With more than 20,000 copies of 9,742 printed editions, the collection of incunabula of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek is not only Germany's largest collection, but, taking the number of copies as a measure, it is the most extensive collection of any library worldwide.

The printed literature of the 15th century is present in its full scope of topics and bandwidth. Works by German and Italian print shops prevail. The popular-language German literature has a share of almost one tenth. The collection also encompasses the world's most extensive holdings of incunabula single-sheet prints.

Among the most widely known works there are the Gutenberg Bible with the "tabula rubricarum" of which only two copies have been preserved, the 36-line Bible, the Türkenkalender – a unique copy like the Munich "Passion of Christ" ("Leiden Christi", Stöger Passion) –, the "Psalterium Benedictinum" of 1459 and Hartmann Schedel's illustrated personal copy of his world chronicle, complemented by additions such as Etzlaub's map of the way to Rome.

The collection is expanded continuously within the framework of the Collection of German Printed Works, with the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek being responsible for the period from 1450 to 1600.

In the period between 1971 and 2003 the collection of incunabula was catalogued with the support of the German Research Foundation (DFG). The seven-volume printed edition of the incunabula catalogue was published by the Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag, Wiesbaden from 1988 to 2009. The database makes it possible to search the entire data of the printed incunabula catalogue. The conversion took place with the approval of the publishing house. The descriptions of the specimens are linked up with digital copies which were produced in several individual projects with the financial support of the German Research Foundation. Meanwhile, most of the incunabula listed in the BSB-Ink catalogue can also be searched using the Bavarian union catalogue.

In 1989 the Census of Incunabula was established at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek as the German branch of the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue (ISTC). The Munich ISTC office integrates the incunabula forming part of German collections in the ISTC database.

Further information about the Census of Incunabula Germany

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BSB-Ink online

Tips for searching  |  List of previous owners (provenances) in the BSB-Ink online catalogue  (PDF, 2.8 MB)

Digital Collections


BSB-Ink online: Bibliographie

Hertrich, Elmar: Einleitung. In: Inkunabelkatalog / Bayerische Staatsbibliothek: BSB-Ink. Redaktion Elmar Hertrich ... Volume 1. Wiesbaden: Reichert, 1988. p. XXIX-XXXIV.