1514: Scholars and Their Libraries

In the sixteenth century, several leading scholars were closely affiliated with the court library.
Wolfgang Lazius (1514–1565) was a professor of medicine at the University of Vienna and official historiographer of Emperor Ferdinand I (1531–1564). He visited libraries, monasteries, and archives for the emperor in order to research the dynasty’s history and its countries. From three extensive library tours that took him, among other places, to Admont, Seckau, St. Lambrecht, Friesach, Gurk, St. Paul, Cilli, Carniola, and Further Austria, he returned to Vienna with a substantial haul.

Beginning under the reign of Maximilian I, the importance of the printing press and thus the role of the sciences and of history, genealogy, heraldry, and iconology were increasingly recognised as means to legitimise the claims to sovereignty, consolidate power, and safeguard the imperial legacy. As a result, the idea and function of the library was evolving more and more from holding a treasure to being a place of knowledge and cultural memory. It was no longer the task of books to simply be beautiful and be kept in holy places; all of a sudden, the invisible, the knowledge hidden in them, also gained in importance.

In the latter half of the sixteenth century, the imperial library was considerably enlarged by knowledgeable book collectors: as the emperor’s envoy,  the diplomat Augerius Gislenius Busbequius or Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq (1522–1592) bought valuable Greek manuscripts in Constantinople, more than 270 of which are still documented; more than 560 Greek and Latin manuscripts were acquired in Italy by the collector Johannes Sambucus or János Zsámboky (1531–1584); and the catalogue of Hans Dernschwamm (1494–1568), the administrator of the copper mines leased by the emperor to the Fuggers at Neusohl, lists 651 works purchased for the imperial library in Vienna after his death.