Due to massive destructions in the modern age, very little has survived from the book collections of medieval Transylvania – the easternmost rampart of Western European civilisation. However, hitherto unfathomed amounts of fragmenta codicum have been preserved in the bindings of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century books and manuscripts. Digitising and cataloguing these fragments could help reconstitute some of the medieval collections of our region.

For instance, the Benedictine abbey of Cluj-Mănăștur, established in the mid-eleventh century, had a collection of manuscripts attested by an inventory drafted in 1427, and so did the Dominican convent of Cluj, and the parish church of St Michael. Only a few of these books are still extant — e.g. the Inventarium conventus Coloswariensis O. P. from 1509-14 (Biblioteca Centrală Universitară, MS 1030), or a large choir books from St Michael’s parish church (Alba Iulia, Bibl. Batthyaneum, MSS I.1).

However, many other leaves have survived in the bindings of early-modern Unitarian and Jesuit books. The town administration also used old parchment manuscripts as maculature to bind sundry annals and account books. Membra disiecta from the Benedictine abbey’s codices ended up in the Library of the Romanian Academy in Cluj (which preserves the historical holdings of the religious orders and churches from the Cluj area), but also at the University Library, at the State Archive of Cluj, at the National Archives of Hungary, and at the Academy Library in Budapest. So far, we have been able to identify 179 fragments in the bindings of books from the Academy Library in Cluj, and also a handful of loose fragments in Budapest. The appropriate study of these fragments is thus of utmost importance in the attempt to reconstruct the medieval collections of Cluj.

In order to give manuscript fragments from Transylvanian collections international visibility, the Centre for Manuscript Studies at the University of Cluj and the Academy Library in Cluj cooperate with Norwegian and Swiss partners, in a project funded by the Romanian Ministry of Culture thanks to an Iceland-Liechtenstein-Norway grant. Between 2020-2022, we are restoring, describing, digitising, uploadinng on the Swiss platform Fragmentarium, and exhibiting in Cluj (physically) and in Oslo (vitually) a series of manuscript fragments from the Academy Library in Cluj.

Updatet October 2020/Codruta Cuceu