The Georgian collection encompasses around 5,000 printed volumes of original-script literature, among them three first imprints from the first half of the 17th century.
As conditioned by the book production in the Georgian language, the acquisition of monographs and periodicals is geographically limited to Georgia with some rare exceptions.
Main focuses of content
The main focus of the content of original-language acquisitions is on humanities – philosophy, religion (Islam, Christian Orient), history, archaeology, linguistics and literature, ethnic studies, architecture and art and classic text editions.
A broad spectrum of secondary literature on Georgia, its history, culture, that is on Kartvelology in the broadest sense and on Caucasology, is collected in western European languages.
Early printed books
The Oriental and Asia Department manages the Georgian manuscripts 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 early Georgian printed works can be consulted in the Reading Room for Manuscripts and Rare Books.
The cradle of Georgian book printing, like for other Oriental languages, was Rome. From the year 1629, the publication year of the first printed Georgian books, the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek holds an "Alphabetum ibericum sive georgianum" (Rar. 1416) and the "Dittionario giorgiano e italiano" (Res/4 L.as. 97) as part of its collection. The third Georgian book published likewise in Rome in 1643 was the "Syntagmatōn Linguarum Orientalium, quae in Georgiae regionibus audiuntur liber" (Res/2 Polygl. 32 m 1/2).
The Georgian prints can be searched in the OPACplus/ BSB catalogue. The original script has been implemented as well for some years.
It took a long time for scholars of different disciplines to realize the great importance of the Georgian written heritage and to thus find access to a little explored language of a small people that had nonetheless been extraordinarily prolific in the field of literature since the 5th century. These two factors contributed decisively to Georgian manuscripts being present only very rarely in the older collections of scholars or patrons. For the same reasons, book printing started only in 1629, at a comparatively late time, explaining the absence of Georgian incunabula from early collections.
The collection of Georgian materials was started in the mid-19th century. With the purchase of the library of the French Orientalist Etienne-Marc Quatremère, the "Dittionario giorgiano e italiano" came to the court library in 1858. During the subsequent almost one hundred years, donations, personal estates and acquisitions of small numbers of items ensured the continuity of this collection. Two editions of the Georgian New Testament of 1816 and 1825 also fall into this period, but were unfortunately destroyed by fire during the war. The Georgian holdings have been expanded continuously and in accordance with the acquisition profile of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek only as of 1953. In view of its high quality, the Georgian collection can be considered an academically valuable and accepted collection of Georgian literature outside of Georgia. Around 150 new monographs are acquired annually.
Gugušvili, Paata: K'art'uli cigni 1629 – 1929. T'bilisi, 1929.
Č'ik'obava, Arnold; Vat'eišvili, J̌uanšer: Pirveli k'art'uli nabečdi gamoc'emebi. (= First printed books in Georgian). T'bilisi, 1983.