1964-1990: the Clemen years
The Munich Shakespeare Library was founded in 1964 by Wolfgang Clemen, a professor in the English department of LMU Munich and the most high-profile German anglicist of his generation. Clemen had received a substantial grant from the Volkswagen foundation and, in a manner that seems almost fantastical from today's perspective, been given carte blanche regarding how to spend it. A vocal opponent of the emergent "mass university" (a loaded term in the political debates of the time), Clemen decided to establish a centre for postgraduate studies in Shakespeare and the early modern period, which he envisioned as a stronghold of the traditional German university system that he himself had been educated in. The Shakespeare Research Library was born. A formal opening ceremony was held on the premises in Schellingstrasse 3 on 18 January 1967. Guests included the British consul as well as T.J.B. Spencer, then director of the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford, and Dr Stanley Wells, who went on to direct the Institute from 1988-97, both personal friends of Clemen. That same year, the state of Bavaria crucially agreed to fund a full-time, permanent librarian position. In the library's early stages, Helga Weismann (née Weber) had been in charge of book acquisition, classification and cataloging. In 1966 the post went to Hans-Walter Gabler (the renowned Shakespeare and Joyce scholar, then in the early stages of his career), who in turn handed over to Ingeborg Boltz in 1968. Ingeborg served as executive officer for a period of over forty years and to many became virtually synonymous with the library. The current librarian and Shakespeare scholar, Bettina Boecker, succeeded her in 2009.
1990-2019: consolidation and internationalisation
Clemen himself served as director of the library until his death in 1990, 16 years after he became emeritus. In 1975, a year after his formal retirement, he began to teach seminars on Shakespeare in school – a pioneering effort in continuing education for teachers, and something he insisted should take place in the library itself as part of an outreach programme avant la lettre. This tradition was continued by his successor, Wolfgang Weiss. Under his directorship, the library took over the Bochum theatre archive, an important collection of documents on German Shakespeare productions going back to the early 1960s. The Bochum material forms the nucleus of today's theatre archive, a continuously updated collection of reviews and other documents related to Shakespeare on the German stage that is unique to the library. Weiss consolidated the library's standing as a research centre by organizing a number of international symposia, and strengthened its ties to Stratford by organizing regular excursions there for both students at LMU and teachers in his continuing education courses.
An urgently needed spatial extension to the library premises in Schellingstrasse was negotiated by Andreas Höfele, head of the library from 2000 to 2016. After extensive construction work, the library celebrated its formal reopening in November 2000, having almost doubled its available shelf space. Höfele also acquired a budget for making at least part of the holdings searchable electronically. Under his aegis, the library became a focal point for LMU's Collaborative Research Centre on "Pluralization and Authority in the Early Modern Period" (2001-2011). A board member of the International Shakespeare Society and president of the German Shakespeare Society for nine years, Höfele organized several major international conferences at the library, most notably perhaps the Renaissance Go-Betweens conference in 2002 with Peter Burke and Carlo Ginzburg as keynote speakers. From the early 2000s onwards, the library has received generous funding from the Siemens Foundation, which has enabled it to keep holdings up-to date in the face of a rapidly expanding market for scholarly literature on Shakespeare and Early Modern drama.
2019 onwards: a new location and a fresh start
In 2019 Claudia Olk, formerly professor of English and Comparative Literature at Freie Universität Berlin, succeeded Höfele. Olk is president of the German Shakespeare Society and like her predecessor serves on the boards of ISA and Shakespeare Survey. Under Olk's directorship, the library saw the first move in the now over fifty years of its history. Although loved by many readers for their old-world charm, the rooms in Schellingstrasse 3 did not offer a long-term perspective anymore, both because of impending construction work in the building itself and because of sheer shortage of space for the library's ever-increasing holdings. In a major logistical undertaking, the library relocated to its new premises in Amalienstrasse 83 in August 2020 and looks forward to fully reopening for readers once the current pandemic has abated. The Library continues its strong international outlook and its longstanding ties to Shakespeare institutions and scholars worldwide. Olk's plans for the library's development include the creation of a wordwide network of Shakespeare-related libraries, the acquisition of the papers of Shakespeare scholars and translators and the digitisation of selected holdings and catalogues.