Hebrew and Yiddish


The Hebrew and Yiddish collection of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, which is considered one of the most important of its kind in Germany and forms part of the most renowned collections worldwide, counts around 700 Hebrew manuscripts and 37,600 printed works in Hebrew script, among them 17 incunabula and numerous old printed books.


Collection at the time of foundation

The outstanding value of this collection is owed to the acquisition of the libraries of the diplomat and Orientalist Johann Albrecht Widmanstetter (1506 – 1557) and of Johann Jakob Fugger (1616 – 1575) at the outset. Widmanstetter is regarded as one of the pioneers of Oriental studies. The purchase of the private library of the highly educated and polyglot diplomat and Orientalist in the year 1558 by Duke Albrecht V constituted the founding act of the Munich court library at the same time. More than 450 years ago, around 200 – a fairly substantial number at the time – manuscripts in the Hebrew, Arabic and Syrian languages were acquired by the library, among them a number of very important Hebrew works and very rare Oriental early printed works. The Oriental collection was expanded already in 1571 by the incorporation of the library of Johann Jakob Fugger (1516 – 1575), one of the most prolific book collectors of the 16th century. Fugger's library contained numerous Oriental works, in particular Hebrew works of great importance.

The two-piece Bible commentary by Rashi (Würzburg area, 1233, Cod.hebr. 5(1 and Cod.hebr. 5(2) and the collection of Hebrew fables of Yitsḥaḳ Ben Shelomoh Ibn-Abi-Suhula (Germany, around 1450, Cod.hebr. 107) formed part of the library's collection at the time of its foundation.

Bible commentary by Rashi. Würzburg area, 1233  (Cod.hebr. 5(1 and Cod hebr. 5(2)
Hebrew fable collection. Germany, around 1450  (Cod.hebr. 107)

19th century

The secularisation of the Bavarian monasteries in 1803, the transfer of the Mannheim court library in 1803/ 1804 and the acquisition of the library of the French Orientalist Étienne Marc-Quatremère (1782 – 1857) in 1858 contributed to a substantial expansion of the Hebrew holdings.

20th century

Before and after the time of National Socialism, donations by Jewish patrons are of importance, for instance the donation by the American classical philologist and financier James Loeb (1867 – 1933) in 1927, in connection with the company Aufhäuser and the jurist Heinrich Reinstrom (1884 – 1960). In 1955, an important collection was added by the Rabbi Joseph Prijs (also: Prys, 1889 – 1956), who had worked as a lecturer for Hebrew at the Ludwig Maximilians University before 1933. Between 1933 and 1945, the national socialists' lust for destruction had to stop at the Hebrew and Jewish holdings of the Staatsbibliothek, since they were owned by the state and consequently out of bounds. Acquisition in this field was even continued during this time, if to a limited extent.

Fortunately, the greatest part of the Hebrew works also survived the air raids of the Second World War on the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek unharmed, by which a total of almost 500,000 volumes were destroyed. The important Bible collection in many languages of the world, among them also Hebrew, fell victim to the flames, however. Today, a working group is looking into the acquisition history of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek during the time of the NS regime, with the objective of identifying possibly expropriated, so-called "Arianized" holdings, and returning them to their rightful owners or their heirs, where possible.


When Moritz Steinschneider (1816 – 1907), who may be considered the founder of Hebrew book science, described the manuscripts of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, he wrote: "The collection's importance consists in its being the most comprehensive one in the German-language countries, being old already with respect to the time of its foundation, not being limited to the narrow boundaries of theology, but encompassing all areas, also such areas in which the Hebrew writings and reviews will retain the value of literature-historical sources when the limited interest under different views has worn off. There is no area that would lack rare and outstanding literature..." (Steinschneider, 1895, p. IV f.) and established: "With respect to content in relation to volume, the Munich manuscripts may be considered to be at least of equal rank as the larger collections of Oxford, Paris, Parma, London and the Vatican" (Steinschneider, 1875, p. 205).

