Manuscripts of Emperor Henry II

The 165 codices and manuscript fragments of the Bamberg State Library that can be traced back to Emperor Henry II (died in 1024), either verifiably or with a high probability, are presented digitally in the Emperor Henry Library.



Following the foundation of the Bishopric of Bamberg in 1007 through the later emperor Henry II (973–1024), the Cathedral Treasury and the Cathedral Library successively obtained valuable manuscripts. These were either donated to Bamberg by other libraries or ordered by Henry II specifically for the foundation of his bishopric.

In the course of the secularization in 1802/03, the libraries of the monasteries of the former Prince-Bishopric of Bamberg passed into the ownership of the Bavarian state. They were incorporated almost completely into the Electoral Library, today’s Bamberg State Library. Six outstanding early medieval manuscripts, amongst them the book of pericopes of Henry II and the gospel book of Otto III from Bamberg’s Cathedral Treasury as well as the Heliand manuscript from the Cathedral Library, were assigned to today’s Bavarian State Library in Munich.

The book collection that dates back to Henry II survived the passage of time essentially without damages. Today, the holdings of the Bamberg State Library incorporate 165 codices and manuscript fragments dating from the 5th century until around 1024, the year of Henry II’s death. Thus, the Bamberg State Library holds the only imperial library of the late Early Middle Ages worldwide which has been preserved coherently to a large extent.

Two luxuriously illuminated Reichenau manuscripts from the first turn of the millennium were added to the UNESCO Memory of the World programme in 2003: the Bamberg Apokalypse (Msc.Bibl.140) as well as a commentary to the Song of Songs, the Book of Proverbs and the Book of Daniel (Msc.Bibl.22). In 2013, the Lorsch Pharmacopoeia (Msc.Med.1) from the former Cathedral Library, which was written at the beginning of the 9th century, was declared World Document Heritage as well.

Aim of the Project

The digitization project was undertaken in order to make this unique library available to a greater number of users and to facilitate the investigation of individual manuscripts as well as the whole ensemble. In cooperation with the Bavarian State Library in Munich and with financial aid from the Upper Franconia Foundation, the Bamberg State Library provides these 165 manuscripts digitally and free of charge on the internet. An additional benefit arises through the enrichment of the digital copies with structural data.

Selection, Dating and Localisation

The Bamberg State Library owns a total of around 1000 medieval manuscripts. The digitization project incorporates about 40 manuscripts that can verifiably be traced back to Henry II as well as those manuscripts that can be considered likely to have been donated to Bamberg by this emperor before his death in 1024. The definition was generous: For example, the manuscripts that date back to the first half of the 11th century or the first third of the 11th were included into the project, while those from the second quarter of the 11th century or the middle of the 11th century were not.

However, the question of dating manuscripts is often controversial in research. As it was clearly not the goal of the project to become involved in research controversies, let alone to solve them, a strictly formal procedure was chosen: For the dating (as well as for the localisation), the youngest catalog of the Bamberg manuscripts was consulted first (Suckale-Redlefsen 2004). For those manuscripts that were not listed there, the second youngest catalog (Bischoff 1998) was consulted and the datings (and localisations) given there were adopted. Lastly, the catalog of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica (Hoffmann 1995) was considered; all those of the manuscripts listed there that are not listed in the two other catalogs, but may, according to Hoffmann’s dating, have belonged to Henry II’s library, were chosen for the project. These criteria ensure that in the spite of the often controversial and uncertain dating the selection of manuscripts for the project was conducted with the widest possible range.

The codices were generally digitized completely in order to preserve the overall context. In the case of a few composite manuscripts, this results in the incorporation of relatively young companion volumes that can definitely not be traced back to Henry II.

Catalog Descriptions

Almost all manuscripts of the Emperor Henry Library can be found in the  manuscript catalog of the Bamberg State Library that was published by Friedrich Leitschuh and Hans Fischer from 1895 until 1908. Although this catalog is now over 100 years old and therefore is not up-to-date with current research, it is of great usefulness even today, since it still provides an excellent first access into the structure, content and provenance of the Bamberg manuscripts.

While the focus of the catalog by Leitschuh and Fischer lies on the philological description of the manuscripts, the catalog by Gude Sackale-Redlefsen, which was published in 2004 in two volumes and covers the manuscripts from the 8th until the 11th centuries of the Bamberg State Library, puts the art-historical aspect in the foreground. The work of Suckale-Redlefsen is on a much more current state of scholarship than Leitschuh/Fischer. However, it considers only the illuminated manuscripts. Therefore, descriptions by Suckale Redfelsen are only available for about half of the manuscripts.

Research Documentation

The research documentation indicates scholarly and general literature that has been published with reference to the manuscripts and has become known to us. This ranges from a short mention in a footnote to an essay through a monograph. Publications that use pictures of Bamberg manuscripts only for decorative purposes, without referring to the manuscripts in the text, are also included. This data is kept up-to-date in an online database.