Virtual Exhibitions

Selected exhibitions from previous years may be found on Google Arts & Culture.

UNESCO Memory of the World

Author's image in the Bamberg Apocalypse | SBB, Msc.Bibl.140, fol. 1r
Author's image in the Bamberg Apocalypse | SBB, Msc.Bibl.140, fol. 1r

There are 15 manuscripts from the early Middle Ages featured in this virtual exhibition, which was organized on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Bamberg as a World Heritage Site. The oldest codex is the Lorsch Pharmacopoeia, which is a collection of medicinal remedies dating approximately to Charlemagne’s reign (ca. 800 C.E.). This key work for the transmission of Classical medicine into the Christian Middle Ages has been registered in the UNESCO World Memory of the World Documentary Heritage Programme since 2013.

 

Other highlights are the wonderfully illuminated manuscripts from the Abbey of Reichenau in Bodensee that commissioned by Emperor Otto III and Henry II a round 1000 C.E. Two of them belong to the group of Reichenau manuscripts, which were already included in the UNESCO World Documentary Heritage in 2003: Commentary to the Song of Songs, as well as the famous Bamberg Apocalypse with its cycle of 50 miniatures.

 

The cover of the Bamberg Apocalypse was once decorated with an impressive agate plate. The gemstone from the treasury of the Munich Residence can be admired digitally. The virtual exhibition is enrichened by another Codex, the Reichenau Evangeliary from the Bavarian State Library in Munich, another part of the UNESCO initiative.

 

Virtual Exhibition

UNESCO Memory of the World

 

 

Miniatures of the Bamberg Apocalypse

Dragon with six little serpent's heads | SBB, Msc.Bibl.140, fol. 31v
Dragon with six little serpent's heads | SBB, Msc.Bibl.140, fol. 31v

 

The Bamberg Apocalypse is the most important manuscript of the Bamberg State Library. In addition to the Book of Revelations (the last book of the Bible), it still contains an evangeliary. This second part of the text presents the portions of the gospel texts read during Masses of the central feasts of the Lord and the saints. The content was therefore not tailored to everyday liturgical practice.

 

The codex was written around 1010 on the island of Reichenau on Bodensee by one primary scribe and two other hands. With its luxurious decorations, it represents one of the greatest creations of Ottonian book art. The text is adorned with countless initials with ornaments. The Apocalypse is accompanied by 50 large-sized miniatures of expressive effect. The manuscript was given by the Emperor Henry II and his wife Kunigunde around 1020 to the Collegiate Church of St. Stephan in Bamberg for its dedication. The manuscript was added to the World Register of Documentary Heritage in 2003 by the International Committee for the UNESCO Memory of the World Program.

 

Virtual Exhibition

Miniatures of the Bamberg Apocalypse

 

The Bamberg Psalter

The Bamberg Psalter, presented in the showroom of the former archive of the Prince-Bishop | SBB, Msc.Bibl.48, fols. 60v-61r
The Bamberg Psalter, presented in the showroom of the former archive of the Prince-Bishop | SBB, Msc.Bibl.48, fols. 60v-61r

The Bamberg Psalter, a 13th-century manuscript held in the Bamberg State Library, counts among the most important works of South German book art from the High Middle Ages. Its beautiful painted decoration fascinates until today: It comprises 15 full-page miniatures on a gilt ground, eleven pages with large ornamental initials, 256 smaller initiales and 24 medallions in the calendar. The colourful miniatures depict scenes from the life of Christ, thus visualizing the connection between the psalms from the Old Testament and the history of salvation narrated in the New Testament.

The contemporary horn binding is a great rarity. Only 18 such bindings have survived from the Middle Ages. The binding of the Bamberg Psalter is one of the earliest and best preserved examples. It consists of two parchment leaves bearing painted and gilt images. Translucent sheets of horn, which have been fastened to the wooden covers with narrow strips of silver, protect the pictures.

The Bamberg Psalter is a joint work created by two high-ranking artists from different regional backgrounds at the point of transition from Romanesque to Gothic art. It is likely that the splendid manuscript was produced around the year 1230 in Regensburg for a noble lady from the family of the Counts of Hirschberg, who resided in the region of Eichstätt.

An exact facsimile of the Bamberg Psalter was published by Quaternio Verlag Luzern in 2019.

Virtual Exhibition
The Bamberg Psalter

Colours Between Covers

Initial depicting the Annunciation | SBB, Msc.Lit.112, fol. 10r
Initial depicting the Annunciation | SBB, Msc.Lit.112, fol. 10r

The 15th century was a time of religious and cultural upheaval. Penitential preachers criticized societal ills, and monastic reform movements sought to align life in secular communities more closely with Christian norms. These changes also included the transcription and manufacturing of books after Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the middle of the century that enabled their rapid production and distribution.

