The library at the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency with offices in Hamburg and Rostock is the central maritime specialist library of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Its beginnings go back to the collection of books and charts of the Norddeutsche Seewarte (North German Naval Observatory) of 1868. In 1875 the Deutsche Seewarte took over this collection. In the following years the collection grew steadily. During the Second World War parts were irretrievably lost and it took 5 years after the end of the war until the entire collection had been reunited. As a result of German reunification, the holdings of the BSH and the Seehydrographischer Dienst der DDR (Hydrographic Service of the GDR - SHD) were combined. The holdings of the SHD are kept at the Rostock site and are accessible and loanable there.
Over time, a unique collection of maritime literature with around 177,000 items and 50,000 nautical charts has been created. The collection and the information facilities are available to all scientists, students, researchers and historians, as well as to the interested public.
A special highlight is the collection of about 600 historical bottle post forms. This collection is the largest of its kind in the world and contains the oldest known message in a bottle from 1864.