Jahn Library for African Literatures

at the Department of Anthropology and African Studies

The Jahn Library for African Literatures evolved from the private collection of Janheinz Jahn (1918-1973), whose interest in African literature arose during a public talk by the Senegalese poet and politician Léopold Sédar Senghor in Frankfurt in 1951. For the rest of his life, Jahn not only collected works of African literature but also translated and edited literary works by African writers. Furthermore, he compiled bibliographies and reference books and wrote scholarly works related to African literature and culture as well as a large number of newspaper articles. In this way, he significantly enhanced public awareness of African literature in Germany but also worldwide. The Jahn Library for African Literatures holds a unique collection of literary works in more than ninety languages, including the former colonial languages and world languages as well as many African languages. Many of the books are also interesting as objects, e.g. as first editions or copies with handwritten dedications by authors as well as in terms of what their design tells us about different contexts of publication. The Jahn Library is one of the earliest and most comprehensive research facilities for African literatures in Europe and beyond.


The collection

The holdings of the Jahn Library can be searched through the catalogue of the university library.
read more


The history of the Jahn Library is closely connected to the person of Janheinz Jahn, to whose enthusiasm and collector's zeal the Jahn Library owes a significant part of its unique holdings.
read more


From time to time, the Department of Anthropology and African Studies organises events related to African literatures, including the International Janheinz Jahn Symposia, readings with writers from Africa or from African literary works, but also exhibitions, workshops, lectures, guided tours of the library.
read more

International Janheinz Jahn Symposia

Each Janheinz Jahn Symposium is devoted to a current topic in African Literature Studies. The topics of the most recent symposia were Africa in comics and comics in Africa (2018, with students), the African bildungsroman (2014), African crime fiction (2008), and creative writing in African languages (2004).
read more

Studying African literatures at the JGU Mainz

Each semester, the Department of Anthropology and African Studies offers at least three seminar courses related to African literatures, which form part of the department's B.A. and M.A. Ethnologie (Anthropology) as well as the university's interdisciplinary M.A. Weltliteratur (World Literature).
read more

Research in the Jahn Library

The Jahn Library is a valuable resource for research in African literatures, which can be accessed free of charge not only by staff and students of the JGU Mainz but also by international researchers and students, visiting scholars, fellows, etc.
read more


Dr. Anja Oed
Institut für Ethnologie und Afrikastudien
Forum universitatis 6
Johannes Gutenberg-Universität
55099 Mainz

E-Mail | Homepage

For questions concerning opening hours and loans please consult the university library.