Important information

  • Please reserve manuscripts 2 working days in advance.
  • You can consult them in the general reading room. Seat reservation is required.

About the collection

The Manuscripts Department preserves approximately 35,000 manuscripts, including 4,500 medieval codices, which makes KBR’s collection one of the 10 largest in the world. Since the Middle Ages, this collection has been regarded as one of the most prestigious libraries in the Western world.

A large part of the original collection consists of the former Library of the Dukes of Burgundy.

Discover the history of the collection

Main collection and special collections

The main collection is divided into four series.

In addition, the Manuscripts Department also holds two special collections:

  • The Goethals Collection: manuscripts and printed works connected to genealogy, heraldry and the history of the former Low Countries.
  • The Merghelynk Collection: genealogy and heraldry of the province of West Flanders. [view catalogue record]

Both collections differ completely in character and have their own catalogues.

Searching manuscripts

There are several ways to look up a manuscript:

  • Using the online catalogue. Please note: not all manuscripts are listed in the online catalogue.
  • Using the digitised reference works available online.
  • Using the printed or handwritten catalogues in the reading room:
    • The systematic catalogue of J. Van den Gheyn
    • The repositories of Latin, Greek, Dutch, French and Eastern codices
    • The register of the manuscripts from monasteries and abbeys
    • The catalogues of special collections (the Goethals, Merghelynck and Houwaert Collections)
    • The catalogues of illuminated manuscripts
  • Using the systematic and alphabetical card catalogue in the reading room. It contains notes with descriptions of manuscripts and a bibliography.
  • Digitised manuscripts can be viewed online.

Documentation and reference material

In addition to the catalogues, a well-stocked collection of secondary sources is at your disposal, as well as these working instruments:

  • A large number of reference works on manuscripts (around 6,000 volumes).
  • An iconographic and textual database with colour slides, photographs (monochrome), microfiches, microfilms and CD-ROMs (approximately 10,000 documents).
Manuscripts reading room


Several academic researchers work at the Department to do the cataloguing and to produce independent publications on manuscripts in the collection. Past major projects include a series of six repositories of dated manuscripts preserved in Belgium.

The Department is also home to the International Centre of Codicology, which edits the “Bulletin codicologique” in the journal Scriptorium. The bulletin incorporates the current bibliography of studies on medieval manuscripts.

View all research projects
Contact the department