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Paläontologische Bibliothek am Museum für Naturkunde, Foto: HwaJa Götz / MfN


The Museum für Naturkunde Berlin comprises the libraries of the former Zoologisches Museum, the Paläontologisches Museum and the Mineralogisches Museum at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität zu Berlin. These libraries are now an organisational unit, but the literature is stored in different places. All in all, the library holds 374,000 items (including maps and extracted articles). The library subscribes to over 700 printed journals and 5,262 e-journals (as of 2015).


The libraries were founded at the same time as the Berlin University in 1810. The Zoological library has remained one of the most important reference libraries in the German-speaking world, with material dating back to the 15th century. Many such treasures were part of the library of the Gesellschaft Naturforschender Freunde zu Berlin (Society of Naturalist Friends in Berlin), founded in 1773. It had illustrious naturalist members, such as Rudolf Virchow, Adalbert von Chamisso, Robert Bunsen, Alfred Brehm, Georges Cuvier, Ernst Haeckel, Jean Baptiste de Lamarck, and Alexander von Humboldt, to name just a few. Many volumes contain personal notes by the scientists, which makes them unique and adds to the special ambiance of the library. Several special collections have a special relevance as historical documents, such as the apicultural library of the owner of Berlin’s gas works and dedicated beekeeper, Edward Drory (1844-1904), which contains approximately 2,400 volumes of literature from the 16th to the 19th century, or the historical map collection that once belonged to the famous geologist Leopold von Buch.


Johann Heinrich Linck: De stellis marinis liber singularis / tabularum senearum figuras exemplis nativis apprime similes et autoris observationes disposuit et illustravit Christianus Gabriel Fischer
Lipsiae, 1733Open page of the Museum für Naturkunde’s edition of De Stellis Marinis with handwritten notes.

Detailaufnahme einer der Illustrationen und Eintragungen in der Ausgabe von “De Stellis Marines” der Bibliothek, Foto: Carola Radke / MfN

This personalised edition of De Stellis Marinis is a remarkable example of how the history of science is interwoven with the content of the library. Pharmacist Johann Heinrich Linck the Elder published the first work on a collection of starfish and brittle stars in 1733, creating the foundation of the taxonomy for these groups of animals. Between 1670 and 1807, the collection was put together by Heinrich Linck, his son Johann Heinrich the Elder (author of the book) and his grandson Johann Heinrich the Younger and served as reference for the monograph. Linck’s extensive description of individual species was complemented by etchings of representative specimens by Johann August Corvinus. These illustrations were lavishly coloured and often annotated by hand, as on the page shown.

The first page carries a dedication "Geschenk der Frau Geheimrat von Martens zur Erinnerung an Herrn Geheimrat Prof. Dr. E. von Martens - Januar 1905" (Gift from Miss Privy Councillor von Martens in memory of Mister Privy Councillor Prof. Dr. E. von Martens - January 1905). The origin of the book suggests that the hand-written entries came from naturalist Wilhelm Gottlieb Tilesius von Tilenau, who became a corresponding member of the Königlich-Preußische Akademie der Wissenschaften in Berlin in 1812 and was a fellow researcher and friend of Prof. Eduard von Martens, who was then curator for Marine Molluscs at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin.

Linck‘s monograph was published before the 10th edition of Linneus’s Systema Naturae, which defined the nomenclature we have today for all species in nature. For this reason the nomenclature Linck is using is irrelevant to taxonomy. However, the book served as a basis for the scientific description of several species, some of which were described by Linneus himself. Thus, 24 animals of Linck’s starfish collection can be considered to be Linneus’s type material because he refers to the illustrations in the book. The specimens themselves are still preserved in the museum in Waldenburg in Saxony.


The library at the Museum für Naturkunde offers access to printed and digital information in the fields of zoology, palaeontology, mineralogy geology, natural history and the history of science. It is a reference library, primarily used by staff at the Museum, but also available to interested specialists. External visitors are asked to agree a date in advance, either by email or phone. A colour scanner is available that allows visitors to scan and save the results on their own USB stick.

Opening times:
Zoology library (including mineralogy and palaeontology)

Mo-Fr 10.00-17.00

Digital Catalogues and Databases



Digital Databases

The following selection of resources is available on the Museum’s Intranet.


Electronic Journals

Please note that the electronic journals have been licensed to the Museum für Naturkunde. They can therefore only be accessed on the Museum’s premises.


Journals of the Museum für Naturkunde


Historical Material

Resources listed under Historical Material are subject to creative commons licensing. These works and contents may be copied, distributed and made available to the public.




Library Staff:
Martina Rißberger,
Dipl.-Bibl. Library Director

Hans-Ulrich Raake,
Assistant Librarian