 1980s and initially intended as a reference work and cultural documentation for the then Federal Republic of Germany. It was to provide a summary but nonetheless detailed overview of historical collections which had survived the destruction of the Second World War or been acquired since. At the same time it would be a Vademecum for academic and library work with historical book collections.

The survey of the Federal Republic is now complete. With the inclusion of libraries in Central and Eastern Germany which have become freely accessible again following the political changes of 1989, the Handbuch der historischen Buchbestände in Deutschland covers all the states of the present-day Federal Republic. Divided by regions and covering the whole spectrum of library types, it offers descriptions of historical collections in more than a thousand German libraries.

Alongside the Handbuch for Germany a Handbuch der historischen Buchbestände in Österreich was compiled by the Austrian National Library in collaboration with the German editorial team. Using the same criteria as the German Handbuch, it provides a survey of the historical collections in some three hundred Austrian libraries.

The survey is continuing with the Handbuch deutscher historischer Buchbestände in Europa and is being extended, augmented and completed. For the first time an attempt is being made to trace systematically the spread of historical collections from German-speaking Europe into the non German-speaking countries.

In German-speaking Europe - however its historically shifting borders have been defined - a literature of unusual variety and richness has developed over the centuries. In its entirety this literature represents a printed heritage which must count among the most important components of the European cultural tradition. Taking a retrospective view, few other European countries can point to a similarly wide-ranging and diverse book production.

The process of cultural exchange is something taken for granted in the intellectual life of Europe. From their beginnings, printed books spread beyond national borders. German-speaking Europe, as is clear from the Handbücher for Germany and Austria, accepted the literature of other countries. Conversely, this region has exported its own culture for centuries and, regardless of changes since the end of the Second World War, continues to do so.

In the era of the Latin book trade, aimed at the educated reader, books produced in the German-speaking countries naturally spread - from the central point of the Frankfurt Book Fair - throughout Europe. Thus the presence of Latin works of German origin in European libraries requires as little explanation as the presence of similar works of French or Dutch provenance. In its book collections as in its intellectual procedures the educated Europe of the period was an undivided Europe.

As national languages asserted themselves - a process which was slower in Central and Eastern Europe than in Western Europe - the literature of the German-speaking countries acquired a new significance as a medium of literary expression, intellectual communication and scientific discovery. Like the literature of other countries and regions, it came to be considered as a contribution of the national culture to a diversifying European intellectual life. German took its place alongside French as a modern language to be used as the common speech of scholars and intellectuals. In Central, Northern and Eastern Europe especially it took on the function of a lingua franca which was also used in the transmission of other cultures.

Since the end of the eighteenth century collections of German literature have been built up all over the non German-speaking countries which display a remarkable, sometimes extraordinary scope. These holdings, `historical' today, were then collections of contemporary literature which satisfied topical interests. With the development of national libraries in the nineteenth century, these collections were often retrospectively augmented, sometimes on an impressive scale. In England Antonio Panizzi pointed the way for the rest of Europe by attempting to provide the Library of the British Museum with foreign literature to such an extent that it would be second only to the best libraries in the original countries.

Many of these collections surpass in scope and quality the holdings of foreign-language material in the libraries of the German-speaking countries. They are revealing cultural indicators and, furthermore, can lay claim to an interest of their own in terms of the history of the book. In a number of countries they form part of rich collections reflecting a universal culture. Elsewhere, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, they may be an integral part of a country's own cultural heritage. Here the German language served not only as a medium for the transmission of foreign culture but also as a catalyst for the development of a separate national culture and identity.

The Handbuch deutscher historischer Buchbestände in Europa documents those collections which are historical both in character and origin. The intention is to provide, as far as is possible, a comprehensive and diverse picture of the spread of German-language books outside the German-speaking countries of Europe. This should serve as a paradigm. By concentrating on a large but nonetheless partial section of continental book production, the Handbuch should contribute to our overall knowledge of European books.

In the German-speaking countries little or nothing is known about collections held by foreign libraries. These collections should not, however, be disregarded, for they contain more than just exported commercial literature. They preserve works which are not available in or no longer held by libraries in the German-speaking countries: to the first category belong German works published in other countries during periods when German was their lingua franca; to the second belong books which are no longer present in German libraries due to their destruction in the Second World War. Only by including foreign collections is it possible to comprehensively survey the printed heritage of the German-speaking countries.

The initial plans for the Handbuch deutscher historischer Buchbestände in Europa date back to the second half of the 1980s and were made in a divided Europe. When the proposal for a Handbuch der historischen Buchbestände in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland was put forward in 1983, other Western countries justifiably criticised the exclusion of collections in Central and Eastern Germany. As a result, attention was focussed on libraries beyond the then almost impenetrable Iron Curtain.

Negotiations with the Bundesministerium für Wissenschaft und Forschung in Vienna gave rise initially to the idea of a handbook of historical book collections in Austria. This project was realised by the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek in collaboration with the editorial team of the German Handbuch. The four volumes of the Austrian Handbuch were published between 1994 and 1997. Negotiations between 1987 and 1989 over a Handbuch for the GDR to be produced jointly with the Deutsche Staatsbibliothek in Berlin proved to be more difficult. Following the political changes in November 1989, this Handbuch, for which the preliminary work had just begun, became part of the German Handbuch.

When the Iron Curtain was raised, plans for a handbook of German historical book collections in Europe were naturally concentrated at first on the libraries of Central and Eastern Europe where it could be assumed that particularly rich historical collections would be found as a result of close cultural ties with the German-speaking countries. During the last decade detailed surveys of German holdings in the most important libraries have been prepared wherever partners could be found for the project. However, the new plans also took into account the countries of Northern, Western and Southern Europe where libraries have always been freely accessible. Here too, not always under the easiest of practical conditions, collection surveys have been undertaken.

The descriptions of library holdings have been compiled by colleagues in the relevant countries in collaboration with the central editorial team. Only the contributions for Sweden and Finland and occasional entries for other countries are the work of German authors. The different conditions which apply to the library systems of individual countries have been taken into account as far as possible. Users of the Handbuch will appreciate the expertise reflected in these essays on `foreign' books.

The present volume of the Handbuch describes the holdings of English, Scottish and Irish libraries. In view of the widespread general knowledge of the English language it seemed appropriate not to translate the contributions into German but to publish them in English. The index to the volume takes this into account. The editors are grateful to all

who have contributed to the success of the enterprise. Special thanks are due to Graham Jefcoate, Head of Early Printed Collections at the British Library, who took on the project with great enthusiasm. Without his initiative in selecting libraries and finding contributors, the survey presented here would not have come into being. Thanks must also go to Dr William A. Kelly, Research Fellow, Scottish Centre of the Book, Napier University, who took over the planning of the Scottish contributions. The editors are also indebted both to Professor John Flood of London University's Institute of Germanic Studies and to Dr David McKitterick of Trinity College Library Cambridge for much advice and help.

In order to supervise the Handbuch the editor was released from his university teaching duties. He is grateful to the Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Forschung of Nordrhein-Westfalen for this permission, and would also like to thank the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität for supporting the project in many ways. Lastly, thanks are due to the Volkswagen-Stiftung, not only for its generous financial support for the Handbuch but also for the many kinds of non-material help which it has provided throughout.

Münster, December 1999

Bernhard Fabian

Quelle: Handbuch der historischen Buchbestände in Deutschland. Digitalisiert von Günter Kükenshöner.
Hrsg. von Bernhard Fabian. Hildesheim: Olms Neue Medien 2003.