Middle Ages


Out of the total of over 100,000 manuscripts held by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, about 17,000 date back to the Middle Ages. The focal point here is clearly on the field of Latin manuscripts (Codices latini monacenses – Clm), with around 14,000 textual witnesses dating back to the Middle Ages. Among other things, this can be put down to the fact that the collection group includes 3,000 fragments or more, which were removed predominantly from parchment manuscripts. The second-largest medieval collection group is that of German-language manuscripts (Codices germanici monacenses – Cgm) with more than 1,600 units. Oriental and Asian manuscripts are significantly rarer in comparison, with a total of around 1,000 specimens.

Early Middle Ages

The oldest codex that can be found among the library's collections is the so-called Breviarium Alarici (Clm 22501), a legal text written in southern France at the start of the 6th century, which is also of palaeographic interest as an example for the uncial script. The original of the Palimpsest of a Pentateuch in Clm 6225 was likewise created in the 6th century. The Codex Valerianus (Clm 6224) was written in the 7th century. One focal point is constituted by the around 500 manuscripts and manuscript fragments created during the Carolingian era (8th/ 9th century), which were held by the Freising cathedral library and other owners up to the time of the secularisation, and which could be digitized within the framework of the EU project Europeana regia in the period between 2010 and 2012. Among the widely known specimens, there are for example the Freising manuscripts (Freisinger Denkmäler, Clm 6426) and the Codex aureus from the Benedictine monastery St. Emmeram in Regensburg (Clm 14000, created around 870 at the court school of Charles the Bald), which is considered the most high-profile occidental manuscript in the collections of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. During this time, also one of the oldest German-language manuscripts was created, namely the Heliand (Cgm 25), written in Old Saxon.

Breviarium Alarici  (Clm 22501)
Codex Valerianus  (Clm 6224)
Palimpsest of a Pentateuch  (Clm 6225)
Freisinger Denkmäler (Freising Manuscripts)  (Clm 6426)
Codex aureus of St. Emmeram  (Clm 14000)
Heliand  (Cgm 25)

EU project Europeana regia

The predominant book form of the Middle Ages was that of the bound book (codex), usually written on parchment, as of the mid-14th century also increasingly on paper. With the manuscript Clm 44, the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek preserves the very rare example of a medieval codex written on papyrus, containing copies of deeds recording donations of real estate to the Church of Ravenna from the period from the early 7th to the late 10th century.

Codex traditionum ecclesiae Ravennatis  (Clm 44)

High Middle Ages

Concerning the period of the High Middle Ages, above all the master pieces of book art need to be mentioned which were crafted by imperial order in the scriptorium of the monastery of Reichenau for the cathedral of Bamberg. For this reason, these manuscripts were entered in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register, among them for example the Gospel book of Emperor Otto III and the Evangeliary of Henry II (Clm 4452 and Clm 4453). Further highlights of book illumination from the Ottonian, the Salian and the Staufen periods were presented to a larger public in the exhibition "Magnificent Manuscripts" ("Pracht auf Pergament") in 2012/ 2013.

UNESCO Memory of the World Register
Magnificent Manuscripts

Late Middle Ages

The European Late Middle Ages finally offer such a plethora of interesting manuscripts with respect to both text and illumination that it is hard to make a particular selection and set a focal point. Certainly, a number of top pieces of book illumination of the 15th century must be mentioned, such as the Salzburg Missal (Clm 15708 – 15712) and the Furtmeyr Bible named after Bertold Furtmeyr, the artist who crafted the miniatures, or the Ottheinrich Bible (Cgm 8010 and Cgm 8010 a). A special, small collection group is constituted by the books formerly owned by the Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus, the so-called "Corvinen", which have likewise been entered in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.

 ♦  Salzburg Missal  (Clm 15708 | Clm 15709 | Clm 15710 | Clm 15711 | Clm 15712)
Furtmeyr Bible  (Cgm 8010 a)
Ottheinrich Bible  (Cgm 8010)
"Corvinen" [Bibliotheca Corviniana]

The Late Middle Ages are marked by the increasing presence of the popular languages, which can be shown very well in the field of German-language manuscripts on the basis of texts such as Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival (Cgm 18 and Cgm 19), the Song of the Nibelungs (main manuscript A = Cgm 34 and manuscript D = Cgm 31) or Der Jüngere Titurel (i.a. Cgm 8470).

Parzival  (Cgm 18 and Cgm 19)
Song of the Nibelungs  (main manuscript A = Cgm 34 and manuscript D = Cgm 31)
Der Jüngere Titurel  (i.a. Cgm 8470)

The manuscript collection of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek offers numerous interesting items for researching the history of writing (paleography). In addition to examples for the already mentioned uncial and for the Anglo-Saxon minuscule (e.g. Clm 6237) there are also script types of which only small numbers of specimens have been preserved north of the Alps, such as for example the "younger Roman italic" in the Codex Valerianus or the South-Italian "Beneventana" in several manuscripts of the 10th to the 12th century.

Pope Gregory the Great: Homiliae in Ezechielem  (Clm 6237)
Younger Roman italic  (Clm 6224, sheet 204v)
Beneventana (e.g. Clm 337; Clm 4623)

Worlds of images [virtual exhibition]

Manuscripts in Oriental languages

In this context, also the medieval manuscripts in Oriental languages should be mentioned of course. Among these codices, the world-famous manuscript of the Babylonian Talmud (Cod.hebr. 95), which was created in France in the year 1342 and has been preserved almost in its entirety, and the Koran (Cod.arab. 1) created in Seville in the year 1226 assume top positions. The library's collection spans codices of highly diverse origin, from one of the earliest known Koran fragments (Cod.arab. 2817, acquired in 2013), to Chinese manuscripts from the period of the Tang dynasty (7th up to early 10th century).

Babylonian Talmud  (Cod.hebr. 95)
Andalusian Koran from Seville  (Cod.arab. 1)
 ♦   Koran fragments  (Cod.arab. 2817)


Pracht auf Pergament: Schätze der Buchmalerei von 780 bis 1180. Katalog und Ausstellung: Claudia Fabian ... München: Hirmer, 2012. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek: Ausstellungskataloge. 86.

Bilderwelten – Buchmalerei zwischen Mittelalter und Neuzeit: Katalogband zu den Ausstellungen in der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek vom 13. April 2016 bis 24. Februar 2017. Koordination und Redaktion: Claudia Fabian, Karl-Georg Pfändtner und Juliane Trede. Luzern: Quaternio, 2016. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek: Ausstellungskataloge. 90.