The Tibetan collection of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek includes around 1,500 manuscripts and block prints with textual witnesses of all literary genres, and a continuously growing number of over 10,000 printed volumes of original-language literature in modern editions from Tibet, the People's Republic of China and India.

Main focuses of content

The main focus of the collection content is on humanities – philosophy, religion, history, archaeology, linguistics and literature, medicine, ethnic studies, architecture and art and classic text editions. A broad range of secondary literature on Tibet and Tibetology is collected in Western European languages.

Manuscripts and rare block prints

The Oriental and Asian Department manages the Tibetan manuscripts technically (acquisition, subject information, guided tours, exhibitions), while the Department of Manuscripts and Rare Books administrates them and is in charge of their use. The Tibetan manuscripts and rare block prints can be consulted in the Reading Room for Manuscripts and Rare Books.

At present, the acquisition policy for Tibetan manuscripts and rare block prints is determined by the scholarly relevance of texts and their aesthetic-museological aspect.

Manuscript catalogues

As of the acquisition year 2009, new acquisitions have been entered in BSB DISCOVER!, bearing the call number Cod.tibet. Digital copies of Tibetan manuscripts can be searched in BSB DISCOVER! or in the Digital Collections.


► Digital Collections

Literature on individual manuscripts can be found in the "Forschungsdokumentation Handschriften" (research documentation manuscripts).

► Forschungsdokumentation Handschriften


The collection was started during the second half of the 19th century, when Bavarian explorers and scholars first turned their attention to the Tibetan linguistic and cultural area, long before academic studies of Tibetan philology (Tibetology) were established as an independent discipline in the curricula of German universities.

From the collection of the brothers Schlagintweit

In the years 1854 to 1857, the brothers Hermann, Adolf and Robert Schlagintweit from Munich had made an expedition from India up to Tibet through the Himalaya region, and had compiled an extensive collection of Tibetan texts. The youngest brother, Emil Schlagintweit (1835 – 1904), a Bavarian official (Bezirksamtmann) and private scholar, had remained at home. He had already written descriptions of three Tibetan manuscript convolutes (later classified as Cod.tibet. 1 to 5) from the holdings of the then Royal Court and State Library in 1875. At the start of the 1880s, he drew up a sales prospectus with title register, offering his brothers' collection for sale, which included more than 100 Tibetan works. The purchase could not be made by the Court and State Library presumably for financial reasons, and the collection found a new home at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Merely a small number of individual items (Cod.tibet. 106 to 108) finally came to the library, forming part of Emil's personal papers, which, together with the literary estate of his brothers (purchased in 1888, so-called BSB Schlagintweitiana), offer extensive insight into the journey of the Schlagintweit brothers through Asia.

Estate of the Indologist Albert Grünwedel

A Tibetan manuscript about the biography of Nāropa (Cod.tibet. 13), which constitutes the foundation for the later systematic collection building together with the individual specimens acquired earlier, found its way into the collection as part of the estate of the Indologist Albert Grünwedel (1856 – 1935, so-called BSB Grünwedeliana). Grünwedel had been the initiator of the first German expedition to Turfan (1902 – 1903) and had been the director of the India department of the Museum of Ethnology in Berlin from 1904 to 1921.

From the German Tibet expedition of Ernst Schäfer

A part of the xylographs produced in the traditional block printing method forming part of the BSB's collection (among them a specimen of the Lhasa Kanjur from the Zhol printing shop at the foot of the Potala, 2 L.tibet. 1), letters and deeds and various artefacts of the culture of writing were acquired by the library in the wake of the German expedition to Tibet led by Ernst Schäfer (1910 – 1992), which had reached the Tibetan capital of Lhasa in 1939.

Original prints from blocks of West-Tibetan provenance

Further original prints from blocks of West-Tibetan provenance, which had been collected in Ladakh in the 1930s and 1940s, could be purchased in 1985 from Friedrich A. Peter (1904 – 1988), whose father had been active as a missionary of the Brethren's Congregation from Herrnhut in Ladakh (among them, for example, a skilfully illustrated print of the Vaiḍūrya dkar po ("white beryl"), the extensive work on the calculation of the Tibetan calendar and astronomy by Sde-srid Sangs-rgyas-rgya-mtsho (1653 – 1705, 2 L.tibet. 4 y)).

From the collection of the missionary and Tibetologist August Hermann Francke

The library owes also a multiplicity of lithographic prints in the Tibetan language (Cod.tibet. 82 – 102) to the activities of the Herrnhut missionaries. The majority of the prints had been produced in the mission's printing shop in Kyelong in the North-Indian district of Lahaul and Spiti and came to Munich forming part of the collection of the missionary and Tibetologist August Hermann Francke (1870 – 1930), like a rare tax decree of the Lhasa government dating to the year 1859 (Cod.tibet. 24).
Tax decree of the government in Lhasa  (Cod.tibet. 24)

Tibetan book covers

A peculiarity of the Tibetan collection is constituted by the predominantly wooden book covers of Tibetan provenance collected since the 1970s. With over 100 objects (e.g. Cod.tibet. 1005), this collection is one of the largest of its kind outside Tibet and is the object of a project supported by the German Research Foundation between 2014 and 2017.
Tibetan book cover in 3D view at bavarikon  (Cod.tibet. 1005)
<link ueber-uns projekte erschliessung-und-digitalisierung-von-einbaenden-als-eigenstaendige-kunstobjekte _top external-link-new-window externen link in neuem>Project supported by the German Research Foundation

Editions of the Buddhist canon translated into Tibetan

One particular emphasis of the collection is on the various editions of the Buddhist canon translated into Tibetan (Kanjur and Tenjur), which could be presented to the public within the framework of an exhibition in the year 2005. With regard to this, the library is outfitted excellently, providing specimens of the following editions in the form of original prints, photo-mechanical reprints, microfiches, CD-ROMS or modern new editions for use.

