Under Prince Leopold III Frederick Franz of Anhalt-Dessau (1740 - 1817), creator of the Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz (UNESCO World Heritage Site), Dessau was a center of enlightenment in Germany, among other things in the fields of culture, economy and modern pedagogy.
In 1774 Johann Bernhard Basedow, the reformer of the pedagogy of the Enlightenment, founded the first Philanthropin in Dessau. Joachim Heinrich Campe (1746 - 1818), an educator, linguist and writer committed to the ideals of the Enlightenment, was for a short time director of the Philanthropin (School of Human Friendship). Among other things, a reformed orthography based on Klopstock was introduced at the school.
In the historical school building, Palais Dietrich, houses the Scientific Anhaltinian Regional Library with about 15,000 historical volumes. Here is also the estate of the Dessau Philanthrop, as well as a partial estate of the famous Dessau-born poet and librarian Wilhelm Müller (1794 - 1827). He created the texts for Franz Schubert's song cycles "The Winter Journey" and "The Fair Maid of the Mill". His burial place can be visited at the historical cemetery Dessau-Roßlau.
The Dessau Scientific Library houses a large collection of historical originals, including the world document heritage “Luther's Roman Letter Lecture”, valuable Cranach Bibles, Basedow's “Elementary Work” and texts by the Dessau-born poet Wilhelm Müller. Contemporary highlights from the Reformation to the Enlightenment and modern times can be seen in the Museum of City History (Johannbau).