Access to the materials
For general directions on how to search, see Get help finding manuscripts.
With a few exceptions, the printed materials (books and magazines) are registered in our catalogue and can be searched and ordered from our website; they can either be borrowed or viewed in the reading room.
Our manuscripts in Jewish languages are partly available in digital form as part of the Digital collections. Most of the manuscripts, that have not yet been digitised, can be searched in the library system.
For further information, you can also use the online catalogue of Hebrew manuscripts of the world, created by the National Library of Israel. On their website, go to ’Advanced search’ and then choose ’Current location: Copenhagen’ and ’Collection: Royal Danish Library, Copenhagen’ in the dropdown-menus.
During 2020 we expect to expand the available digitised material both in Copenhagen and via the National Library in Jerusalem.
History of the collection
The church's and the university’s shared interest in the Hebrew Bible, together with their common interest in possibly dismissing the Jewish interpretation of the texts, is the reason why manuscripts and other material within Judaism and Jewish culture, has been included in the library collection from the earliest times. 1932 saw the largest addition to the collection, when the collection of Rabbi David Simonsen, containing approx 200 manuscripts, approx 20.000 printed volumes, and an extensive archive, was acquired.
The collection survived the Nazi occupation of Denmark during the Second World War and was subsequently expanded through donations as a sign of appreciation for the Danish effort in connection with saving Danish Jews.
Content of the collection
Roughly 50% of the collection's titles are in Hebrew, and the remaining titles are evenly distributed between Yiddish and other (primarily Western) languages.
- ”The Copenhagen Maimonides” – a manuscript written and illuminated in 1348 in Catalonia. Moshe ben Maimon’s (Maimonides, approx 1135-1204) work Moreh Nevukhim (’Guidance for the perplexed’) is a chief work within Jewish (and Medieval) Aristotelian philosophy. It is by far the most famous manuscript in the collection, largely because of its wonderful illuminations (decorations).
- The seven Hebrew biblical manuscripts (10 in total) which were acquired in connection with F. C. von Haven’s (1727-1763) Arabian journey. Several of these manuscripts are also decorated with beautiful illuminations.
- David Simonsen’s collection of manuscripts (available in digital form). Throughout his entire life, Rabbi David Simonsen (1853-1932) collected books and manuscripts important to Jewish culture and history but also for his work as a rabbi and researcher.