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Historians receive a generous gift of over 1,200 books from Germany

The Hans Belting Library at the MU Faculty of Arts will receive books from the estate of the well-respected art historian Ursula Nilgen.

Ivan Foletti, head of the Centre for Early Medieval Studies with one of the gifted books.

The well-stocked Hans Belting Library, which belongs to the Department of the History of Art, will now grow even larger. The generous gift of over 1,200 books from the estate of Ursula Nilgen, one of the major German figures of 20th-century history of art, will become available in the library this autumn.

Professor Nilgen’s research encompassed the medieval art of almost the entire Latin West, from England to France to Italy. When she died last December at the age of 87, her large library became part of her estate.

“As a result of the estate proceedings, the books were originally to go to the Max Planck Institute for Art History in Rome. However, the institute already owns copies of many of the titles, so the institute director Tanja Michalsky asked us if we would be interested in them,” says Ivan Foletti, head of the Centre for Early Medieval Studies. He and his colleagues welcomed the offer since their German colleague studied many topics that are also key to their research.

The books that Masaryk University will receive from the German researcher’s collection include facsimiles (or exact copies) of medieval manuscripts. As it can take a number of weeks to enter all of the information into the university’s library catalogue, the collection will not become available to students until the autumn semester.

The new arrivals will add to the collection that the Department of the History of Art already owns, and which found their way to Brno in a similar fashion. The Hans Belting Library was founded in 2016 thanks to a gift from Hans Belting, a German historian and theorist of medieval art. “In both cases, it helped that we were willing to take almost the whole collection, not only part of it as in the case of some other institutions, because the owners of the collections don’t like to split them,” explains Foletti.

The gift was announced at the celebrations of the fifth anniversary of Convivium, a journal published by Masaryk University, the Czech Academy of Sciences, and the University of Lausanne. This international peer-reviewed journal covers the long historical period from early Christianity to the end of the Middle Ages and is published biannually by Brepols publishing house. Due to the topics it covers, it places a greater emphasis on graphic design than most other journals.