The Thuringian University and Regional Library in Jena was founded in 1549. On 22 August of that year, the three sons of the former German Elector Johann Friedrich, who were residing in neighboring Weimar, sent their father’s Electoral library to Jena for housing in the dissolved Dominican monastery of St Paul. The library was under the control of the dukes and was called the ‘Bibliotheca ducalis’ or the ‘Fürstlich Sächsische Bibliothek’. Even as it later became known as the ‘University Library’, it was still supported by the Ernestine princes, who were the patrons of the university.
In 1817 the library was placed under the ‘Institutes for Science and Art in Weimar and Jena’, whose minister was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Under Goethe, the library grew considerably. In addition to the holdings of the original ducal library, the library also received deposit copies of works by Jena’s printers and professors, as well as acquisitions from individual booksellers and bequeathed or purchased libraries of prominent individuals.
In 1557 the library acquired the personal collection of Georg Rörer, a German theologian who worked as an editor for Martin Luther. This greatly enhanced the library’s Reformation holdings. In 1675-76, the library acquired the private collection of Johann Andreas Bose, which nearly doubled the library’s holdings. Now, with nearly 10,000 volumes, Jena’s library became one of the top German university libraries. However, the largest collection added to Jena’s holdings was Christian Gottlieb Buder’s library in 1763, containing over 17,000 volumes.
In 1858 the library moved from the former Dominican monastery into a new building across from the city’s Botanic Garden. However, this building was bombed and destroyed on 9 February 1945. The current library, erected on the site of the previous library, was built between 1998 and 2001. In 1991 the library changed its name from the ‘University Library’ to the Thuringian Regional and University Library (Thüringer Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek). In the Thuringian Educational Act of 1992, the library was officially recognized as an academic, state library. Currently, the library has around four million items. The most valuable collections are 3,400 manuscripts (about one-tenth of which are medieval), 130 estate libraries, 2,500 letters, 1,200 incunabula, and over 640,000 historical printed works.