Alexander von Humboldt's report from 1795 on the mining and steel industries in the County of Sayn-Altenkirchen in the border region Siegerland/Westerwald
Alexander von Humboldt's work on mining in the period of more than five years preceding his preparations for and realization of his famous research voyages throughout the world is being increasingly appraised in the literature in recent decades. His expert's report from 1792 on the state of the mining and steel industries in the Principalities of Bayreuth and Ansbach is regarded even today as a masterpiece in scientifically clear and practically usable reporting.
After the technical direction of mining in the Principalities of Ansbach and Bayreuth had been transferred to Humboldt in 1793 by the privy cabinet minister for the budget and war, Karl August Freiherr von Hardenberg (1750-1822), who 'conducted' these principalities, after about two years of intensive activity there, Humboldt composed general mining construction reports dated 28 April 1795 and 25 June 1795 about the Frankish mining and steel operations in the mining districts, Naila, Wunsiedel and Goldkronach which were under his supervision. These reports are regarded as the final summing-up of Humboldt's work on mining in Franconia and as a kind of legacy for his successors.
The fact that his professional activity as senior Frankish mining official had led Humboldt into the border region between south-west Siegerland and Hoher Westerwald in the County of Sayn-Altenkirchen already as early as September 1794, has also been known for a long time. Although a written report by Humboldt about mining construction in Sayn-Altenkirchen did not crop up during the subsequent two hundred years of research, regional historical research had repeatedly endeavoured to publish on the subject, even without having concrete knowledge of the document. A broad and intensive search recently resulted in uncovering a reference from the Privy State Archives of Prussian Cultural Possessions (Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz) in Berlin to Alexander von Humboldt's report dated 20 June 1795 which reached the state archives as a Prussian file on "Research into the Mining and Steel Industries in the County of Sayn-Altenkirchen from 1801-1802". This file includes appendices with two copies of Humboldt's report. Because of its good legibility, the second copy has been taken as a basis for the detailed treatment of the report presented here.