The Bonn Lesegesellschaft was founded in 1787 with the explicit approval of the Elector Max Franz. The members belonged to the leading representatives of the Enlightenment in Bonn. Beethoven himself was not a member (because pupils and students were not permitted to become members on their own account, probably because of a wish to save them the associated costs) but was closely connected to the society however. Many court musicians were leading members. These included not only Christian Gottlob Neefe and Franz Anton Ries, Beethoven's teachers, but also Nikolaus Simrock and Joseph Reicha, furthermore Beethoven's friend Franz Gerhard Wegeler. The humanisation of each individual member and as a result of the whole society is defined as an aim. Public education in all sectors – moral, religious, aesthetic, scientific, economic and political – should be the way forward. Despite the lack of source material, it may be concluded that Beethoven may have been influenced by the notions of freedom: these were certainly debated by the Lesegesellschaft at the time.
The Lesegesellschaft welcomed prominent guests as Joseph Haydn and Wilhelm von Humboldt. The 21-old Beethoven went to Vienna with a clear view of the world and with the aim to become a pupil of Haydn.
The exhibition shows a kaleidoscope of intellectual movements in Bonn in respect to topics such as human rights, freedom of press, education, literature, philosophy by means of the Lesegesellschaft collection of paintings and books.