The manuscript centres

With six manuscript centres, Germany holds a globally unique research infrastructure for the scientific refurbishment of its manuscript heritage. The focus is on the medieval and early modern manuscript heritage.
Manuscript centres are service facilities within large libraries which contain historical collections. Their main task is the preparation and execution of cataloguing projects for associated institutions and increasingly the digitisation of manuscripts. The manuscript centres provide a team of qualified staff members as well as comprehensive in-house resourcesfor literature and database research, the supervision of projects and quality control management.

Most of these projects are supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG). The establishment of the manuscript centres was undertaken at the initiative of the DFG. The six centres are institutionally affiliated, coordinate their activities, and develop strategic plans together.


Service spectrum of the manuscript centres

  • survey and assessment of manuscript holdings
  • advice on cataloguing and digitisation methods
  • guidance for cataloguing and digitisation projects enabled by third-party funds
  • project conception, project planning and preparation of project proposals
  • execution of cataloguing and digitisation projects
  • project monitoring and quality management with due regard to the required standards
  • data entry and publication of cataloguing results (online publication and catalogue printing) as well as, where necessary, presentation of image data according to the respective DFG guide lines


Six manuscript centres for Germany

The National Library in Berlin (SBB) holds about 7,600 medieval manuscripts and ca. 16,000 modern codices.
The first cataloguing project promoted by the DFG began in 1980 with the cataloguing of medi-eval manuscripts of the City Library of Soest.
Berlin is the competent authority for collections in the Rhineland-Palatinate, Saarland, North Rhine-Westphalia, Berlin, Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

Dr. Carolin Schreiber, Head of the manuscript centre Berlin
phone: 030 266 436 500
The library holdings comprise about 2,300 occidental manuscripts, ca. 600 of which are medieval.
The cataloguing of the Frankfurt manuscripts promoted by the DFG started in 1960; inventories of associated institutions have been catalogued since 1977.
Frankfurt is the responsible authority for collections in Hesse.
Dr. Bernhard Tönnies, Head of the manuscript centre Frankfurt
phone: 069 798 39236
The University Library in Leipzig (UBL) owns about 7,500 occidental manuscripts, 3,000 of which are medieval.
Owing to the history of German division and reunification in the 20th century, the Leipzig manuscript centre in the Bibliotheca Albertina is the youngest of the six service facilities and was established in November 2000.
The centre in Leipzig is the responsible authority for collections in Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia.
Dr. Christoph Mackert, Head of the manuscript centre UB Leipzig
phone: 0341 973 0509
The Bavarian State Library in Munich (BSB) holds around 37,000 occidental and nearly 13,000 medieval codices, making it the largest manuscript collection in Germany. The first post for Munich’s manuscript centre was established in 1967. In 1974, the first DFG-project was launched at the BSB.
Munich is the responsible authority for collections in Bavaria.

Birgit Seiderer, Head of the manuscript centre Munich
phone: 089 28638 2627
The Württemberg State Library (WLB) Stuttgart owns about 3,000 medieval manuscripts. Since 1958, manuscripts have been catalogued with the help of the DFG. The manuscript centre Stuttgart has been in existence since 1974.
The manuscript centre at the WLB is the responsible authority for collections in Baden-Württemberg.
Stuttgart, WLB, HB II 46, fol. 12v
Dr. Kerstin Losert, Head of the manuscript centre WLB
phone: 0711 212 4434
The Herzog August Library in Wolfenbüttel (HAB) owns nearly 12,000 occidental manuscripts, 2,800 of which are medieval.
Since 1960, medieval manuscripts have been catalogued here. The cataloguing of manuscript holdings in Lower Saxony promoted by the DFG began in 1970.
Wolfenbüttel is the responsible authority for collections in Lower Saxony, Bremen, Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein.
Dr. Christian Heitzmann, Head of the manuscript centre HAB
phone: 05331 808 129

The scientific advisory council

Since 2007, an international scientific advisory council oversees the centres’ work, provides constructive input, and draws attention to current scientific demand.

Prof. Dr. Martina Backes

Area of expertise: German language and literature

Dr. Maria Theisen

Area of expertise: History of art

Prof. Dr. Marc-Aeilko Aris

Area of expertise: Medieval Latin

Prof. Dr. Georg Vogeler

Area of expertise: Medieval history / Auxiliary sciences of history / Digital Humanities

Dr. Anna Dorofeeva

Area of expertise: Palaeography

Prof. Dr. Paolo Eleuteri

Area of expertise: Palaeography / Codicology


Responsibilities of the advisory council

Activities and plans of the manuscript centres are supported and facilitated by the advisory council. The objective is to institutionalize and intensify the dialogue between libraries and scholarship in order to adjust the centres’ activities to scientific research needs. The advisory council contributes  the external perspective of manuscript-based research so that it can give important suggestions for the development of further strategic planning. Thus it supports individual projects while remaining constantly aware of the common scientific goals.
At the same time the council can help to improve communication and networking between the centres and science and research.

Organisational structure

Staff composition

The advisory council consists of leading representatives of key disciplines in the research area of manuscript studies, both in universities and other academic institutions. The members are expected to demonstrate a high level of scientific expertise and to cover a broad range of subjects in their specific field of research. Cooperation with international researchers is highly appreciated.

Exclusion criteria

Members of the DFG committes and DFG reviewers for current projects in manuscript research are excluded in ordert o avoid conflicts of interest.

Communication structure

The centres and the advisory council continously communicate in written form. Once a year all members of the advisory council participate in a meeting of the centres enabling joint discussions. At other meetings the council is normally represented by one of its members.

Term and re-election

The members of the advisory council shall be appointed for periods of three years with the possibility of being re-elected once. They are elected by the manuscript centres, each centre having one vote.