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An eighteenth-century library census: Adalbert Blumenschein's "Beschreibung verschiedener Bibliotheken in Europa"

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Title: An eighteenth-century library census: Adalbert Blumenschein's "Beschreibung verschiedener Bibliotheken in Europa"
Author(s): Walker, Thomas David
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Krummel, D. W.
Department / Program: Library and Information Science
Discipline: Library and Information Science
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Literature, Germanic History, European Library Science
Abstract: Adalbert Blumenschein (1720-1781), an Austrian librarian and priest, wrote a "Beschreibung verschiedener Bibliotheken in Europa" that contains about 2500 descriptions of eighteenth-century European libraries and their holdings. The "Beschreibung," which exists in a single four-volume manuscript at the Austrian National Library and has not previously been studied in detail, is analyzed with the aid of a database created for the purpose. Investigated are the work's overall physical arrangement, its internal organization, its contents, and its sources. The work is compared with Friedrich Hirsching's Versuch einer Beschreibung sehenswurdiger Bibliotheken Teutschlands (1786-1791) and works of other contemporary library scholars. To demonstrate the range of information found in the work, the entry for the Bibliotheca Ambrosiana (Milan) is examined in detail. To illustrate the richness of Blumenschein's coverage of libraries, the entries for Regensburg (Germany) are compared with those of Hirsching and several other contemporaries. The project places Blumenschein in historiographical and cultural contexts, outlines the history of his church and library, and addresses his possible motives for writing a large-scale work about libraries. The appendices include a catalog of Blumenschein's entries, indices of place names, private owner names, libraries visited by Blumenschein, and library types, a physical description of the manuscript, a transcription of Blumenschein's foreword, a description of the project database, and a statistical survey of the work. The "Beschreibung" is demonstrated to be one of the most important and perhaps the largest work about libraries written before the twentieth century. While it is seen as an extraordinarily rich and reliable primary source of information about European libraries based in part on almost 400 personal visits by Blumenschein, it is also judged to be an unusually detailed secondary source supported by nearly 300 printed sources as well as an abundant tertiary source that cites or describes thousands of books and manuscripts. Because of its size and detail and in view of its having been written shortly before events that radically affected libraries of the period, such as the widespread dissolution of monasteries, the French Revolution, and the Napoleonic Wars, the work is argued to be a crucial record of the state of European libraries in the eighteenth century.
Issue Date: 1992
Type: Text
Language: English
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/22015
Rights Information: Copyright 1992 Walker, Thomas David
Date Available in IDEALS: 2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog: AAI9236618
OCLC Identifier: (UMI)AAI9236618
 

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