• Germany's news in English

Berlin state library displays treasures for 350th anniversary

Amrit Naresh · 7 Mar 2011, 13:10

Published: 07 Mar 2011 13:10 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Founded in 1611 and possessing over 10,800,000 printed publications, the library has loaned some of its more famous artefacts to the DHM show “A Library Makes History.”

Set among the museum’s dazzling array of items from the past two millenia, the library’s 1456 Gutenberg Bible, locked in a display case near the centre of the hall, appears almost ordinary at first glance.

But the flawless specimen of Gutenberg's printing revolution is insured for €25 million, if anyone doubts its cultural import.

For museum spokesman Dr. Rudolf Trabold, the presence of the Bible – just one of the exhibition's exceptional pieces – helps visitors appreciate their place in history.

“Our goal is to display the artefacts not just on their own terms, but in their full historical context,” Trabold told The Local.

“The library loaned us the Gutenberg, hand-written manuscripts by Frederick the Great, Bach and Mozart – and you can only understand them in relation to other facets of their time.”

The library’s most prized items will join the Historical Museum's permanent collection for the next three months, a move intended to help them reach a broader audience.

Click here for a photo gallery of the exhibition.

Klaus Hinkel, visiting the museum with his 11-year-old son, told The Local he appreciated the museum’s scope and its incorporation of the library’s works.

“I’ve been here many times before, and I think the museum did a fine job of integrating the library’s pieces into its collection,” he said. “For my son, it presents a massive history in a way that’s easy to digest, and it makes it easy to find connections between artefacts from the same era.”

The Gutenberg Bible, for example, lies adjacent to the museum’s 95 Theses of Martin Luther, a placement Trabold put into the context of Luther’s Protestant reformation and its dependence on the printing press, popularized by Gutenberg, to spread its message.

Then there is the library’s 1555 diagram of new military strategy, composed by a Prussian duke, hanging adjacent to a shining suit of armour whose code of knightly battle it eventually replaced.

A few steps away is a handwritten letter from Frederick the Great to French thinker Voltaire, positioned next to an original composition by Johann Sebastian Bach that was commissioned by the Prussian king.

Of the library's priceless inventory of millions of publications, manuscripts and microforms, the hundred or so items on loan to the museum represent the cream of the crop.

Story continues below…

But the Gutenberg Bible, one of the finest of only 21 originals remaining worldwide, is undeniably the prize catch.

“The book’s parchment is so light-sensitive it can be displayed for only a few months before being returned to five years of total darkness,” Dr. Trabold said.

“It’s special to see it in its true historical context, but it won’t be on display for long. It’s been around for over 500 years, and we hope to help it last for at least another 500.”

“A Library Makes History” runs until June 19 at the German Historical Museum in Berlin. Guided tours are also offered.

Related links:

Amrit Naresh (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

17:39 March 7, 2011 by germinator
that bible looks plagiarized.
Today's headlines
Germany stalls Chinese takeover of tech firm Aixtron
Aixtron headquarters in Herzogenrath. Photo: DPA

The German government on Monday said it had withdrawn approval for a Chinese firm to acquire Aixtron, a supplier to the semiconductor industry, amid growing unease over Chinese investment in German companies.

Politicians call for tough sentences for 'killer clowns'
File photo: DPA.

Now that the so-called 'killer clown' craze has spread from the US to Germany, elected officials are drawing a hard line against such "pranks", with some threatening offenders with jail time of up to a year.

Nearly one in ten Germans are severely disabled
Photo: DPA

New figures reveal that 9.3 percent of the German population last year were considered severely disabled.

The Local List
Germany's top 10 most surreal sites to visit
The Upside-Down House, in Mecklenburg–Western Pomerania. Photo: Olaf Meister / Wikimedia Commons

From upside-down houses on Baltic islands to a fairy-tale castle near the Austrian border, Germany is a treasure trove of the extraordinary.

Bavarian critics back Merkel for Chancellor again
Photo: DPA

The Christian Social Union (CSU) have long delayed backing Angela Merkel as their candidate for Chancellor in next year's general election. But now key leaders are supporting her publicly.

Four taken to hospital after hotel toilet bursts into flames
File photo: DPA.

Four guests at a Nuremberg hotel were taken to hospital due to smoke inhalation early Monday morning after a toilet there burst into flames.

Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German towns, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd