For a long time, very little was known about Stefan Zweig’s personal library: the books which he owned, used for his literary work, read for research or for pleasure. Indeed, for the numerous biographies and essays on literary and historical figures that he wrote, Zweig very much depended on extensive printed sources. Thus, anything we can learn about the books that were in Zweig’s possession is likely to be of significant value to research.


Even in his school days and during his very earliest years as a young writer Zweig is known to have been an avid buyer of books, and in the following decades he continuously developed his collection, a corpus which reached its greatest expanse around 1930, peaking at the more than 10,000 volumes which he kept at his villa in Salzburg. Deliberate acquisitions stood beside review copies and gifts received from publishers as well as from other authors. A quite extensive, independent segment is formed by the collection of auction and sales catalogues issued by autograph dealers, assembled by Zweig as documentation for his manuscript collection. When Zweig left Austria and dissolved his household on Salzburg’s Kapuzinerberg in 1936 and 1937, the vast majority of his books were sold or given away. For his new residence in London, Zweig assembled a reduced working library culled from the remains of his Salzburg collections, but also including new acquisitions. Especially during his years of exile, Zweig consulted not only books in his own possession, but also works he found in public collections. Hence, both in chronological and in spatial terms, it makes sense to speak of not one library of Stefan Zweig, but of several.



Zweig’s libraries were largely dispersed during his own lifetime, and most books ended up in unknown locations; only a fraction of them can be identified with certainty. Originally, all holdings were recorded on filing cards or in book catalogues, of which only those of the autograph catalogue collection and of the so-called “Hausexemplare” (voucher copies of Zweig’s own works) have survived. Today, some 1,300 volumes of the original more than ten thousand can be attributed to Stefan Zweig by means of provenance features, some more easily identifiable than others. These features include such unequivocal signs of ownership as address stamps or handwritten annotations, but also shelfmarks apparently denoting former shelf locations in Zweig’s various residences, the meaning of which often can be inferred only from the context.


During the past years, private initiatives as well as efforts by the STEFAN ZWEIG DIGITAL project have made it possible to identify and catalogue in depth previously inaccessible or unknown parts of Zweig’s libraries now in private and public collections. The books are catalogued according to library standards, also noting all individual provenance features. The various traces of Zweig’s ownership have been categorised and recorded on the basis of the T-PRO Thesaurus of Provenance Terms, which offers standardised terminology and descriptions. The more than 4,000 autograph catalogues, of which some 3,000 are today held by the Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach, form an exception: so far, no individualized digital records exist of this special collection; instead, researchers may consult lists of the various brochures, some of which are preserved separately, others bound into volumes.


In the various catalogue entries, the field “original shelfmarks” also records the numerous indicators of location and shelving system whose meaning so far could be only partially deciphered. Shelfmark sequences, successions of changing numbering systems, and recurring combinations allow us to draw certain conclusions about the library’s former organisation and about lacunae in the extant inventory.


The more than 600 volumes of “Hausexemplare”, Stefan Zweig’s voucher copies of his own works which were mostly marked with a special stamp, constitute a significant proportion of his surviving collection as it is known today. They include original editions as well as various re-issues and translations. The “Hausexemplare” served mainly administrational purposes and facilitated the management of inquiries concerning translations and reprints. Some books, however, were also used as sources and working copies, containing deletions, changes, and corrections in Stefan Zweig’s own hand.


The other identified books from Zweig’s libraries cover a variety of subjects and literary genres. A good number of them contain personal inscriptions to Stefan Zweig, evidencing a lively barter of new publications among his wider circle. Any inferences as to literary tastes or key themes based on the inventory so far catalogued must be drawn with caution: for example, the fact that the known corpus contains not a single work by Thomas Mann should not be taken to mean that Zweig owned no such book, but merely that no such volume with his provenance could be identified so far. Indeed, in this case, letters and other remarks prove conclusively that Zweig and Mann frequently sent each other their own latest publications, often inscribed to each other. It should also be taken into account that the books reached their several current locations by various routes. Disregarding the autograph catalogues, it is the volumes which remained in London – now owned by the heirs of Stefan Zweig – which constitute the largest single bloc of the collection. The nucleus of this trove is formed by those volumes from Zweig’s Salzburg library which he chose to keep when he gave up his residence in Austria. In the following years, this pared-down collection was expanded almost exclusively by deliberate acquisitions, and the new titles may be assumed strongly to reflect Zweig’s literary interests in the late 1930s. By contrast, the volumes preserved in the estate of the Salzburg writer Georg Rendl and in various private collections belong to the group of books which Zweig had eliminated when he went into exile, suggesting that these were the titles to which he attached less importance at this stage of his life.


In spite of all losses and limitations, our newly-gained knowledge of the former extent of Zweig’s libraries already facilitates important new insights into his literary work, his reading habits, his use of sources, and his personal interests. The inventories catalogued within STEFAN ZWEIG DIGITAL allow for comparisons with numerous archival papers and documents from Zweig’s very extensive estate, investigations which often reveal new and hitherto elusive interconnections. The catalogue will continue to be enlarged by additional books from Stefan Zweig’s libraries whenever they can be located. The provenance features established in the course of the project now make it possible to identify volumes that would otherwise have gone unrecognized. Any information that contributes to such discoveries would be sincerely appreciated by the team at STEFAN ZWEIG DIGITAL.

More about the book

Extensive information on the history of the library, about its contents, the distinguishing provenance features, and about individual books may be found in the following publication which grew out the STEFAN ZWEIG DIGITAL project:

Stephan Matthias, Oliver Matuschek
Stefan Zweigs Bibliotheken
144 pages, 95 illustrations in colour and b/w
27 × 21 cm, softcover
Sandstein Verlag, Dresden 2018
ISBN 978-3-95498-446-6

„Die schicksalhafte Geschichte des Buchbesitzes Stefan Zweigs ist im Rahmen dieser klug konzipierten und reich illustrierten Publikation, die ich ausdrücklich zur Lektüre empfehle, schon jetzt in einem Umfang ‚sichtbar‘ geworden, der lange nicht für machbar gehalten wurde.“
(“By this intelligently conceived and profusely illustrated publication which I recommend unreservedly to the reader, the fateful history of Stefan Zweig’s personal collection of books has been made ‘visible’ to a degree long considered unattainable.”)
Susanne Buchinger in Aus dem Antiquariat

Read an extract here