Raider of the Lost Library – The Project

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Since October 2014, I have been working as a scientist for the FWF-funded project “Ludwig Tieck’s Library. Anatomy of a Romantic and Comparatist Book Collection”.

What do we actually do? We hunt down Ludwig Tieck’s library that was auctioned in 1849/1850.

So far it’s not quite clear why Ludwig Tieck decided to sell his library – to sell it again, that is: For when Ludwig Tieck sold it to Berlin bookseller and auctioneer Adolf Asher, he conveniently forgot to mention that he had already sold it to publisher Heinrich Brockhaus. Our search for the books will lead us to libraries in Austria, England, Germany, Poland, and Russia – and, maybe, many more.

Why are we doing this? Here’s the official abstract of the project:

The goal of this project is the virtual reconstruction of the German romanticist Ludwig Tieck’s (1773-1853) famous library (containing about 9000 volumes), the main thesis being that Tieck’s book collection was a private, a scholarly and a poet’s library, which represented in an ideal way the material platform for a reading and writing practice that has to be described as genuinely comparatist. A reconstruction and appreciation of Tieck’s library, which contained rare and precious prints from the Renaissance and the Siglo de oro through to his own era and was sold at a Berlin auction in 1849/50, would be a pioneer work for studies in European Romanticism and an important contribution to the systematic exploration of pre-comparatist book collections. As the history of the dispersion of the “Bibliotheca Tieckiana” is extremely complex, the desideratum consists in listing Tieck’s complete library, following modern standards of cataloguing, i.e. to assign comprehensive data on Tieck’s purchase or use as well as to localise and evaluate all copies (now mainly in Vienna, London, Berlin, Wroclaw, Göttingen, Halle, Krakow, Munich, and presumably in Lodz, St. Petersburg, Warsaw, but also in private property). An important additional achievement will be the historical evaluation of the important acquisitions from the Tieck library for the Viennese Hofbibliothek that has to be carried out by an expert of the ÖNB archives. The information on Tieck’s libraries will be combined and amended to represent an extensive knowledge, and the results will be presented in a digital database designed appropriately to its particular functions. An open access internet presentation according to the respective principles of the University of Vienna and the FWF will be implemented, as well, in order to enhance the depth and quality of the data so that further questions can be considered. The specific and additional value for the understanding of Tieck’s library, also in its diachronic dimension, will be combined search parametres and searching routines getting far ahead of the possibilities of book-indices. As it is unknown how Tieck arranged his library, the database will have to be open to different classifications for Tieck’s books. It must allow for continuous and simultaneous work and international access, so that new information can easily be incorporated at any time. Whereas a print edition should still be pursued as a long-term goal, the database is a necessary prerequisite for the sustainable use of the results, and it will qualify the project as a meeting point for the international community of researchers on Tieck, romanticism or early comparatism, who are invited to contribute. Thanks to this endeavour, one of the most important libraries of a poet in literary history will, at least virtually, be restored and persevere.

Find out more on our project’s website!

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