Profile Murhard

The Murhard brothers

Image: ORKA

Friedrich (1778-1853) and Karl Murhard (1781-1863), founders and namesakes of the Murhard family, came from a wealthy and long-established family of civil servants in Kassel. Their parents: government procurator Henrich Murhard (1739-1809) and his wife Maria Magdalena Murhard (1747-1807) both came from Kassel. Historical sources already describe the ancestors of the Murhard brothers as hungry for education and cosmopolitan. Several of them studied in Marburg, worked in higher service at the Kassel court, in the military or were clerical dignitaries. Of the total of six children of the Murhard family, Friedrich and Karl are the only ones who reached a high age.

The brothers attend the Lyceum Fridericianum, at that time the central Kassel educational institution for preparation for university studies. Friedrich studied mathematics and physics, but during this time he increasingly shifted his interests to legal and political-historical issues. Karl studies law, graduating from the Philipps University in Marburg.

Both Murhards were in opposition to the conditions in Electoral Hesse and sympathized with Napoleon and the principles of the French Revolution. After a trip to France, Frederick criticized the outdated Kurhessen court constitution, for which he was briefly arrested. When the Electorate was dissolved in 1806 and merged with other territories to form the Kingdom of Westphalia, he committed himself to his convictions in his position as librarian of the state library, prefect of the Fulda department and editor of the "Moniteur Westphalen". His brother also advocates the overcoming of absolutism in Electoral Hesse.

After the collapse of the kingdom, Frederick is stripped of all offices and placed under police supervision. He moves to Frankfurt, where he works as an editor and correspondent. His critical reporting and political stance earned him temporary imprisonment and a ban on publication, from which he was only freed by the July Revolution in 1830. His main works are on the rule of law and the constitutional state, in which he deals with questions of popular sovereignty, the right of resistance and the interpretation of the Hessian constitution. Karl worked as an archivist in the Oberrentkammer until 1816. In 1816, after his brother's arrest and behavior in Frankfurt that was detrimental to his profession, he resigned from the civil service. He writes, translates and reviews national economic, financial and tax theoretical writings, in which he remains committed to liberalism.

The faith in reason and education of the late Enlightenment remained their worldview for the rest of their lives. The dissemination and transmission of these intellectual values continues to this day through her endowment of a scholarly public library.

Abridged from: Wolfgang Matthäus (ed.), Vom Hohenzollernviertel zum Vorderen Westen, Straßennamen, Geschichte und "Geschichtspolitik," Kassel 2005.

Will and foundation

Among the academic municipal libraries in Germany, the Murhard Library of the City of Kassel is the only one whose foundation is based on an endowment. The endowment system experienced a heyday in the first half of the 19th century in Germany, and apparently also in Kassel. The starting point for the creation of the Murhard Library is the will of the brothers Friedrich and Karl Murhard from 1845, in which the two appointed their father and native city of Cassel as heir to their joint estate.

The inherited capital was not yet sufficient to provide suitable library space. For this reason, it was stipulated in the will that a capital stock should first be built up during the first years of the foundation's existence. The will contains detailed instructions on how the funds are to be increased and used. The formulated collection mandate aims at a universal library with a focus on political science. Only the fields of theology, jurisprudence and medicine are expressly excluded. Guardians of the will were appointed to monitor the implementation of the testamentary will, and they still exist today.

A house for the Murhard heritage

After Karl Murhard's death, the then director of the state library assumed librarianship responsibility for the Murhards' bequeathed book holdings, approximately 1,600 volumes. By the time a temporary branch of the Murhard library was opened at Wilhelmshöher Allee 104, the collection had grown to a considerable 7,250 volumes through new acquisitions in accordance with the will agreement.

In a tender of the city of Cassel, the building design of the Berlin architect Emil Hagberg prevailed, winning the first prize in February 1901. In the justification it says: "In every direction the project can be described as a mature, practical and beautiful solution to the task. The opening took place in 1905. At that time, the library collection comprised approximately 126,000 volumes, two-thirds of which had been gifts from citizens of Kassel over the course of a few decades. A lecture room on the second floor of the Murhard Library attracted further audiences to the building and contributed to the library's reputation. Even then, the Murhard Library was a favorite place for many people to read, reflect, but also participate in cultural events from the world of literature, theater and music.

On the evening of October 22, 1943, the Murhard building was also heavily damaged in the hail of bombs. Sixty percent of the library stock was lost. Parts of the valuable historical holdings had been moved out of storage and could be largely preserved due to this circumstance. Reconstruction of the building and replacement of the literature began that same year. The restoration of the building lasted until the early nineteen-sixties.

In 1957, the Murhard Library was united with the State Library, whose Fridericianum headquarters had also suffered severe war damage, and placed under joint administration in the building on Brüder-Grimm-Platz. In 1976, the literature holdings stored here were assigned to the Kassel Comprehensive University Library, which was founded in the same year. To this day, the Murhard Library is an important part and the second largest location of the UB Kassel. And guardians of the will still ensure that the foundation's purpose is upheld. To finance it, the Murhardsche receives annual grants from the city of Kassel.

The Murhard 2030

With its profile as an academic city library with a foundation background, the Murhard Library is unique in Germany. As the second largest location of the UB Kassel, its historic building provides an impressive setting for special cultural events of the university. The renovation of the Brüder-Grimm-Platz location is also accompanied by the further development and sharpening of the Murhardsche's profile. In a contemporary interpretation of the testamentary will of its founders, it will in future be more clearly committed to its main target group, the citizens, and position itself in the broadly diversified educational and cultural life of the city of Kassel. As a place of social and cultural interaction, an intermediary for lifelong learning, and a space of inspiration for the region and the university, it will also network and establish itself more visibly than before with its regional cooperation partners.