National Library of the Czech Republic

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Manuscripts of the National Library of the Czech Republic

The collection of manuscripts of the National Library of the Czech Republic contains about 14 000 items. The oldest manuscripts comeCodex Wissegradensis, 4v from the time before Christ while the latest from the first half of the 20th century. The core of the collection are the College libraries of the mediaeval Prague university, which later became part of the library of the Prague Klementinum College of the Jesuits. They were enlarged by the addition of several manuscripts from the later university library, the so-called new Carolinum Library. This manuscript holding was at the end of the 18th century first augmented by the libraries from the closed Jesuit Colleges in Bohemia and also by manuscripts from the library of the counts of Kinsky. At the very end of the 18th century, manuscripts from the convents in Bohemia abolished under Joseph II were also added. The holding formed in such way, further enriched by other, not numerous acquisitions, was listed in printed catalogue at the beginning of the 20th century. Important book wholes, also containing manuscripts, were acquired due to a generous acquisition policy during the time of the First Republic. The manuscripts included a collection of Greek papyri, Oriental manuscripts with the Indian ones written on palm leaves, the manuscripts from the Prague Lobkowicz Library, the Széll-Kubelík Library, the manuscripts from the Thun-Hohenstein Library in Děčín and from the Benedictine monastery in Admont. A part of the literary archive of Adalbert Stifter and codices from the monastery in Osek, or formally also the manuscripts from the Municipal Library in Zittau, were not acquired until after World War II. Recently, the library has acquired by purchase namely the coherent wholes of manuscripts from the Premonstratension monastery in Teplá and from the Franciscan monastery in Cheb.

The content of the manuscript collection of the National Library was to a certain degree predetermined already with its establishment: the decisive part of the holding is represented by the mediaeval literary codices which originated in the circle of the Prague university. They contain literary works documenting the learning of the time and Reformation streams of the 14th and 15th centuries. They also include works of the representatives of Bohemian Reformation: John Hus, Jacobellus von Mies and others. Manuscripts created in mediaeval cloisters in Bohemia are a no less interesting and valuable group. Let us remember, for instance, the handwritten copies of the oldest Czech lyrics, which have been preserved thanks to the involvement of Oldřich Kříž of Telč. Conversely, the collection of Jesuitica maintained in the original holding is surprisingly poor, it was only complemented when collections which were a part of the Prague Lobkowicz Library were acquired.

When the library was administered by the Jesuits, manuscripts had a separate section. Possibly still under Chief Librarian Karl Raphael Ungar (1743–1807), who designed the new classification of the holding on a scientific basis, manuscripts were given 18 sections. At present,  the manuscript collection is divided into 26 numbered + 7 independent sections, specifically according to both language and provenance. The manuscripts from the monasteries in Osek, Teplá and Cheb, from the library of the counts of Kinsky, the collection of Greek papyri, the Indian manuscripts on palm leaves and the part of the literary archive of Adalbert Stifter are stored under their original shelf marks. The language aspect (i.e. which language prevails in the manuscripts of these groups) is applied for classifying the manuscripts into SectionsI–XV, XVI, XVII, or also XVIII and XXV, whereas the other sections, with the exception of the shelf mark XXIV, are further classified based on provenance.

Classification of the Manuscript Collection into Sections

(the State as of 1st March 2009)



description of the section


Latin manuscripts


German manuscripts


Czech manuscripts


Oriental manuscripts


manuscripts from the Thun-Hohenstein Library in Děčín


manuscripts from the Benedictine monastery in Admont


later Latin manuscripts


manuscripts from the Széll-Kubelík Library


manuscripts from the Prague Lobkowicz Library


manuscript fragments


Romance and Greek manuscripts


manuscripts from the Municipal Library in Zittau


manuscripts from the so-called older library of the counts Kinsky


manuscripts from the Cistercian monastery in Osek


manuscripts from the Premonstratensian monastery in Teplá


manuscripts from the Franciscan monastery in Cheb


the collection of Greek papyri


Indian manuscripts


the archive of  Adalbert Stifter


Jindřich Marek


Sep 23, 2017
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