Heidelberg University Library is the oldest university library in Germany.
The current library building of the university, which was opened on November 6, 1905, is considered a top achievement of Baden architecture. The representative, listed four-wing building was erected on the site of a former black nunnery.
The Karlsruhe architect Joseph Durm provided the design, picking up on motifs of late 16th century "German Mannerism" which he combined with Art Nouveau elements.
To the east and south, the facades are richly decorated with sculptures, architectural details, and ornaments. The artfully designed building forms reach up to the roof. The key to understanding them is provided by two sculptures at the main entrance. Hermann Volz, a professor at the Karlsruhe Art Academy, created Prometheus on the left and a female figure on the right. Woman and child symbolize the transmission of knowledge from generation to generation. The laughing and crying masks represent comedy and tragedy. An inscription pays tribute to Grand Duke Friedrich of Baden, who as sovereign was at the same time rector of the university and thus its builder, which also explains the Baden coat of arms. Above the windows, the electors are immortalized in medallions.
A look inside is also worthwhile: busts of famous scholars can be seen on the landings. In addition, permanent and changing exhibitions invite visitors. A special attraction of the university library is the Codex Manesse, the world-famous collection of medieval songs.
Heidelberg's Bibliotheca Palatina, one of the most valuable collections of German-language and Latin manuscripts from the middle ages and early modern period, has now been completely digitized and made available online at palatina-digital.uni-hd.de
In 2019, the University Library (UB) had approximately 2.3 million visitors and nearly 1.1 million loans. Over 3.2 million books and 640,000 e-books were lent out.