The Landesbibliothek Coburg (Regional Library Coburg) originated in the Ernestine (Thuringian) princely library. Up to its voluntary union with Bavaria in 1920, Coburg was a small sovereign state. From the middle of the fourteenth century, it belonged with the territory of the Wettin family (margraves of Meißen, landgraves of Thuringia, electors of Saxony). Duke Johann Ernst of Saxe (1521-1553) descended from the Ernestine line. He was the younger half-brother of the last elector of the reformation period, Johann Friedrich der Großmütige (the magnanimous) (1503-1554), and had castle Ehrenburg built in the middle of the sixteenth century, the current seat of the regional library.
The Herzogliche Hof- und Staatsbibliothek (ducal court and state library, c.55,000 titles) dates back to the sixteenth century and represents the collection’s nucleus. Some of the volumes once owned by Duke Johann Ernst are still preserved. In addition, there is further Ernestine property of books that came to Coburg in the wake of numerous divisions of the estate. The Hof- und Staatsbibliothek was systematically enlarged in an encyclopaedic fashion during the eighteenth century and enjoyed great renown due to its completeness. After the abolition of the duchy in 1918, the law regarding the institution of a (Coburg) Landesstiftung (State Foundation) dated to the 9 August 1918 provided the legal framework. The Coburger Landesstiftung was founded so that the existing cultural assets would be tied to Coburg before the already expected union with Bavaria.
Until the end of 1972, the Landesbibliothek Coburg formed part of the institutions of the Coburger Landesstiftung. During this time, numerous additional book collections were gathered under its roof. Among these were the Luthersammlung (Luther Collection) from Veste Coburg, the Bibliotheca Casimiriana of the Gymnasium Casimirianum (g rammar school) founded in1605, the Kirchenbibliothek (Ecclesiastical Library) of Saint Moriz (Depositum), the Herzogliche Privatbibliothek (ducal private library), the collected material of the Herzoglich Sachsen-Coburg und Gothaisches Hoftheater (ducal Saxe-Coburg and Gotha Court Theatre, 1826-1918), the Schlossbibliothek (castle library) Niederfüllbach and many more.
In 1973, the library was absorbed into the administration of the free state of Bavaria, even though the difficulty to establish details of ownership of its holdings remained untouched. The name of the Landesbibliothek Coburg was guaranteed by contract. Since then, the library belongs to the regional state libraries in Bavaria.
During its history and by its collections the Landesbibliothek Coburg represents the distinctive history of the former Duchy of Coburg, which in part extended well into today’s Southern Thuringia. Within the rich Bavarian library landscape, it constitutes therefore an excellent addition, as is already attested by its outstanding collection of Wittenberg Bibles.
The Landesbibliothek Coburg is subordinate to The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Bavarian State Library).