Illuminated manuscripts from the Upper Austrian State Library (ca. 1220-1400)


Project lead: Dr. Katharina Hranitzky


P26172 (duration: 01. 03. 2014 - 31. 1. 2018)
Publication of some results: Homepage of the OOeLB (updated constantly)

The purpose of the project was to draw upa scientific catalogue of the illuminated manuscripts from the Upper Austrian State Library (OÖLB) in Linz that were executed between the middle of the 13thc. and the beginning of the 15thc. It is planned to submit this volume to the Austrian Academy of Sciences for printing. In addition, first drafts of the scientific entries are being published online on the homepage of the OÖLB.

The object of the research done in the project was essentially to give a detailed and accurate description of the examinedvolumes and fragments and to reconstruct their individual history, especially their respective age and place of origin, as precisely as possible. To this end, all the codicological features of the books were examined very closely and evidence for former ownership was carefully recorded and interpreted. Moreover, the scientific entries include a complete and up-dated account of the textual contents of the books. However, the main method employed for classifying the items described was the art-historical assessment of their decoration by means of a careful and thorough analysis of the ornament and figural motives. Apart from the individual scientific entries, the printed publication will also contain a certain number of introductory texts in which the findings are interpreted synthetically and conclusions of a more general kind are presented. The results of the project will be particularly relevant to researchers processing mediaeval books for whom the newly classified Linz items will constitute valuable points of reference for further research, and to art-historians concerned with stylistic and iconographical issues. But beyond that, the catalogue will also constitute a very rich source of information for scholars such as historians, literary historians, classical philologists and theologists. Last but not least, the catalogue and the scientific entries published online will supply the holding institution, the OÖLB, with very useful working tools. The following are some examples of the most important findingsof the project: A large group of supposedly Italian manuscripts belonging to the monastery at Garsten and made at the beginning of the 14thc. could be shown to be in fact of Parisian origin. Another convolute of books from the same abbey dating from the middle of the century-the date of execution of one of the items concerned had to be corrected from 1306 to 1350/60-were very probably illuminated at the local scriptorium, although their decoration shows strong influence by works from the Upper Rhine region. Other manuscripts that were later kept at one of the Upper Austria monasteries (Baumgartenberg, Garsten, Gleink, Waldhausen etc.), could be localised to Bohemia, Bologna or Nuremberg or shown to have been illuminated at a neighbouring convent (Kremsmünster, St. Florian, Seitenstetten etc.). And lastly, new light was shed on the paths of transfer of iconographic programmes and stylistic features.

In summary, the work done in the project can be regarded as essential ground-laying research. The new findings add significantly to a broader and deepened knowledge of book-illumination and book-production in the 13thand 14thc. in Austria and neighbouring regions, while the Linz catalogue represents a major contribution to the large-scale cataloguing campaign that in the long term aims to catalogue all collections of illuminated mediaeval books in Austria.