Provenance database

The history behind the origin of library holdings plays a key role in researching the people and institutions who owned certain books.

Scholars’ and monastery libraries

The University Library is home to the holdings of several scholars’ libraries and monastery libraries, which have been divided between a number of institutions. The trusts run by professors and academics holding “Magister” titles since the 15th century also included book collections with a close connection to the history of the university. With secularisation, huge volumes of books from various monastery libraries ended up in the University Library’s possession.

These provenances (from the Latin word provenire, meaning “to originate”) can be identified by features on the binding or within the book itself: handwritten or stamped owner’s marks, shelf marks indicating the location or bookplates pasted in the book. Handwritten inscriptions attest to the amicable exchange of books and the extensive network of scholars.


You can also research the provenances of our holdings - if they have already been collected - in our online catalog. To do so, use the input field of the simple search and introduce your search term with the field designation prn:

E.g.: prn:(Bürgi Ulrich)

For a long time, provenances were not indexed in general library catalogues. So they are not yet listed in many databases, even today. Within the framework of selected digitisation projects, we are specifically focusing on recording and indexing provenances in the historical holdings.


Search for digitised provenance characteristics

University of Freiburg