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The Humanist Library in Sélestatmarker is one of the most important cultural treasures of Alsacemarker, Francemarker. According to a traditional saying, Alsace has three great treasures: Strasbourg Cathedralmarker, the Isenheim Altarpiece in Colmarmarker and the Humanist Library in Sélestat.

Actually, there are in fact two Renaissance humanist libraries involved, the library of the Humanist School and the private library of the famous scholar, Beatus Rhenanus (1485-1547).

The Library of the Humanist School

The entrance portal of the library.
Inside the library
The oldest book in the library, a Merovingian manuscript from the 7th century
In 1441, the municipal authorities of Sélestat appointed Ludwig Dringenberg, born in Westphalia, to be the leader of the local Latin school. The appointment proved to be a stroke of luck. Dringenberg turned out to be a gifted and committed educator, who had an open attitude toward intellectual trends of the time. Under his leadership emerged the first school on the Upper Rhine where Humanist thinking was fostered. His successors, Kraft Hofman (1477-1501), Hieronymus Gebwiler (1501-1509) and Hans Sapidus (1510-1525), knew how to increase the reputation of the school still further. Thus, the school was the training place of an entire generation of Alsatian Humanists. The school also had a library which steadily grew in extent through endowments and gifts (from Jakob Wimpfeling of Sélestat, among others).

The Library of Beatus Rhenanus

Beatus Rhenanus bequeathed his entire private library to his home city of Sélestat. This library contained about 670 bound leather volumes at the time of this death in 1547, which Rhenanus had collected during his studies and his work in Strasbourgmarker, Baselmarker, Parismarker and Sélestat. Even at that time, the library was of inestimable value, since books were only published in small numbers of copies and they were extremely expensive. The library of Beatus Rhenanus is the only larger Humanist library preserved virtually intact. Other large libraries, such as those of Erasmus von Rotterdam or Johannes Reuchlin, were scattered after the deaths of their owners.

The Humanists of Sélestat

The Alsatian Humanists closely associated with the expansion of the library include:

The Library today

Since 1889, both libraries have been housed under a single roof in a former covered market near the Gothic church of Saint Georgemarker. The library is publicly accessible as a museum and the books can be consulted by scholars and researchers. The collection boasts as many as 550 incunabula, 460 ancient and modern manuscripts, 2,200 16th century prints, 1,600 17th century prints and 2,600 18th century prints. The rooms also display a collection of 15th and 16th century Upper-Rhenish religious paintings and sculpture.

External Links and References

  1. Figures and key dates on the library's website

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