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Manuscript Descriptions

Manuscript Descriptions

The manuscripts included in the website “Bibliotheca Laureshamensis – digital” were catalogued according to their content and codicological aspects. The aim was to describe the present state of research.

Every manuscript or group of fragments (i.e. a group of fragments that once formed a unit, or belonged together) received its own description. The descriptions were based on the research of Bernhard Bischoff and Hartmut Hoffmann as well as already existing manuscript catalogues and further relevant literature. The information found there was verified through digital reproductions, if necessary, information was added, and finally all helpful secondary literature was listed at the end of every description under bibliography. Only in few cases the source was noted directly after indications, for example in case of diverging views.

Within the framework of reconstructing a historical library, a special focus naturally lay on the description of the place and time of origin as well as the provenance; therefore, there are direct bibliographic references for these categories. The categories place and time of origin always have a direct reference as to whether the information is based on Bischoff and/or Hoffmann, and only in cases where there were seriously diverging views further literature is noted.

In order to make the manuscripts accessible to as many people and fields, as possible, the manuscripts were described according to palaeographic, art historical, musicological and philological criteria, as well as with regard to questions concerning the transfer of knowledge and the use of manuscripts. Everything is presented using the same scheme. Due to the heterogeneity of the secondary literature no uniformity of the quality or quantity of the provided data, can be offered. This also applies to pure codicological data such as for example the composition of quires.

The entire content of each manuscript was described and made, if possible, exactly identifiable by listing the incipits, relevant reference works and (online-)editions.

Numerous Lorsch manuscripts have, in the due course of time, been bound together with other manuscripts of different origins, and today remain as a fascicle in a composite manuscript. Therefore, in many of these cases, in order to document the historical context, the entire manuscript was digitized and described. The description of fascicles that do not derive from Lorsch are, however, not as thorough. For codices, in which only fragments of Lorsch manuscripts have survived, only the essential bibliographic data was recorded.

In addition, the description of every single manuscript, or groups of fragments, have been made available as a PDF-document through links from the online presentation of the respective manuscript. Furthermore, to provide a systematic access to the Lorsch manuscript heritage, all identified information has been made researchable in a database set up solely for this project. The content of the PDF-documents is identical with the information provided in the database.

Structure and categories of the manuscript descriptions

The manuscript descriptions are structured according to the same scheme. Principally they are arranged as follows: the description is headed with the holding institution and the shelfmark as well as brief keywords regarding the content of the manuscript. It is followed by data on the exterior and the content of the manuscript; under “content” – after a short overview – the categories mentioned below are repeated for every text or insert.

With respect to a codex which is made up of several originally independent parts and possibly includes fragments, the descriptions differ in their structure. After the holding institution and the shelfmark, first all information concerning overall features like the exterior are listed (generally the codicological data, the binding, and its provenance etc). It is followed by a brief overview on the content of the entire manuscript. Then all separate parts are described individually with regard to their various external appearances and their content. They are listed in order of appearance. All descriptions of the exteriors are introduced by keywords regarding their content. Bibliographic references even though they might concern the exterior appearance of one single fascicle are always listed in the overall exterior description.

The holding institution and shelfmark of every manuscript are always listed at the beginning of the descriptions. It is followed by a brief reference to the content of the manuscripts (author or rather title or content). Beside the language of the main text, which in most cases is Latin, information on the diverging language of glosses (language) is provided. The thematic information is indexed through general keywords (subject / type of text or book genre). The rest of the description is split into “Exterior” and “Content”:


