German Language and Literature Collection Policy


subject description and guidelines

  • Cornell University Library maintains a major collection in German-language literature and literary studies, including dramatic literature and scholarship on German-language theater and film. Contemporary German belles lettres, as well as critical editions of past German literature are acquired near-comprehensively, with less emphasis on the German-language literature of Austria, Switzerland, and elsewhere. The Library acquires the major German- and English-language critical works on German-language literature, theater, and film of all historical periods, as well as scholarly treatments of the philosophical, social, historical, and intellectual milieus in which these cultural products took shape. Works in other European languages are collected to a lesser extent. Critical theory as it pertains to German literary and cultural studies is intensively acquired. Strong holdings in linguistics relating to the German language are complemented by materials in Germanic linguistics acquired in connection with the Library’s Icelandic collection and the collections in Netherlandic and Scandinavian studies.


  • The primary users of materials in the collection are Cornell faculty, graduate students, visiting scholars, and undergraduate majors in German Studies. Cornell is a leading center for German Studies nationally and internationally and Cornell scholars have played a central role over the past three decades in redefining the field along interdisciplinary, cultural studies lines. In addition to the members of the Department of German Studies, there are a number of key faculty members with active research interests in German Studies in the Departments of Architecture, Government, History, Linguistics, Music, and Philosophy; several are affiliated with Cornell’s transdisciplinary and cross-departmental Graduate Field of Germanic Studies. Since 1992, Cornell has maintained the Institute for German Cultural Studies, which frequently brings visiting scholars to campus who represent and important constituency of the collection in German language and literature.


collection strength

  • Due to the emphasis placed on the Germanic collections by major figures in the history Cornell and the Library (Andrew Dickson White, Willard Fiske, Felix Reichmann), the Library's holdings in German and the other Germanic languages are very strong across many fields of study. The Library continues to maintain exceptionally strong holdings to support the broad, multidisciplinary field of German Studies; the collection in German language and literatures forms the essential core of these wider holdings. The collection includes the main journals in the field; numerous monographic series; extensive reference holdings; multiple editions of major and many minor authors; and countless critical works covering German-language literature, theater, and film of all historical periods. Since 1984 we have received, via an approval plan, contemporary belles lettres of authors writing in German in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Dialect poetry, prose and folklore were collected heavily in the 1970s and 1980s. German literature and literary scholarship is collected at a level to support intensive dissertation and post-doctoral research. Austrian and Swiss literature is collected at a level to support undergraduate or graduate course work and sustained independent study. Linguistics holdings for the German language are maintained to support research at the dissertation and post-doctoral level.

collection level

  • research 

geographical guidelines

  • Works about the subjects described above, primarily from German-speaking Europe and the English-speaking world. Swiss literature written in French or Italian is covered by the Romance Studies bibliographer.

areas of significant geographic coverage

country (self-governing)

  • Austria 
  • Germany 
  • Luxembourg 
  • Switzerland 

language guidelines

  • Acquired are primarily German- and English-language materials on the subjects described above; materials in other European languages are collected to a lesser extent.


  • English 
  • German 

chronological guidelines

  • Extant holdings and current collection activity in German language and literature support Cornell scholarship and teaching that engages German cultural history in a range from medieval to the present. Holdings that treat the German-language literature and theater of the 18th-21st centuries are particularly strong. Materials published in the 20th century make up about 75% of the holdings in German literature and literary studies (i.e., PT 0-4899 call number classification); materials published since 2000 comprise around 15%, and most of the rest are 19th-century publications.

material types

  • Books (literary texts and scholarly treatments) and journals are acquired in print and, increasingly, in electronic formats. Book purchases make up over 65% of the current annual investment in this area. The collection includes the major indexes and bibliographic databases that cover German language and literature, as well as full-text extensive digital collections of the literature of German Classicism and the works of Brecht and Kafka.


housed in

  • Library Annex 
  • Olin Library 

special collections or noteworthy resources in the field

  • Cornell University Library’s Rare and Manuscript Collections include numerous volumes that complement the extensive circulating collection in German language and literature. These include early printed editions of Martin Luther, sixteenth-century editions of the works of Hans Sachs, a first edition of the complete poems of Martin Opitz (1625), eighteenth-century editions of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, first editions of Immanuel Kant and Johann Gottlieb Fichte, and important editions of other major philosophical and literary figures of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as full runs of key literary journals such as the Literarisches Centralblatt für Deutschland (1850-1903) and Die Fackel (1899-1936).

related library subject collection


associated with organization

academic department

  • Comparative Literature (COM L) 
  • German Studies (GERST) 
  • Institute of European Studies, Cornell University 
  • Linguistics (LING) 

graduate field/program

  • Comparative Literature 
  • Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies 
  • Germanic Studies 

cornell research program, unit, or center

  • Institute for German Cultural Studies 

academic unit

  • Program of Jewish Studies 


library contact

  • Walker, Kizer S. -  Director of Collections