Cataloguing Mission at the Bibliotheka Jagiellónska in Cracow: Insights into the Berlinka Collection

Margherita Matera and Eva Tivelli
June 7, 2022

At the end of March 2022 (27/03–04/04/2022), Dr Margherita Matera (Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen), accompanied by Eva Tivelli, a guest scholar at the Göttingen Academy, went to Cracow to consult and catalogue some manuscripts of the Psalms belonging to the Berlinka Collection, nowadays preserved in the Bibliotheka Jagiellońska.

Ms Eva Tivelli (Photo by M. Matera)
Dr Margherita Matera (Photo by E. Tivelli)

The autopsy surveys have offered many ideas for the subsequent research phases of the project, bringing a significant enrichment to the database of the Project “Die Editio critica maior des griechischen Psalters”.  

The Berlinka is a very famous manuscript collection deriving from the already renowned Preußische Staatsbibliothek, which contained the manuscripts owned by the Bibliotheca Regia Berolinensis.  In the last years of the Second World War, some of the manuscripts belonging to the aforementioned Prussian collection were dispersed throughout the territory of the old Reich, and many of them, after countless vicissitudes, are now preserved in various European libraries [i].

    Berol. graec. qu. 19 (Ra 1547), f. II’v — Photo by Margherita Matera


The collection preserved in Krakow represents a library collection of particular interest: it was long disputed between Germany and Poland in the post-war period, and since 1981 it has been accessible to the public [ii]. The Berlinka, as a legacy of the Preußische Staatsbibliothek, contains many valuable items, such as the autograph musical scores of great composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin and Schumann, together with some manuscript Bibles of Martin Luther himself. During the stay in Poland, it was also possible to see some autograph copies of Beethoven displayed to the public during the temporary exhibition “Beethoven - the father of great symphonism” organized for the 26th Easter Festival Ludwig van Beethoven.                              

Beethoven Autograph — Photo by Margherita Matera

The main reason that led us to approach the library of Cracow, however, was the presence of the eight Greek manuscripts of the Psalms, which, belonging to this disputed collection, have never been extensively studied; some of them have been considered lost for a long time, reappearing only in recent years. 

One of the 505 boxes belonging to the Berlin collection – and which had been transferred to the Bibliotheka Jagiellońska between 1945 and 1946 – was found only in 2014 in the Dominican Convent of the Holy Trinity in Cracow[iii]; this treasure, forgotten for more than seventy years, contained among other things also twenty-one Greek manuscripts [iv].

Here below is a brief overview of the Psalter manuscripts analyzed during the mission:



Rahlfs Nr.


Berol. gr. fol. 36 (de Boor 272)




Berol. gr. qu. 19 (de Boor 317)




Berol. gr. qu. 38 (de Boor 340)




Berol. gr. qu. 43 (de Boor 345)




Berol. gr. qu. 58 (de Boor 360)




Berolgr. oct. 2 (de Boor 378)




Berolgr. oct. 7 (de Boor 383)




Berolgr. oct. 8 (de Boor 384)




Berol. gr. oct. 13 (de Boor 389)




Berol. gr. fol. 36, Berol. gr. qu. 38, Berol. gr. qu. 43 and Berolgr. oct. 2 were part of the contents of the coffer found in 2014 [v].

Here is a brief description of some of the manuscripts examined by Dr Matera: 

Berol. gr. fol. 36 (de Boor 272) [vi].

These are ten parchment leaves containing part of the commentary on the Psalms of Euthymius Zigabenus (until Ps 4:4a, PG 128 coll. 40-93d). The folios, measuring 300 × 220 mm and containing from 35 to 44 lines of writing, belonged to a codex from Sinai [vii]. The manuscript is written in black ink and in a minuscule script, dated to the 13th c., which recalls the style “Epsilon à pseudo-ligatures basses” [viii]. 


Berol. gr. fol. 36 — Photo by Margherita Matera


Autopsy 04/04/2022.

Berol. gr. oct. 2 (de Boor 378, Ra 1194[ix].

