Together with the iconic orphanage, one of the most important buildings in the Francke Foundations is without a doubt the historical library. Located in Haus 22, the library was founded in 1728 and remains today an invaluable resource for Pietist studies. Figures speak for themselves: the main collection and the special collections respectively consists of 57,000 and 70,000 volumes, and the reference library holds another 30,000 titles. The archive collection includes 600m of files and manuscripts, as well as 3,300 drawings and maps, 270 palm leaf manuscripts, 19,500 images, 10,200 newspaper clippings and 550 posters. The library is also home to smaller collections such as the school programme collection (15,000 volumes), the Bötticher portrait collection (12,933 sheets) and the map collection (1,760 maps).
When I arrived in Halle in August 2011, I was kindly given a tour of the premises by the archivist, Dr Jürgen Gröschl. Although the main library catalogue was already up and running, I had little idea of what I might find in the manuscript collection. At the time, the electronic catalogue was still in its early stages, so I dived into the extensive card index catalogue located in a separate room adjacent to the reading room in Haus 23. The catalogue made it possible to search not only by name and topic, but also, and more importantly for prosopographical research, by place, language and even by date. This was particularly helpful as I already knew the exact dates of the French Prophets’ stay in Halle. It wasn’t long before I discovered several French manuscripts from that short timeframe that would answer my questions and soon take me in new directions.
My research stay in Halle lasted three months and proved very productive. Exploring German Pietist networks, about which I knew virtually nothing at the time, and their transnational connections proved to be an eye opener on the religious dynamics of eighteenth-century Europe. Moreover, I had the opportunity to meet both German and international scholars during the seminars and conferences organised by the Interdisciplinary Centre for Pietist Studies (IZP) and the Interdisciplinary Centre for European Enlightenment Studies (IZEA). The cafeteria –not to be underestimated– is conveniently located between the reading room and the IZP in Haus 23, which is great for scholarly discussions around lunch or a cup of coffee.
The library staff were very friendly and helpful, especially considering the fact that I did not speak German at the time. The reading room offers a comfortable working environment and modern facilities. Photography is not allowed, but reproductions can of course be ordered. Many manuscript volumes are also readily available on microfilm for use in the reading room and self-service photocopy machines can be used in the reference library. The electronic catalogue has grown considerably over the past few years and, beside the archives of the Franckesche Stiftungen, it also integrates correspondences from the research library in Gotha and the Francke collection in the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin.
In addition, some of the Foundations’ most important collections have now been digitised. Thanks to the support of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), the August Hermann Francke Study Centre has received funding for a four-year project to built the Francke Portal between 2013 and 2017. The Portal combines multiple digital collections (12,610 titles in total) relating to both Francke’s life and interests, as well as historical collections of Pietist literature. These databases include a collection of eighteenth-century portraits, Francke’s calendar and diary (1691-1726), his correspondence (1,714 letters), sermons and his private library (3,346 titles). A description of each of these databases is available in English.
Those interested in the Danish-Halle Mission will also find over 1,900 titles printed in German, English, Tamil and Latin between 1661 and 1800. This includes the famous Hallesche Berichte which, from 1710, published letters, journals, travel accounts and reports of the Pietist missionaries in India.
By starting my journey in Halle, I had followed my intuition as much as the Camisards and, after three months of intensive digging, the former was proved right. For each of these collections and databases contained traces of the French Prophets’ mission and legacy. But this, as I soon realised, was only one piece of a bigger puzzle.
One more thing…
As a religious and intellectual centre of international reputation around 1700, Halle offers many more resources for historians, starting, for instance, with the University Library. Scholars working on Halle’s history and on the German reformation more generally should visit the lesser known Marienbibliothek which, in addition to several church archives, holds collections on early modern medicine, law, astronomy and astrology. Lastly, historians of the Huguenot diaspora and genealogists interested in their French Protestant ancestry will have better luck at the municipal archives and the archives of the French Reformed Church.
The journey continues…