The Carl Zeiss Archives

The Carl Zeiss Archives contain original documents, files, photos, patents, registered designs, product literature, technical documentation, and instruments from more than 150 years of Carl Zeiss history in Jena.

As of July 2013 you can now look up 3000 devices of the VEB Carl Zeiss Jena and of Carl Zeiss in Oberkochen until 1990 , and enlarge all the images by clicking on them.

  • Services

    Our Services

    • Inquiries regarding devices, persons, and events
    • Reproduction of photographs from the history of Carl Zeiss
    • Copies of advertising materials, instruction manuals, and other product literature
    • Loan of historical instruments to museums and exhibits
    • Personal research for projects and planned publications

    The archives are open Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Other visiting times can be arranged.

    Before your initial visit, please make an appointment:

    Phone: +49-3641-64-2759
    Email: wolfgang .wimmer @zeiss .com

    The archives are located on the factory premises in Jena:
    Carl-Zeiss-Promenade 10
    07745 Jena


    Inquiry form


  • Photographs


    More than 120,000 photographs have been taken over the last number of years. Of these, over 100,000 have now been scanned in. These pictures document the history of Carl Zeiss in Jena.

    The oldest pictures date back to the 1860s. The main subjects in focus are people, buildings, systems and events.

    Due to the enormous volume of data, it is impossible to place the pictures online. With the aid of preview images, you can select which pictures you wish to order by Email. To do this, please provide the signature, which you can find via each picture.

    Online research of photographs (available in German only)

  • Product Literature


    Over 100,000 different product literature publications are catalogued in the product literature databank. Almost without exception, they consist of product literature from Carl Zeiss and its subsidiaries. Among them are catalogs, brochures, and instruction manuals, as well as price lists and circulars for retailers. You can also find reprints of scientific articles discussing Carl Zeiss instruments.

    The collection of product literature up until 1945 is all but complete; only some of the brochures for military instruments are missing.

    For the period after 1945, the publications of VEB Carl Zeiss Jena and that of the combine have been collected. There are also gaps in the documentation of the military instruments here, as well as for the instruments that were not manufactured in Jena in the end, especially with regard to eyeglasses (Rathenow), binoculars (Eisfeld), and camera lenses (Saalfeld).

    Carl Zeiss in Oberkochen, has so far collected the product literature for the Microscopy business group and the former Geodetic Instrument business group, which has since been taken over by the company Trimble Jena GmbH.

    For reasons of cost, this product literature can only be searched at present, but not downloaded. However, you can order copies. We charge EUR 0.60 per page (plus a EUR 3.00 fee); the minimum order value is EUR 15.00.

    Research Product Literature Online (available in German only)

  • File Directory


    In collaboration with the Chair of Economic History at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, held by Dr. Rolf Walter, and sponsored by the Volkswagen Foundation, three important inventories of the combine VEB Carl Zeiss Jena were made accessible in the period from 1998 to 2002.

    The goal was to test new indexing forms for the Internet. In the next few years, the plan is to make other inventories from the combine as well as older inventories available one by one for research and release them for use on the Internet.

    Online research can be used to prepare for, but not replace, a visit to the archives, since the file contents themselves cannot be placed on the Internet.

    To order files from the archives, you need the digital signature provided for each file.

    For data protection reasons, access to the index of persons is limited.

    Currently, we are working to design a finding aid for use in locating the older, pre-1945 Carl Zeiss files.

    Research Files Online (available in German only)

  • Virtual Museum

    Virtual Museum

    In our Virtual Museum, you can find every instrument manufactured by Carl Zeiss up to 1945. The devices have the original texts from the old brochures.

    Exact manufacturing dates are often difficult to ascertain, which is why we have decided not to offer specific information.

    The following ranges have been added recently (1945-1990):

      Jena Oberkochen
    Astronomical Instruments
    Documentation technology  
    Magnet tape storage  
    Medical Technology
    Analytical metrology
    Projection and cinema  
    High vacuum technology  
    Surveying instruments

    Some of the subjects still being studied are:

    • Electron microscopy
    • Precision/industrial metrology
    • Interferometry
    • Laser
    • Military equipment
    • Space technology


  • Instruments

    Instrument Collection and Museum

    A collection of roughly 1,500 Carl Zeiss instruments is on display in Jena. The objects are loaned out to museums and exhibition organizers for presentations about the company.

    This collection builds on the collection from the former plant for precision optical instrument construction (G-plant) of the combine Carl Zeiss Jena. It has been expanded in the past few years. Our goal is to create a collection of instruments that document the product history and scientific development of Carl Zeiss in Jena in particular.

    This is what distinguishes our collection from that of the optical museum in Oberkochen:

    The Optical Museum in Jena focuses on a collection from the Carl Zeiss research departments in Jena. Today the two organizations are no longer directly linked.

    The optical museum documents the history of optics with a special, though not exclusive, focus on Carl Zeiss.

    The Zeiss-owned Optical Museum in Oberkochen collects instruments made by the Group up to German reunification as well as the latest products.

  • Projects
    Photographer: Jan-Peter Kasper


    The History of Optics
    In the early 1950s, archivist Fritz Ortlepp put together a history of optics. It consists of some 30,000 index cards and ranges from the pre-Socratic philosophers to about 1945.

    This card catalog is currently being processed so that it can be made available as an online database. The next step planned is to complete the data from World War II on.

    Virtual Museum
    The biographies of the 100 most important Carl Zeiss employees up to 1945, including photos, are currently being compiled. They will be added to the Virtual Museum. There will be links to the instruments that each person invented.

    The patent database for the period before 1945 will also be included in the museum. The patents are to be linked to the inventors and products.

    The products of VEB Carl Zeiss Jena and the Carl Zeiss Group following 1945 are to be catalogued. However, due to the diversity of companies and business units, this will take some time to complete.

    Parts of the Virtual Museum will be translated into English. Due to the volume of data involved, however, this will take some time.

    If you are interested in taking part in one of the projects on a voluntary basis, please send an e-mail to: wolfgang .wimmer @zeiss .com