The department’s holdings of old printed books, about 500.000 in total, covers incunabula (books printed before 1500), prints from the 16th to 18th centuries, very rare, valuable or bibliophile prints (with no limit regarding the year of publication) and special holdings as Chinese or Japanese works. The holdings are continuously added to by purchase (including modern bibliophile prints of contemporary book artists, especially from Austria) and by book gifts to the library.
The indexing and description of the holdings, complying to the highest standards of catlogization, happens in cooperation with national and international initiatives. The complete holdings are to be found in the online catalogue (the one exeption being the collection of single-leaf prints and pamphlets, so far only partly included).
The holdings are stored in the library’s State Hall and store rooms belonging to the department.
The prints are classed according to their place of storage and/or special features, indicated by the shelf number endings:
Incunabula (shelf numbers ending on „Ink“)
The incunabula, in total about 8,000, is one of the world’s largest holdings of its kind and holds approximately a fifth of all books published in the 15th century, including the only copy of the 42-lined Bible (Mainz 1454/55) extant in Austria. The rich collection of incunabula bibles has been digitized and can be searched online.
State Hall (shelf numbers ending on „Prunk“)
Approximately 190.000 printed books from centuries 16th-19th are kept in the baroque State Hall.
From ca. 1730 up to the 19th century, the state hall housed the complete holdings of the court library. From the late 19th century on, other rooms were adapted as book storage areas. When the various special collections were founded, groups of holdings were seperated and stored accordingly; as a consequence, only historical printed books are to be found in the hall today.
The former private library of famous imperial general Prince Eugene of Savoy (the so-called „Biliotheca Eugeniana“, „BE“), acquired in 1738 and 19.000 titles in total, is kept as a close group in the oval centre part of the hall.
Aurum stack rooms (shelf numbers ending on „Mag“)
The other large book stack of the department, the so-called Aurum stack rooms, houses another 135.000 historical prints from the 16th to19th centuries. Some of the department’s special collections, as one-leaf prints, luxury editions, erotica, sinica or japonica as well as part of the secondary literature are kept in these rooms, as are most of the historical newspapers and journals.
Cimelia Palatinae (shelf numbers ending on „CP“)
The historical printed works marked as „Cimelia Palatinae“ were kept until recently in the office rooms of the library prefect, due to the exceptional value and to the representative nature of these books. Over the times, this small group of holdings has grown to 410 volumes (only very few of them dating from modern times).
Rara collection (shelf numbers ending on „Rara“)
Only recently, further especially valuable printed works originally kept in the State Hall or other stack rooms have been shelved seperately in the so-called Rara collection (collection of rare printed books). Today, the Rara collection consists of about 1330 volumes and is continuously replenished by new acquisitions.
Bibliophile editions, Luxury editions (shelf numbers ending on „Lux“)
These holdings, ca. 860 volumes in total, contain press printings (??? bibliophile printed works distinguished by most careful design, material and craftmanship) and modern bibliophile printed works, mostly by contemporary Austrian book artists.
Collection of book bindings (shelf numbers ending on „Einb“)
This collection is a teaching collection of ca. 595 volumes, comprising outstanding bindings from several centuries.
Collection of pamphlets and single-leaf prints (shelf numbers ending on „Flug“)
This collection comprises about 20.000 historical pamphlets and single-leaf prints, laws and decrees and the unique holdings of pamphlets and governmental publications as regulations, laws and decrees extending from the early 1500s to the late 1900s. Of singular importance are the holdings of Pamphlets and governmental publications regarding the revolution of 1848 in the Habsburg countries. These part of the holdings can be searched in its entirety in the digital „Archive 1848“. Selected single-leaf prints, pamphlets and governmental publications of the 16th to 19th centuries are evidenced in the library’s main catalogue.
Apart from this special collection, the department’s historical holdings comprise another substantial number of pamphlets and single-leaf prints not especially labelled as such.
Erotica (shelf numbers ending on „Erot“)
Since the second half of the 19th century, a selection of erotic literature (in the widest sense of the term, covering erotic fiction as well as works on medical or socio-cultural aspects of sexuality) is kept as (in??) a special group of holdings. In former days, readers wishing to peruse the erotica had to obtain the prefect’s permission first. These works, comprising about 650 titles in total, are only a small part of the department’s holdings relating to this complex subject area. The criteria originally labelling those works especially as “erotica” remain often obscure to the modern reader.
Sinica (shelf numbers ending on „Sin“)
The history of these holdings, about 3.500 in total, dates back to the 1660s when Jesuit missionaries sent their works (and those written in their environment) to the emperor’s court in Vienna. Today sinica are not systematically collected any more, but still occasionally added to on an irregular basis by book gift or specimen copy. Thanks to a cataloging project completed only recently, the valuable historical holdings have been catalogized according to modern standards and can now be searched in the library’s main catalogue.
Japonica (shelf numbers ending on „Jap“)
The collection’s origins date back to Maritz von Dietrichstein, prefect of the court library from 1826 to 1845. Until the early 20th century the holdings were supplemented by new acquisitions and book gifts. Today they are still added to, if only infrequently and mostly by specimen copy. The japonica, about 350 in total, are presently catalogued anew according to international standards.
ContactDepartment of Manuscripts and Rare Books
(+43 1) 534 10-288
(+43 1) 534 10-296