Over a period of more than sixty years, Duke August collected books and succeeded in building up one of the greatest libraries in seventeenth-century Europe, holding far more than 100,000 works in various European languages, covering great names as well as less well-known ones.
August was not only a collector with a network of agents spread throughout Europe, but also a scholar and librarian who devised his own cataloguing system. From 1625 onwards, he uses twenty ‘rubrics’ (see a short description of the sections here), among them the Ethica. These rubrics depend on various traditions, such as the seven liberal arts, the three high faculties, and humanistic disciplines.
The Ethica section itself contains c. 1,600 volumes. Significantly, the emphasis of the section does not lie on treatises and moral philosophy only, but on a whole array of genres – poetry, novels, plays, emblem books, collections of proverbs, conduct books. Its themes and topics are taken from a wide variety of geographical and cultural contexts, mirroring many of the most important developments in European thought from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century.