Reading Room for Manuscripts and Rare Books

Opening hours Reading Room for Manuscripts and Rare Books

Monday – Friday09:00 – 17:00

Contact Reading Room for Manuscripts and Rare Books

Phone+49 89 28638-2263
Online inquiry serviceOnline form

Booking a working place


The mission of safeguarding the outstanding cultural goods and preserving them for future generations determines the use of the materials in the present. For this reason, the collections administrated by the Department of Manuscripts and Rare Books can be consulted exclusively in the department's reading room.

The reading room offers a reference library with currently around 49,800 volumes and 30 working places specially equipped for using old books.

Reference library

The reference library includes around 50,000 volumes, among them 150 current periodicals, 5,100 manuscript catalogues, 550 incunabula catalogues, 2,400 facsimile copies and 2,000 antiquarian books catalogues. In addition, the reference library offers over 2,200 microfilms and numerous microfiches about manuscripts which are not kept in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. Further, also numerous photo albums are available, containing image material from the manuscript collection of the department. New acquisitions added to the reference library are presented regularly on an extra table.

The collection of the reference library can be searched in BSB DISCOVER! (location mark: Hbh).


The volumes of the reference library are shelved according to subject areas. Where required, the subject areas are further broken down into countries, locations and/or persons in alphabetical order. Thus, the manuscript catalogues (E) are arranged geographically in accordance with locations in alphabetical order (Ea – Ez). The literature on printed books has not yet been classified systematically. All the works belonging to this area are kept behind the lending desk of the reading room. They bear the classification mark "Zw", are numbered consecutively and can be ordered using a yellow order slip.

Shelving system of the reference library

AGeneral encyclopaedias
BBook studies and library science
DBayerische Staatsbibliothek
EManuscript catalogues
FCodicology and ancillary historical sciences
GHistory of writing
HArt history and iconography with reference to book illumination
JBook illumination and hand drawings
KFacsimile editions of and monographs on individual manuscripts
MTheology in general and biblia
NGreek, Latin, Christian-oriental theological and philosophic texts and corresponding analyses
OHagiography, heortology, liturgy and music
QModern Papers and autographs
RAutograph facsimiles
SPapyrology und ostraka
TCatalogues of incunabula
VCatalogue of printed work
XStudies of book bindings
YAntiquarian books catalogues and inventory catalogues
Zw(= U and W) Book printing, studies of incunabula, book illustration, graphic prints, exlibris, libri selecti etc. (no classification system so far, shelved according to serial number in the inventory behind the reading-room desk)

Loaning items to the reading room

Most of the bound manuscripts and printed works can be ordered in BSB DISCOVER! by users admitted by the department. In certain cases (especially in the case of personal papers), however, loan orders still need to be placed conventionally, using an order slip. In both cases it is important to ensure that the classification marks are written correctly.

Overview of the notation of the classification marks  (PDF, 41 KB)

For ordering online, a special library card of the department is required (user group 88), which is issued and extended, if required, in the reading room.

It usually takes one day until materials are ready for collection. Pre-ordering is recommended  (in writing, e.g. by e-mail, at least 3 working days in advance).

Special objects, such as manuscripts from the vault, the most valuable printed works and items in a critical state of conservation, for example, can usually be consulted exclusively in the form of photographic representations. In the case of personal papers, restriction periods and the state of conservation of the materials can lead to a limitation of use.

Moreover, also books from the general stacks can be provided for consultation in this reading room, particularly books belonging to the old stocks from 1500 to 1840. These materials can also be found and ordered comfortably in BSB DISCOVER!. For this purpose, no special library card of the Department of Manuscripts and Rare Books is required. It takes about 2 days until such items are ready for collection.


Search tools

Almost the complete collection of printed books and the majority of the manuscripts has been catalogued electronically and entered either in BSB DISCOVER! or in special databases.


For a large part of the manuscripts printed catalogues are available, which are digitized and provided online increasingly. Handwritten or type-written finding aids (repertories) and card indices are still maintained for parts of the collection. These can be consulted at the information desk or in the reading room.

