Private Endowment: Reproductions of Historical Manuscripts

Reproductions of Historical Manuscripts | © Steffen Fuchs
Reproductions of Historical Manuscripts | © Steffen Fuchs

The Institute for European Art History of Heidelberg University is very happy about a gift of faithfully copied manuscripts from late antiquity, medieval times and the early modern age. It has received a total of 69 facsimiles as a private endowment from a Mannheim couple. The collection also contains a reproduction of the Gospel book known as the "Lorsch Gospels" from the 9th century, most significant in terms of art history thanks to its impressive illuminations. "The valuable facsimiles will provide superb visual resources for research and teaching," underlines art historian Rebecca Müller.

The rich holding testifies to the couple’s great passion for collecting, which was originally sparked by their encounter with the early medieval Book of Kells, preserved in Dublin, says Prof. Müller. The volumes now entrusted to the Institute were fashioned in a very elaborate manner. Not only are the individual pages reproduced exactly, including their gold overlays and signs of age - the costly bindings, adorned with ivory and metal trimming, were also copied with great precision, according to the scholar, a professor of Medieval Art History at Heidelberg University where her teaching and research is based.

The reproduction of the "Lorsch Gospels" provides access to the complete book, whose original manuscripts and book covers are today scattered throughout several libraries in different countries. "Unlike digitalised copies, authentic facsimiles evoke the hands-on presence of a big, heavy codex, together with its box, or also the intimacy of contemplating and reading a tiny book of hours, only a few centimetres in size. Through holding them, opening them and turning the pages, looking at and reading them we can reconstruct the way manuscripts were used," the Heidelberg art historian explains.