Digital Collection of the Barth Church Library

A "Biblioteca Bardensis" was first mentioned in 1451 (Will of the priest Otto Bere). At that time only a few books were probably available in the Barth church library, presumably exclusively liturgical literature for the mass service and works for the preparation of sermons. The collection was gradually increased by small donations from priest, including private prayer books that still exist today.

After 1470, with the spread of the art of book printing throughout Europe, the donations of the clergy will have been almost exclusively incunabula. A seven-volume collection of theological and ecclesiastical basic literature with sixteen incunabula and several manuscripts alone bears witness to this. The Barth church library, the original location of which is not exactly known, seems to have contained little more than three to four dozen volumes of Latin literature for the parish clergy until 1545. It only became a passable Protestant preacher library with approx. 150 to 180 volumes by the reformer Johannes Block, who bequeathed his entire library of today still 123 volumes with several manuscripts, 48 incunabula and 221 early prints to the Marienkirche (1545). At the end of the 16th century, only donations of individual volumes are known, whereby it is of importance that it can be proven that the donors or users of the library were rectors or teachers of the city school founded in the 14th century, so that the collection also served as a working basis for the teaching staff.
Finally, as a result of the establishment of a printing workshop initiated by the Duke of Barth, the library received reformatory texts in the vernacular as well as occasional gifts from the Princely House and members of the court. However, as in the period that followed, there were only sporadic increases in the holdings. It is mentioned around 1666 with only 374 volumes, at the end of the 18th century with barely 700 volumes. The charisma of the Barth church library seems to have been rather limited until the Enlightenment.
Interestingly, this changed with the founding of a local reading society (1795). After reading the books circulating among the members, they passed into the possession of the church library. Thus a change has taken place from a theological-pedagogical library, the essence of which was shaped by Latin, to a bourgeois-literary library with a stronger folkloristic part. It has been accompanied by an increase in the holdings to 1744 volumes in only two decades (1812).
The Barth Church Library recorded its largest quantitative increase in the last quarter of the 19th century, due to the emergence of industrial book production (total holdings 1900: 4000 volumes).
In the 20th century new books seem to have been acquired only sporadically. The church library survived the two world wars without significant damage or loss. Since the 1970s, the parish libraries of four neighbouring communities have been integrated as permanent loans from the period before 1900 (almost 1500 titles).
The "Biblioteca Bardensis", for some centuries the only large "information centre" of the city, is today a dormant traditional library. With its rich collection of prints and manuscripts from the late Middle Ages and the Reformation, as well as its Baroque and Enlightenment collections, which have been steadily expanded over the centuries and preserved without major losses, it is a unique cultural monument. It offers research a wealth of extremely rare, valuable and largely unexplored material.


Kirchenbibliothek St. Marien, Barth
Papensstraße 7
18356 Barth
Phone: +49 38231 2787 
Fax: +49 338231-7777621


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