The Heidelberg University Library on the corner of Plöck/Grabengasse is the central library of the Ruprecht-Karls-University. The impressive building from the beginning of the 20th century captivates with its red sandstone facade, which was modelled on the style of Heidelberg Castle. Furthermore, numerous elements and details from the Art Nouveau period can be found both outside and inside. Since its construction about 100 years ago, the building has repeatedly reached its capacity limits and has therefore been extended several times. At the beginning of the last century, the library administered about 600,000 volumes and 50,000 loans. In 2004, the archive stored over 7 million books plus other media such as microfilms, videos, CDs, etc. and managed over 1.4 million loans. Today, in addition to the main archive, there is also a branch office in Neuenheimer Feld as well as a deep storeroom under the inner courtyard of the New University.
The library achieved great fame in the 16th century, when Elector Ottheinrich brought together various book collections to form the Bibliotheca Palatina. Through further purchases, donations and inheritances, the library grew to become “the most important book treasure of scholarly Germany”. However, the end of the collection was approaching in the Thirty Years War. In 1622 the Catholic League under General Tilly conquered the city of Heidelberg. As a result, almost the entire book collection was confiscated and transported to the Vatican in Rome. Only a few books and manuscripts from the Bibliotheca Palatina have been preserved for the Heidelberg people. The most famous copy is the Manessische Liederhandschrift, an extensive German song manuscript. It was probably not among the books that were taken away and was probably taken into exile by the “Winter King” Friedrich V. Presumably his widow sold the book to a merchant out of financial need, who in turn left his collection to the King of France after his death. In 1888, through the mediation of a Strasbourg bookseller, the precious piece returned to Heidelberg. Today, in the museum rooms of the University Library, one can admire facsimiles of various historical books and writings. Changing exhibitions complete the offer.