Wallraf's books - The rescue of a scholarly library

05.05. - 07.08.2022

The exhibition shows selected restoration examples from the Wallraf Library before, during and after the complex processing. 11 restoration workshops from Nordrhein-Westfalen, Rheinland-Pfalz und Niedersachsen are working on the restoration.

Portrait Ferdinand Franz Wallraf, painting by Egidius Mengelberg (1770-1849), Köln 1824

Ferdinand Franz Wallraf, born in Cologne in 1748, shaped the cultural life of his home city like hardly any other citizen of his time. In 1793 he was even elected the last rector of the old University of Cologne.

The multitude of subjects Wallraf studied and taught at the university, his passion for book production, and his efforts to acquire remaining library stocks resulted in a universal book collection. He saw his library as the foundation for the supply of literature for research and teaching.

In 1818, he bequeathed his collections to his hometown of Cologne, and thus the "Bibliothek Wallraf" forms the foundation of the former Cologne City Library, which became part of the new University and City Library in 1920. Wallraf himself collected meticulously, but had no money to finance the preservation of the books, some of which had already been damaged during acquisition. In the 1940s, the library was moved to a monastery cellar due to the war. The partly damp room climate led to considerable further damage. The centuries of use did the rest and the library was in a catastrophic condition.


In 2018, a large-scale campaign was therefore launched to save these book treasures. The restoration was made possible by funding from the federal government, the state, the city of Cologne and the university. Thanks to their generous donations, our book patrons have also helped to preserve valuable cultural assets. You can find information on the type and scope of funding on the page "Our sponsors".

The aim is to restore Wallraf's entire library by the 200th anniversary of his death in 2024 and thus to be able to make the valuable cultural objects available again in the Historical Collections Reading Room. Exhibitions are then planned in Cologne and Berlin.




University and City Library Cologne, showcase in front of the cafeteria, Universitätsstrasse 33, 50931 Cologne

Opening hours

Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to midnight - Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.


Caroline Dohmen-Richter, +49 221 470-2416, buchpaten@ub.uni-koeln.de