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Załuski Library

Załuski Library in 1752
Architectural style Rococo
Town Warsaw
Country Poland
Client Józef Andrzej Załuski,
Andrzej Stanisław Załuski
Started 1621[1]
Completed 1736-47 (rebuilt)
Design team
Architect Melana[2]

The Załuski Library (Polish: Biblioteka Załuskich, Latin: Bibliotheca Zalusciana) was built in Warsaw 17471795 by Józef Andrzej Załuski and his brother, Andrzej Stanisław Załuski, both Roman Catholic bishops. The library was open to the public and indeed was the first Polish public library, the biggest in Poland and one of the first and biggest libraries in the world.[3][4] After the Kościuszko Uprising, the Russian troops acting on orders from Czarina Catherine II transferred the library's contents to her personal collection in Petersburg, where a year later it formed the cornerstone of the newly founded Imperial Public Library's collection. In the 1920s, the government of the RSFSR returned some of the collection to the recently reestablished Polish state, yet this collection was destroyed by German soldiers during the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.


The greatest passion of the Załuski brothers were books. Józef Andrzej Załuski together with his brother Andrzej Stanisław Załuski obtained the collections of such earlier Polish bibliophiles as Jakub Zadzik, Krzysztof Opaliński, Tomasz Ujejski, Janusz Wiśniowiecki, Jerzy Mniszech and Jan III Sobieski. From 1730s they planned the creation of a library and in 1747 the brothers founded the Załuski Library (Biblioteka Załuskich). Located in Daniłowiczowski Palace in Warsaw.[4] the library had two storeys (the large reading room was on the second floor) and was topped with a small tower, in which an astronomy observatory was placed.[4]

It was considered to be the first Polish public library[5] and one of the largest libraries in the contemporary world.[4] In all of Europe there were only two or three libraries, which could pride themselves on having such a book collection.[6] The library initially had about 200,000 items, which grew to about 400,000 printed items, maps and manuscripts[4][7] by the end of the 1780s. It also accumulated a collection of art, scientific instruments, and plant and animal specimens.

This library was open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7:00 to 19:00. On the doors hung regulations demanding quiet and asking that prayers be said for the intention of the Załuski brothers before starting to read, as well as a ban on taking books outside the library. Unfortunately the last point of these regulations was systematically broken. In the end, the two bishops even turned to the pope for help. Pope Benedict XIV published a papal bull in 1752 which threatened excommunication to anyone stealing books from this library. But this failed to resolve the problem.[6]

After their death, the newly formed National Education Commission took charge of the library, renaming it the Załuski Brothers Library of the Republic.

Załuski Library in about 1790

Twenty years later in 1794, in the aftermath of the second Partition of Poland and Kościuszko Uprising, Russian troops, on orders from Russian Czarina Catherine II, emptied[4][8] the library and dispatched the whole collection to Saint Petersburg, where the books formed the mass of the Imperial Public Library on its formation, a year later.[4][9] Parts of the collections were damaged or destroyed as they were mishandled while being removed from the library and transported to Russia, and many were stolen.[6][4] According to the historian Joachim Lelewel, the Zaluskis' books, "could be bought at Grodno by the basket".[4]

The collection was later dispersed among several Russian libraries. Some parts of the Zaluski collection came back to Poland on two separate dates in the nineteenth century: 1842 and 1863.[4] In the 1920s, in the aftermath of the Polish-Soviet War and the Treaty of Riga[10][7] the RSFSR's government returned around 50,000 items from the collection to Poland,[4] yet German soldiers destroyed these items during the Warsaw Uprising of 1944.[6] Only 1800 manuscripts and 30,000 printed materials from the original library survived the war.

Today, the Polish National Library (Biblioteka Narodowa), formed in 1928[4] considers itself the Załuski Library's heir.


  1. ^ (Polish) "Dom pod Królami". Retrieved 2008-02-17.  
  2. ^ (Polish) "Skarby rokokowej Warszawy". swiadectwo. Retrieved 2008-02-17.  
  3. ^ (English) S.D. Chrostowska. "Polish Literary Criticism Circa 1772: A Genre Perspective". Retrieved 2008-02-17.  
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l (English) Maria Witt (September 15 and October 15, 2005). "The Zaluski Collection in Warsaw". The Strange Life of One of the Greatest European Libraries of the Eighteenth Century. FYI France. Retrieved 2008-02-17.  
  5. ^ (English) "The The Bygone Warsaw". Retrieved 2008-02-17.  
  6. ^ a b c d (English) Lech Chmielewski. "In the House under the Sign of the Kings". Welcome to Warsaw. Retrieved 2008-02-17.  
  7. ^ a b (English) Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science. Warsaw. 1977. ISBN 08-24720-20-2.,M1. Retrieved 2008-02-17.  
  8. ^ (English) Katarzyna Czechowicz (August 14, 2007). "The 260th anniversary of opening the Załuski Library". Retrieved 2008-02-17.  
  9. ^ (English) Nicholas A. Basbanes (2003). A Splendor of Letters: The Permanence of Books in an Impermanent World. Warsaw. ISBN 00-60082-87-9. Retrieved 2008-02-17.  
  10. ^ (English) Jonathan Rose (2001). The Holocaust and the Book: Destruction and Preservation.. Warsaw. ISBN 15-58492-53-4. Retrieved 2008-02-17.  

See also

External links

  • FYI France Essay The Strange Life of One of the Greatest European Libraries of the Eighteenth Century: the Zaluski Collection in Warsaw
  • Welcome In the House under the Sign of the Kings



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