University Library

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Heidelberg University Library is a public library and the central library of Heidelberg University.

The library contains a total of 6.2 million volumes. In addition, there is a separate department for manuscripts and old prints, where valuable collections are stored. The library is located at Plöck 107-109 and is also open to interested visitors.

History of the University Library

The University Library is the oldest of its kind in Germany. The building has an interesting history. It was opened in 1386, the year in which Heidelberg University was founded. Even then, the volumes were divided into three subject areas: Volumes for the faculty of arts, an area for the higher faculties and the important writings of the Holy Spirit Church. This area was also known as the “Bibliotheca Palatina”.

Initially, the basic stock of the library consisted exclusively of the estates of former professors of the University of Heidelberg. The Bibliotheca Palatina originated from important holdings of Elector Ottheinrich. These were supplemented by books from Ulrich Fugger. Then the Bibliotheca Palatina was dissolved. The reason was the Thirty Years’ War. Duke Maximilian I of Bavaria bequeathed the volumes of the Heiliggeistkirche to the Pope in gratitude for his loyalty. At that time, more than 3,500 manuscripts and about 13,000 printed works were moved to Rome.

The resurgence of the university library began in the 19th century. The allocation of the Salem and Petershausen monastery libraries marked a new beginning. At this time, work began on recovering the volumes from Rome. However, this proved difficult: only a few works were returned. In 1888 an exchange deal with Paris took place. Thus the Codex Manesse was returned.

Architecture of the University Library

The present building is a new construction from the turn of the century. The new library was opened in 1905. The architect was Joseph Durm, who came from Karlsruhe. The work on the exterior facades was carried out by the well-known sculptors: Hermann Binz as well as Hermann Volz.

Today the large complex is enclosed by an open inner courtyard. It is divided into two separate areas: The magazine wing and the elaborately designed palace-like administration wing. The latter is in keeping with the architecture of Heidelberg’s old town with its renaissance decorations. Today, the building is a contemporary witness to stylistic pluralism: German-French Renaissance combined with Art Nouveau.

In 1988 a major renovation of the library took place. In 1991 the new deep stacks, under the large courtyard of Heidelberg University, were completed. It contains 2 million works! Another project followed – the northern extension of the university library. The new reading room was ceremoniously opened in 2005.