Manuscripts and Incunabula
ULB Darmstadt holds almost 4.000 manuscripts from the Middle Ages and early modern period, more than 2.000 incunabula and over 100.000 historical prints from before 1800.
The holdings are from the early Middle Ages, late Middle Ages and early modern period (such as the two Nibelungen manuscripts). The instructional manuscripts comprise a large part of the collection: liturgical and prayer books from the theological field as well as legal and medical books. Illuminated manuscripts are very special, as they were usually commissioned.
Although most of the manuscripts are in Latin, there is a large quantity of others in German, mainly 15th century, and Middle Dutch manuscripts, which came from the Cologne collection of Baron Hüpsch. The occasional German commentary can be found in the Latin texts, and a number of fragments have survived.
ULB's manuscript collection came mainly from three sources:
1. Book purchases by the landgraves and grand dukes
The landgraves mostly collected contemporary books for their private reading pleasure. The few manuscripts in these collections came from individual private scholars whose libraries were purchased.
2. Monastery holdings from secularisation
Because of secularisation, monasteries had to hand over the manuscript holdings that they had collected and preserved over centuries to the worldly sovereigns. As a result, Darmstadt library received the following monasteries' holdings:
- South Hesse
- Seligenstadt (Benedictine)
- Hirschhorn (Carmelite)
- Bensheim (Capuchin)
- Dieburg (Capuchin)
- Wimpfen (Dominican)
In the Imperial Recess of 1803 (25.2.1803), the Westphalian monastery property was given to the Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt. This was the area of the Duchy of Westphalia in the Electorate of Cologne, which comprised the parts of the Sauerland that became Prussian territory in 1815.
- Grafschaft (Benedictine)
- Bredelar (Cistercian)
- Meschede (religious refuge for ladies from aristocratic families)
- Wedinghausen (Premonstratensian)
- Ewig (Augustinian canons)
- Glindfeld (Order of the Cross)
3. Baron von Hüpsch Collection
In 1805, Baron von Hüpsch of Cologne bequeathed his significant book collection to Landgrave Louis X (later Grand Duke Louis I). It included a large number of items that originated from the area around Cologne and the Belgian-Dutch region, as well as from the Middle and Lower Rhine. With about 1,000 manuscripts and even more incunabula, it was a tremendous boost to the court library holdings.
The collection is still being expanded today through purchases or donations. Book sponsorships can help to make particularly shabby copies usable again so researchers and the public can benefit from this cultural heritage.
- Die Goldene Bulle
(copy made for the Elector of Cologne – 1356/57)
An important political document of the time, it comprises the rules for the election of the king in the Roman-German Empire, and confirmed important privileges for the seven electors as the voters of the king. Seven of the original copies are still in existence today.
(opens in new tab)Memory of the World Programme
Signature: Hs 3065
- (c. 969) Gero Codex
The Evangeliary was created at the illumination school of Reichenau Abbey, which contains the Gospel texts for the church year.
(opens in new tab)Memory of the World Programme
Signature: Hs 1948
- Hitda Codex (c. 1000)
Signature: Hs 1640
- (c. 1430) Pessach Haggada
The richly illustrated manuscript by Israel ben Meir comes from the Hüpsch Collection. 58 sheets of parchment with Hebrew and Aramaic texts.
Signature: Cod. or. 8
- Seligenstadt Gospel Book
Created at Lorsch Abbey.
Signature: Hs 1957
- Thesaurus Picturarum
33 volumes with various themes, colour illustrations, and a reflection of the time, compiled by Marcus zum Lamm.
Signature: Hs 1971
Incunabula and historical prints
It was around 1450 that Johannes Gutenberg developed book printing some 40 kilometres from Darmstadt. The printed works created up to the end of 1500 are known as incunabula or cradle prints. This invention meant that publications could be brought to an extensive readership quickly, in large quantities and simultaneously. One of the challenges of this invention lay in replacing the artistically crafted manuscripts with prints of equal artistic value. The ULB holdings contain many examples of this book printing art.
- (1462) Biblia latina
- (1494) Das Narrenschiff
Coloured edition “Niv Ship of Narragonia” by Sebastian Brant (1458-1521)
- (1491) Der Schatzbehalter
Edition by Stephan Fridolin (1430-1498) with woodcuts by Michael Wohlgemuth and Wilhelm Pleydenwurff.
- (1479) Heldenbuch
- (c. 1473/74) Melusine
In this edition, Thüring von Ringoltingen (1415-1483) translated and reworked the French verse novel by Couldrette.
- (1806-1840) Flora Graeca
This first edition by John Sibthorp is the only complete copy in Germany. The ten hand-coloured volumes depict the flora of Greece.
Signature: gr. Fol. 3/340
- (1795-1829) Hortus Semper Virens
A botanical textbook on the plants of Earth by Johann Simon Kerner with a dedication to Grand Duke Louis I of Hesse-Darmstadt.
Signature: gr. Fol. 1/77
- – Digital collections of ULB Darmstadt Tudigit
- Retro catalogue (literature before 1986) via or the TUfind portal hebis-Retro
- ISTC – Incunabula Short Title Catalogue
- GW – Union Catalogue of Incunabula Database
VD17 – Union Catalogue of Books Printed in German Speaking Countries in the 17th Century
Catalogues in the research reading room
- Incunabula catalogue by Adolf Schmidt (library director 1904–1923)
Bibliographic descriptions of the incunabula by sequence of signatures
Further research tools for the historical holdings
- Schleiermacher catalogues
The card catalogue is important for searching for holdings in the period 1500-1900. The catalogue in book form documents the losses due to war of the Darmstadt Library of Historical Prints after 1501.
(Andreas Schleiermacher 1811-1830 librarian responsible for the Grand Ducal Court Library)
- Catalogue of letters
Individual letters and correspondence from estates
- Catalogue of rare books
With special consideration of press prints, ordered by artist, press, print type, cover design, etc.
- Binding stamp file
Late-Gothic stamps, rolls and plates, by signature, motif and provenance
with over 740 rubbings from ULB holdings. Database
- Ex libris index
- Provenance index
- Büchner bibliography
The electronic reference work for Büchner literature and articles, essays etc. on and about Georg Büchner