About the collection


The collection of manuscripts held by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek is one of the most extensive and most important of its kind: Over 41,000 Occidental and 18,000 Oriental or Asian manuscripts, around 70,000 music manuscripts, around 1,100 sets of modern papers and over 36,000 autographs secure a place for the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek among the top libraries of the world.

Period of time

Chronologically, the manuscript materials span more than four millennia: From the Babylonian cuneiform script plate of the 21st century BC to antique papyri and ostraka, on to medieval parchment manuscripts in the form of codices and to late medieval and (early) modern-age manuscripts on paper, which reach up to the present. The collection of medieval codices amounts to around 17,000 items, the percentage of the Latin manuscripts (including the fragments) being the largest in total.

Geographic scope

Geographically, the Occidental manuscripts span almost all countries of central, western, southern and northern Europe, as well as eastern Europe. The focus is on the area of southern Germany and Bavaria, where a majority of the Latin and German texts were written or copied. With regard to numbers, Latin is predominant as the language of scholarship and the church of the Middle Ages and early modern era. The texts of the personal papers and autographs are predominantly written in German, further also a multitude of other European and non-European languages are present.

Main focuses of content

With respect to content, focal points are on theology (Bible, Bible exegesis, liturgical texts, sermons and prayer books) and the subjects of classical education (the "seven liberal arts"), as well as law and literature (poetry and prose alike). The collection's broad spectrum of topics thus mirrors over one millennium of European intellectual history. Since the onset of the modern era, the range of topics has expanded enormously. All areas of scholarship and arts are present in the modern papers and autographs.

Historical development

Collection at the time of foundation

The start of the manuscript collection can be traced back over 450 years, to 1558, the year of foundation of the princely court library. At the time, Duke Albrecht V acquired the private library and the personal papers of the Austrian chancellor, diplomat and polyglot Orientalist Johann Albrecht Widmannstetter (1506 – 1557), with which around 200 manuscripts in the Hebrew, Arabic and Syrian languages came to the library – a considerable number at the time. Only a few years later, in 1571, the collection was expanded substantially by the purchase of the library of Johann Jakob Fugger (1516 – 1575), one of the most prolific book collectors of the 16th century, particularly since this library contained the collection of the Nuremberg doctor and humanist Hartmann Schedel (1440 – 1514), including the sets of personal papers also encompassed by this collection in turn. In 1589 the estate of the cartographer Philipp Apian (1531 – 1589) was added.

Before 1803, also numerous books from the property of Petrus Victorius (Piero Vettori, 1499 – 1585) came to the old princely, as of 1623 electoral, court library. Among the Latin manuscripts (Codices latini monacenses – Clm), these occupy the classification mark range Clm 733 – 825 (= Vict. 4 and 19 a to 169), among the Italian manuscripts they occupy the classification marks Cod.ital. 148 – 251, with the following valuable specimens forming part among others:

  • Notitia dignitatum  (Clm 794)
  • Marcus Tullius Cicero: Laelius de amicitia  (Clm 821)

In the year 1773 Pope Clement XIV abolished the Jesuit order. With respect to the library's collection this had the consequence that also the library of the Munich Jesuit college was integrated in the court library. The Latin manuscripts for example can still be found today as a collection block in the classification mark range Clm 851 – 900.

Secularisation and mediatisation

Having collected around 1,500 manuscripts during the first two and a half centuries of its existence, the Munich Court Library became the largest manuscript collection in the German language area and one of the largest in Europe at the start of the 19th century, due to the secularisation of numerous monasteries and colleges (Hochstifte) and the mediatisation of a number of free imperial cities in practically all parts and regions of Bavaria within its boundaries of the time – however with a strong emphasis on Old Bavaria. Also in connection with the transfer of the Electoral Palatine library from Mannheim to Munich, its holdings had soared to the fifteen-fold – an expansion of holdings which is unparalleled in the library's history. Some outstanding pieces – in context with their former home libraries – illustrate this development.

Thus, the manuscripts originated for example

With respect to personal papers, the history of astronomy in particular could be complemented with valuable sources on Prosper Goldhover and Bonifazius Sadler.