The most important repertories (finding aids) and card indices are:

  • Subject-related repertories for all manuscript groups (sorted according to languages) – maintained up to 2008, since then entered directly in the Bavarian union catalogue
  • Older special repertories and catalogues, such as Codices Bavarici, Codices iconographici, etc.
    ► BSB-CodIcon Online  (Codices iconographici)
  • Corresponding author and subject registers for manuscripts in the form of card indices – maintained up to 2008
  • Catalogues of origins, scribes and prior owners for a part of the manuscripts (established by Schmeller)
  • Detailed repertories for a part of the collection of modern papers
  • Alphabetical catalogue of autographs (sender index and recipient index, with these and particularly the catalogue entries from 1992 onward being searchable via Kalliope)
    ► Kalliope
  • The card index of editions and of secondary literature about the manuscripts administrated by the department, and about the collections of printed books to a lesser extent, was discontinued in 2003/2004 and has thus become obsolete. The research documentation can therefore be used exclusively in the form of the regularly updated database.
    ► Forschungsdokumentation Handschriften  (Research documentation manuscripts)
  • Photographic archive of the Department of Manuscripts (index of available microfilms [Clm (PDF, 250 KB) | Cgm (PDF, 188 KB) | Cod.graec. (PDF, 44 KB) | Cod.icon. (PDF, 12 KB) | other European manuscripts (PDF, 17 KB) | Oriental and East-Asian manuscripts (PDF, 42 KB) | handwritten catalogues and Codices simulati (PDF, 12 KB) | modern papers (PDF, 224 KB)]), flat microforms, ektachromes and small picture slides, overview of the collection of photo albums (PDF, 97 KB) | Microfilm collections of external libraries available at the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek
  • Card index of descriptions of book bindings, taking account of the holdings of the collection of book bindings and extraordinary bindings in other collection groups (ownership marks, book binders, artistic techniques, etc.)
    ► Einbanddatenbank  (Bindings database)
  • Alphabetical catalogue by owners' names for the collection of exlibris

Information and instructions for use

  • The reading room has a video surveillance system.
  • In the complete area of the reading room, only pencils may be used for writing.
  • Media units taken from the shelves in the gallery should not be returned there by the users themselves, but placed in a specially marked shelf compartment for this purpose.

Brief instructions for use  (PDF, 220 KB)
Detailed instructions for use  (PDF, 225 KB)  (in German)

Information counter

If you have any questions, our librarians will be pleased to be of assistance. We recommend making an appointment in advance in case you wish to discuss more extensive scholarly questions.

Technical equipment

Scanning services

Scanners and printers

It is on principle forbidden to library users to produce digital photographs from manuscripts and valuable old printed books. In contrast, users are permitted to produce digital scans from the open-shelf collections of the reference library (Hbh – with the exception of the facsimiles) and from books from the general stacks. A book scanner is available for this purpose at the entrance to the reading room. The digital copies can either be stored on a USB stick brought by the user or can be printed out directly in black and white.

Detailed information about services and fees, further locations, service times, technical support, etc. can be found here:
Scanners, copiers, printers

Digitization orders

The digitization and photographic reproductions service within the framework of the document delivery service "Altes Buch" ("older and rare printed works") of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek produces high-quality and reproducible scans. You can generate corresponding orders for reproductions with the aid of the programme ERaTo. Orders are accepted by our staff at the entrance of the reading room.

Document delivery service "Altes Buch"  (scope of services, prices, etc.)

Place a reproduction order via ERaTo

Alternatively, it is still possible to place such orders in writing, conventionally by post or e-mail.
A reproduction order can be turned down for reasons of state of conservation or legal reasons.
In any case, please give us your full postal address in order to avoid unnecessary further inquiries.


For the prices charged please consult the list:
Fees for copies

The fees charged for publication (reproduction, reprint, etc.) are subject to an extra set of regulations.
Fees for reproductions

The fees are charged on the basis of § 12 Arts. 2 and 3 of the General Regulations on the Use of Bavarian State Libraries (Allgemeine Benützungsordnung der Bayerischen Staatlichen Bibliotheken – ABOB) of 18 August 1993 (GVBl (law and ordinance gazette) p. 635). The fee regulations are applicable to all copies ordered from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.
General Regulations on the Use of Bavarian State Libraries (Allgemeine Benützungsordnung der Bayerischen Staatlichen Bibliotheken)