Place of origin
according to B. Bischoff and/or H. Hoffmann (see above)
Date of origin
according to B. Bischoff and/or H. Hoffmann (see above)
existing forms: codex or fascicle (originally an independent/autonomous manuscript) or roll and fragment
parchment or (rarely) paper
in Arabic ciphers, modern anterior and posterior flyleaves in Roman numeric/digits
Format (page size)
height x width in cm
Composition of quires
information on the collation/composition of quires; in some cases further information on missing leaves or leaves added later, related fragments or originally independent parts (fascicles) etc.
Pagination, foliation, quire marks
timeframe and special features of pagination and foliation; possibly also notation and numeration of quires.
information on wear marks (from later days) – as for example ink stains – which often indicate a frequent use of the manuscript; however, under “Condition” there are no references to missing parts of manuscripts; see “Composition of Quires” and “Additions and Signs of Usage”
Writing area
height x width in cm
Number of columns
Number of lines
name of the script, in which the manuscript has been written (possibly also for parts relevant for indicating that the manuscripts derives from Lorsch); for display script see “Layout”
Style of Lorsch script
name of the style of Lorsch scripts in the Carolingian Age (i.e. for manuscripts from the late 8th and 9th century from the Lorsch scriptorium)
Script / hand description
further information on the script and the scribe or rather hand, in particular in regard to the shape of letters, ligatures, abbreviations etc. (especially in regard to the Lorsch scriptorium); information on corrections, annotations, later additions etc. see “Additions and signs of usage”
data on the design of the text, as for example the use of display script and rubrics, on enlarged or coloured letters, numeration of chapters, the title of pages, quotation marks etc.; for art historically relevant information see “Decoration”
information on manuscript illumination (miniatures and decorated initials as well as occasionally drawings), the terminology is adapted from Ch. Jakobi-Mirwald, Buchmalerei. Terminologie in der Kunstgeschichte, 3., überarb. u. erw. Aufl. Berlin 2008; für weniger künstlerisch ausgestaltete Auszeichnungsformen see “Layout”
Additions and signs of usage
notes on later added texts or passages as well as information on corrections, comments, nota bene, pen trials etc. (including those which correspond with the date of origin of the manuscript); also see “Condition”
information on the compilation and the age
information on places, in which the manuscript was once kept (listed in chronological order); for further information on places and institutions see “Comments on provenance”
Comments on provenance / history of the manuscript
specially information providing more precise indications and references as to place of origin and provenance (for example donation or ex-libris inscriptions)
Carolingian library catalogues
notes on registered manuscripts or at least manuscripts with the same content listed in the survived catalogues from the monastic library of Lorsch from the 9th century according to A. Häse, Mittelalterliche Bücherverzeichnisse aus Kloster Lorsch. Einleitung, Edition und Kommentar, Wiesbaden 2002
bibliographic references to literature referred to in the descriptions (listed in chronological order)


Author of the text in standardized form (according to ThLL, MlatWB, CPL, Gryson, Rép., CALMA, Rep. font.)
Title in standardized form (according to ThLL, MlatWB, CPL, Gryson, Rép., CALMA, Rep. font.)
Information on content
exact information on the structure of the text, on omissions, rearrangements and inserts (in general additions are listed separately); in the case of leaves being lost the beginning or the end of the text is indicated where manuscript starts or is broken off (when for example an incipit or explicit no longer exists)
Rubric (incipit)
titles or headings of manuscripts (without regard to indexes of chapters at the front) in diplomatic transcription
Incipit / Initium
list of the beginning of the actual text (which also includes prologues, but not the index of chapters at the beginning of manuscripts) in diplomatic transcription; further incipits/initia either after introductions, or of inserts (according to the present state of research), or of passages which due to the layout clearly stand out from the rest of the text, are listed under “Information on Contents”
list of the last words of a text including the complimentary close (generally it stands out from the text, similarly to the rubric) in diplomatic transcription
information on significant text editions (generally with a note on whether the existing manuscript was used or at least known to the editor) or the database, through which it is accessible online
in general references to repertories with further information and bibliographic data; references to basic monographs or essays are added at the end

Quotations from manuscripts are standardized neither in the spelling nor orthographically, but are offered in diplomatic transcription and emphasized by italics. Due to the numerous discrepancies to classical Latin indications of medieval spelling (with a “sic”) are generally only listed if there is a chance of misunderstanding the sense. Whenever possible, abbreviations are spelled out. If their meaning is clear, they are not marked; otherwise they are listed in square brackets []. The abbreviations are spelled out according to the orthography of the respective manuscript. Should there be a large discrepancy the classical way of writing is employed. All further letters, words or passages that are inserted are identified by square brackets [], explanatory and other additions, such as references to leaves or pages, are placed in parentheses (). The use of display scripts or rubrics in manuscripts is marked by chevron ><. Places where the text is broken off (generally due to missing pages) are indicated with a double forward slash //.

List of literature used for describing the manuscripts

Search the Manuscript Descriptions – Technical Aspects

The Lorsch manuscript descriptions were recorded in the Southwestern German Library Network (SWB). This enabled the simple integration of standardized vocabulary as well as its identification in national and international databases. Due to the thorough descriptions of the Lorsch codices several new guidelines were agreed upon for cataloguing manuscripts in the Southwestern German Library Network (SWB). These are documented in the chapter "Handschriften und Handschriften-Digitalisate" of the descriptor handbook.

From the SWB database the manuscript descriptions were imported into a database set up solely for this project. Under Search description data of all Lorsch manuscripts can be searched systematically. The database has been implemented with the software Koha – Open Source ILS (Integrated Library Systems) and is being hosted by the Bibliotheksservice-Zentrum Baden-Württemberg (BSZ).

For practical research strategies see Search-Help.

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