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1784: Scholarship at the Library – Michael Denis and Adam von Bartsch


Inviting leading scholars to the library had been another achievement of prefect Gottfried van Swieten.

In 1784, Michael Denis (1729–1800), a co-founder of library science, was appointed senior custodian of the Vienna court library. In 1759, the Jesuit had been called to the Theresianum, a college for young aristocrats in Vienna, where he had been entrusted with the administration of the precious Garellian Library. He is the author of three standard works on librarianship: "Introduction into the History of the Book" (1777/78), "Curiosities of the Garellian Library" (1780), and "The History of Book Printing in Vienna" (1783–93). Denis also penned Latin school dramas, occasional and homage poetry, religious songs, and the first Austrian reader. He mostly published his lyrics under the pseudonym "Sined the Bard" .

From 1791 onwards, the court library also officially owned a collection of engravings. That year, Adam von Bartsch (1757–1821), a trained engraver, was appointed custodian of the collection, to which he had in fact attended since 1778. In 1784, he had already referred to himself as "garde d’estampe" in a letter to Van Swieten. As early as 1781 he had begun to devote himself to the reproduction of original drawings owned by the library. By 1786 he had compiled his six "Cahiers d’Estampes d’après les Desseins orginaux, qui se truvent à la Bibliotheque I. & R. de Vienne", which eventually appeared in three editions in the form of a summarising “Recueil”.

As a custodian, Adam von Bartsch also formulated fundamental principles on the classification of prints. With his 21-volume standard reference work "Le Peintre Graveur" (Vienna 1803–21), he is considered the "forefather" of modern research into printmaking. Besides his activities as a custodian at the imperial court library, Bartsch also worked as an advisor for numerous collectors of prints and drawings, including Duke Albert of Saxony-Teschen, and as an independent artist.

» 1806: National Library of the Austrian Empire

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