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Thomas Mann Collection

ULB’s Thomas Mann Collection is one of the most comprehensive commemorative collections devoted to Thomas Mann and his family in the world. Founded by the Düsseldorf bookseller and historian Dr Hans-Otto Mayer in the 1920s, it includes all of Thomas Mann’s works and individual editions as well as articles that were published in journals, anthologies and newspapers. Almost all first editions of Mann’s works, often signed by the author himself, along with countless bibliophile editions, translations into more than 40 languages, 45 hand- or typewritten original letters and postcards from Thomas Mann, over 5,000 copies of letters, a clippings archive comprising some 30,000 documents, and a collection of secondary literature on Thomas Mann and his family that strives for completeness can be viewed here. The collection also includes the private collections of Hans-Otto-Mayer in addition to several other Thomas Mann researchers.

The collection has been housed at ULB since 1980 and is continuously being expanded. It is available for reference use in the Special Reading Room.

The catalogue of the Thomas Mann Collection of ULB Düsseldorf lists more than 32,000 titles of monographs, articles from special journals and anthologies as well as newspaper articles. The partial catalogue of the Thomas Mann Collection can be accessed via ULB’s catalogue.

Indexing was carried out by means of a classification system and keywords.

According to research, Thomas Mann is estimated to have written between 25,000 and 30,000 letters over the course of his life. Some 20,000 of these letters are still preserved or verifiable today.

ULB also possesses more than 50 of Thomas Mann’s original letters and postcards. These are listed in the Kalliope Union Catalogue under call number “slg 120/Dok”. See here for a direct link to the online finding aid.

The Thomas Mann Collection includes transcripts, photocopies and carbon copies of around 5,000 of Thomas Mann’s letters, including previously unpublished ones. The Kalliope database is currently being used to index these.

The so-called ‘Briefregestenwerk’, which the collection’s founder, Dr Hans-Otto Mayer, published together with Hans Bürgin from 1977 to 1982, also contains copies and transcripts. Yvonne Schmidlin continued his work after his death, up until 1987.

Lit.: Hans Bürgin, Hans-Otto Mayer: Die Briefe Thomas Manns. Regesten und Register. 5 volumes. Frankfurt 1977–1987.

A systematic search is recommended when searching for documents in the clippings archive, as the classification of clippings is highly differentiated. Clippings published before 2006 can be searched in a card catalogue.

Are you interested in the Thomas Mann Collection and need advice? Or would you maybe like to learn more about the collection with a group, seminar or guests? We can gladly present the collection to you and prepare a special introduction to your chosen topic(s). Contact us to arrange an appointment!

First editions

The first edition of Thomas Mann’s early stories was published by Samuel Fischer in 1898 under the title of ‘Der kleine Herr Friedemann’ as part of the “Collection Fischer” series. With this book series, Fischer offered books by reputable authors in a paperback format for the first time at an affordable price. The cover of the first edition was designed by the Munich painter Baptist Scherer, who was a friend of Thomas Mann. It depicts a young woman in an Art Nouveau dress with a wide-rimmed, lavishly decorated summer hat, engrossed in a book. Thomas Mann’s sister Carla is believed to have served as the artist’s model.


The Thomas Mann Collection contains over 1,200 translations of Thomas Mann’s works into more than 40 languages. Whether in the foreign languages of Europe or in Chinese, Japanese, Arabic or Hindi, you’re able to read countless translations of Thomas Mann’s work here. They’re arranged systematically by language in the Special Reading Room.

Bibliophile editions

The collection’s rare items also include a series of colour lithographs created by Wolfgang Born (1893–1949) in 1921 for ‘Death in Venice’. All of the illustrations in this portfolio have been signed by the artist. The final image in this cycle entitled “Death” depicts a vision of the protagonist Gustav von Aschenbach, who falls victim to a pederasty.

Collected works

On the occasion of Thomas Mann’s 50th birthday in 1925, Samuel Fischer published a ten-volume complete edition of Thomas Mann’s works. The first volume contained a portrait of Thomas Mann based on an etching by Max Liebermann. Hans-Otto Mayer acquired Liebermann’s original etching for the collection.

Facsimile editions

The novella ‘The Black Swan’, which was published in 1953, is the only work by Thomas Mann that plays out in Düsseldorf. In addition to the first edition, the Thomas Mann Collection also owns a facsimile edition of the manuscript in copper intaglio, which includes a portrait of Thomas Mann by Ernst Morgenthaler. It was published by friends of the Swiss youth village “Kiriath Yearim” with a facsimile comment by Thomas Mann: “It is with great pleasure that I release the preprint of this story in the facsimile of the manuscript to benefit needy children and young people in Israel.”


According to research, Thomas Mann is estimated to have written between 25,000 and 30,000 letters over the course of his life. Some 20,000 of these letters are still preserved or verifiable today. Around 5,000 of Thomas Mann’s letters that have not yet been published are available in the Thomas Mann Collection in transcripts, photocopies and carbon copies.

Audiovisual media

Around 200 feature films and documentaries as well as audio books on Thomas Mann can be borrowed from the Thomas Mann Collection.

The collection includes the private collections of Hans-Otto-Mayer, who first established the collection, and the two Thomas Mann bibliographers, Harry Matter and Georg Potempa. These private collections have not yet been indexed.

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