1914 – 1916
Architect: Oskar Pusch
Deutscher Platz 1, Leipzig, Germany
The German National Library (formerly the German Library/Deutsche Bücherei) in Leipzig was built between 1914 and 1916 according to plans by architect Oskar Pusch.
As early as 1906, Friedrich Althoff, Ministerial Director in the Prussian Ministry of Culture, had suggested in a conversation with Karl Siegismund, then First Secretary and from 1910 Chairman of the Börsenverein der Deutschen Buchhändler (German Publishers and Booksellers Association), the establishment of an overall archive of national writing, which would receive free specimen copies from publishers and be supported by Börsenverein.
The city of Leipzig and the Kingdom of Saxony showed interest in establishing the institution and pledged financial support to consolidate Leipzig’s leading role in the German-language book trade.
Then, in the summer of 1912, the sponsors of the new library, the German Publishers and Booksellers Association in Leipzig, the publishing city of Leipzig and the Kingdom of Saxony agreed on the name Deutsche Bücherei (German Library).
As an archive of German-language literature, all German-language and foreign-language literature published in Germany since 1913, as well as foreign literature in German, was to be collected, listed in a national bibliography and made accessible to the public as a reference library.
The plot of land for the library building had been made available by the city of Leipzig, and the building costs had been borne by the Saxon state.
The German Publishers and Booksellers Association undertook to furnish, operate and administer the library.
Architect Oskar Pusch drew up the construction plans for the building. The construction was supervised by the Leipzig building councilor Karl Julius Baer and the construction master Karl Schmidt.
The foundation stone was laid on July 21, 1914, the shell was completed on April 30, 1915, and the building was officially opened on September 2, 1916.
On a floor area of 4,148 square meters, the enclosed space was about 80,000 cubic meters.
The ceilings of the library are made of reinforced concrete. So are the walls of the lower floors, while on the upper floors they are masonry. The facades are covered with natural stone or plastered.
The symmetrical main facade of the building is 120 meters long and slightly concave curved.
The structure initially included the front building, with basement and attic a total of nine stories high, which housed the administrative offices and on the upper floors the magazines for 1.23 million book volumes.
Behind the central section is the staircase, followed by a 19-meter-wide and 20-meter-long five-story intermediate wing, to which the reading room wing is attached.
In addition to the 614 square meter reading room, there was the 364 square meter periodical reading room on the second floor of the intermediate wing.
The reading room wing would later be rebuilt with magazine additions during the expansions planned for every twenty years.
Above the building’s main entrance are busts of Otto von Bismarck, Johannes Gutenberg, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the latter signed by Dresden sculptor Fritz Kretzschmar.
Statues by Adolf Lehnert and Felix Pfeifer represent technology, art, justice, philosophy, theology and medicine, flanked on the sides by armorial holders by Johannes Hartmann with the coats of arms of the City of Leipzig (left) and the Börsenverein (right).
Above the portal is a large, wrought-iron facade clock with gilded numerals and hands. It has a diameter of four meters and was made by the Leipzig master locksmith Hermann Kayser.
The facade of the large reading room in Philipp-Rosenthal-Straße is plastered and supports a 27-meter-long and 1.5‑meter-wide balcony.
Numerous financial donations made it possible to commission a large number of works of art for the interior of the building.
The four mosaics in the entrance hall with elements of Art Nouveau and Art Deco are by Max Seliger.