Major funding for Bodleian Medieval Manuscripts from Germany

30 July 2009

Bodleian - Würzburg The Bodleian Library has received a grant of 80,000 Euros from the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung for the cataloguing of an important group of medieval manuscripts from Germany including volumes from the library of the cathedral of St. Kylian in Würzburg. The Bodleian’s Würzburg manuscripts contain some great treasures, including Oxford’s most important biblical manuscript, the Acts of the Apostles in Latin and Greek believed to have been produced in Sardinia in the late 6th or early 7th century. The collection also includes many manuscripts which are much less studied.

The Bodleian holds approximately 400 medieval Latin manuscripts from Germany including major groups of codices from particular centres. Many of the manuscripts are derived from religious houses which had suffered depredations during the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648), and were donated to the Bodleian Library in the 17th century by William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury and Chancellor of Oxford University.

These manuscripts have not been described in detail in any modern catalogue, although they appear in the Library’s catalogues of the 19th and early 20th centuries. A catalogue which takes account of the enormous growth in the knowledge of medieval texts, scripts, and illumination during the 20th century is urgently needed. The new project will subject the manuscripts to greater scrutiny than ever before, with the aim of allowing them to play their full part in the understanding of the German medieval manuscript heritage and religious culture.

This most recent grant represents the continued collaboration between the Bodleian Library and the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung. The Fritz Thyssen Stiftung had previously supported the cataloguing of the Library’s collection of incunabula (books printed before 1500) published in 2005. In recent years, another generous donation from the Foundation funded the cataloguing of a group of manuscripts from the Mainz charterhouse.

Dr. Martin Kauffmann of the Department of Special Collections and Western Manuscripts, Bodleian Library said: ‘We are very grateful to the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung for their renewed support of the cataloguing of the Bodleian collections of medieval manuscripts from Germany. Studying these manuscripts in greater detail and with the application of modern scholarly techniques will allow us to understand better their true value to medieval German culture.’

The work of describing the manuscripts is entrusted to Dr. Daniela Mairhofer, who combines a distinguished scholarly background in medieval Latin studies with experience of cataloguing of monastic collections in her native Austria. Dr. Mairhofer will be working in the Department of Special Collections and Western Manuscripts (under the direction of its Keeper, Mr. Richard Ovenden); the project is under the academic supervision of Nigel Palmer, Professor of German medieval and linguistic studies at Oxford.

The Fritz Thyssen Stiftung was founded by Amélie Thyssen and her daughter Countess Anita Zichy-Thyssen in memory of August and Fritz Thyssen in 1959. As the first private foundation of its kind established after World War II in the Federal Republic of Germany, the Fritz Thyssen Stiftung has as its sole purpose the direct support of research and scholarship in universities and research institutes, primarily in Germany.

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