German and Scandinavian Language and Literature


The Yale University Library has a long tradition of collecting materials in Germanic languages and literatures, and Sterling Memorial Library’s collection is among the most comprehensive in the United States. Virtually all periods of German literature are covered, including the Reformation and Counter Reformation, Baroque, Enlightenment, Classical, and the 19th and 20th centuries (Romanticism, Realism, Naturalism). The collection also encompasses Scandinavian, Dutch, Flemish, and Frisian literature, as well as Old Germanic, Old and Middle High German, early New High German, and dialects of the German speaking areas. The Sterling collections are augmented by the rich collection of German Literature at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

In addition to the extensive collection of German literature, Sterling Library houses a rich array of resources related to the German language, including reference works; bibliographies; works on the philosophy, psychology, and origin and history of language; lexicographical works; and comparative language studies. Old Germanic dialects (Gothic, Vandal, Burgundian, etc.), Old and Middle High German, New High German (including dialects), Scandinavian languages (including Icelandic), and Dutch and Frisian languages are included.

The library seeks to support research and teaching through targeted acquisitions, both of new materials and retrospectively. In recent decades, this has resulted in particularly strong collections in: Medieval literature; German-language literature and culture from the Reformation to the twentieth century in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland; literary theory; literary sociology; and film.  Current collecting for Sterling Memorial Library includes fiction, literary theory and criticism, aesthetics, comparative literature, general literature, folklore, reference works and bibliographies, anthologies, and works on humanism and scholarship. Some translations are also collected. In recent years, collecting in ethnic literature has increased significantly.

Departments/disciplines/programs/subject areas supported

  • Department of Comparative Literature
  • Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures
  • Department of Linguistics
  • The Literature Major
  • Program in Medieval Studies
  • Program of Film and Media Studies
  • Program of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
  • Renaissance Studies Program

Because German and Scandinavian language and literature have cross-disciplinary implications, these collections also offer support for research and teaching in other Western European language and literature departments (e.g., English, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese) as well as area studies such as African Studies.

Formats collected


  • Academic and trade press monographs are acquired in print or electronic formats.
  • Maps and textbooks are generally excluded unless requested by faculty.


  • Online-only subscriptions are preferred; print subscriptions are initiated or continued when an online edition is not available, not stable, or not adequate.

Reference materials

  • Electronic reference materials, including indexing and abstracting databases, dictionaries, and encyclopedias, are almost always preferred to their print counterparts. Print reference materials are acquired when an online version is not available, not stable, or not adequate.

Audiovisual materials

  • DVDs are acquired very selectively, primarily in response to faculty demand.


  • Yale Library has extensive microform holdings supporting German and Scandinavian language and literature. However, due to the increasing conversion of microform collections to digital formats and the interlibrary loan availability of microform sets from the Center for Research Libraries, microform supporting German and Scandinavian language and literature is now acquired on demand only.

Languages collected

Primary (literary) texts are collected first in German and, if available, in English translation.  For the most important writers (e.g. Rilke, Broch, and Mann), some editions are acquired in other major European languages. Criticism and theory are collected in German and in English, with important contemporary critical works also acquired in other languages, especially in French, Spanish, and Italian. 

Works in Dutch and Scandinavian languages are collected selectively.

Chronological and geographical focus

Concerning German language, literature, and culture, materials focused on current, 20th, 19th, and earlier century topics are collected extensively. Works of Scandinavian and Dutch authors are collected selectively.

In terms of time periods covered in the materials themselves, the collections run the gamut from medieval to contemporary. 

Extensively from North America (except Mexico), Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, and selectively from other parts of the world. 

Collaborations within Yale

  • The International Collections acquire material in German and Scandinavian language and literature for their respective regions: African Collection, East Asia Collection, Judaica Collection, Latin America Collection, Near East Collection, Slavic and East European Collection, Southeast Asia Collection, and the South Asia Collection.
  • Collaboration within HCRE (Humanities Collections and Research Education) on purchases, especially databases of wide interest to humanists including historical newspapers, pamphlets, scholarly editions, and journals.
  • Occasional collaboration with the Music Library, Divinity Library, Center for British Art, or the Law Library in purchases of or subscriptions to databases of mutual interest.
  • Bass Library

Subject Librarian

Michael Printy
Librarian for Western European Humanities
Humanities Collections
Department of Area Studies and Humanities Research Support (DASHRS)
(203) 436-9215