 

Even though books were becoming increasingly available, they were anything but a mass commodity. Each reflects the individual needs of its owner, especially when it is adorned with artistic decorations. Not only were hand-written work decorated in such a way, but printed texts were also often richly decorated with painted initials, borders, and miniatures.

 

The collection of illuminated books of the 15th and early 16th century, which the Bamberg State Library treasures, is to this day largely unknown. A representative profile of about 20 examples shows the range of the collection. At the beginning is the drawing of a liturgical vestment acquired in 2015 Rationale from Pommersfelden. There are manuscripts written by nuns and the printed Koberger Bible that came from Nuremberg to Bamberg, but important works of art that were create in Bamberg as well, such as a chronicle of the Michelsberg abbots and various liturgical prints.

 

Virtual Exhibition

Colours Between Covers

Bibliotheca Bipontina

Portrait of Charles II August, Duke of Zweibrücken (1746–1795) amidst his court library | SBB
Portrait of Charles II August, Duke of Zweibrücken (1746–1795) amidst his court library | SBB

Most visitors of the Bamberg State Library have no idea that the impressive Baroque building also houses a magnificent princely library. The so-called Bipontina Room on the first floor, which is only open to the public during guided tours, hides a truly royal treasure of books: the Library of Duke Karl II August of Pfalz-Zweibrücken.

This virtual exhibition tells the story of the collector and shows how his collection of books came to Bamberg. It contains city views from the late 18th century as well as biographical sources of the Wittelsbach family. Rare, illustrated books from the Bibliotheca Bipontina give an insight in the period of political upheaval during the late Absolutism and the French Revolution.

In the second part of the exhibition, we present selected works from the Bipontina. Woodcuts and copperplate engravings vividly depict contemporary knowledge. The collection’s thematic focus is on medicine, geography, history, fiction, music, botany and zoology as well as technology.

Virtual Exhibition
Bibliotheca Bipontina

Joseph Heller and the Art of Collecting

Joseph Heller and his birthplace at the Lower Bridge in Bamberg. Watercoloured drawing by Andreas Blattner with the collector's portrait by Lazarus Sichling | MvO A I 75 with HVG 41/147
Joseph Heller and his birthplace at the Lower Bridge in Bamberg. Watercoloured drawing by Andreas Blattner with the collector's portrait by Lazarus Sichling | MvO A I 75 with HVG 41/147

When still a young man, the Bamberg art historian and collector Joseph Heller (1798–1849) declared his intention to leave his collection of works of art as well as his library and papers to the recently-founded Royal Library in his home town. With the first director of this institution, Heinrich Joachim Jäck, Heller shared common interests and stood in a friendly exchange. In August 1851, the library succeeded in acquiring Heller’s enormous and multi-faceted collection.

Thus, Heller became the most important sponsor of the library, today known as the State Library of Bamberg, which continues to preserve, catalogue and publicize his legacy. Since 2017 the library is engaged in a project funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft which pursued the goal of making the historical arrangement and contents of Heller’s collection accessible in digital form.

The exhibition prepared to mark the completion of the project redraws the development and some areas of Heller’s collection on the basis of more than 50 selected items. Particular emphasis is laid on the networks that Heller established with other students of art in order to expand his collection and knowledge. He took particular pride in gathering original works of Albrecht Dürer, who stood in the centre of Heller’s research. Drawings and prints by the Nuremberg artist are thus the highlights.

Virtual Exhibition
Joseph Heller and the Art of Collecting

Winter and Christmas in Books and Pictures

Picture by Artur Scheiner for E. T. A. Hoffmann's childrens' fairytale "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" | SBB, L.g.o.1228, Frontispiece
Picture by Artur Scheiner for E. T. A. Hoffmann's childrens' fairytale "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" | SBB, L.g.o.1228, Frontispiece

The Bamberg State Library preserves many mediaeval manuscripts which contain depictions of the Christmas miracle. With great inventiveness, painters illustrated books with the key events of the birth of Christ. Images showing the infant Jesus asleep in a cradle with Mary and Joseph praying silently convey an atmosphere of quiet meditation. In contrast, the annunciation to the sheperds is full of excitement: Angels descend from heaven, music sounds, and the sheperds scramble about in confusion.

In more recent times, artists created numerous new variants to the standard repertoire. Albrecht Dürer and E. T. A. Hoffmann are among the famous inventors of pictures and texts for the Christmas time. A nutcracker is not only an essential implement for baking cookies, but he also comes to live in a fairy tale set in a Biedermeier family.

Cookery books and greeting cards from 19th-century Franconia mirror the traditions which marked the winter season. The holidays of saint Martin and saint Nicholas were celebrated with particular joy. In the Christmas period, decorated fir trees and miniature versions of nativity scenes decorated churches and private homes. Stories were told and carols were sung. Thus, the exhibition presents a small panorama of the festive season in times past – immerse yourself in nostalgia, ponder and smile!

Virtual Exhibition
Winter and Christmas in Books and Pictures

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