The unification of the Munich and Mannheim Court Libraries

A further influx of written cultural assets which took place at the same time as the secularisation was the transfer of the Electoral-Palatine court library of Elector Karl Theodor (1742 – 1799) from Mannheim to Munich (in 1803/ 04), adding further 100,000 volumes. After the losses suffered during the 30 Years' War, the holdings of the Mannheim Palatina had been built up from scratch again. Manuscripts were acquired particularly in western Europe, which explains the library's focus on the field of French, Spanish and/or Catalan and Italian manuscripts (among them a considerable number of illuminated books of hours). Among the most widely known or important items of the former Mannheim Court Library there are:

In the area of personal papers, an important gain from the Mannheim Court Library was the collection of personal papers of the family of humanists Camerarius, containing extensive medical-historical sources from the 16th and 17th century among other things.

Both events of the starting years of the 19th century also had the consequence that the holdings of printed works had multiplied, resulting in the sale or swap of (perceived) double copies, which was not without controversy. Within this context, a number of outstanding or most precious manuscripts could be acquired, such as a manuscript of the Song of the Nibelungs (Cgm 34, later referred to as main manuscript A) in 1810. Together with two further textual witnesses, the manuscript has formed part of the Memory of the World Register of UNESCO since 2009.

Johann Andreas Schmeller (1785 – 1852) | © BSB/ Image Archive
Johann Andreas Schmeller (1785 – 1852) | © BSB/ Image Archive

Classification of the manuscripts up to the mid-19th century

The classification marks of the manuscripts used today largely go back to the librarian Johann Andreas Schmeller (1785 – 1852), who worked at the Court and State Library from 1829 to 1852. He had been assigned the task of ordering and cataloguing the enormous amount of manuscripts acquired at the start of the 19th century in the course of the secularisation of the monasteries, the mediatisation of the imperial cities and the transfer of the Mannheim Court Library to Munich. To the extent that this was still possible 30 years after the main wave of the secularisation and the unification with the Mannheim Court Library, he attempted to reconstruct the holdings of Latin manuscripts of the former monastery libraries from their historical catalogues and then organized the manuscripts in a number sequence as Codices latini monacenses ("Clm") in the alphabetical order of their provenances. Individual collection groups were established also for manuscripts in other languages (thus, for example, "Cgm" = Codices germanici monacenses for the German manuscripts and "Cod.graec." for the Greek manuscripts).

However, Schmeller did not manage to apply this method to the complete holdings of Latin manuscripts. The Codices latini of the old Court Library kept the consecutive numbering introduced by Ignaz Hardt in 1806 and continued by Schmeller, from 1 – 698 and 701 – 947a (later continued up to 967). The numbers 1001 – 2500 were reserved for the Bavarian manuscripts of the Court Library. These manuscripts, referred to as Codices bavarici 1 – 1329 already as of 1812, thus before Schmeller, became Codices latini by adding the number 1000. Thus, Cod.bavar. 1 became Clm 1001 and Cod.bavar. 1329 became Clm 2329. The numbers 2330 – 2500 remained unoccupied. The Bavarici latini thus continued forming one complex and were only provided with a reference as to their places of origin. Several thousand manuscripts whose origin Schmeller had no longer been able to ascertain were classified as Codices incertae or diversae originis under the letter of the unknown (ZZ) (Clm 23001 – 26297).

Accordingly, the range from Clm 2501 to 22502 contains the holdings acquired in the course of the secularisation and mediatisation since 1802/ 03 in alphabetical order: Cod. Ab. (Carmelite library of Abensberg) 1 became Clm 2501, Cod. Ab. 25 – the last manuscript from Abensberg – became Clm 2525. Schmeller arranged the sequence of numbers such that at least the last digit of the Latinus classification mark matched the corresponding digit of the former "monastery classification mark", which he achieved by leaving gaps in the new numbering. Thus the library of Aldersbach, which alphabetically follows Abensberg, does not start with 2526, but with 2531. In the case of smaller libraries, the numbering was restarted at intervals of ten, in the case of larger libraries Schmeller liked to start with a round number, thus starting St. Emmeram with the number 14000, for example, although the last preceding manuscript from the Regensburg college of Niedermünster bears the number 13601.

Overview of provenances according to Schmeller's classification  (PDF, 88 KB)

In the printed catalogues of Karl Halm, the Clm numbering comes first, followed by the provenance classification allocated by Schmeller in brackets, for example Clm 18150 (= Teg. 150). It is still expedient to maintain an additional concordance of these classification marks – originally intended as an interim solution –, since they were used in older literature and in the source editions of the Monumenta Germaniae historica (MGH) up to the late 19th century.

