The Coptic collection encompasses around 250 printed works, 24 manuscripts and 22 papyri in the original script. Coptic, the youngest linguistic form of Egyptian, was used as a popular, literary and liturgical language until it was superseded by the Arabic language that spread increasingly during the Middle Ages.

Main focuses of content

A broad variety of scholarly text editions with translations and secondary literature from the field of Coptic studies is acquired in western European languages.


At present, the acquisition policy for Coptic manuscripts and papyri is determined by the scholarly relevance of texts and their aesthetic-museological aspect. The Oriental and Asian Department manages the Coptic manuscripts and papyri technically (acquisition, subject information, guided tours, exhibitions), while the Department of Manuscripts and Rare Books administrates them and is in charge of their use. The Oriental manuscripts can be consulted in the Reading Room for Manuscripts and Rare Books.


Manuscript catalogues

  • Simon, Jean: Répertoire des bibliothèques publiques et privées contenant des manuscrits coptes. In: Le muséon 44 (1931), p. 137-151.

Cod.copt. = Codices coptici

Catalogues of Coptic printed works

The Coptic prints can be searched in BSB DISCOVER!.
Digital copies of Coptic printed works can be located likewise in BSB DISCOVER!.


History of the Coptic collection

The first Coptic items probably came to the Munich court library only in the 19th century. The Coptic grammar book of the Jesuit Athanasius Kirchner of 1636, which is considered as the actually first Coptic printed work, bears the book plate of the Elector Palatine Karl Theodor, whose Mannheim court library was merged with the Munich court library at the start of the 19th century.
Athanasius Kirchner: Prodromus Coptus. Rome: Societas Congregatio de Propaganda Fide, 1636.  (Res/4 341)

However, a Coptic alphabet of a small number of pages, with pronunciation explanations and writing sample, was published already around 1630, and was also added to the collections of the Munich court library in the 19th century.
Alphabetum cophtum sive aegyptiacum. Rome: Congregatio de Propaganda Fide, around 1630.  ( 450,7)

The first 19 Coptic manuscripts came to the Munich court library through the purchase of the library of the French Orientalist Etienne-Marc Quatremère. It should also be mentioned that the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek holds Breydenbach's "Peregrinatio in terram sanctam" (Mainz, 1486, 2 Inc.c.a. 1725), in which the Coptic alphabet is printed for the first time, albeit not yet using mobile letters.
Breydenbach, Bernhard von: Peregrinatio in terram sanctam. Mainz, 1486.  (2 Inc.c.a. 1725)

In 1914, the first Coptic papyri dating back to the period between the 4th and the 8th century could be bought at an auction.

The following printed work should be mentioned as an example of the maintenance and extension of the early collection.
Pi Čōm nte pi psaltērion nte Dawid. Rome: Sacra Congregatio Propaganda Fide, 1744.  (4 B.orient. 36 s)
The original specimen of this book was destroyed by fire during the war. In 1982 the opportunity arose to replace the burnt specimen by another copy from the same edition of 1744. The current copy bears the notation of ownership of the Egyptologist Moritz G. Schwartze (1802 – 1848). The Psalter mentioned here is an Arabic-Coptic edition.

Since Coptic had been used only by scholars and in liturgy since the Middle Ages, religious texts, Bible editions, prayer books and liturgical books inevitably had to be published not only in the Coptic language, but also in the commonly used Arabic language. The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek owns several such bilingual books. The establishment of Orientalist departments at the universities during the 19th century also caused growing interest in Coptic literature, which has finally led to the targeted acquisition of academically relevant Coptic literature by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek up to this day.

Exhibition cataloques

Hartmann, Albert: Bericht über die Papyrus-Ausstellung der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek München. In: Münchener Beiträge zur Papyrusforschung und antiken Rechtsgeschichte 19 (1934), p. 463-472.

Dachs, Karl (ed.): Das Buch im Orient: Handschriften und kostbare Drucke aus zwei Jahrtausenden: Ausstellung, 16. November 1982 – 5. Februar 1983. Wiesbaden: Reichert, 1982.

Rebhan, Helga (ed.): Wertvolle orientalische Handschriften und seltene Drucke der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek = Precious Oriental manuscripts and rare printed books in the Bavarian State Library: 26th MELCOM International Conference, 24 – 26 May 2004: Ausstellung 24.05. – 18.06.2004. München: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, 2004.


Hengstenberg, Wilhelm: Koptische Papyri. In: Beiträge zur Forschung: Studien und Mitteilungen aus dem Antiquariat Jacques Rosenthal München 1 (1915), p. 92-100.

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

Hanebutt-Benz, Eva; Glass, Dagmar; Roper, Geoffrey (ed.): Middle Eastern languages and the print revolution = Sprachen des Nahen Ostens und die Druckrevolution: a cross-cultural encounter: a catalogue and companion to the exhibition: Gutenberg Museum Mainz. Westhofen: WVA-Verlag Skulima, 2002.

Rebhan, Helga: Ausstellungen orientalischer und asiatischer Bestände der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. In: Griebel, Rolf; Ceynowa, Klaus (ed.): Information, Innovation, Inspiration: 450 Jahre Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. München: Saur, 2008. p. 639-665.