It is a small format psalter written in “Maiuscola ogivale inclinata" dated to the 9th c. and measuring 75 × 120 mm.                                                              

            Berol. gr. oct.(Ra 1194) — Photo by Margherita Matera 


The manuscript consists of 88 leaves and is defective at the beginning and the end. Folios from 1r to 80v contain Psalms 111 to 150 + Odes 1 to 5:19a; folios 81r-88v, on the other hand, contain Psalms 105:16b-106:47b, and they were initially before the present folio 1. 

A cross and a numeral are placed in the upper margin of each first folio recto of a quire to mark the beginning of each new quire; the numeral is then repeated in the lower margin of the last folio verso. The ink is black, the titles are rubricated in red, and the initials lettres are written in red and coloured in light green ink. The manuscript has the indication of the quires from λ΄ to λθ΄: the quire λθ΄ is followed by κη΄, containing ff. 81r-88v is erroneously placed at the end of the manuscript (cf. supra). 

Berol. gr. oct. 2 (Ra 1194), f. IV — Photo by Margherita Matera


This misconstruction is soon explained: the 88 leaves that make it up originally belonged to the Sinait. gr. 37 (Ra 1194, pp. 287-288). In 1850, six leaves of the Sinaiticus were brought to Saint Petersburg by Nikolaji Kyrlov, where they are still preserved nowadays (Sankt-Peterburg Rossijskaja Akademija Nauk, Biblioteka, Nikоlskii MS 3). In 1866, Heinrich Karl Brugsch took another 88 folios to Berlin, and they are now kept in Krakow (Ra 1194). The rest of the leaves of Sinait. gr. 37 is divided between the Sinaitic manuscripts NE gr. ΜΓ 007 and ΝΕ gr. ΜΓ 051 [x].

Autopsy 02/04/2022.

Berol. gr. oct. 8 (de Boor 384, Ra 1038[xi].

It is a small-sized Psalter measuring 113 × 86mm and containing 206 parchment leaves, except for ff. 121-122 and 208, which are paper additions written by a later hand.


Berol. gr. oct. 8 (Ra 1038) — Photo by Margherita Matera


This small manuscript contains Psalms 34:4 to 151 + Odes 1-9, 12, followed by some liturgical texts. The text is written in a minuscule script called “bouletée”, dated to the 10th c., accompanied by marginal notes (in red ink) and enriched with finely decorated initials and other ornaments. The Psalter has an ancient binding, maybe original. Its current state of conservation is terrible: it has lost numerous leaves, and in several places, the marginal decorations have been removed, damaging the parchment.

Berol. gr. oct. 8  (Ra 1038) — Photo by Margherita Matera


About the provenance of this codex, De Boor writes in his catalog: “A. 1880 von einem Inselgriechen zu Paris gekauft” [xii].

Autopsy 29/03/2022. 

Berol. gr. oct. 13, olim Acc. 11408 (de Boor 389, Ra 1546) [xiii].

This manuscript measures 183 × 130 mm, contains an Evangeliary followed by the Psalms (1-151) and the Odes (1-9) and is dated to 13th c. It consists of 251 parchment leaves written on a column by at least three different copyists: A) ff. 7r-8v; B) ff. 9r-100r, 101r-251v; C) f. 100v. Some blank Tabulae occupy folios from 1r to 4v; ff. 5r-6r are empty, while f. 6v contains a miniature depicting Saint Matthew. 


Berol. gr. oct. 13 (Ra 1546) — Photo by Margherita Matera


This manuscript also has an ancient binding. 13 (Ra 1546) — Photo by Margherita Matera


The ancient indication of the quires is still visible: α´-μ´.

 Berol. gr. oct. 13 (Ra 1546 Photo by Margherita Matera


The codex is richly decorated and has initials and titles rubricated in red and retouched in gold; miniatures are placed at the beginning of each Gospel, at the beginning of the Psalms and before each Ode. 

Berol. gr. oct. 13 (Ra 1546) — Photo by Margherita Matera


According to de Boor, this manuscript was acquired in July 1885 in Smyrna by Pastor Philip Meyer [xiv].

