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18 April 2000

"Legacies of History" Exhibition at Heidelberg University Library

Exhibition to run from 28 April to 28 October 2000

On 28 April 2000 the exhibition "Legacies of History" opens its doors at the University Library in Heidelberg. It illustrates the vicissitudes encountered in the history of the University and its library against the backdrop of the broader history of the Palatinate. The over 160 exhibits—manuscripts, incunabula, prints, letters, graphics, paintings—all stem from the library's own collections. For a short period within the overall exhibition the Manesse Codex, Germany's most famous medieval manuscript, will be on show to the public.

Old libraries that have grown consistently and organically almost always have precious collections. The individual items are significant not only in themselves but also as a mirror of specific historical developments. The present exhibition ranges from the beginnings of the University Library to the early 20th century, without however aiming at a seamless reflection of historical events. The eight sections of the exhibition cast light on history from different vantages, notably the history of scholarly life, of books and of the Library itself.

The University Library in Heidelberg was initially a manuscript library in the first 70 years of its existence. On the eve of the Thirty Years War it could look back on a continuous development furthered largely by the reigning electors. This made it one of the world's foremost libraries of the age and additionally the Protestant amarium or "spiritual arsenal" of the reformed Palatinate under elector Ottheinrich. But its history was also marked by a number of disasters including the removal of the Bibliotheca Palatina to Rome in 1623 and the destruction of the city and the University in the War of Palatine Succession.

The 18th century was a period of stagnation. Only when the section of the Palatinate on the eastern side of the Rhine fell to Baden in 1803 did the University flourish once again. From then on the University and the Library embarked on a period of continuing consolidation. In 1816 the 847 German-language manuscripts of the Bibliotheca Palatina were returned by the Vatican and in 1826 the Library also acquired the valuable collections of the Cistercian monastery in Salem.

Rise, fall and revival

The collections amassed by the Library in the 600 years of its history reflect the events of that lengthy period very faithfully. Rise, fall, stagnation and revival all left significant traces. In this way a unique cultural sediment has formed giving the Library a complexion very much its own and making it one of Germany's foremost treasuries of cultural tradition.

A lavishly illustrated catalogue has been published to coincide with the exhibition (it costs DM 48 in bookshops and DM 38 in the Library). The exhibition runs from 28 April to 28 October 2000 at the University Library, Plöck 107-109. Opening times: Mondays to Saturdays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursdays 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Closed on Sundays and national holidays. Entry DM 5 (DM 3 reduced rates).

For information call 06221/542380 or 542612 or contact

Please address journalists' inquiries to:
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

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Updated: 30.04.2000




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