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National Library of Poland

Biblioteka Narodowa
(National Library of Poland)
Type National library
Established 1928  (1928)
(Imperial Public Library was formed in 1732)
Location Warsaw, Poland
Size 9,634,026 (As of 2013)[1]
Legal deposit Yes
Other information
Director Dr. Tomasz Makowski

The National Library of Poland (Polish: Biblioteka Narodowa) is the central Polish library, subject directly to the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland.

The library collects books, journals, electronic and audiovisual publications published in the territory of Poland, as well as Polonica published abroad. It is the most important humanities research library, the main archive of Polish writing and the state centre of bibliographic information about books. It also plays a significant role as a research facility and is an important methodological center for other Polish libraries.

The National Library receives a copy of every book published in Poland as legal deposit. The Jagiellonian Library is the only other library in Poland to have a national library status.


  • Organizational structure 1
  • History 2
  • Collections 3
  • See also 4
    • Notes 4.1
    • References 4.2
  • External links 5

Organizational structure

There are three general sections:

  • The Library
  • The Bibliographic Institute of the National Library
  • The Book and Readership Institute


Special Collections Building: Krasiński Palace (Palace of the Commonwealth), Warsaw

The National Library's history has origins in the 18th century (Załuski Library)[2] including items from the collections of John III Sobieski which were obtained from his grand daughter Maria Karolina Sobieska, Duchess of Bouillon. However, the Załuski collection was confiscated by troops of Russian tsarina Catherine II in the aftermath of the second Partition of Poland and sent to Saint Petersburg, where the books formed the mass of the Imperial Public Library on its formation in 1795.[3][4][5] Parts of the collection were damaged or destroyed as they were mishandled while being removed from the library and transported to Russia, and many were stolen.[3][4] According to the historian Joachim Lelewel, the Zaluskis' books, "could be bought at Grodno by the basket".[4]

Because of that, when Poland regained her independence in 1918, there was no central institution to serve in the capacity of a national library. On 24 February 1928, by the decree of president Ignacy Mościcki, the National Library was created in its modern form.[6] It was opened in 1930 and initially had 200 thousand volumes. Its first Director General was Stefan Demby, succeeded in 1934 by Stefan Vrtel-Wierczyński. The collections of the library were rapidly extended. For instance, in 1932 president Mościcki donated all of the books and manuscripts from the Wilanów Palace Museum to the library, some 40 thousand volumes and 20 thousand pictures from the collection of Stanisław Kostka Potocki.

Initially the National Library lacked a seat of its own. Because of that, the collections had to be accommodated in several places. The main reading room was located in the newly built library building of the Warsaw School of Economics. In 1935 the Potocki Palace in Warsaw became home for the special collections. A new, purpose-built building for the library was planned in what is now the Pole Mokotowskie, in a planned monumental "Government District". However, its construction was hampered by the outbreak of World War II.

Before World War II, the library collections consisted of:

  • 6.5 million books and journals from 19th and 20th centuries
  • 3,000 early prints
  • 2,200 incunables
  • 52,000 manuscripts
  • maps, icons and music

In 1940 the Nazi occupants changed the National Library into Municipal Library of Warsaw and divided it as follows:

  • Department of Books for Germans (located in the Warsaw University building)
  • Restricted Department, containing books that were not available to readers (located in the then main seat of the library - the School of Economics)
  • All special collections from various Warsaw offices and institutions (located in the Palace of the Republic)

In 1944 the special collections were set ablaze by the Nazi occupants as a part of repressions after the Warsaw Uprising.[7] 80,000 early printed books, including priceless 16th-18th century Polonica, 26,000 manuscripts, 2,500 incunables, 100,000 drawings and engravings, 50,000 pieces of sheet music and theatre materials were destroyed.[8] It is estimated that out of over 6 million volumes in Warsaw's major libraries in 1939, 3.6 million volumes were lost during World War II, a large part of them belonging to the National Library.[9][10]


The main reading room

Today the collections of the National Library are one of the largest in the country. Among 7,900,000 volumes (2004) held in the library are 160,000 objects printed before 1801, over 26,000 manuscripts (including 6,887 music manuscripts), over 114,000 music prints and 400,000 drawings. The library collections also include photographs and other iconographic documents, more than 101,000 atlases and maps, over 2,000,000 ephemera, as well as over 2,000,000 books and about 800,000 copies of journals from 19th to 21st centuries. Notable items in the collection include 151 leaves of the Codex Suprasliensis, which was inscribed in UNESCO's Memory of the World Programme Register in 2007 in recognition for its supranational and supraregional significance.[11]

In 2012 the library signed an agreement to add 1.3 million Polish library records to WorldCat.[12]

See also


  1. ^ Zbiory -
  2. ^ Pasztaleniec-Jarzyńska 2000, p. 5
  3. ^ a b Czechowicz, ¶ "After the fall..."
  4. ^ a b c Witt, ¶ "The Dispersal of the collection"
  5. ^ Basbanes, p. 185
  6. ^ Pasztaleniec-Jarzyńska 2000, p. 3
  7. ^ Knuth, p. 166
  8. ^ Pasztaleniec-Jarzyńska 2000, p. 9
  9. ^ Mężyński, p. 296
  10. ^ Balcerzak, p. 4
  11. ^ UNESCO, ¶ "The codex was written..."
  12. ^


  • various authors; Tomasz Balcerzak;  
  • Katarzyna Czechowicz (August 14, 2007). "The 260th anniversary of opening the Załuski Library". Retrieved 2008-02-17. 
  • Rebecca Knuth (2006). Burning books and leveling libraries: extremist violence and cultural destruction. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 166.  
  • Andrzej Mężyński (2010). Biblioteki Warszawy w latach 1939–1945 [Warsaw's Libraries in the years 1939-1945]. Straty Kultury Polskiej (in Polski). Warsaw:  
  • Joanna Pasztaleniec-Jarzyńska; Halina Tchórzewska-Kabata (2000), The National Library in Warsaw: tradition and the present day (in Polski), Warsaw: National Library,  
  • UNESCO (corporate author) (2007). "Codex Suprasliensis". UNESCO. Retrieved 2013-07-18. 
  • 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.  

External links

  • National Library website
  • Polona - National Digital Library
  • A Commonwealth of Diverse Cultures (an exhibition carried out by the National Library)

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