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Manuscripts of Emperor Henry II of the Bamberg State Library

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


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 secularisation 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 Canticles 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.

Selection, Dating and Localisation

Bearded ruler accompanied by two arch-bishops. Picture of a ruler in the so-called Roman Pontifical of Henry II. Salzburg (?), ca. 1020 | SBB, Msc.Lit.53, fol. 2v

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 catalogue of the Bamberg manuscripts was consulted first (Suckale-Redlefsen 2004). For those manuscripts that were not listed there, the second youngest catalogue (Bischoff 1998) was consulted and the datings (and localisations) given there were adopted. Lastly, the catalogue of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica (Hoffmann 1995) was considered; all those of the manuscripts listed there that are not listed in the two other catalogues, 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.