last updated: Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Treasures of forestry knowledge
Historical books on forestry
FAO holds a rare collection of more than eleven thousand forestry books. Most of them in German, this collection was the first ever attempt to document worldwide all publications related to forestry by scientists at the International Center of Silviculture (CIS), the first permanent international forestry organization founded in Berlin in 1939.
The goal of the CIS library was to collect all publications related to forests from around the world and to establish bibliographies of forest-related literature from European countries. The collection is significant for its historical and scientific value. In particular, the collection provides a complete snapshot in time of the state of forest research at the beginning of the twentieth century. With a considerable number of valuable books dating back to the eighteenth century, the collection offers a unique glimpse into the beginnings of forestry as a science as it developed in Central Europe.
The collection includes books authored by renowned scientists who established forestry as a science, such as Humboldt, Brehm, Cotta, Hartig, Pfeil, Pressler and Brandis. It also covers various subjects, including botany, zoology, silviculture, growth and yield and forest engineering. No other such collection exists in any other library worldwide. It demonstrates that sustainable forest management dates back to the eighteenth century and that international collaboration within the scientific community continued even in times of war and national disagreements. It is also a witness of the social and cultural values attached to forests in Central Europe, already three centuries ago.
The collection is also special in that it survived the Second World War. Scientists made arduous efforts to protect it from the war by asking extraterritorial rights for the library and the protection of the Swedish embassy. In 1944, the Center’s secretary and scientists themselves personally drove and moved the books in lorries at their own risk, from Berlin to Salzburg. When fighting seemed imminent in Salzburg in 1945, the scientists moved them again to a castle, a mine and some to Ramsau, to keep them protected. Most of the collection therefore remained intact throughout the war. Eventually in 1951, at the end of the war, the collection was transferred to the FAO premises in Rome, which succeeded the CIS.