Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel (HAB)

Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel

The Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel (HAB) is a German library, located in the heart of the country, not too far from Hannover. Founded in 1572 it is now home to 900,000 books and 734 digitized manuscripts. There are 16 different collections to browse through, plus several manuscripts coming from other 10 institutions. Every collection has a brief description of its contents: how many manuscripts are in the collection, how many of these are medieval, in which languages there are written, how old they are (oldest and newest,) their provenance, and a list of the digitized manuscripts.

Herzog August Bibliothek’s Medieval Manuscripts Highlights

As we mentioned earlier on, the Herzog August Bibliothek is home to hundreds of medieval manuscripts. Choosing which to highlight from a wealth of 734 digitized manuscripts is extremely difficult. Here’s a small selection. As you can see, the quality of the images is very high: it is possible to zoom in 3 times on the website, to images that have a resolution of 2000 px x 2600 px, at 300 dpi, and at the highest level the image results still sharp and full of details. The colors are balanced and the contrast appears to be correct. Navigating through a digitized manuscript is easy: besides the classical single leaf view, you have the possibility to have an overview of all the digitized parts (leaves, binding, boards, etc.) While the manuscripts are described, there is no description of the miniatures you’re looking at. So, unless you are an expert in codicology or Biblical events, you might have a hard time understanding what is in front of your eyes.

Otto Adelheid Evangeliar
Cover of the Otto-Adelheid-Evangeliar with episodes from the life of Christ: Birth, Baptism, Crucifiction and Deposition.
Cod. Guelf. 16 Aug. 2°, Evangeliar
Cod. Guelf. 16 Aug. 2°, Evangeliar, made in Toursand dated 834-843. Incipit “Liber Generationis…”
Christ in Mandorla.
Cod. Guelf. 521 Helmst. Front Binding, Christ in Mandorla.
Baptism of Jesus
Cod. Guelf. 521 Helmst. Full page illumination representing the Baptism of Jesus.

The Website’s Navigability

Overall, the whole experience of browsing through the Herzog August Bibliothek digitized library is quite enjoyable. There are some issues though: the way the manuscripts are organized isn’t extremely clear and, sadly, it is not possible to sort them by date or by provenance. The website loads fast and looks relatively good. It is possible to view a miniature of the manuscript you want to look at, and once you have access to it, you can have an overview of all the manuscript thanks to thumbnails. The website allows you to choose between German and English languages, but the English part of the website appears not to be working at the moment: when choosing English you are able to visit only the homepage; when you choose any of the manuscripts collections of the HAB, nothing is loaded. Using the German website, instead, you are able to freely browse through the collections. Luckily there is Google translate, so this is really not a big problem.


One last remark: among the many excellent features of the Herzog August Bibliothek there is the copyright under which the images are made available: Creative Commons’ CC BY-SA 3.0 DE. This is an extremely flexible license that allows blogs like this one to create posts and videos to highlight the treasures in the library.

Have fun browsing! Let us know which treasures you discover and which is you favorite manuscript from this library!


Giulio Menna
Giulio is an MA graduate in Book and Digital Media Studies from Leiden University, the Netherlands. He is also system librarian at Leiden University Library. Founder and developer of Sexy Codicology and the DMMmaps Project; lover of medieval manuscripts and of all things digital.