Zweig manuscripts

Beethoven on his deathbed
Drawing of Beethoven on his deathbed, 1827 (Josef Danhauser, after 1844). Zweig MS 30, folio 1r.

This collection of mainly autograph manuscripts comprises over two hundred items assembled by the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig (1881–1942). It includes over one hundred musical scores and fragments alongside literary and historical items spanning four hundred years from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries.

About the collection

Literary and historical manuscripts

This eclectic collection of predominantly European autograph manuscripts contains rare and unique examples of the drafts, proofs and fair copies of significant literary and historical figures. The earliest item is the 1542 collection of scriptural commentaries by Protestant reformers including Martin Luther. The most modern content belongs to contemporaries of Stefan Zweig such as Hermann Hesse and Sigmund Freud. Brought together simply under the theme of the work-in-progress, the collection does also have particular strengths. There are numerous items from figures of the French ancien régime, Revolution and Napoleonic periods, including Marie Antoinette, Louis XVI and Robespierre; European Romantic poetry, including fragments from Byron, Shelley, Keats, Hölderlin and Novalis; and significant examples of the work of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, including three drawings.

Music manuscripts

The literary and historical portion of the collection is complemented by an equally impressive range of music manuscripts, representing works by many of the major canonical composers of European art music. From Schütz and Schubert to Stravinsky, manuscripts in the collection reflect Zweig’s ambition to bring together examples of a musician’s most characteristic works. They also show something of their personalities, as in Mozart’s letters to his cousin, and the catalogue of his works kept from 1784 until his death in 1791. Some later additions to the collection reflect the diversity of contemporary music making in Zweig’s own time, including examples by Béla Bartók, Alban Berg, Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. Composers best known for their operatic works are also well represented, with autograph scores of Gluck, Bellini, Donizetti, Leoncavallo, Weber, Wagner and Richard Strauss – who collaborated with Zweig on the opera Die schweigsame Frau (Zweig MSS 89-92).

History of the collection

The items donated to the British Library in 1986 by the heirs of Stefan Zweig make up only a fraction of the writer’s original collection, which had once comprised over one thousand items. In exile in England from 1934, Zweig donated some and sold most of his manuscripts before the Second World War. However he did continue to acquire items for the now much-refined collection.

Zweig kept detailed information about his acquisitions, and his catalogue cards and correspondence relating to the collection are also held by the Library.

What is available online?

All of the manuscripts in the collection have been digitised in full, apart from a handful which remain in copyright. The manuscripts can be viewed on Digitised Manuscripts.

The manuscripts are all described in the Library’s online catalogue Explore Archives and Manuscripts. You can browse a complete list of the Zweig manuscripts.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

Access restrictions apply to some of our most vulnerable and important manuscripts, including those in the Zweig collection. Researchers are asked to consult a digital or microfilm surrogate in the first instance. Requests to access original material should be made by application in advance, and will be assessed by the relevant curator.

The literary and historical manuscripts (Zweig MSS 132–203, 206 and 216–218) are available in the Manuscripts Reading Room. Access enquiries should be directed to the Manuscripts Reference Enquiry Team.

Music manuscripts from the collection (Zweig MSS 1–131, 204–205 and 207–215) are available in the Rare Books & Music Reading Room. Enquiries about access should be directed to the Music Reference Enquiry Team.

Access to the Zweig provenance papers (Add MS 73167–73185) and to Zweig’s unpublished letters to the Paris manuscript dealer Simon Kra between 1923 and 1935 (Add MS 74269) is not restricted. These can be viewed in the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Further information

  • The British Library Stefan Zweig Collection. Catalogue of the Literary and Historical Manuscripts (London: British Library, 2017)
  • Arthur Searle, The British Library Stefan Zweig Collection. Catalogue of the Music Manuscripts (London: British Library, 1999)
  • Oliver Matuschek, Ich kenne den Zauber der Schrift: Katalog und Geschichte der Autographensammlung Stefan Zweigs; mit kommentierten Abdruck von Stefan Zweigs Aufsätzen über das Sammeln von Handschriften (Vienna: InLibris, 2005)
  • Christian Mühlegger-Henhapel, ‘“Etwas wunderbar Substanzloses …”. Die Autographensammlung Stefan Zweigs im Wiener Theatermuseum’, in Stefan Zweig: Abschied von Europa, ed. Klemens Renoldner (Vienna: Christian Branstätter Verlag, 2014), pp. 215–38
  • Mordekhai Nadav, ‘Stefan Zweigs Übersendung seiner Privatkorrespondenz an die Jewish National and University Library’, Bulletin des Leo-Baeck-Instituts 63 (1982), pp. 66–73