Autopsy 30/03/2022.


We want to thank the person responsible for the manuscript section, Dr Elżbieta Knapek, and all the staff of the Bibliotheka Jagiellońska for their willingness and professionalism and for allowing us to study some of the treasures of the Berlinka Collection. 

[i]About the history of the collection, see Reichmann, F., "Three Hundred Years of the Prussian State Library", The Library Quarterly: Information, Community, Policy 23/3 (1962), 225-30. For more recent studies see Pietrzyk, Z., "Book Collections from the former Preußische Staastbibliothek in Jagellonian Library", Polish Libraries Today 5 (2005), 81-87; Jaglarz, M./Jaśtal, K., "Bestände der ehemaligen Preußischen Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin in der Jagellonen-Bibliothek. Forschungsstand und -perspektiven, in Wolff-Powęska, A./Forecki,  P. (eds.), Geschichte – Erinnerung – Politik. Studies in History, Memory and Politics, Berlin, vol. XXIII, 15-30; in the same book: Kołakowska, K., "Greek Manuscripts from the former Prussian State Library in Berlin: preservation and research problems (selected examples)", 53-62.

 [ii] Cf. Gortat, J., "Berlinka. Ein besonderer deutsch-polnischer Erinnerungsort, in Convivium. Germanistisches Jahrbuch Polen", 2017, 105-28; Id., "A Rift in Friendship: The Prussian State Library between the GDR and Poland", German Studies Review 52/2 (2019), 299-318. About the recent history of the Berlinka see Pietrobelli, A., "Un manuscript perdu de Galien retrouvé à Cracovie", Journal of History of Medicine and Medical Humanities 32/1 (2020), 295-310: 303-06. 

[iii]Cf. Pietrobelli, "Un manuscript perdu de Galien", 305-06.

[iv] Cf. Pietrobelli, "Un manuscript perdu de Galien", 305-06.

[v]  Cf. Pietrobelli, "Un manuscript perdu de Galien", 306.

[vi]Studemund, W./Cohn, L./de Boor, C., Verzeichnisse der Königlichen Bibliothek zu Berlin. Vol. I et II, Codices ex bibliotheca Meermanniana Phillippici graeci nunc Berolinenses, I-II, Die Handschriften-Verzeichnisse der Königlichen Bibliothek zu Berlin, Berlin 1890, 1897, 140; Rahlfs, A., Verzeichnis der griechischen Handschriften des Alten Testaments, Berlin 1914 (Mitteilungen des Septuaginta-Unternehmens der königlichen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen, 2), 28.

[vii] Studemund/Cohn/de Boor, Verzeichnisse der Königlichen Bibliothek zu Berlin, 140. 

[viii] Canart, P., "Les écritures livresques chypriotes du milieu du XIe siècle au milieu du XIIIe et le style palestino-chypriote 'epsilon'"Scrittura e Civiltà 5 (1981), 17-76. 

[ix] Studemund/Cohn/de Boor, Verzeichnisse der Königlichen Bibliothek zu Berlin, 220; Rahlfs, Verzeichnis, 29. 

[x] Parpulov, G., Greek and Latin Manuscripts at Sinai, in St Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai: Its Manuscripts and their Conservation, (Papers Given in Memory of Professor Ihor Ševčenko, 27 November 2010), London, Saint Catherine Foundation, 2011, 34-42, on p. 41. 

[xi] Studemund/Cohn/de Boor, Verzeichnisse der Königlichen Bibliothek zu Berlin, 222-23; Rahlfs, Verzeichnis, 29.  

[xii] Studemund/Cohn/de Boor, Verzeichnisse der Königlichen Bibliothek zu Berlin, 223.

[xiii] Studemund/Cohn/de Boor, Verzeichnisse der Königlichen Bibliothek zu Berlin, pp. 225-26; Rahlfs, Verzeichnis, 29. 

[xiv] Studemund/Cohn/de Boor, Verzeichnisse der Königlichen Bibliothek zu Berlin, 226.