Block books

In contrast to incunabula, which were printed using mobile metal letters, block books ("Xylogr.", Xylographa) are prints of the 15th century, which were produced in a wood-cutting procedure. Block books are illustrated books of a relatively small volume, marking a transition from illuminated manuscripts to illustrated printed books.

Block books belong to the rarest and accordingly most valuable collectibles of libraries. Due to their problematic state of conservation, the block books can be provided to researchers for consultation only in exceptional cases today.

On a worldwide scale libraries hold around 600 copies of around 100 editions of 33 different works. The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek preserves a collection of 49 block books (including fragments), thus representing one of the largest collections internationally. In Bavarian collections, a total of around 90 block books are preserved.

Since for most block books no exact descriptions had been published in Bavaria so far, between 2009 and 2013 the holdings of 14 Bavarian collections (libraries, museums and collections in state, church and private ownership) were processed and made accessible in the form of digital recordings in a project funded by the German Research Foundation.

Block books from Bavarian collections

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BSB DISCOVER!  (Xylogr.)


Wagner, Bettina (ed.): Xylographa Bavarica: Blockbücher in bayerischen Sammlungen (Xylo-Bav). Descriptions by Rahel Bacher in collaboration with Veronika Hausler, Antonie Magen and Heike Riedel-Bierschwale. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2016. Schriftenreihe der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. 6.