Concordance of classification marks  (PDF, 50 KB)

In the field of German-language manuscripts, the classification marks Cgm 1 – 5154 encompass both the old stock and the new acquisitions from the first half of the 19th century, thus Schmeller's time. In contrast to the Latin manuscripts, the German ones were not classified in the order of provenance groups, but in a continuous sequence in accordance with formal or content-related principles. Accordingly, the first 200 numbers comprise exclusively parchment manuscripts, the classification marks 201 – 1499 the stock present at the start of the 19th century, containing many medieval manuscripts acquired predominantly in the course of the secularisation. The range from Cgm 1501 – 3587 contains the German-language Codices bavarici (formerly Cod.bav. 1501 – 3587), while the holdings from Cgm 3601 to 5154 are the remaining works of the old stock classified in the order of their formats, as well as new acquisitions under Schmeller. New acquisitions of later years are numbered consecutively starting at Cgm 5155.

Overview of the former collection group of Codices bavarici (Cod.bav.)

The further course of the 19th century up to the Second World War

Schmeller's register of the Latin classification marks ranged from Clm 1 to 26297. The manuscripts acquired after the secularisation, of which hardly any can already have been in the library at Schmeller's time, start at Clm 26298. They were classified in the chronological order of their acquisition. Among the first new acquisitions there was, among other things, the purchase of the famous collection of books and manuscripts of the French Orientalist Etienne-Marc Quatremère (1782 – 1857), which took place in 1858, thus exactly 300 years after the foundation of the library. This purchase represented a spectacular acquisition which created a completely new basis for the ranking of the Oriental collection. Quatremère's book collection originally included 250 Occidental manuscripts (i.a. Clm 26301 – 26340, Cod.ital. 482 – 486 and 500, as well as Cod.hisp. 97 – 107) and 1,250 Oriental manuscripts, among them very valuable and rare illustrated Islamic works (Cod.arab., Cod.pers., Cod.turc.).

Examples of important works from Quatremère's library

The holdings were further increased through the extensive donation by the mineralogist and Privy Councillor Karl Maria Ehrenbert von Moll (Clm 26400 – 26543 and Cgm 6047 – 6174) and through the transfer of the manuscripts kept in the city library of Regensburg so far (Clm 26600 – 26959) in the year 1876.

The holding of Occidental manuscripts reached in 1858 or since the late 1860s/ 1870s were documented in printed catalogues – largely on the basis of Schmeller's work.

Accordingly, the Latin supplement starting at Clm 27270 and the German-language supplement starting at Cgm 5155 represent the new acquisitions of this time, which were made not only through purchases, but also through a large number of deposits by or swaps with Bavarian authorities. Such authorities were in particular:

  • The Royal Bavarian State Archive (Königlich Bayerisches Reichsarchiv) or later Bavarian Main State Archive (Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, 1874 – 1926)
  • The Provincial Library of Neuburg (1909)
  • The Bavarian Statistical Office (1913)
  • The Bavarian National Museum (1923)

In addition to complete, rather extensive collections such as the Montgelas statistics (Cgm 6844 – 6862 c = 439 volumes) and the Physikatsberichte (medical topographic and ethnographic reports, Cgm 6874 = 222 volumes), also a wide range of medieval fragments and the following outstanding manuscripts were acquired by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek:

  • Flemish book of hours of the early 16th century  (Clm 28345)
  • Latin book of hours of the early 16th century  (Clm 28346)

Overview of topographies and statistics

The collection was further increased considerably by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek's receipt of around 600 hand-drawn (military) maps from Bavarian army libraries and in particular from the Military District Library VII, Munich, which were first inventoried under the classification mark Mappae (Mapp.) and finally reclassified to form part of the Codices iconographici (Cod.icon. 180) in 2006.

The transfer of materials to the State Archive/ Bavarian Main State Archive and to the Wilhelmsgymnasium (grammar school) of Munich (Clm 2011 – 2093, now in the Munich State Archive) taking place in return reduced the library's holdings. These manuscripts formerly kept in the library have already largely been catalogued in the OPACplus/ BSB catalogue and can be searched by entering the search term "Abgabe" (cession) in connection with the limitation of search (facet) "Handschrift" (manuscript).

Thanks to timely evacuation, the collection of manuscripts and incunabula was fortunately barely affected by the destructions of the Second World War, whereas the library building was destroyed almost entirely by air raids.

