Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin


Consisting of 42,000 manuscripts and block prints, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (SBB) keeps the largest collection of Asia’s and Africa’s written cultural heritage in the German-speaking area, further enhanced by 40,000 text fragments from the Silk Route (Turfan Collection). Some of these fragments are a deposit of Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften while the other part is property of Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz. The collection includes works in more than 140 languages and 70 different scripts. It is supplemented by a large number of manuscript reproductions, including 180,000 filmed manuscripts from Nepal (Nepal-German Manuscript Preservation Project, deposit of Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft) that are particularly noteworthy.

Collection history

When the Great Elector Friedrich Wilhelm established the library in 1661, Oriental manuscripts were already part of the initial collection. Early additions came from the estates of the scholars Theodor Peträus (1630-1672), Christian Raue (1613-1677) and Adam Olearius (1599-1671). The actual development into one of the most outstanding collections in Europe gained momentum in the nineteenth century. Due to the bequest of the Prussian envoy in Constantinople, Heinrich Friedrich von Diez (1751-1817), holdings doubled to 800 volumes. Especially during the reigns of the Prussian regents Friedrich Wilhelm IV (r. 1840-1861) and Wilhelm I (r. 1861-1888), numerous large acquisitions were made, such as the Chambers, Wetzstein, Petermann, Sprenger, and Landberg collections. Further additions throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries focused on South Asia. Between 1890 and 1945, the classmark group "Ms. or." increased by 7,600 numbers. These include 1,100 Indian Jaina manuscripts that were purchased from Bhagvandas Kevaldas, in addition to the sale of 1,200 manuscripts that was arranged by Oskar Rescher (1901-1974) from Istanbul. The classmark group "Hs. or.",introduced by Staatsbibliothek Berlin/West in 1957, has grown to currently 15,245 units (March 2022). At present, acquisitions primarily concentrate on preserving manuscripts entering the German market and making them available for general public use.