Historical and Special Collections of the Library

Overview of the Library’s historical and art collections


Collection of historic deeds
The library owns a collection of about 150 medieval and early modern deeds. Most of the collection consists of private deeds of various origins. The collection was originally started as a resource for students and is based on a donation by Ulrich Friedrich Kopp in 1820.

Further information about the collection
Jacob und Wilhelm Grimm – Arbeits- und Privatbibliothek

The Grimm Library
The private library of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm was purchased by the Prussian State after their deaths and given to the university library. It reflects the broad academic interests and pursuits of the Brothers Grimm and provides an insight into their work and social networks. The items in the collection are often filled with handwritten notes or dedications and therefore serve as valuable historic sources.

Further Information

Theodor Fontane-Sammlung / Tunnel über der Spree

Theodor Fontane library and "Tunnel über der Spree"
The literary society (Literarischer Sonntagsverein) “Tunnel über der Spree” was founded in 1827 and held a large archive of about 13,000 handwritten documents and printed material. Some of the most famous members of the society were Theodor Fontane, Emanuel Geibel, Moritz Graf von Strachwitz, Christian Friedrich Scherenberg, Adolph Menzel and Paul Heyse, later winner of a Nobel prize. Archival material can be found via a separate online catalogue.

The banker Paul Hermann Emden collected documents and books about Theodor Fontane, including several first editions of the author’s work. The collection was donated to the library in 1930.

Further information about “Tunnel über der Spree”

Further information about the Fontane Library


Libraries of scholars
Several private collections that once belonged to important scholars and university professors have passed into the library’s ownership. This includes collections such as Wilhelm von Humboldt’s linguistic library, the private libraries of classical studies scholar August Boeckh (1785–1867) and scholar of German studies Karl Müllenhoff (1818– 1884), a criminal law library that once belonged to Franz von Liszt (1851–1919) and the library of Adolf Spamer, a famous ethnologist (1883–1953).

Not all of the collections are fully indexed yet. You will find further information in the general overview of our collections. Titles that are already indexed can be found via Primus by using the “Historical Collections” filter in the advanced search option.


Portrait colection
The library’s portrait collection contains portraits of the University’s former professors, some of them dating back to 1810. Furthermore, it includes pictures of professors and employees of the University of Dorpat from the late 19th century. The pictures can be found via their own online catalogue. To access and use the portraits, please contact the historical collections department. The portraits can be used in the research reading room. It is possible to order master copies for printing as well.

The library's portrait collection can be found via a separate online catalogue.


The Haeberle-Hirschfeld-Archive of Sexology
The Haeberle-Hirschfeld-Archive can be traced back to Professor Erwin J. Haeberle’s collection of books and documents. It was donated to the university library in 2004 and contains magazines, gray literature and other materials about the history of sexology and its current state of research. The archive is complemented by private collections and the archive of the Federal Association for Sadomasochism.

Special terms of use may apply for some parts of the collections.

Books that belong to the collection can be found via Primus. The written documents and archival records have not yet been catalogued and registered.

Further information


Autograph collection
The collection comprises about 1,400 autographs which are available in full via the Online Catalogue. The greater part of the collection dates back to the 19th and early 20th century. The autographs are mostly correspondences of Berlin scientists and scholars such as Wilhelm and Alexander von Humboldt and Karl Altenstein.

Abb.: Eckart Schulz

August Wilhelm von Hofmann – Library of the Chemische Gesellschaft
This special collection is located at the Erwin-Schrödinger-Zentrum branch library in Adlershof. Please note that it is held in the closed stacks for rare collections ("Rara-Magazin"). You can find further information about ordering here.                                                                             


Transcripts of lectures
This collection consists of transcripts and notes of lectures that were delivered at the University in the 19th and 20th century. The notebooks constitute a valuable historical source about science and the history of education. Most of the several hundred volumes of have been digitized and can be accessed online. The transcripts can be found via Primus.

Further Information

Abb.: Alexander May

Estates and autographs at the university archive
The university archive holds administrative records as well as the papers of Humboldt-Universität scholars and numerous autographs.

Further Information

Abb.: Jens Bösenberg

Adopt a book - sponsorships

More than 100 years of use by scientists, scholars and students, along with the years of war, have left their marks on many of the Grimm library books. Help us to save and restore this unique cultural heritage by becoming a sponsor!
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Digital Collection
You have access to digitized books and other digitized objects from various collections via the digital collections website.

Further Information

Overview of the Library’s historical and art collections