IAU Commission 41 : Meetings : Astronomical Archives Session

German Archives

Wolfgang R. Dick (Germany)

Astronomical papers can be found in a very large number of German archives. Large collections are e.g. that of the Berlin Academy of Sciences (Berlin and Potsdam observatories, papers of Bessel and others) and of the Goettingen University Library (Goettingen Observatory, papers of Gauss and others). Many observatories keep their files in their libraries or at other places (e.g. Bonn, Hamburg and Munich), but the access is difficult. It is not easy to convince institutions to give their papers to professional archives. In the case of Leipzig the files are in the University Library because the observatory does not longer exist. Papers of astronomers are kept in many different archives and libraries, e.g. that of Max Wolf are stored in the Heidelberg University Library, that of H. C. Schumacher in the State Library at Berlin. There are also numerous administrative papers related to astronomy in state archives. Medieval manuscripts (Latin and Arab, many non-European) can be found in large and well-known archives as well as in that of monasteries and other institutions. This year the Astronomische Gesellschaft, a professional astronomical society founded in 1863, decided to establish its own archives with the help of the Archives of the Berlin Academy of Sciences. Papers related to the IAU can also be found in several archives.

Unfortunately, the situation with (central) registers is rather bad. The general inventory by Ernst Zinner (Verzeichnis der astronomischen Handschriften des deutschen Kulturgebiets, 1925) is so far the only central register of astronomical papers in Germany, but it covers only the period before 1850, is not complete and is outdated due to World War II losses and other circumstances. An inventory by Diedrich Wattenberg (Astronomen- Briefe in Archiven und Bibliotheken der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, 1974) covers only East Germany and lists only letters. It is incomplete and contains some errors, but is nevertheless very usefull. The State Library at Berlin maintains a central register of autographs (mainly letters), which is helpful also for history of astronomy studies. However, it covers only selected archives in West Germany. Some special inventories have been published, e.g. recently a register of astronomical papers in the Gotha Research Library and a preliminary list of Gottfried Kirch's papers. Professional archives keep card files and inventories of their holdings. Some information is available through the World Wide Web, both from the International Catalog of Sources for History of Physics and Allied Sciences and from individual archives - see http://www.astro.uni-bonn.de/~pbrosche/hist_astr/ha_arch.html for an (incomplete) list of links to astronomical archives in the world.

Some recommandations will be given how to find papers and letters in German archives, and some current activities for compiling inventories will be mentioned.

HTML version: Wolfgang R. Dick. Created: 27 July 2000