Austrian National Library

   One of Europe’s major research libraries and manuscript repositories, the library is the former Imperial Court Library and was largely the private property of Austria’s Habsburg monarchs. Part of it was made accessible for scholars in the first third of the 18th century. A reading room was opened at the beginning of the 20th century in an adjacent Augustinian monastery. Known as the Augustinian Reading Room (Germ: Augustiner Lesesaal), it is still in use for those who wish to consult the rare books and materials published before the 20th century. Following World War I, the library was nationalized and operated as the National Library. It has carried its present title since 1945. In 1966, the main reading room was moved to the newer part of the Imperial Palace (Germ: Hofburg) itself. Further renovations that updated its electronic infrastructure were completed in 2004.
   The Habsburg collection in all likelihood dates from the 14th century, but it was during the Renaissance that it began to take on library-sized dimensions. Emperor Frederick III brought the books and manuscripts in his house’s possession to a central location; Emperor Maximilian I added significantly to the manuscript collection through acquisitions he made in his marriages to both Duchess Mary of Burgundy (1457–1482) and Bianca Sforza (1472–1510) of Milan. In 1575, Emperor Maximilian II (1527–1576) engaged Hugo Blotius (1534–1608), a humanist from the Netherlands, as the first formal director of the collections; under the latter’s supervision the holdings, then numbering around 9,000 items, were first cataloged systematically.
   In 1737, the library acquired the 15,000-volume collection of Prince Eugene of Savoy. These were housed in the interior architectural centerpiece of the National Library, the so-called Prunksaal (Eng: Hall of State), a virtuosic ensemble of Baroque design and decoration conceived and built between 1719 and 1726 according to the specifications of the Austrian master of the style, Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach. His son, Joseph Emmanuel (1693–1742), saw the project through to completion.
   Today, the library also serves as a repository for all materials published in Austria and as a training school. Its various collections now number around 7,400,000 items.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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