With more than 270,000 volumes, the monastery library is the largest private library in Austria. At the heart of the library is the mediaeval collection of 1250 manuscripts and 860 incunabula (pre-1501 printed books). These books were mainly manufactured and coloured in the scriptorium of the monastery, but also purchased from Italy or France in the High and Late Middle Ages. A bible donated to the canons by Saint Leopold (CCl 1) and a four-volume, lavishly painted choir book (CCl 65-68) commissioned by Provost Georg Müstinger (1418-1442) deserve special attention.
Already during mediaeval times, a universal library was compiled, containing not only works on the Bible and theology, but also law codices, scientific and medical texts and editions of ancient classics. The proximity to the University of Vienna, founded in 1365, proved especially beneficial, as canons studied and taught there. The books of those scholars are preserved in the monastery to this day. Examples are a catalogue of the signs of the zodiac dating from 1200 (CCl 685), astronomy manuscripts by Georg Müstinger (CCl 682) and copies of Terence’s comedies dating from the time of early humanism.
In early modern times up to the Age of Enlightenment, a transconfessional collection of books was compiled, which leads one to conclude that the canonry was quite open-minded. For example, in addition to innumerable religious and literary works and texts dealing with conduct in everyday life, the writings of Martin Luther, the encyclopaedias of the French Enlightenment philosophers and sturm and drang literature are found on the shelves.
A comprehensive collection of Austrian historiographical works and of later books related to auxiliary disciplines of history shows the role of the Augustinian Canons of Klosterneuburg for imperial-royal society in the Austrian hereditary lands and in the monarchy. Today, the monastery library is an institution of knowledge and a partner of various regional and even international research centres. In cooperation with the Department of Books and Writing of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the stocks of books are made accessible and the results are presented on the Internet (www.manuscripta.at). In a partnership with the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), under its special research area “Visions of Community”, the concept of religious and political communities under the influence of Buddhism, Islam and Christianity is being developed.
An important focus is to promote young researchers in the humanities. For this aim, the team of the monastery library, in cooperation with teaching staff at the universities of Vienna, Graz, Salzburg, Klagenfurt and Prague, helps students working on research or degree papers to find and work with sources. The outcome of their projects is presented to the public by the young academics at Book Nights in the Cupola Hall of the monastery library.
The library is accessible for use from Monday to Friday upon previous registration. To a limited extent it is also possible to borrow books (dating from 1870 or later).
Dr. Martin Haltrich
Phone: +43 2243 411-200
Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Abteilung Schrift- und Buchwesen
Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Institut für Kunst- und Musikhistorische Forschungen
Donau Universität Krems, Department für Kunst- und Kulturwissenschaften
Sonderforschungsbereich (FWF) „Visions of Community“
EU Programm Erasmus+ “Digital Editing of Medieval Manuscripts”
Benediktinerstift Admont, Stiftsbibliothek
Benediktinerstift Göttweig, Kunstsammlungen
Benediktinerstift Melk, Musikarchiv