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Uni­ver­sity Library Heidelberg

The Uni­ver­sity Library of the Ruprecht-Karls-Uni­ver­sity in Heidelberg
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The Uni­ver­sity Library

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.

Loca­tion & Directions

The Uni­ver­sity Library is loca­ted in Heidelberg’s Old Town right next to St. Peter’s Church. From the Haupt­straße it is not far to the Uni­ver­sity Library. So it is worth taking the small detour to have a look at the impres­sive buil­ding. The Art­Ho­tel is also loca­ted right next to the library.

If you are not from Heidelberg or if you are in ano­ther corner of Heidelberg, you can also reach the uni­ver­sity library quite easily by bus. The bus stop Uni­ver­si­täts­platz is loca­ted below the library in Gra­ben­gasse, near the cafe­te­ria. The Fried­rich-Ebert-Anlage bus stop is also nearby. Both stops are served by many bus lines and have good con­nec­tions to Heidelberg main station.