Post-war period

Since the south wing of the library building had been destroyed, the manuscript collection was accommodated in the Arcisstrasse up to the re-opening of the south wing in the year 1970. During this period, the collection could be further complemented meaningfully by manuscripts of importance for the history and the cultural life of Bavaria. One of the larger acquisitions of the early post-war period were three volumes of the Ottheinrich Bible in the year 1950.

During the first three decades after the war (1948 – 1978), a total of around 4,000 manuscripts could be purchased, the focus being clearly on German-language works.

In addition, further deposits or exchanges took place during the decades after the war with other Bavarian authorities, such as the Main State Archive (1956), the National Museum (1959), the State Collection of Graphic Arts (1962) and the National Theatre (1975). For example, the personal papers of Leuchtenberg were swapped against the partial estate of Count Franz Pocci (now bearing the BSB classification Pocciana) with the Main State Archive. The assignment of a total of 97 manuscripts by the National Museum and the State Collection of Graphic Arts (partly in the form of a permanent loan) in particular contributed to the growth of the collection. The following examples should be mentioned:

The current acquisition policy for creating a distinctive collection profile is targeted and broad in scope. It focuses on the purchase of both interesting individual items and complete collections (estates). Since the prices are frequently high, purchases need to take place within the framework of funding coalitions with foundations, such as the Culture Foundation of the German Länder or the Ernst von Siemens Art Foundation. Some examples of the acquisition of high-carat specimens in recent years are:


Pracht auf Pergament: Schätze der Buchmalerei von 780 bis 1180. Catalogue and exhibition: Claudia Fabian ... München: Hirmer, 2012. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek: Ausstellungskataloge. 86.

Schmid, Alois (ed.): Die Anfänge der Münchener Hofbibliothek unter Albrecht V. München: Beck, 2009.

Kulturkosmos der Renaissance: die Gründung der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek: Katalog der Ausstellung zum 450-jährigen Jubiläum, 7. März – 1. Juni 2008, und der Schatzkammerausstellung "Musikschätze der Wittelsbacher", 9. Juni – 6. Juli 2008. Edited by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek; catalogue and exhibition: Claudia Fabian ... Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2008. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek: Ausstellungskataloge. 79.

Lebendiges Büchererbe: Säkularisation, Mediatisierung und die Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. Compilation: Dieter Kudorfer. München: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, 2003. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek: Ausstellungskataloge. 74.

Hauke, Hermann: So überstanden die Handschriften den zweiten Weltkrieg. In: Bibliotheksforum Bayern 22 (1994), p. 57-63.

Thesaurus librorum: 425 Jahre Bayerische Staatsbibliothek: Ausstellung München 18. August – 1. Oktober 1983. Exhibition and editing of the catalogue: Karl Dachs and Elisabeth Klemm. Wiesbaden: Reichert, 1983. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek: Ausstellungskataloge. 28.

Erwerbungen aus drei Jahrzehnten, 1948 – 1978: abendländische und orientalische Handschriften, Inkunabeln und seltene Drucke, Noten und Landkarten: Ausstellung April – Juli 1978. Exhibition and editing of the catalogue: Karl Dachs ... Wiesbaden: Reichert, 1978. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek: Ausstellungskataloge. 16.

Cimelia Monacensia: wertvolle Handschriften und frühe Drucke der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek München. Wiesbaden: Reichert, 1970.

Ruf, Paul: Codices bavarici: Handschriften zur Geschichte Bayerns in der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. In: Zeitschrift für bayerische Landesgeschichte 18 (1955), p. 1-39.

Ottheinrich Bible:
Die Ottheinrich-Bibel: das erste illustrierte Neue Testament in deutscher Sprache: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cgm 8010: Begleitbuch zu den Ausstellungen anlässlich der Zusammenführung der Ottheinrich-Bibel im Jahre 2008. Luzern: Faksimile-Verlag, 2008. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek: Ausstellungskataloge. 80.

Salzburg missal and Furtmeyr Bible:
Berthold Furtmeyr in München: illuminierte Prachthandschriften. 2 volumes. Volume 1: Die Münchener Furtmeyr-Bibel, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Cgm 8010 a. Volume 2: Das Salzburger Missale, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 15708 – 15712. Luzern: Quaternio-Verlag, 2011.

Selected literature to the personal papers and autographs