Early Printed Books

The Bamberg State Library’s holdings of early printed books from the 15th to the 19th century comprises around 130,000 titles, most of which have already been recorded in the Bamberg Catalogue. The works are arranged according to a structured classification system, which was created at the end of the 19th century and was thereafter expanded to include holdings from larger private collections.


The collection of 15th century prints in the Bamberg State Library contains more than 3600 incunabula, books printed with movable type. Also in the collection are about 70 single-sheet prints. The State Library holds the only copy in Germany of around 100 incunabula.

These incunabula offer an insight into a broad spectrum of the printing history of the 15th century. Venice, Strasbourg, Nuremberg, Cologne, Basel, Leipzig, and other important early centres of book printing are represented in many editions in the collection.

Of the incunabula printed in Bamberg, 46 are in the holdings of the State Library. This constitutes about a third of all editions printed in Bamberg to survive. Here, a reprint of the Gutenberg Bible was published as early as 1459/1461; it is presumably the second printed edition of the Latin Bible (copy in the Bavarian State Library). The Bamberg State Library, however, only has fragments of this edition.

The Bamberg collection is documented in relevant incunabula databases. As part of a DFG project, about 530 incunabula with book illuminations are currently being catalogued.


Of particular rarity are blockbooks, which are books from the 15th century printed not from movable type but rather from woodcuts. Only about 100 editions have been preserved, of which around 600 copies exist worldwide. The five blockbooks of the Bamberg State Library are accessible online via the digital collection Bamberg Treasures and as part of the project Blockbooks in Bavarian Collections.

Early Modern Printed Books

Among the early printed books from the 16th to 19th centuries are numerous works on philology and literature, history and cultural history, theology and religious studies, science and technology, law, economics, and medicine and pharmaceuticals.

In addition to books, the collection also includes numerous pamphlets, leaflets, and single-leaf prints dating to the Reformation and the Thirty Years’ War, official announcements and decrees of the Bamberg Prince-Bishops, and journalism on the French Revolution and various political movements of the 19th century. The prints and drawings contains numerous armorial calendars in German and Latin from the 15th to the 19th century.


Pamphlets from the fields of medicine, law, military and history are another subgroup in the genre of early prints. In the State Library Collection, there are also many examples of personal writings, such as poems, funeral and memorial sermons, in particular written by the clergy of the Bamberg region.

Other than newspapers, official gazettes, and other publications from Bamberg institutions, the library holds other ephemera that are important for regional research, including, but not limited to: theatre leaflets and programmes, school rules, proclamations and decrees, brochures, advertising material, posters, timetables, invitations, and lecture and course offerings from the old university.

In addition to a large number of doctoral theses of German universities since the 17th century, there are numerous theses, mostly from Augsburg printing houses. There is also a large collection of catalogues from the book trade as well as library, auction, and art catalogues.


Geldner, Ferdinand: Die Buchdruckerkunst im alten Bamberg 1458/59 bis 1919. Bamberg, 1964 (catalogue). 

Das Bamberger Blockbuch. München, 1980 (catalogue).

Schemmel, Bernhard: Auserlesene Schrift-Bilder. Zu einer Sammlung von Schreibmeisterblättern der Staatsbibliothek Bamberg. In: Manfred von Arnim (Hrsg.): Festschrift Otto Schäfer. Stuttgart, 1987, pp. 131–161 (catalogue).

Schemmel, Bernhard: Staatsbibliothek Bamberg. Handschriften, Buchdruck um 1500, E. T. A. Hoffmann. Bamberg, 1990 , pp. 99– 118 (digitized version).

Handbuch der historischen Buchbestände in Deutschland. Vol. 11 (1997), pp. 127–140 (online).

Schemmel, Bernhard: Die Graphischen Thesen- und Promotionsblätter in Bamberg. Wiesbaden, 2001 (catalogue).

Wagner, Bettina (Hrsg.): Blockbücher des 15. Jahrhunderts. Eine Experimentierphase im frühen Buchdruck. Wiesbaden, 2013 (catalogue).

Wagner, Bettina (Hrsg.): Xylographa bavarica. Blockbücher in bayerischen Sammlungen (Xylo-Bav). Wiesbaden, 2016 (catalogue).

Biller, Josef H.: Calendaria Bambergensia. Bamberger Einblattkalender des 15. bis 19. Jahrhunderts von der Inkunabelzeit bis zur Säkularisation. Weißenhorn, 2018 (catalogue).