By Alexandra Jocham, RBI |

On a trip to Vienna, you should definitely stop by the Austrian National Library. It is Austria’s central scientific library, open to the public. And the State Hall in particular is a true baroque beauty. Today we would like to introduce you to this national treasure.

1. Once one of the most extensive universal libraries in the world

In the Austrian Empire, from 1867 the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy, the library was as the Vienna Court Library one of the most extensive universal libraries in the world until the end of the First World War. Today, it is the central academic library of the Republic of Austria with a tradition going as far as the 14th century.

2. Over 11 million books and artefacts

With over 11 million books and artefacts, the Austrian National Library is the largest library in Austria with 19 reading rooms open to the public. Its international reputation rests not only on the over 3.9 million books, but, especially, on the eight collections of unique artefacts – manuscripts, incunabula, music manuscripts, photographs, maps, globes and much more that conserve a significant part of the world’s documentary heritage.

3. Collection of all Austrian publications and dissertations from Austrian Universities

As the national library, it collects, among other things, the deposit copies of all printed works published or produced in Austria. This includes all dissertations approved by Austrian universities.

4. Five special offerings

As a federal museum, the Austrian National Library also includes five special museums: the State Hall, one of the most beautiful baroque libraries in the world, the Papyrus Museum that holds one of the most significant collections of papyri and other artefacts more than 3,000 years old, the Globe Museum – the only of its kind in the world, the Esperanto Museum and the Literature Museum.

5. First book collections of the Habsburgs dating back to 14th century

The book collection of today’s Austrian National Library goes back to various earlier collections. The book collections owned by the Habsburgs since the 14th century are considered to be the oldest sources. These were housed in various locations (mainly in the castles of Vienna, Wiener Neustadt, and Innsbruck) and contained Austrian, Bohemian, French and Italian manuscripts in various languages, some of which were decorated with valuable illuminations.

6. 1368 as the assumed founding date

There is no evidence of a founding date for these collections, so the year 1368 is assumed to be the beginning, since the possession of a book can be proven for this year for the first time. It was a gospel book written in 1368 by Johannes von Troppau, which was already in the possession of Albrecht III († 1395) in the same year.

7. The baroque beauty State Hall

The State Hall was the first building to be built specifically for the Court Library; previously the books were stored in the Minorite Monastery. The building was begun in 1723 by Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach and completed after his death by his son Joseph Emanuel in 1726. The sculptures on the building are by Lorenzo Mattielli. According to the original arrangement of the books, the state hall is divided into a war and peace side, which is reflected in the frescoes.