Home > Europa > United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland


The present volume describes collections in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland with significant holdings of material printed in German-speaking countries (or printed in the German language elsewhere) before about 1900. It is the latest to appear in a series of national and regional volumes which, once complete, will form a comprehensive survey of German collections in European libraries and archives, the Handbuch deutscher historischer Buchbestände in Europa.

In this introduction, I set out the justification, aims and methods of the project. In the chapter ``Libraries in the British Isles'', I briefly survey the history of libraries in Britain, emphasising their institutional diversity, and reaching some preliminary conclusions about the ``German'' element in historic collections. The chapter continues with a description of those factors in Anglo-German cultural relations that explain the presence (or absence) of German books in British collections before ca. 1830. John Flood ends the introduction with an account of the impact on libraries in the higher education sector of the acceptance of German as a subject for study and research in the nineteenth century.

When the idea of a European Handbuch was first suggested to complement the national survey of Germany's own collections, the range and significance of British and Irish holdings of early German material made the inclusion of a volume devoted to the British Isles essential. The British Library alone represents one of the largest collections of German printed material anywhere; arguably, across the period from Gutenberg to 1900, its holdings equal or even surpass those in any single German research library. Their presence in the British national library is an eloquent testimony to the key role played by German presses in the development of printing in Europe. They are supplemented by outstanding holdings in other United Kingdom copyright libraries, and indeed, in collections of all kinds.

Nevertheless, the presence of substantial holdings of early German printed books in British and Irish collections surely requires some explanation. Writing on the 250th anniversary of Goethe's birth (which has passed almost unmarked in the mainstream British media) it cannot be denied that the German language and its literature have never enjoyed the status or influence in these islands they have enjoyed elsewhere in Europe. The half-century of rivalry and conflict between Germany and the English-speaking world that ended in 1945 served only to widen a cultural divide that already existed. By revealing the riches of German holdings in British and Irish collections, and (we hope) making them more accessible, this volume of the Handbuch makes a small contribution to narrowing that gap.

The present volume of the Handbuch deutscher historischer Buchbestände in Europa for Britain and Ireland has been compiled on a rather different basis from those of some other countries and regions. The project was not based formally in a national library or major research institution. Instead, editorial work has generally been carried out as a personal commitment of those involved, working very much in their own time and with their own resources. The active support of the Zentralredaktion in Münster in editing the present volume should here be acknowledged. If the resulting volume is not quite as comprehensive or as detailed as one might have wished (or had been led to expect from other volumes), then this is the reason.

With the resources available to us, and in the time set by the editorial programme, a systematic and comprehensive canvass of all relevant holdings in the British Isles would not have been possible. Many significant collections of German early printed books have remained unsurveyed and readers will certainly be quick to identify obvious and regrettable omissions. Not all of these, however, are due to editorial inactivity: certain libraries that were approached (including two major collections in London) declined to participate in the project for reasons of their own. Nevertheless, it is hoped that the entries brought together here do reflect something of the diversity of British collections and the riches of their German holdings. Above all, they demonstrate why a British (and Irish) dimension was considered an essential element in any survey of holdings of German imprints in Europe.

If complete coverage of all historic collections containing German material was beyond our resources, then we have sought the cooperation of colleagues around the country to achieve at least a representative sample of collections that contain relevant holdings. We were anxious to identify a ``German dimension'' in a wide variety of libraries and collections of various sizes. If in the process we have been able to canvass a significant proportion of major collections (and also to include many minor ones) we see this as a bonus. We are aware, however, that the entries in this volume are no more than a Wegweiser - an indication of the range and depth of holdings of early German printed material in the British Isles - and that there is a need for a further, and more systematic, survey. Indeed, publication of this volume will undoubtedly lead many to point to unexpected resources that remain to be explored or evaluated.

As remarked above, there is much to distinguish this volume from many of its predecessors and (one assumes) from many of its successors too. The compilation of the volume for the British Isles reflects a Sonderweg, a perhaps characteristically British approach to the task. Many of the previous volumes in the series were entrusted to central or regional editors, including a number seconded for the task by national libraries. In contrast, the present volume has been undertaken very much as a ``part-time'' activity, relying on much voluntary effort and the commitment of a small number of individuals working in the main without formal institutional support or foundation funding.

It was some ten years ago that Bernhard Fabian, the General Editor of the Handbuch, first approached a number of distinguished librarians in key institutions around the country (including the British Library, the National Library of Scotland, the Bodleian Library, Cambridge University Library and the John Rylands University Library of Manchester), commissioning them individually to survey relevant material in the collections in the care. Only later was the present writer asked to coordinate work on the volume in the United Kingdom and expand its scope beyond the original group of major institutions. A very practical ``devolution'' of responsibility saw Dr William A. Kelly, the author of the entry for the National Library of Scotland, undertaking the coordination of entries within Scotland. In the event, William A. Kelly's contribution to the present volume has gone far beyond this; he will appear in the following pages as the author of most of the entries for Scottish libraries outside Edinburgh, and even of a number south of the border.

The results as they stand could not have been achieved without the practical support and active contribution of Dr Karen Kloth, of the Zentralredaktion in Münster. Karen Kloth has also written a number of the entries herself, consulting closely with the institutions whose holdings are described in them. Administrative help was further provided by Christina Volkmann (who also appears as the author of an entry) and, during short work experience placements at the British Library, by Andrea Konermann and Karen Limper.

The advice of John Flood, David Paisey and Peter Hoare should also be acknowledged. Without their encouragement and support for the project, little would have been achieved. We are especially grateful to Professor Flood for his entertaining and erudite account in the introduction of German Studies in Britain since ca. 1830. If pre-1830 collections contain many German imprints but few books in the German language, then Professor Flood's account explains how the balance has been redressed since the establishment of a modern higher education system in the nineteenth century.

It would be iniquitous to single out particular authors of entries in the current volume, but mention must surely be made of the contributions of David Paisey on the British Library and Kristian Jensen on the Bodleian. It is a matter of great satisfaction that these grandest of German collections in British libraries are the subjects of what are surely definitive accounts.

In acknowledging the special circumstances of the compilation of this volume and the contribution made by the individuals mentioned above (and many others) the editor takes full responsibility for any factual inaccuracy or infelicity of style that may be found. It is hoped that readers will find within these pages matter enough to provoke lively debate and inspire further research.

London, October 1999

Graham Jefcoate

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