Among the outstanding manuscripts, there are elaborately illuminated works such as the "Tegernsee Haggadah" of the late 15th century, named after the Benedictine monastery to whose library it belonged up to the time of secularisation (Cod.hebr. 200). The so-called "Munich Talmud" came to the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek from the Chapter of Augustinian Canons in Polling near Weilheim. As the world's only remaining almost entirely preserved manuscript of the Babylonian Talmud, the book belongs to the most precious treasures of mankind with respect to its religious and academic importance (Cod.hebr. 95).

Tegernsee Haggadah  (Cod.hebr. 200)
Babylonian Talmud  (Cod.hebr. 95)

An important collection of Cabbalistic texts from Spain (Cod.hebr. 209) was edited by Gerschom Scholem (1897 – 1982) within the framework of his dissertation at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich in 1923 and became a foundation of his research and teaching activities on Jewish mysticism as a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 1966, the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek acquired the works with the classification marks Cod.hebr. 452 – 465 from the Academy of Sciences and Literature in Mainz (VOHD, no. 246 – 259). Among the newest acquisitions, there is a satire written in the German language, but in Hebrew script, from the year 1816, about the recruitment of a Jewish army to conquer the promised land, which was purchased at the beginning of 2015 (Cod.hebr. 516).

Manuscript catalogues

  • [Cod. hebr. 419 – 465]
    Striedl, Hans; Róth, Ernst: Hebräische Handschriften. Volume 2. Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1965. Verzeichnis der orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland. 6,2.

    Cohen-Mushlin, Aliza: Catalogue of Hebrew illuminated manuscripts at the Bavarian State Library. Jerusalem [in preparation]
  • [Cod. hebr. 419 – 507]
    Information about new acquisitions of Hebrew manuscripts up to 2006 can be found in the "Repertorium der orientalischen Handschriften" (repertory of Oriental manuscripts).
    Repertorium der orientalischen Handschriften

As of the acquisition year 2007, new acquisitions have been entered in BSB DISCOVER!, bearing the classification mark Cod.hebr. Digital copies of Hebrew manuscripts can be searched in BSB DISCOVER! or in the Digital Collections.


Digital Collections

Early printed books

The first important centers of Hebrew book printing arose in Italy. The first printed edition of the Babylonian Talmud in nine volumes published by Daniel Bomberg in Venice in 1520 – 1523 set standards for the page design which are still considered binding today. The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek owns a specimen of the first edition in a very good state of conservation, which belonged to Widmanstetter's collection (2 A.hebr. 258). North of the Alps, the first Hebrew book was printed in Prague at the beginning of the 16th century. German printing locations thrived increasingly as of the late 17th and particularly during the 18th century, with print shops in Sulzbach (Upper Palatinate), Fürth and Wilhermsdorf (Franconia), Rödelheim near Frankfurt on the Main, but also in Berlin, Frankfurt on the Oder and finally in Vienna. The majority of printed works from the three first-mentioned and most important locations was acquired for the corresponding collections at the courts in Bavaria and the Palatinate. All notable, but also rarely found printing locations, such as Ichenhausen or Thiengen, are present in the collection today. With respect to printed works from outside of Europe, the collection includes printed works of the 19th century from Jerusalem, Bombay and Shanghai and many other locations.

Literature from Israel

Of course, the acquisition of current publications from Israel forms part of the continuous expansion of the collection of Hebrew works of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. In line with its collection profile, the Oriental and Asian Department acquires books and journals in the Hebrew language from Israel predominantly from subject fields such as religion, regional studies and archaeology, Shoah, politics and fiction by renowned authors. A broad range of secondary literature in Western European languages is collected as well.


The Hebrew collection encompasses European languages in Hebrew script, such as Italian, German and of course Yiddish. With over 5,000 volumes, the collection of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek represents one of the largest and most important collections of its kind. The collection was started together with that of Hebrew manuscripts and printed works at the time of foundation, in the mid-16th century, and has been continued ever since.

