Margrave Wilhelm Friedrich von Brandenburg-Ansbach (1703–1723) founded the first public library in the residential city of Ansbach. By a decree dated to 21 December 1720, he declared the princely Hausbibliothek (private library) to have become a public Landesbibliothek (State Library).
Margrave Georg Friedrich the Elder (1543–1603) had originally laid the foundations for this Hausbibliothek, which had served for the education and entertainment of the margravial family and of their court. Theological works, classical books in Latin and chronicles attest to his special interests.
His successor, Margrave Joachim Ernst from the younger branch of the Brandenburg-Ansbach dynasty (1603–1625) preferred theology next to books on history and geography as well as works on military subjects and fortress architecture. His son and successor, Albrecht II. (1634–1667), shared his father’s taste. A broad range of interests, including all kinds of scholarly subjects, is first attested in the library of Margrave Johann Friedrich (1667–1686). His universal collection of books comprised c.188 works in German, French and Italian editions.
From 1730, the library received substantial additions in the field of belles lettres by means of the numerous and valuable literary treasures of the short-lived Margravine Christiane Charlotte (r. 1723–1729). In 1733, the consistory’s library became part of the palace library. Thanks to a clever policy of acquisition, of many purchases and numerous donations made by the last two princes, the palace library had reached an inventory of more than 20,000 volumes by the end of the margravial period (1791). Many private book collections were left to the palace library in part or as a whole.
The "edle Kleinod" (noble jewel) and the "Zierde Ansbachs" (adornment of Ansbach) suffered massive losses as a consequence of the abdication of the last margrave, Karl Alexander (1757–1791), and the transition of the Zollern principalities into Prussia in 1791. The transfer ordered by the Prussian government of the larger and more valuable part of the palace library in 1805 and 1806 to the Universitätsbibliothek Erlangen (University Library Erlangen) set off its decline. 12,400 volumes, among these 151 luxurious manuscripts of the ninth to the fifteenth centuries, 471 incunabula, 47 volumes with maps and 85 works of art with 20 volumes of drawings, woodcuts and copperplate prints of the foremost artists (including the famous self-portrait of Albrecht Dürer dated 1492) were taken to Erlangen. About 7,000 volumes were left behind and this stock could barely be increased during the first decades of Bavarian government (from 1806) for lack of funds.
After having been robbed of its greatest treasures, the palace library only started to receive additions from 1824 in the guise of the so-called literalia of the Rezat district (legal codices, commentaries, official gazettes) and thus became the working library of the government of Central Franconia. It gained substantial enlargement from 1865 by means of the library of the Historical Association for Central Franconia, founded in 1830, which was rich in local Franconian texts and historical source material.
Around the middle of the twentieth century, the library was put under the control of the Generaldirektion der bayerischen Staatlichen Bibliotheken (the general directorate of the Bavarian state libraries) and, in May 1988, the Ansbach institution moved into the former margravial theatre of the princely residence. During the eighteenth century, the building still served as an indoor riding arena; up to the mid-twentieth century, it was a cinema.
The Staatliche Bibliothek Ansbach (State Library Ansbach) as a modern scholarly service library presents itself today as a regional library with a collection of literature for sophisticated requirements. It particularly serves the humanities and collects literature with a focus from and about the region of Central Franconia. Its holdings provide the kind of literature situated between highly-specialised university libraries and the local municipal and communal libraries and is still placed under the Generaldirektion der bayerischen Staatlichen Bibliotheken. Therefore, it belongs to the Ministerium für Bildung und Kultus, Wissenschaft und Kunst (department for education and culture, science and art) in Munich.
The Staatliche Bibliothek Ansbach (Schlossbibliothek) is subordinate to The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Bavarian State Library).