The Austrian National Library celebrates 650 years, and they have unearthed quite a few treasures for this year-long celebration exhibition to share in the State Hall. The exhibit is truly a treasury of knowledge.
The Founding Codex is the first document bearing A.E.I.O.U. Austriae est imperare orbi universo (“It is Austria’s destiny to rule the whole world.”) We know how that turned out.
Included among the additional documents on exhibit is the world’s oldest card catalogue, dating to 1780, to account for the 1.400+ volumes in the then-named Hapsburg Court Library.
The Mainz Psalter (1457), the second oldest book printed with moveable type (the first being the Gutenberg Bible), and the oldest known example of multicolored print. The colored letters were actually metallic shapes arranged into letters before being inked.
A section of Papyrus from the Council of Ephesus. A quick-thinking Viennese antiquities dealer happened to be in Egypt when some farmers showed him a large stack of documents (more than 10.000) that they had uncovered; he brought them back and ultimately convinced Archduke Rainier to purchase all of them. The Papyrus Collection is worth its own visit.
Mozart’s Requiem, the original.
From its more contemporary holdings, a curious color lithograph of…the Mississippi Delta?
The exhibit also described well how the collection was formed and managed over time. Its current form in the Baroque style, was enhanced by the collections of Prince Eugene of Savoy, his most noted claims to fame having been to save the Hapsburg Empire from conquest (by the French, who rejected him for military duty) and fending off the Turks.
Beginning in 1938 with the Anschluss, the exhibit outlined the library’s aggressive acquisition plan; the plain-looking document outlines confirmation of receipt of the contents of Vienna’s Jewish Museum in 1942. Since 2003, more than 52.000 objects have either been returned to their rightful heirs or transferred to the National Fund of the Republic of Austria for Victims of National Socialism.
And of course, taking a moment or two to appreciate the surroundings is an imperative.