An omnibus manuscript with cautionary and entertaining tales of the late 16th century is of substantial importance for the early language, literature and text history of the Yiddish language, in which these stories are written (Cod.hebr. 100). It is of great importance for the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, its collection history and collection emphases that three of the most important printing locations of the German-language area from the 17th to the 19th century for Hebrew and Yiddish books are located within the boundaries of Bavaria today, namely Sulzbach (today Sulzbach-Rosenberg, Upper Palatinate), Wilhermsdorf (Middle Franconia) and Fürth. The majority of these printed works was therefore acquired for the corresponding collections at the courts of Bavaria and the Palatinate already at an early stage. Today, there remain only a number of acquisition gaps to be closed.

Omnibus manuscript with cautionary and entertaining tales  (Cod.hebr. 100)

Later, the literature production particularly also in the Yiddish language again experienced an extraordinarily flourishing period within the territory of Bavaria, namely in the camps for Jewish "displaced persons" ("DPs"), which had been set up predominantly in the American occupation zone in the time after the war. Numerous relief organisations for Jewish DPs were seated in Munich, predominantly in the city's quarter of Bogenhausen. In the years of transition, i.e. from 1945 up to the start of the 1950s, cultural and religious life alike flourished impressively there. This development was accompanied by prolific publication activities. A substantial portion of the publications by DPs accounts for the circumstance that the colloquial language in the camps was predominantly Yiddish. Under the conditions of the post-war period, it was of course out of the question to receive mandatory deposits of the publications consistently. Acquisition in this field started later and currently forms an important collection emphasis. By now, the collection of publications from the "DP time" can be counted among the most important of this kind.


The Yiddish printed works are registered in a German- and English-language catalogue, complemented by an index of authors in Hebrew script:

Die jiddischen Drucke der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek: alphabetischer Katalog mit einem Verfasserregister in hebräischer Schrift. The Yiddish printed books in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek: alphabetical catalogue with an index of names in Hebrew script. München: Saur, 2004.


Rabbinovicz, Raphael Nathan: ספר דקדוקי סופרים כולל נוסחאות וגירסאות הנמצאות בתלמוד כתב יד משנת ק"ג לאלף הששי המונח בעיר מינכען בעקד הספרים אשר לממלכת בייערן השונות מנוסחאות התלמוד המצוי בידינו בדפוס = Variae lectiones in Mischnam et in Talmud Babylonicum quum ex aliis libris antiquissimis et scriptis et impressis tum e Codice Monacensi praestantissimo collectae annotationibus instructae. 15 volumes. München: Roesl, 1867 – 1886.

Steinschneider, Moritz: Die hebräischen Handschriften der K. Hof- und Staatsbibliothek in München: ein Beitrag zur Geschichte dieser Bibliothek. In: Sitzungsberichte der Philosophisch-Philologischen und Historischen Classe der K. B. Akademie der Wissenschaften zu München 5,2 (1875), p. 169-206.

Strack, Hermann L. (ed.): Talmud babylonicum codicis hebraici monacensis 95 fautore Johanne Schnorr von Carolsfeld = תלמוד בבלי המנצא בכתב-יד משנת הק"ג לפ"ג בבית עקד הספרים במינכען הבירה בממלכת בייערן ... = Der Babylonische Talmud nach der einzigen vollständigen Handschrift München Codex Hebraicus 95. 2 volumes. Leiden: Lijthoff, 1912.

Prys, Josef: Hebräische Buchdruckereien im Gebiete des heutigen Bayern. In: Bayerische israelitische Gemeindezeitung 6 (1925), p. 1-93.

Prys, Josef: Hebräische Büchereien im Gebiete des heutigen Bayern I. In: Bayerische israelitische Gemeindezeitung 5 (1927), p. 1-139.

Prys, Josef: Hebräische Büchereien im Gebiete des heutigen Bayern II. In: Bayerische israelitische Gemeindezeitung 11 (1927), p. 326-333.

Gratzl, Emil: Die Hebraica in der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. In: Bayerische israelitische Gemeindezeitung 20 (1932), p. 305-310.

Striedl, Hans: Geschichte der Hebraica-Sammlung der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. In: Franke, Herbert (ed.): Orientalisches aus Münchener Bibliotheken und Sammlungen. Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1957. p. 1-3.

