The library possesses 490,000 printed items. The centre of the library stock is an extensive collection of source material and secondary literature about the legal development in Europe, Latin America and the British Commonwealth. Additionally we provide a wide range of non-legal literature of philosophy, theology and historiography as well as political, economic, social and intellectual history. Furthermore intensive efforts are being made constantly to complete the existing stock by purchases on the antiquarian book market.
Special collection of "Legal dissertations of the 16th – 18th centuries"
The Library holds a collection of around 60,000 legal dissertations, disputations and lesser academic treatises of the 16th to 18th centuries from the territory of the Holy Roman Empire. A further 40,000 items in total are on long-term loan from the library of Frankfurt University (the Lehnemann collection) and diocesan library of Limburg. One of the main emphases of the collection is on dissertations and disputations originating from the Protestant universities of northern and central Germany such as Halle, Wittenberg, Jena, Göttingen and Leipzig. Some 60% of the documents were published in the 18th century and around 40% in the 17th century. Only a small number date from the 16th century. The special collection was systematically recorded and the content categorized as part of a Library dissertation project. The title pages and dedications have been digitized and are available on the Internet as digital facsimiles.
Special collection of "Legal dissertations of the 20th Century"
Another special collection contains some 30,000 legal dissertations from the first half of the 20th century that were originally collected by the Reichsgericht court library in Leipzig. Around 4,000 of these dissertations date from the National Socialist era.
Special collection of "Medieval manuscripts on microfilm"
The library has a collection of thus far 1,600 microfilm copies of Latin manuscripts on Roman law through to the year 1230. In addition there are also 300 film copies of the principal works of canonical literature of the period from 1100 to 1230. Covering the Greek-speaking eastern empire, the research project on Byzantine legal history has massed 1,000 microfilm copies of secular and church law manuscripts from the 10th to 15th centuries. These two collections constitute a source of medieval legal texts of rare completeness.
Expert libraries and legacies
In recent years the Institute has, on several occasions, acquired libraries collected by legal experts and scientifically-important legacy archives that are now in the care of the library.
For example, the Institute was successful in acquiring a collection of separata as well scientific correspondence and other materials from the archives of the legal historian Guido Kisch (1889-1985). Kisch’s legal history library was passed to antiquarians, while the Judaica went to the Leo Baeck Institute in New York.
The Sten Gagnér (1921-2000) library, acquired in 2002 with the aid of special funding from the Max Planck Society and a private donation, includes a large private legal history collection of approx. 10,000 volumes. The library is of particular value for the study of Scandinavian and European legal history, not least because of its high proportion of canonical literature.
In connection with a project on the scientific history of international law, the Institute was successful in acquiring the library and archives of the international law specialist Karl Josef Partsch (1914-1996). The collection proved also to contain letters that had belonged to his father, the papyrologist and expert in civil and international law Josef Partsch (1882-1925). The library and archive of Wilhelm G. Grewe (1911-2000) also has an emphasis on international law.
Research into the history of public law and the Weimar period in 1997 revealed references to the archive belonging to the constitutional and church law specialist Karl Rothenbücher (1880-1932) of Munich. At the end of 1999 this archive came to the Institute on long-term loan from the family. It includes not only Rothenbücher’s works, but above all the entire portfolio of working materials, manuscripts, letters, documents and photos. Rothenbücher, as an expert on church law, was critical of Bavaria’s policy of concordat in the 1920s, and he attracted unwelcome attention in National Socialist circles when he wrote in 1924 in a brochure entitled "Der Fall Kahr" that those involved in Hitler’s putsch were traitors.
Since the end of 1999 the Institute has also been in possession of the library and a small collection of correspondence amassed by the civil law expert and specialist in Eastern European law Klaus Westen (1929-1999). Westen was a pupil of Franz von Hippel, under whose auspices he took a doctorate in "The legal history and legal policy opinions of Joseph Stalin" (1959). His post-doctoral thesis, a study of the CPSU and the Soviet state (1968), was also based on Russian sources. A valuable supplement to this collection is the correspondence of the Eastern European law specialist Georg Brunner (1936-2002), which has been passed to the Institute for scientific evaluation.
A database of these legacy archives contains details of the materials they contain such as working papers, manuscripts and correspondence. At present this is available for internal access only; however, it may be viewed on request. Books and journals contained in legacy libraries are listed in the webOPAC catalogue.