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Digitisation and scholarly cataloguing of manuscripts of the Bibliotheca Amploniana in Erfurt University Library

889 medieval manuscripts survive from the Bibliotheca Amploniana, the library of the Collegium Porta Coeli of the ancient University of Erfurt (today on long-term loan from Erfurt City Council to Erfurt University Library). They form a monument of singular importance for the intellectual history of the late Middle Ages. The collection goes back to the donation of 633 manuscripts, including an important group of medical works, by the founder of the college, Amplonius Rating de Berka (d. 1435), physician to the prince archbishop of Cologne.

These manuscripts, dating from the 9th to the 15th century, do not only form the most extensive book collection of a medieval scholar that is still kept together, but also the richest holdings of a college library from this time. They are not only important because of the texts they contain (many of them in unique copies), but also because of the materiality of the manuscripts, which provide evidence of singular importance on the early universities in France, Italy, England and Germany and, through their provenances, allow us a rare glimpse into the networks of learning spread across late-medieval Europe.

Since a catalogue published in 1887 by Wilhelm Schum no longer satisfies modern research needs, the DFG supported between 2007 and 2013 the creation of more complete lists of contents in Manuscripta Mediaevalia for 324 manuscripts, primarily those containing texts on medicine or natural philosophy. Erfurt University contributed to this project by compiling a bibliography on research about the Amploniana with over 3,000 titles.

The constantly high research interest in this collection and the important discoveries made there during the last years (e.g. in 2008 of hitherto unknown texts of St Augustine) underline the urgency of presenting the Bibliotheca Amploniana according to the standards of the 21st century, thus through complete digitisation and a new scholarly catalogue. In this project, 317 of the manuscripts that had been supplied with improved lists of contents in the last years shall be digitised and made accessible through a dedicated ‘Amploniana Portal’, which will be designed by Jena University Library. From thence, images and metadata will be exported to the new ‘Handschriftenportal’.

A new scholarly catalogue will be made for 118 of those manuscripts, medical works from the donation of Amplonius and some codices closely related to them. This work, under the direction of the Handschriftenzentrum (one of the six national manuscript cataloguing centres) at Leipzig University Library, will follow the guidelines of the DFG. Erfurt University plans to fund the completion of this project after a potential second stage of external funding. In order to build up local expertise, one of the two cataloguers will be based at Erfurt University Library. The cataloguing data will continually be added to Manuscripta Mediaevalia and be integrated into the forthcoming ‘Handschriftenportal’.

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