Prijs, Leo: Münchens Hebraica-Schätze und ihre Bearbeiter. In: Bulletin des Leo-Baeck-Instituts 6 (1963), p. 67-80.

Grönbold, Günter: Die orientalischen Handschriften der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. In: Bibliotheksforum Bayern 9 (1981), p. 68-84.

Dannhauer, Paul Gerhard: The Hebraica collection of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. In: Rowland Smith, Diana (ed.): Hebrew studies: papers presented at a colloquium on resources for Hebraica in Europe held at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 11 – 13 September 1989/11 – 13 Elul 5749. London, 1994. p. 62-64.

Timm, Erika: Zur Frühgeschichte der jiddischen Erzählprosa. In: Beiträge zur Geschichte der deutschen Sprache und Literatur 117 (1995), p. 243-280.

Dannhauer, Paul Gerhard: Die Hebraica-Sammlung der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. In: Bibliotheksforum Bayern 25 (1997), p. 36-45.

Dannhauer, Paul Gerhard; Horstkemper, Gregor: Die Münchner Handschrift des babylonischen Talmuds im Internet. In: Bibliotheksforum Bayern 31 (2003), p. 201-213.

Dannhauer, Paul Gerhard: Die Hebraica-Sammlung der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. In: Zeitschrift für Bibliothekswesen und Bibliographie 53 (2006), p. 161-164.

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.

Rebhan, Helga: Die Bibliothek Johann Albrecht Widmanstetters. In: Schmid, Alois (ed.): Die Anfänge der Münchener Hofbibliothek unter Albrecht V. München: Beck, 2009. p. 112-131.

Kellner, Stephan; Wanninger, Susanne: Forschung nach NS-Raubgut in der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek: einem „schlechten Geschäft“ auf der Spur. In: Dehnel, Regine (ed.): NS-Raubgut in Museen, Bibliotheken und Archiven: Viertes Hannoversches Symposium. Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, 2012. p. 63-70.

Schorsch, Ismar: Kataloge und kritische Forschung: die Münchner Judaica-Schätze im Kontext jüdischer Sammlungen im Deutschland des 19. Jahrhunderts. In: Münchner Beiträge zur jüdischen Geschichte und Kultur 5 (2011), p. 9-23.

Tamari, Ittai Joseph: Das Volk der Bücher: eine Bücherreise durch sechs Jahrhunderte jüdischen Lebens. München: Oldenbourg, 2012. Studien zur Jüdischen Geschichte und Kultur in Bayern. 8.

Wimmer, Stefan Jakob: München und der Orient. Lindenberg im Allgäu: Fink, 2012. p. 44-55.

Wimmer, Stefan Jakob: „Unser welt“: eine jiddische Stimme aus dem München der Nachkriegszeit: Neuerwerbung einer jüdischen DP-Wochenzeitung an der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. In: Bibliotheksmagazin (2012) 2, p. 9-13.

Wimmer, Stefan Jakob: Hebraica Monacensia: Alltag und Highlights mit den hebräischen Beständen der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. In: Blätter Abrahams: Beiträge zum interreligiösen Dialog 13 (2013), p. 69-88.

Wimmer, Stefan Jakob: Die wertvollste Münchner Talmud-Handschrift im digitalen Portal der Israelischen Nationalbibliothek. In: Bibliotheksmagazin (2013) 1, p. 82-83.

Rebhan, Helga: Orientalische und asiatische Handschriften und seltene Drucke der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. In: Ceynowa, Klaus; Hermann, Martin (ed.): Bibliotheken: Innovation aus Tradition: Rolf Griebel zum 65. Geburtstag. Berlin: De Gruyter Saur, 2014. p. 322-333. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/9783110310511 [access on 03/21/2016].

Wimmer, Stefan Jakob: Publikationen aus jüdischen DP-Camps an der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek. In: Henkel, Anne-Katrin; Rahe, Thomas (ed.): Publizistik in jüdischen Displaced-Persons-Camps im Nachkriegsdeutschland: Charakteristika, Medientypen und bibliothekarische Überlieferung. Frankfurt am Main: Klostermann, 2014. p. 169-183.