Abbey in Melk boasts an impressive historic library

Just last week, my husband and I spent the week in Hungary and Austria. He earned the trip through his job in industrial equipment sales. We had a wonderful time touring Budapest with about 500 others who had also earned the trip. Budapest is the capital of Hungary and is known as being the Paris of Eastern Europe. The city is actually two cities, with Buda on one side of the Danube River and Pest on the other. It’s a beautiful city made more dramatic with the architecture of hundreds of years abundant on the large buildings and churches. We spent three days in Budapest, before moving onto to second portion of the week-long trip, Vienna, Austria, which is another beautiful city located along the Danube.

We took several day trips in both countries, with the Abbey at Melk in Austria being one of the stand-out spots. The large Abbey has been continually operated by monks since its founding during the Middle Ages. The following information about the Abbey was found on the Internet:

The abbey was founded in 1089 when Leopold II, Margrave of Austria, gave one of his castles to Benedictine monks from Lambach Abbey. A monastic school, the Stiftsgymnasium Melk, was founded in the 12th century, and the monastic library soon became renowned for its extensive manuscript collection. The monastery's scriptorium was also a major site for the production of manuscripts. In the fifteenth century the abbey became the center of the Melk Reform movement which reinvigorated the monastic life of Austria and Southern Germany. Today's Baroque abbey was built between 1702 and 1736 to designs by Jakob Prandtauer. Particularly noteworthy are the abbey church with frescos by Johann Michael Rottmayr and the library with countless medieval manuscripts, including a famed collection of musical manuscripts and frescos by Paul Troger.

Due to its fame and academic stature, Melk managed to escape dissolution under Emperor Joseph II when many other Austrian abbeys were seized and dissolved between 1780 and 1790. The abbey managed to survive other threats to its existence during the Napoleonic Wars, and also in the period following the Anschluss in 1938, when the school and a large part of the abbey were confiscated by the state. The school was returned to the abbey after the Second World War and now caters for nearly 900 pupils of both sexes. The library of the Melk abbey consists of a total of 12 rooms containing about 1,888 manuscripts, 750 incunabula (printed works before 1500), 1,700 works from the 16th, 4,500 from the 17th, and 18,000 from the 18th century; together with the newer books, approximately 100,000 volumes in total. About 16,000 of these are found in this library room. They are organized by topics: beginning with editions of the Bible in row I, theology (rows II to VII), jurisprudence (row VIII), geography and astronomy (row VIIII), history (rows X to XV), and ending with the baroque lexica in row XVI.

The majority of the really old books in the library are written in Latin; and recent additions are in German. I was particularly impressed with the neatness and quality of the printing (prior to the invention of the printing press) that the monks at the Abbey used when compiling these tomes. Larger books would seem to be somewhat easier to print, but many of the books on display and in the library are quite small. It was an altogether memorable trip and a learning experience as well.

For those who may be searching for some first edition books, or vintage postcards and ephemera, there are several important shows coming in the next few weeks.

The Pine Tree Post Card Club’s Fall Post Card Show and Sale is Saturday, Oct. 6, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at their new location at the Woodfords Church, 202 Woodford Street in Portland, Maine. More information about this show is with John Vierra at (207) 657-3800 or at

The Allentown Fall Antique Book, Paper & Advertising Show is also taking place on Oct. 6 and Oct. 7 at the Agricultural Hall, 1929 Chew Street (Allentown Fairgrounds) in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Hours are Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Have wonderful couple of weeks at shows and sales. Please notify us with club and convention news; unusual postcard or ephemera collections; and other related matters at; or at (319) 472-4763.