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Historical Book Collections

Kodex vyšehradskýThe Manuscripts and Early Printed Books Department of the National Library of the CR preserves historical book collections from the beginnings of literature up to 1800, with several overlaps.

Latinský fragment DalimilaA manuscript collection amounts to ca 14.800 library units. The oldest core is constituted by mediaeval manuscripts of the Prague university. These are followed by manuscripts of the Prague Jesuit College. Another part of the manuscript collections are the manuscripts from monasteries abolished under Emperor Joseph II. Significant manuscript acquisitions also come from the 20th century. The National Library acquired these manuscripts by purchase of some of the noble family libraries (Prague Lobkowicz Library, Thun-Hohenstein Library from Děčín), monasterial libraries  (Admont, Osek, Teplá, Cheb) and others (Municipal Library in Zittau).

The collection also includes Oriental manuscripts, Indian manuscripts written on palm leaves, a collection of Greek papyri and the archive of Adalbert Stifter (literary heritage of a representative of Romantism).

Aside from its own holdings, the National Library of the CR also takes care of deposits (about 450 units) - manuscripts of Břevnov Benedictines, Knights of the Cross with the Red Star, Minorites from Český Krumlov, Cistercians in Osek etc.

No less important part of the collections are incunabula or firstprints - i.e. the books printed until 1450-1500. The collection’s size is over 4200 items.

The collection of early printed books is dated from 1501 up to 1800 and amounts to 170 000 volumes. Principal task of the National Library of the CR is to collect Czech-language prints and other printed Bohemica. Non-Bohemical printed books kept in the collections continue the tradition of the Jesuit college library and some private libraries (e.g. Prague Lobkowicz Library, Kinsky Library).

Another part of the historical collections is a collection of old maps from the 16th and 18th centuries with unique overlaps into the 19th century, which includes over 640 separate maps and 32 atlases (a total of about 2500 maps) and whose main part is the Lobkowicz Map Collection.

Quite independent is a large collection (526 pieces) of graphic single-sheets of  university dispute theses from the Baroque period that served as a diploma at the Prague Jesuit University.

Individual manuscripts are step-by-step digitised and made accessible in Manuscriptorium digital library. Printed books are continously digitized and recatalogued and made accessible via databaze of the National Library, called STT. An inseparable part of the Manuscripts and Early Printed Books Department is a reference library that serves both as a staff library for professional cataloguing of book collections and an open access library for users, specialised in historical book collections, their content and history of book culture.

Recommended Citing of Shelfmarks from Historical Collections

We provide the recommended citing of shelfmarks from historical collections deposited in our Department:

  1. For Czech texts: NK Praha+shelfmark (e.g. NK Praha XIII C 1a or/and NK Praha XIII.C.1a)
  2. For English texts: NL Prague+shelfmark (e.g. NL Prague XIII C 1a or/and NL Prague XIII.C.1a)
  3. For German texts: NB Prag+shelfmark (e.g. NB Prag XIII C 1a or/and NB Prag XIII.C.1a)




Early Printed Books

Old Maps

Tereza Paličková

Feb 13, 2024
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