The thick leather bindings conceal the stories of long-gone generations. Daring travel tales about America, philosophical musings, intricate diagrams of how to fix a ruptured hernia and tips for the ladies: Lindau’s Library of the Former Imperial Free City is a treasure trove of centuries-old knowledge.

13,000 historical books

In 1524 Martin Luther called on the “Councilmen of every city in Germany” to establish and maintain good libraries – and his words were certainly heeded on Lake Constance. Lindau’s citizens were hungry for knowledge and reform, and upon their insistence a public library was opened in 1538. It began with around a hundred books from the Franciscan monastery, which was dissolved in 1528. Over the centuries it grew to be the largest historic public library on the northern shores of the lake. Purchases by the town council and gifts from Lindau’s citizens helped the collection to grow to almost 13,000 historic volumes, covering everything from natural history, alchemy, dogmatic theology and morality to civil and ecclesiastical law.

Treasures of Library of the Former Imperial Free City

The Town Hall, which dates from 1422, houses books and documents that record local, national and international history. The island’s library also has 140 precious incunabula – some of the very earliest printed documents – and a coloured example of the first complete German translation of the Bible by Martin Luther dating from 1534. For years, these precious books were hidden away in cool, dark archives, until the autumn of 2013, when the new archives were opened to visitors after an 8-month construction period. The books are meticulously categorised and displayed on heavy wooden shelves. Protected by a huge air-conditioned glass cube, they can now be viewed by the public.

Of course some of these historic treasures can also be viewed from close up. There is a rotating display of books and screens show images of the collection’s most precious items. An information wall also provides a fascinating insight into the history of the town, its town hall and of course its historic library.

Library of the Former Imperial Free City


19 March – 16 October 2016
Tuesday – Sunday: 02:00 pm – 05:30 pm