Approximately 6400 manuscripts are housed in the Bamberg State Library, including 1000 mediaeval codices and fragments, which came into the library’s possession from monasteries and religious collections after the secularization in 1802/03.
Six notable manuscripts from secularised ecclesiastical institutions have not remained in Bamberg, instead became part of the Bavarian State Library:
|Gospels from Mainz (Clm 4451)|
|Pericopes of Henry II (Clm 4452)|
|Gospels of Otto III (Clm 4453)|
|Reichenau Gospels (Clm 4454)|
|Sacramentary of Henry II (Clm 4456)|
|Heliand (Cgm 25)|
Outstanding examples of the flourishing art of book illumination at the turn of the first millennium are the Bamberg Apocalypse (Msc.Bibl.140) and the Commentary to the Song of Songs, to the Book of Proverbs and to the Book of Daniel (Msc.Bibl.22), which both come from the scriptorium of the Benedictine monastery on the island of Reichenau in Lake Constance. The two Reichenau manuscripts were added to the UNESCO Memory of the World programme in 2003.
In 2013, the Lorsch Pharmacopoeia (Msc.Med.1) was added to this register. The manuscript was created circa 800 in the Benedictine abbey of Lorsch in southern Hesse and is the oldest surviving medical-pharmaceutical book of the Western Early Middle Ages.
All three manuscripts that are part of UNESCO Memory of the World are accessible via the digital collection Bamberg Treasures.
When Emperor Henry II (973–1024) founded the Bishopric of Bamberg in 1007, he furnished the cathedral and its library with books for liturgical use and clerical training. Today, there are still 165 codices and manuscript fragments in the Bamberg State Library, which were collected before the death of the founder of the diocese and therefore most likely came to Bamberg as a part of his donation. They are accessible online via the digital collection Manuscripts of Henry II. Thus, the State Library has the world's only preserved imperial book collection from the late Middle Ages.
The cathedral school already gathered prominence during the first century of its existence. Manuscripts collected in this period still make Bamberg an indispensable place for international canonical research and philological studies. The oldest item in the Bamberg State Library are fragments of a Livy text (Msc.Class.35a), which date back to the middle of the 5th century.
Due to its imperial origins, the Benedictine abbey, which was founded in 1015 on Michaelsberg, also possessed a rich collection of books. After the reforms by Bishop Otto I the Holy (died in 1139), the scriptorium of the monastery flourished. The so-called Bamberg Schreiberbild in a manuscript with works of the church father Ambrosius (Msc.Patr.5) represents the phases in the manual production of a book. The most important Michaelsberg manuscripts have already been digitized and can be viewed via the digital collection Bamberg Treasures.
Before the secularization, some monastic libraries in the Bishopric of Bamberg were listed in manuscript catalogues, which are now in the State Library and Archive of the Archdiocese of Bamberg and provide insights into the former organisation of the collections. After the libraries were merged in the early 19th century, the manuscripts were organised according to subject areas. In order to distinguish their shelfmark from those of printed books, the shelfmarks of manuscripts begin with “Msc.” (Manuscriptum).
The first librarian of the library after its formation in 1803, Heinrich Joachim Jaeck (1777–1847), brought together his own collection of literature related to Bamberg. It is also arranged by subject (RB.Msc., Msc.Misc.). Manuscripts with reference to Bamberg can also be found in the holdings of the art collector Joseph Heller (JH.Msc.) and the scholar Emil Marschalk von Ostheim (MvO.Msc.). The manuscripts of the Bamberg Historical Society which are on deposit in the State Library have been separated from a larger complex with archival material and are also organized by subject (HV.Msc.).
The Bamberg State Library's collection of alba amicorum comprises more than 700 items from the 16th to 20th centuries. Due to its size and quality, the collection takes a leading position within Bavaria and constitutes one of the most important holdings of friendship albums in all of Germany. On the basis of private legacies with a regional bias like those of Joseph Heller (1798–1849) und Emil Marschalk von Ostheim (1841–1903) and as a result of a broad acquisition policy, the library built up a collection of remarkable chronological and geographical width, which provides an impressive overview over the manifold manifestations and transformations of this book type. Today, the development of the album amicorum can be traced from its beginnings in the Reformation period over the heyday of the genre in the 18th century and the mass phenomenon of the 19th-century friendship book up to modern examples for industrially produced commodities.
Within the Bamberg holdings, albums which originated in Franconia or Southern Germany dominate, but there is also a substantial number of examples from Northern Germany. The entries document the owner's wide networks of friends which sometimes extended even to other European countries. A broad range of academic, professional and social milieus are represented. Towards the end of the 18th century, the album amicorum became popular among women who began to compile their own books. The visual attractiveness of the books lies in the individual designs of the autograph entries and their artistic enhancement. In addition to more than 550 albums in book format, the library's collection of prints and drawings comprises more than 160 illustrated leaves from albums which were broken up or from boxes with loose leaves.
The manuscript collection is continually growing. New acquisitions enrich in particular the collection of album amicorum from the 16th to the 20th century, many of which are of Franconian origin. Occasionally, outstanding mediaeval manuscripts are acquired, for which, the generous support from third party funding agencies such as the Upper Franconia Foundation, the Ernst von Siemens Art Foundation, and the Cultural Foundation of the German Federal States is indispensable.
Descriptions of the medieval and modern historical manuscripts can be found in the printed catalogues.
Handschriften aus dem Augustiner-Chorherrenstift Neunkirchen am Brand. Neunkirchen am Brand, 1989 (catalogue).
Schreibkunst. Mittelalterliche Buchmalerei aus dem Kloster Seeon. Augsburg, 1994 (catalogue).
Taegert, Werner: Edler Schatz holden Erinnerns. Bilder in Stammbüchern der Staatsbibliothek Bamberg aus vier Jahrhunderten. Bamberg, 1995 (digitized version).
Pfändtner, Karl-Georg: Illuminierte Bologneser Handschriften der Staatsbibliothek Bamberg. Bamberg, 1996 (digitized version).