Subjects of Special Interest to the Landgraves: Mathematics, astronomy and alchemy

In 1580, under William IV, the book collection of the landgravial house was compiled for the first time. However, the library, which was housed in the langravial mews (Renthof), grew much less quickly than the court chapel's collection of sheet music.

Since the landgravial house did not systematically promote the collection of manuscripts and printed books - except in the area of music - the development of the collections was strongly tied to the changing interests of the respective rulers from the very beginning.

While Landgrave Wilhelm the Wise († 1592) was primarily concerned with theological, astronomical and mathematical issues and amassed a large collection of incunabula and books on these subjects, his son Moritz the Learned († 1632) was intensively occupied with alchemy. - However, his collection of alchemical writings, comprising over 600 manuscripts and prints, was not integrated into the landgravial library until 1675.

Catalogue of Landgrave Maurice the Learned's works

Medieval Treasures

During the Thirty Years' War, under Landgrave William V, Hessian troops plundered church property in Fulda. As a result, the landgrave acquired the Hildebrandlied and a copy of the De bello Iudaico by Flavius Josephus from the 6th century around the year 1632.

In addition, the collection was also enriched by various other outstanding medieval manuscripts, among them some precious late medieval liturgical manuscripts.

Palatine Heritage: The Younger Palatina

An inheritance in 1686 resulted in further significant additions to the library's collection of manuscripts and printed books. After the death of Elector Charles II of the Palatinate († 1685), a grandson of Landgrave William V, and that of his mother Charlotte († 1686), the valuable book collection of the Palatine counts of Heidelberg came to the court in Kassel. This collection was compiled from various older partial collections or newly acquired after the Bibliotheca Palatina had been carried off to Rome as spoils of war.

The Younger Palatina enriched the library of the landgraves with excellent and richly illuminated Renaissance codices, such as the manuscript of the Canzone by Petrarch, the Rules of the Order of the Golden Fleece, or Bocaccio's Il filocolo.

Digital images of manuscripts relate to Landgrave Carl and his reign

Medieval Theological Manuscripts

During the 17th and 18th centuries, several important theological manuscripts were acquired by the State Library as spoils of war or gifts. These included the Abdinghof Gospels and the now lost Hardehausen/Helmarshausen Gospels, which Rudolf Erich Raspe was able to accept as gifts for Landgrave Friedrich II during his visits to various libraries.

After the Principal Conclusion of the Extraordinary Imperial Delegation ("Reichsdeputationshauptschluss") and the dissolution of the convent of canons regular of St Peter in Fritzlar, around 100, mainly liturgical, manuscripts were taken to the landgrave's library, along with an unknown number of printed books.

Exchange with the State Archives in 1923

A final significant increase in medieval and early modern manuscripts as well as fragments resulted from the exchange of records and documents from the holdings of the State Library for manuscripts from the Marburg State Archives in 1923.

Losses during World War II

In contrast to the collection of printed books, the library's manuscripts and historical sheet music, as well as parts of the Kassel Grimm collection, had suffered little damage during the destruction of the Fridericianum by firebombing in September 1941. Except for a few, albeit particularly valuable codices, which were kept in display cases or in vaults in the library building proper and were therefore severely damaged, the remaining items were housed in the adjacent Zwehren Tower, which escaped the fire.

Subsequently, a large number valuable surviving pieces from the collections were evacuated to rural locations in Hesse and Thuringia. These supposedly safe locations, however, were subject to looting during the last weeks of the war, which resulted in further losses of printed books and manuscripts. Some objects were returned to the collection later on, although in some cases only after decades.

However, numerous pieces, such as the Hardehausen/Helmarshausen Gospels, are still missing today. The Lost Art database providesfurther information.