Editions of the Buddhist canon translated into Tibetan



Editions of the Tibetan Bön canon

In addition to the Buddhist canon, also editions of both parts of the Tibetan Bön canon are available.
Theg chen g.yuṅ druṅ bon gyi bka' 'gyur  (2 L.tibet. 2001.2)
Bka' rten  (2 L.tibet. 2000.68)

Acquisitions of rare manuscripts and printed works up to the present day

The Tibetan collection has been expanded up to the present also with regard to rare manuscripts and printed works. Thus, by acquisitions from the antiquarian market the collection could be enhanced by very rare Tibetan music manuscripts in 2005 and by two convolutes of Tibetan manuscripts of Mongolian provenance in 2006 and 2007.


Büchler, Anne; Schumacher, Rolf: Die Nachlässe von Martius, Liebig und den Brüdern Schlagintweit in der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1990. Catalogus codicum manu scriptorum Bibliothecae Monacensis. 10.2.

Grönbold, Günter: Grünwedels Nāropa-Handschrift. In: Central Asiatic Journal 18 (1974), p. 251-252.

Grönbold, Günter: Die orientalischen Handschriften der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. In: Bibliotheksforum Bayern 9 (1981), p. 68-84.

Grönbold, Günter: Knochen, Stein und Elfenbein: ungewöhnliche Textträger in Bibliotheken. In: Bibliotheksforum Bayern 14 (1986), p. 122-136.

Rebhan, Helga: Tibetische Handschriften aus der Mongolei: eine hochpreisige Erwerbung der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. In: Bibliotheksmagazin (2007) 2, p. 24-28.

Rebhan, Helga: Ausstellungen orientalischer und asiatischer Bestände der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. In: Griebel, Rolf; Ceynowa, Klaus (ed.): Information, Innovation, Inspiration: 450 Jahre Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. München: Saur, 2008. p. 639-665.

Rebhan, Helga: Asian Manuscripts in the Bavarian State Library, Munich. In: IIAS Newsletter 46 (2008), p. 38.

Rebhan, Helga: Liebe, Götter und Dämonen: wertvolle asiatische Handschriften der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. In: Bibliotheksforum Bayern 1 (2008), p. 23-27.

Helga Rebhan: Hoher Besuch vom Dach der Welt. In: Bibliotheksmagazin (2008) 1, p. 33-34.

Rebhan, Helga: Ausstellungen orientalischer und asiatischer Bestände der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. In: Griebel, Rolf; Ceynowa, Klaus (ed.): Information, Innovation, Inspiration: 450 Jahre Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. München: Saur, 2008. p. 639-665.

Rebhan, Helga: Seine Heiligkeit Drikung Kyabyön Chetsang Rinpoche in der BSB. In: Bibliotheksmagazin (2009) 2, p. 53-57.

Rebhan, Helga: Orientalische und asiatische Handschriften und seltene Drucke der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. In: Ceynowa, Klaus; Hermann, Martin (ed.): Bibliotheken: Innovation aus Tradition: Rolf Griebel zum 65. Geburtstag. Berlin: De Gruyter Saur, 2014. p. 322-333. Available on: http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/9783110310511 [Last access 21.03.2016].


Dachs, Karl (ed.): Erwerbungen aus drei Jahrzehnten: 1948 – 1978: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek: abendländische und orientalische Handschriften, Inkunabeln und seltene Drucke, Noten und Landkarten: Ausstellung April – Juli 1978. Wiesbaden: Reichert, 1978.

Dachs, Karl (ed.): Das Buch im Orient: Handschriften und kostbare Drucke aus zwei Jahrtausenden: Ausstellung, 16. November 1982 – 5. Februar 1983. Wiesbaden: Reichert, 1982.

Dachs, Karl (ed.): Thesaurus librorum: 425 Jahre Bayerische Staatsbibliothek: Ausstellung München 18. August – 1. Oktober 1983 = 425 years Bavarian State Library: exhibition. Wiesbaden: Reichert, 1983.

Grönbold, Günter: Tibetica in der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek: Ausstellung anläßlich des 4. Seminars der International Association for Tibetan Studies vom 21. bis 27. Juli 1985 in Schloß Hohenkammer. München: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, 1985.

Grönbold, Günter: Tibetische Buchdeckel: Ausstellung 8. April bis 1. Juni 1991. München: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, 1991.

Noichl, Elisabeth (ed.): Schrift-Stücke: Informationsträger aus fünf Jahrtausenden: eine Ausstellung der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek und des Bayerischen Hauptstaatsarchivs: München, 19. Juli – 20. September 2000. München: Generaldirektion der Staatlichen Archive Bayerns; Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, 2000.

Grönbold, Günter: Die Worte des Buddha in den Sprachen der Welt = The words of the Buddha in the languages of the world: Tipitaka – Tripitaka – Dazangjing – Kanjur: eine Ausstellung aus dem Bestand der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek, München, 27. Januar – 20. März 2005. With a contribution by Renate Stephan. München: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, 2005.

Rebhan, Helga (ed.): Liebe, Götter und Dämonen: wertvolle asiatische Handschriften der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek: Ausstellung 2. – 27. Januar 2008. München: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, 2007.