The private Library of Emperor Francis I (1784-1835)

The first part of this project has shed more light on the history of this library, from its beginnings in the 1780s to the death of its founder in 1835, and rewrote it – at least in part – based on a methodological review of available archive materials. In this manner, the project gained deeper insight into the library’s acquisition policies as well as the reconstruction of the holdings and the original rooms of the library.

A further step contained order, accessibility and use of the library (especially by the emperor himself) during the aforementioned period, in which fundamental changes regarding the organisation of libraries in general can be situated. E. g. in relation to the developement of the imperial court library, which was by all means seperately administered and then undergoing functional changes into a scholastic library for public use (öffentlich-wissenschaftliche Bibliothek); and how the private collections of Francis I can be compared with other private royal and princely libraries.

Besides dedicating itself to a merely chronological history of the collections, this project also reviewed selected parts of the Fideikommissbibliothek in detail: Besides images documenting the key events between 1784 and 1835, with special emphasis on the events surrounding the Congress of Vienna (1814/15), individual stocks of books have been reviewed in greater detail. This in-depth study has enabled us to answer generically questions concerning book origins and circumstances of acquisition. We have also entered cooperations with further projects (FWF) dedicated to the Congress of Vienna. as well as international experts on book history (cf. tab Kooperationen).

In doing so, the project aspired to a threefold approach embedding library historiography in political social, intellectual and cultural contexts and discourses of that time.

The archival description on the item-level of the fonds "Archives of the Fideikommissbibliothek" is linked to the header "Die Archivdatenbank", where further information can be found, but you can directly follow the link Archiv der Fideikommissbibliothek. The material covers the period up to 1835 and features more than 2,000 files. The archival description will be subsequently completed up to 1921.

The header "Aktenedition & Digitalisate" will show examples of some interesting files regarding the history of the library, both digitised and edited, whereas you can find texts of the conference "Fürstenbibliotheken der Spätaufklärung und des Vormärz
Historische Rekonstruktionen, kulturelle und politische Kontextualisierungen" on "Forschungsbeiträge".

The publication of our research results "Die Privatbibliothek Kaiser Franz' I. von Österreich" to be published by Böhlau in 2015 will deal with the history of the library, an interpretation of the development and structure, the organisation and the use of the collection in comparison with other contemporary princely libraries as well as an analysis of selected pictorial sources in terms of visual culture.