The Visitors’ Book of Kunsthaus and Museum Fridericianum 1769-1796

DFG-Project: “The Museum Fridericianum in Kassel as a destination of educational travel of the Enlightenment movement. Annotated, digitalized edition of the visitors’ book from 1769 to 1796”

Friedrichsplatz - Historische Darstellung

Author: Andrea Linnebach

Statistische Auswertungen, Karten (PDF)
Literatur- und Abkürzungsverzeichnis


As the first European museum built for the general public, the Museum Fridericianum represents as no other institution the “museum of Enlightenment”. Founded to foster the sciences, it attracted visitors from all over the world with its combination of an encyclopedic collection of exhibits, a library, an observatory and a residence of scientific societies.


Regarding the “Kunsthaus” (house of arts) in the Ottoneum - the institutional predecessor of the Fridericianum - the curator Rudolf Erich Raspe (later known as the author of the “munchhausen”-tales) soon developed ideas for a historio-cultural reordering (draft of a “gothic cabinet”). In 1769, he laid out a “foreigners book” (“Fremdenbuch”), thus creating a document, which did not only show the diverse spectrum of visitors in this institution, but also foreshadowed the importance of the visitors and their care for the institution itself. From 1779 onwards this book was carried on in the newly opened Fridericianum and thus vividly documents the transition from the traditional cabinet of curiosities (“Kunstkammer”) to the “museum of Enlightenment.”

The list of about 14,000 persons documents the attraction of the museum for a diverse international clientele. On the different pages aristocrats, scholars, diplomats, representatives of the clergy, the military, culture and commerce, burghers wives and concubines, revolutionaries and emigrants, pupils, craftsmen and valets are listed in an egalitarian, chronological order. As almost no other kind of source it shows not only the typical networking of the time, but also the dissolution of traditional connections.

Museum Fridericianum - Ansicht von Süden

The online-edition combines the digital copy of the original manuscript with its complete transcription, supplemented by the systematic presentation and evaluation of the bibliographical facts in a database including 28 data fields per visitor. With the help of attached diagrams and maps, the database provides detailed information about the number of visitors and their distribution according to their social rank, gender, age, religion, place of origin, nationality, profession or field of study and, furthermore, about changes in the influx of visitors - for instance due to a changing historical context. Thus, it provides an excellent insight into the visitor structure of the museum and the background of the visitors, indeed about the whole geographical mobility within European society in the last third of the 18th century and the consequent transfer of knowledge and culture - for example in trade links, the emigration wave in the era of the French Revolution or the itineraries of diplomats, scientists and artists.

Großer Bibliothkessaal

Three fields of the database include information based on the visitor lists of Kassel’s “Policey- und Commercienzeitung” (Journal of Police and Commerce, PCZ), including the literal citation of the information, the accommodation of the visitors and the town gate, through which they entered Kassel. With the help of this information it was possible to identify visitors and furthermore gain hints about their travel companions, their itinerary, the time they spent in Kassel and about their lodging (hotels or private accommodations). Thus, reliable information for studies on early tourism is available.

Research shows that among the visitors there was an unexpectedly high number of famous persons of the Age of Enlightenment, whose presence in Kassel was formerly unknown. For all these persons, some of whom travelled incognito, the edition provides new bibliographical facts. Furthermore, it provides detailed information about emerging or already existing networks of scholars (who met whom at which point in time?) and also about the process of the popularization of science. The project illuminates the importance of the “Collegium Carolinum” in Kassel as a relevant nodal point of the communication network of the Enlightenment movement not only on a local, but also on a worldwide level.

Weißensteiner Saal

The edition documents the impact of Kassel’s “museum of Enlightenment” on international scholarship as well as on the history of public education. Moreover, it displays the hitherto underestimated importance which Kassel gained through visitors to the museum among the centers of the Enlightenment movement.

For the first time and with a prominent example, the visitors’ book of a museum from this period is fully opened up and the results may serve as a help for further research in various historical disciplines.

The original document is preserved in the manuscripts section of the Universitätsbibliothek Kassel.

The project was approved by the DFG in November 2008. Start: March 2009, duration: 3 years, last concluding update of the database: 02.04.2013.


  • Renate Dürr: Wissenspopularisierung in der Aufklärung: das Kasseler Kunsthaus im Blickpunkt von "Liebhabern und Reisenden", 1769–1779. In: Buchkultur und Wissensvermittlung in Mittelalter und Früher Neuzeit. Ed. by Andreas Gardt, Mireille Schnyder, Jürgen Wolf. Berlin/Boston 2011, 147–162
  • Andrea Linnebach (Ed.): Der Münchhausen-Autor Rudolf Erich Raspe. Wissenschaft – Kunst – Abenteuer. Kassel 2005
  • Andrea Linnebach: „Mr Chaplin de Londres a vu avec le plus grand plaisir“. Das Besucherbuch von Kunsthaus und Museum Fridericianum in Kassel, 1769-1796. Ein Editionsprojekt der DFG. In: Zeitschrift des Vereins für hessische Geschichte und Landeskunde, Vol. 114 (2009), 161–176
  • Andrea Linnebach: Raspe, Rudolph Erich. In: Killy Literaturlexikon. Autoren und Werke des deutschsprachigen Kulturraumes. Ed. by Wilhelm Kühlmann. Vol. 9, Berlin u.a. 2010, 431-433
  • Andrea Linnebach: In den „Sümpfen der Hypothesen“ – Wissensvermittlung auf Irrwegen: die Prillwitzer Idole und die landesarchäologische Forschung in der Aufklärungszeit. In: Buchkultur und Wissensvermittlung in Mittelalter und Früher Neuzeit. Ed. by Andreas Gardt, Mireille Schnyder, Jürgen Wolf. Berlin/Boston 2011, 293-310
  • Andrea Linnebach: Das Museum der Aufklärung und sein Publikum – „Raritätenkram für jeden Narren“? Zum Besucherbuch von Kunsthaus und Museum Fridericianum in Kassel. In: Die Sachen der Aufklärung. Beiträge zur DGEJ-Jahrestagung 2010 in Halle a. d. Saale. Ed. by Frauke Berndt, Daniel Fulda (= Studien zum 18. Jahrhundert, Vol. 34). Hamburg 2012, 479-489
  • Friedrich Frhr. Waitz von Eschen: Parkwege als Wissenswege. Der Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe als naturwissenschaftliches Forschungsfeld der Aufklärung (= Kasseler Beiträge zur Geschichte und Landeskunde, Vol. 1). Kassel 2012
  • Lecture:
    Andrea Linnebach: Das Museum der Aufklärung und sein Publikum. Lecture on the results of the DFG-Project on the visistors book of the Kunsthaus and Museum Fridericianum from 1769-1796, hold at 28.02.2012, Universitätsbibliothek Kassel, Eulensaal , online: