Originally Published: 2020-11-21

Often when working with Greek & Latin texts, you’ll find manuscripts referred to using Latin names which indicate where the manuscript is currently located. For example, “Escorialensis Ω.I.12” refers to a manuscript with the shelfmark Ω.I.12 in the Real Biblioteca del Monasterio de El Escorial, Spain. Unfortunately, the list of names used is quite extensive and this can be a somewhat confusing barrier to tracking down more information about a given manuscript. Unless you happen to know the Latin names for various European cities as well as the most significant collection(s) of manuscript holdings in those cities, it can take some sleuthing to discover what collection you even need to look in for a given shelfmark. In order to aid others (and as a handy reference for myself), I intend to collect here a list of commonly-used Latin names for libraries with Greek & Latin manuscript holdings.

I generally limit myself here to listing institutions which still exist and hold manuscripts at the time of this writing. This list is also composed and supplemented according to those names which I actually encounter primarily in 20th/21st-century editions and articles. Note that as a result this list may not be a completely comprehensive aid to deciphering an archaic or obscure Latinate manuscript reference; occasionally individual manuscripts will be referred to by names which are derived not from the current holding institution but from their origin, previous owner, or some other attribute of the manuscript itself. In those cases, some additional resources may be of assistance:

Before we move on to the list, I’d also like to note the Pinakes database, which is often an indispensible resource in attempting to track down manuscripts.

Latin Names of Libraries

A note on the list’s organization: this list is organized in alphabetical order of the Latin name, with Latin names for collections within groups subordinated to the larger group (sometimes a manuscript will be referred to solely by the name of the collection, e.g. “Vossianus” instead of “Leidensis Vossianus”, or by the name of the city alone when there are multiple collections in that city). Commonly-encountered abbreviations of names are also given in order to aid searching. Where possible, I link to the most relevant webpage for each collection. I plan to revise this list with any new names I encounter, and I’m also open to suggestions and corrections.