Universität WienAn Historical Tour of the University of Vienna

Archiv der Universität Wien



Duke Rudolf IV, in the Foundation Deed of 12th March 1365, had already provided for a publica libraria where the valuable books bequeathed by deceased members of the University should be collected. Through many legacies this collection was subsequently greatly increased and became the basis of the old Libreye that was accommodated in the same building as the student infirmary. In addition there were libraries in the separate Faculties and in the Duke's College. From the 17th Century interest in the old library, with its manuscripts and incunabulae went into decline and the modern library in the Jesuit College came to the fore. In 1756 the oldest university library was finally closed down and its books (2787 volumes) were incorporated into the Court Library, of which Gerard van Swieten was then director. After the dissolution of the Jesuit order (1773) the new "Academic Library" was created out of the book collections of the five Lower Austrian Colleges and a large number of duplicates from the Court Library. This was opened on 13th May, 1777 (the birthday of Maria Theresia) in the building of the Academic College. Initially the stock consisted of some 45,000 books, and during the Emperor Joseph's dissolution of the monasteries this was soon considerably extended. In contrast to its antecedents the new library was open to the general public. Between 1827 and 1829 it acquired the classicist extension (Postgasse 9) to the Academic College in which it was to be accommodated until 1884. In this year the main library, with some 300,000 books, moved to Heinrich von Ferstel's new Main Building on the Ring, where stacks for some 500,000 volumes had already been prepared. With an annual growth of up to 30,000 volumes the surplus space was soon filled. Book storage space had to be extended continuously. 100 years later the complete library, including departmental and subject libraries, comprised more than 4.3 million volumes. Today Vienna's University Library is the largest collection of books in Austria with the greatest problems of space. In addition to the Main Library, which alone has to cope with an annual growth of 40,000 volumes, it includes today 3 Faculty Libraries, 32 Subject Libraries and 26 Departmental Libraries.

Lit.: Walter Pongratz, Geschichte der Universitätsbibliothek Wien (Wien-Köln-Graz 1977); Hundert Jahre Universitätsbibliothek Wien im Haus am Ring 18841984 (=Biblos-Schriften 126, ed. Ferdinand Baumgartner, Wien 1984); Die Raumnot der Universitätsbibliothek, ed. Ilse Dosoudil (Wien 1997).

The Old University Library in the Academic College, 1829-1884

Between 1827 and 1829 the old library building in the complex of the Jesuit College acquired the classicist façade that has survived to the present day. This building contained the residences of the director of the library and two assistants as well as reading rooms and book stacks. In 1884 the library moved into the new Main Building on the Ring. Since 1979 the Archive of the University of Vienna has been accommodated here. (Original print in the Archive of University of Vienna)


Old Reading Room in the Academic College, 1884

The Jesuits established a splendid library in the Academic College, and after the dissolution of the Jesuit order this collection, with the addition of book collections from dissolved monasteries, formed the basis of the University Library that was reopened in 1777. The "general book-room and library" that had developed since the foundation in 1365 was, however, incorporated into the Court Library in 1756. The baroque reading room has a fresco by Anton Herzog measuring about 250 sq.m from the year 1734, with allegorical representations of the sciences. In this room some 45,000 books were accommodated. (Photo in the Archive of the University of Vienna)