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"Ex litteris immortalitas"
"Immortal through books"
Inscription at the western library entrance
The part of the library which is accessible during abbey visits, the main room and its adjoining room, was once the monastery’s complete library when it was set up in 1735. But already in 1768 it was enlarged by adding the “upper library”, the two so-called Bergl rooms which were made accessible by a spiral staircase from the adjoining room and are not included in the abbey visit. These four rooms, the original library rooms on the first floor and the “new” library on the second floor with a room for the scientific book collection and a room for the natural history collection, form Melk’s Baroque library. These convey a unique spatial experience for guests because of the representative decoration and array of books in a late Baroque ensemble.
Thus the visitor gets to see the representative original rooms of the Baroque library, which today constitute only a small section of Melk abbey library. Since the 18th century new stack rooms have been created on the ground floor and on the second floor, connected by a central spiral staircase. The collections are continually being augmented and updated, so that it is still an “active” library in whose treasury of books scholars from around the world are interested, and which is repeatedly the subject of research projects. The showcases in the main library room have always provided a little insight into the special treasures of this library, but since 1996 they have also been specifically used to showcase research projects and to present special exhibitions concerning topical subjects and themes.
Presently the library comprises about 100.000 books, among them approximately 1800 manuscripts and 750 incunabula. In the main room and the adjoining room on the first floor, one sees about 16.000 volumes.
Restoration Melk Abbey Library ǀ 2022-2032
Project Description & Scope
100.000 volumes, including 1.800 manuscripts as well as 750 incunabula: this considerable stock has grown over the centuries, so that Melk Abbey’s library now constitutes a cultural asset which is not only one of the main attractions for visitors from all over the world, but also part of UNESCO’s world heritage, which entails a great responsibility. The time has now come to start comprehensive restoration work in order to preserve the outstanding interior decoration and the precious books.
Heritage = Engagement
The restoration of Melk Abbey library is scheduled to begin in 2022 and last 11 years. So as to fulfill the important obligation of preserving this important cultural asset, all forces need to be pooled.
The overall concept was agreed upon by all involved parties beforehand, the Federal Monuments Office has issued its definitive decision for the start of the restoration work. Permit drawings and execution plans have been fine-tuned and finalized, the estimated total restoration cost amounts to twelve million Euro.
Abbot Georg Wilfinger OSB is very grateful that a board of trustees was created to provide advice and support for this comprehensive restoration project. Lower Austria’s governor Johanna Mikl-Leitner has agreed to become its chairwoman. As members of the board, representatives of the abbey, the province of Lower Austria, the state of Austria, the supporters’ association, and other partners such as the town of Melk, will discuss and decide about the respective restoration phases and their funding.
For the library team, the next years will be challenging, because their daily work should continue as normally as possible. Yet they also feel the pleasant anticipation that a project which has been planned and prepared for so long can finally start and improve conditions for the necessary maintenance of the books and the library on a long-term basis.