Cuneiform script tablets

The manuscript collections of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek span a period of five thousand years. The oldest specimens of written heritage are eight cuneiform script tablets on pottery from Mesopotamia of the 22nd to 18th century before the birth of Christ, which mostly contain administrative writings, such as deeds, tallies or invoices (group of classification numbers Mon.script.cun.). Originally received as a donation by King Ludwig I of Bavaria, these tablets have been preserved by the library already since the early 19th century.

Cuneiform script tablet with tally for corn, dated to the year Šū-Sin 3 (2034 BC)  (Mon.script.cun. 2)


The most voluminous collection in the field of the written heritage of antiquity, at least with respect to numbers, is the collection of papyri, of which the library holds a total of about 750. The languages of the papyri mirror the cultures of the antique Middle East:

  • Around 450 Greek papyri form the largest group by far (Pap.graec.mon. 1 – 438; plus a number of items which have not been inventoried so far). They could be acquired predominantly during the German imperial age, via the so-called papyrus cartel. Most of these works are deeds, but there are also literary texts, from the era of Ptolemy up to late antiquity. Only few of the papyri are illustrated; one of them is the illustration of the Iliad with the abduction of the Briseis, which goes back to the 4th century AD (Pap.graec.mon. 128; fragmentary pen drawing).
    Herodotus: Histories, book I, 115 – 116  (Pap.graec.mon. 89)
    Abduction of the Briseis (pen drawing)  (Pap.graec.mon. 128)
    Xenophon: De vectigalibus I, 5 – 6  (Pap.graec.mon. 312)
  • 5 hieroglyphic papyri, i.e. texts in hieratic script type (Mon.script.hierogl. 1 – 5), with the most prominent specimen of them being on display as a permanent loan at the State Museum of Egyptian Art, Munich: a papyrus book of the dead from a grave of the Theban Necropolis, created at the time of Ptolemy (Mon.script.hierogl. 1)
    Papyrus book of the dead  (Mon.script.hierogl. 1) 
  • 35 Demotic papyri (Pap.demot.mon. 1 – 29)
  • 28 Coptic papyri (Pap.copt.mon. 1 – 17)
  • 1 Aramaic papyrus (Pap.aram.mon. 1)
  • 3 Latin papyri ( 1 – 3) with examples of the script of the older Roman italics (2nd and 3rd century) and finally – at the threshold between antiquity and the Middle Ages –
  • 8 Arabic papyri ( 1 – 8)

Further information

Pottery sherds

A smaller collection group is constituted by three pottery sherds inscribed with the names of citizens to be banned (ostraca, group of classification marks Ostr. 1 – 3), which were used in a manner of holding court that was typical for antique Athens in particular, the so-called ostracism. In addition, an antique asphalt plate is preserved by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. Its origins could not be clarified beyond doubt so far, for which reason this plate was allocated to the collection group of Monumenta scripturarum diversarum (Mon.script.div.).

Inscribed clay sherd of antiquity (ostracon)  (Ostr. 2)

Old South Arabian wood inscriptions

One peculiar group among the holdings of antique monuments of written heritage is constituted by almost 800 Old South Arabian wood inscriptions, i.e. round wooden logs or sticks with carved Old Sabean and thus pre-Islamic texts from Yemen. They are preserved forming the group of classification marks Mon.script.sab.

Further information on the Old South Arabian wood inscriptions (Mon.script.sab.)

Manuscripts with texts by antique authors

Independently of the writings created during the time of antiquity, the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek also preserves a large number of medieval and modern-era manuscripts with texts by antique authors, among them widely known names such as Cicero, Livius, Virgil, as well as Demosthenes and Thucydides.

Livius, Titus: Titi Livii Patavini ab urbe condita prima decas  (Clm 15731)
Cicero, Marcus Tullius: De inventione  (Clm 14503)
 ♦   Thucydides: History of the Peloponnesian War  (Cod.graec. 430)

Further information and examples


Arnold, Erwin: Die Papyrussammlung der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek und ihre Erschließung. In: Bibliotheksforum Bayern 9 (1981), p. 57-67.

Maraqten, Mohammed: Altsüdarabische Texte auf Holzstäbchen: epigraphische und kulturhistorische Untersuchungen. Würzburg, 2014.

Reich, Nathaniel: Aus der Sammlung der demotischen Papyri in der Königlich bayerischen Hof- und Staatsbibliothek zu München. In: Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes 25 (1911), p. 311-317.

Stein, Peter: Die altsüdarabischen Minuskelinschriften auf Holzstäbchen aus der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek in München. Volume 1,1: Die Inschriften der mittel- und spätsabäischen Periode. Volume 1,2: Die Inschriften der mittel- und spätsabäischen Periode. Tübingen; Berlin, 2010.

Wilken, Ulrich: Zu den griechischen Papyri der königlichen Hof- und Staatsbibliothek zu München. In: Archiv für Papyrusforschung 1 (1901), p. 468-491.

Heisenberg, August; Wenger, Leopold (ed.): Byzantinische Papyri der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek München. 2nd, enlarged edition provided by Dieter Hagedorn. Stuttgart, 1986. Die Papyri der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek München / Griechische Papyri. 1.

Carlini, Antonio (ed.): Papiri letterari greci della Bayerische Staatsbibliothek di Monaco di Baviera. Con la collaborazione di Giovanna Calvani Mariotti. Stuttgart, 1986. Die Papyri der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek München / Griechische Papyri. 2 = No. 19 – 44.

Hagedorn, Ursula; Hagedorn, Dieter; Hübner, Robert; Shelton, John C. (ed.): Griechische Urkundenpapyri der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek München. Stuttgart, 1986. Die Papyri der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek München / Griechische Papyri. 3,1 = No. 45 – 154.