The Syrian collection counts around 300 printed volumes and 29 manuscripts of literature in the original script, written in the lingua franca of the western Asian region used for far more than a thousand years. The term Syrian generally refers to an East-Aramaic dialect of the Semitic languages.

Main focuses of content

The main focus of the collection's contents is on humanities – philosophy, religion (Islam, Christian Orient), history, archaeology, linguistics and literature, ethnic studies, architecture and art and in particular classic text editions.

A broad variety of scholarly text editions with translations and secondary literature on the Syrian linguistic, literary and cultural history is acquired in western European languages.


Manuscript catalogues

  • Desreumaux, Alain: Répertoire des bibliothèques et des catalogues de manuscrits syriaques. Paris: Éditions du CNRS, 1991.

Cod.syr. = Codices syrici

  • [Cod.syr. 22]
    Leroy, Jules: Les manuscrits syriaques a peintures. Paris, 1964. p. 413-414.

Digital copies of Syrian manuscripts can be searched in BSB DISCOVER! or in the Digital Collections.


Digital Collections

Catalogues of Syrian printed works

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


History of the Syrian collection

Outset in the 16th century

The beginnings of the Syrian collection go back to the foundation of the Munich court library in the year 1558 by Duke Albrecht V. The founding act of the Munich Court Library was constituted by the purchase of the private library of the highly educated and polyglot diplomat and Orientalist Johann Albrecht Widmanstetter (1506 – 1557), who is regarded as one of the pioneers of Oriental studies.

Among other things, the codices 1 and 5, the first imprint of the New Testament and an introduction to the Syrian language, formed part of the collection at the time of foundation. The first Syrian print of the New Testament "Ketābā d-ewangelyōn qaddīšā de-māran w-alāhan Yešuʿ mešiḥā: reliqua hoc codice comprehensa pagina proxima indicabit ... characteribus et lingua syra Jesu Christo vernacula ... expressa" (Vienna, 1555, Res/4 B.orient. 105 and Rar. 155), which was supported by the then chancellor of King Ferdinand and Orientalist Widmanstetter, is considered an outstanding typographic performance.

Introduction to the Syrian language  (Cod.syr. 1)
First Syrian imprint of the New Testament  (Rar. 155)  (Res/4 B.orient. 105)

19th and 20st century

Due to the secularisation, for example the manuscript Cod.syr. 4 came to the Munich court library from the Dominican convent in Augsburg, and the Syrian first imprint "Introductio in Chaldaicam linguam, Syriacam atque Armenicam" (Pavia, 1539, Res/4 Polygl. 3) from the Chapter of Augustinian Canons in Polling. Like a number of other first imprints in Oriental languages, this Syrian first imprint belongs to the rare works held by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

In the year 1858, the purchase of the library of the French Orientalist Étienne-Marc Quatremère brought 11 further Syrian manuscripts (Cod.syr. 7 – 17) and several Syrian printed works to the Munich court library, such as Cod.syr. 11 or the printed "Grammatica Syriaca cum syntaxi perfecta hactenus non ita visa et lexico brevissimo" by David Grafunder (Witteberga, 1665, Res/ . 418 s).

The probably oldest example of Syrian book history in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek merits special mention. In 1921, the Palimpsest 1066 was purchased, an Arabic omnibus manuscript consisting of only seven parchment sheets, dating back to the 9th or early 10th century. However, the previous Syrian script, which can still be seen partially under the Arabic script, most probably goes back to the 6th century.

Breydenbach's well-known "Peregrinatio in terram sanctam" (Mainz, 1486, 2 Inc.c.a. 1725) was the first work in which a Syrian alphabet was printed.

Psalms in Nestorian script [i.a.]  (Cod.syr. 4)
Introductio in Chaldaicam linguam, Syriacam atque Armenicam  (Res/4 Polygl. 3)
Order of the cell of anchoretic novices (Einsiedler-Brevier) [i.a.]  (Cod.syr. 11)
Grafunder, David: Grammatica Syriaca ...  (Res/ 418 s)
Palimpsest  ( 1066)
Breydenbach's Peregrinatio in terram sanctam  (2 Inc.c.a. 1725)


Schönfelder, J. M.: Hymnen, Proklamationen und Märtyrergesänge des Nestorianischen Breviers. In: Tübinger theologische Quartalsschrift 48 (1866) 2, p. 179-200.

Strothmann, Werner: Die Anfänge der syrischen Studien in Europa. Wiesbaden, 1971. Göttinger Orientforschungen, 1. Reihe: Syriaca. 1.

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

Coakley, J. F.: Printing in Syriac, 1539 – 1985. In: Middle Eastern languages and the print revolution: a cross-cultural encounter: a catalogue and companion to the exhibition. Westhofen, 2002. p. 93-115.

Exhibition catalogues

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.

Fabian, Claudia (ed.): Kulturkosmos der Renaissance: die Gründung der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek: Katalog der Ausstellung zum 450-jährigen Jubiläum 7. März bis 1. Juni 2008 ... Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2008.