The University of Montpellier has a rich documentary heritage: printed works, manuscripts, archives, drawings and engravings. Most of this heritage is kept in the university libraries.
The collections of printed matter range from the beginning of printing to the present day. Rich and varied, they include 300 incunabula, hundreds of thousands of printed volumes from the 16th to the 19th century (books and periodicals), and specialised holdings often resulting from donations. Encyclopaedicism is the key word for these collections, not only because they are held in libraries covering all the major disciplines, but also because they were generally conceived with a broad and generous vision of knowledge, as "libraries of the honest man" with the ambition of providing the richest possible access to knowledge.
The most prestigious manuscripts are kept in the BU Historique de Médecine. This collection consists of 900 manuscripts, two thirds of which are from the medieval period, covering all fields of knowledge.
For the Middle Ages, literature dominates: classical letters, chivalry novels (a Perceval by Chrétien de Troyes, three copies of the Roman de la Rose), Italian poets such as Dante and Petrarch. Then come the religious manuscripts: richly illustrated Bibles, Korans, theological sums, lives of saints, breviaries and missals. The essential medical texts are there: Hippocrates and Galen, Avicenna, Albucasis (in two illuminated copies, one of which in the Gascon language belonged to Gaston Phébus) and Arnaud de Villeneuve, or Gui de Chauliac and Roger de Parme with their surgical procedures. Music, including a Tonaire from the 11th century and the magnificent 13th century chansonnier, law and philosophy are also present.
Fifty-nine manuscripts are from the Carolingian period, including the oldest in the collection, a psalter from 780 that belonged to a member of Charlemagne's family. Others date from the 16th century - a superb Portulan combining medieval cartography and great discoveries, from the 17th century - correspondence of Christine of Sweden - or from the 18th century - lectures by doctors from Montpellier. The gathering of such varied manuscripts within a medical faculty is without equal and constitutes the real treasure and originality of the library.
Manuscript documents may also be found in specialised collections, such as the Gergonne collection of the BU Sciences.
The archives constitute a unique source that is indispensable for any scientific research on the history, organisation and evolution of the institution as well as on teaching and research.
The oldest administrative archives are today preserved, in part, in the departmental archives of the Hérault and, in part, in the university libraries. The latter are in particular the legal depositories of theses and keep some of the collections of professors they have donated.
For modern and contemporary archives, the archives are kept by each faculty and their treatment is coordinated by the archives service. Several collections have been classified and inventoried, sometimes followed by transfer to the Hérault departmental archives. Other transfer projects are underway.
Depending on the period you are interested in, you can contact one or other of these services.
Access part of the university's heritage resources online, free of charge, thanks to the digitisation work carried out by the inter-university documentary cooperation service as part of the Foli@ online heritage library. The first digitised corpus represents more than 90,000 issues of medieval manuscripts, old prints (15th-19th centuries) on the history of medicine and pharmacy in Montpellier, on the history of botany, and 18th century optical views.
The archive inventories can be downloaded by clicking on the following links: