The Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek was one of the first libraries in Germany to be made accessible to the public. It is home to the book collections Wieland, Goethe, Herder, Schiller and many others used to work on.
The library’s history reaches back as far as 1552, when the library was part of the ducal art collection and as such accommodated of the royal palace. In 1691, Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Saxe-Weimar developed distinct plans to expand the book collection and to turn it into a library, which initially occupied three rooms of the palace.
The ducal library was able to develop its own identity and to make a greater public impact only after having been moved into its own building in 1766. Duchess Anna Amalia had ordered the alteration of the »Green Palace« dating from the 16th century in order to adapt it to the needs of accommodating a library. The first floor of the remodeled building now offered an impressive library hall in late rococo style with two galleries. The library’s collection profile was highly diverse and aimed at universal breadth; special emphasis was placed on history, the fine arts and European belles lettres. Until this day, important pieces of art define the furnishings of the rococo hall. In 1797, ministers Johann Wolfgang Goethe and Christian Gottlob Voigt were appointed as joint directors of the library. The library then joined the ranks of the most important libraries in Germany at the time and was able to quickly expand its holdings to a number of 80,000 volumes in 1832.
The pace of the library’s expansion decreased throughout the 19th century. In 1919, it changed its name to »Thüringische Landesbibliothek«. The library with its long lasting tradition merged with the smaller institutional library of the »Nationale Forschungs- und Gedenkstätten der deutschen klassischen Literatur in Weimar« in 1969 and was renamed »Zentralbibliothek der deutschen Klassik«. Since its 300th anniversary in 1991, the library has borne the name of its most important patron.
On 2nd September, 2004, a devastating fire raged in the historical building and destroyed the upper floors as well as numerous books and artworks located there. In 2005, the new »Studienzentrum« and the underground stacks were completed, which, however, had been planned long before the fire. The restored historical building was re-inaugurated in 2007 by the German president.
Today, the collection encompasses around 1 million volumes, approximately 200,000 of which from the period before 1850. The collection partly originates from the private estate of the houses of the Dukes of Saxe-Weimar and Eisenach, which used to govern the area. The library defines itself as research library for literary and cultural history predominantly focusing on the period around 1800.