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3.9.04

Library Fire in Weimar

In an article (Dégâts considérables à la bibliothèque Anna-Amalia de Weimar, September 3) for Le Monde, Georges Marion reports the terrible news of a devastating fire at the Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek in Weimar, which holds the largest collection of Goethe documents in the world, as well as numerous other precious things. The blaze broke out on Thursday (September 2) at 8:30 pm and burned out of control for two hours, when 180 firefighters and another hundred volunteers associated with the library put it out. According to official estimates, as many as 5,000 books have been destroyed and another 30,000 damaged by fire or water.

On Friday morning it was still impossible to say if the collection of editions of Goethe's Faust, which with its 13,000 volumes is a unique resource, had been affected. The first assessments were supposed to take place today. Conflicting reports made on Friday morning in the German press concerned the destruction of a remarkable collection of Bibles: a Bible of Luther's dating from 1543 was supposedly saved.

The library was founded in 1761 by Duchess Anna Amalia, wife of the Duke of Saxony, Weimar Eisenach, patron and friend of the renowned German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. At the time, around 30,000 books were moved into the Grüne Schloss (Green Castle), one of the ducal residences constructed two centuries previously by Renaissance master Nicol Gromann, which was given over to house the library. It is that building, very close to the Goethe house in the center of Weimar, which burned on Thursday. The collection, specialized in the history of literature and art between 1750 and 1850, contains today 900,000 volumes, including a large collection of original editions of the works of Shakespeare, Schiller, Herder, and Wieland. Today, the books are separated into several different areas. One of those was under construction, intended to house the rarest collections, which were still kept in the Rococo hall of the castle. It was to be completed in 2005.

According to police, the fire started in the building's upper floor, consider a world cultural treasure by Unesco. That upper floor has been completely destroyed. A part of the roof collapsed into the famous oval hall, called the Rococo hall, where just previously friends of the library had entered and formed a human chain to save the most precious books. One of the library's staff members admitted that the building had no fire protection.
For the story in English, see Fire at famed Weimar library destroys 30,000 priceless volumes from Expatica and Thousands of rare books ruined from News 24, with a photograph that will make bibliophiles want to cry.

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