Digitising the manuscripts of Lorsch

After my last post, I started looking for evidence of the work of Heidelberg university in digitising Vatican manuscripts.  To my astonishment, I found a website for the now vanished library of the abbey of Lorsch!  It seems that a team from Heidelberg have been attempting to recreate this Dark Ages library, full of very interesting manuscripts, and destroyed and scattered during the Thirty Years War.  Here they discuss their work.

133 manuscripts, which once formed part of the Carolingian monastic library Lorsch, are integrated nowadays into the valuable and large collection of the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana. In 1622/23 the manuscripts were brought to Rome as part of Heidelberg’s Bibliotheca Palatina. For its digitization project “Bibliotheca Laureshamensis – digital” Heidelberg University Library was permitted to digitize the Lorsch manuscripts on the premises of the Vatican Library in Rome. Thus, in November 2010 a digitization centre was set up in Rome in cooperation with the Vatican Library for the digitization of the manuscripts. The digitization of the entire Lorsch manuscripts in Rome was completed within eight months by a team of six.

The list of all the manuscripts once part of Lorsch is here

The Vatican library manuscripts online are listed here.  Many are biblical manuscripts, most are 9th century.  There are gems for us, tho: Arnobius the Younger, Hilary of Poitiers, Ps.Hegesippus, Ambrosiaster, Jerome, Augustine, Marius Mercator, Paulinus of Nola, Orosius, Cassiodorus, Bede, Isidore, Jordanes … the list goes on.  Just look for yourself at the list!

I can’t resist noting Pal. lat. 822, a copy of Rufinus’ translation of Eusebius’ Church History.  Or the presence of Macrobius and the Historia Augusta in Pal. lat. 886, foll. 125-189.  Or two works by Sallust, the conspiracy of Cataline, and the Jugurthine War, in Pal. lat. 887 and Pal. lat. 889.  Cicero, Seneca, Fulgentius Mythographicus, Vergil … yes, and a Servius’ Commentary on Vergil… And whoa!  There’s a 10th century manuscript of Juvenal, Pal. lat. 1701!

Then there are three medieval catalogues of the library at Lorsch, as it was, in Pal. lat. 1877.  These have been published, and are found in G. Becker’s Catalogi Bibliothecarum Antiqui, in doubtless not very reliable form.  But here are the originals!

Finally, fancy a look at Cyprian?  Try Reg. lat. 118.

OK, there’s not a lot there that causes me, this instant, to click on it.  But then only a manuscript of Pliny the Elder would do that, just at the moment!

Why have I never heard of this?

UPDATE: But … oh good grief, what is this??!?!  I tried clicking on one of the mss, and got the following: 

No wonder I have never heard of all this.  Who, one wonders, was so STUPID as to do this?  To do all that work, and then, greedily, HIDE the images!!!

Sometimes I despair, I really do.

2 Responses to “Digitising the manuscripts of Lorsch”


  1. Michael L. Norris

    I echo your despair. I just happened upon this digitization project last night while hunting up information on the manuscripts of Bede’s _De natura rerum_. Like you, I have a hard time understanding how this kind of “closed borders” mentality obtains in 2012. I’m sure someone feels there’s monetary or cultural capital to be banked and so hobbles free access. I suppose once a cloister, always a cloister.

  2. Roger Pearse

    I was very angry indeed, I admit, when I realised that I had been suckered. As you say, some petty official somewhere imagines that there is a profit to be had. You get this all over the place, in major manuscript repositories.



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