3.00 FYI France: Ejournal and archive

by Jack Kessler, kessler@well.sf.ca.us

October 15, 2005 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the issue of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on October 15, 2005.

From this point you can link / jump up to the main page for,

3.00 FYI France: Ejournal and archive

or to,

The FYI France Home Page

Versions of the following have appeared online regularly, since 1992, as a feature of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which is distributed for free via email every month except August. Ejournal subscriptions may be obtained via email request to: kessler@well.sf.ca.us

Here this file is one of a number made available -- hopefully attractively, all in one place, and relevant to libraries and online digital information work in France and Europe -- as part of FYI France (sm)(tm), an online service to which anyone can subscribe for 12 months by postal mailing a check for US $45, payable to Jack Kessler, to PO Box 460668, San Francisco, California, USA 94146 (site licenses also are available): please write your email address on the front of your check. And you can pay via PayPal, on the FYI France homepage:


Please email suggestions for improvements to me at kessler@well.sf.ca.us


French culture overseas, Warsaw's Zaluski, Part 2 of 2


French is spoken other places than just France, and these places have had libraries... One of the greatest, during the 1700s, was in Poland. Herewith a paper on that one, by Maria Witt, telling a fascinating and engagingly-European and often-dramatic story:

[Part 1, which appeared here on September 15, gave the very "French" background of the Zaluski collections, including biographical information about the brothers. Here Part 2 of 2 describes the dispersals, and efforts to reconstruct, this great "foreign French" library.]


The Danilowiczowski Palace

The Danilowiczowski Palace.
(Engraving, by P.R. de Tirregaille, in Plan de la Ville de Varsovie, 1762.)


"The strange life of one of the greatest European
libraries of the eighteenth century: the Zaluski
collection in Warsaw"

by Maria Witt, Instructor, Paris X Nanterre *


Summary [repeated from Part 1]

During the eighteenth century the French language conquered Poland. This period saw the creation and development of the largest French-language library in the world outside of France: "a giant collection containing 400,000 volumes, consequently one of the two or three most important libraries in Europe".

The Zaluski Library, founded by two brothers: Andrzej Stanislaw Kostka (1695-1758) and Jozef Andrzej (1702-1774), which opened in Warsaw in 1747, was in existence for about 50 years. It was subsequently "transferred" to Saint Petersburg, in 1795, as a war prize, where it served as the basis for the Imperial Public Library. Around 50,000 of the Zaluskis' books were returned by Russia, then by the USSR, over the course of the nineteenth century and between 1923 and 1935, but the Second World War reserved a final tragedy for them.

Due to this strange and tragic fate, it is difficult now to reconstruct a complete picture of the Zaluski collection, and of how the library functioned. Too many documents, letters, archival resources, catalogs, and inventories have been lost forever.

Nevertheless, a certain picture can be reconstructed thanks to secondary documents, which have preserved information about their contents, among them the documents presented at the 1933 Exposition at the National Library of Warsaw, historical and biographical works published between the two World Wars, and the recent research of J. Kozlowski.


[Part 2:]

Bibliographic and reference services

An information service for researchers in foreign countries was available [at the Zaluski], through the publications of the library (for example bio-bibliographic dictionaries of Polish scholars) or through answers to oral or written questions -- a true reference service.

Numerous periodicals (mostly German, such as Neue Zeitungen von Gelehrten Sachen [New Journals on Scholarly Subjects], Pommerische Nachrichten von Gelehrten Sachen [Pomeranian Reports on Learned Subjects], Critische Nachrichten [Critical Reports], New Germanic Library, and Schlesische Privilegierte Zeitung [Schlesian Privileged Journal]) published reports on the Zaluski Library and science in Poland. The idea of this service is linked to the contacts Zaluski established in Lorraine, notably Jacques Perard (who stayed in Szczecin in 1742), with whom he corresponded regularly until the Seven Years' War, sending him information about the intellectual life of the Republic.

Regular information about new works in the Kurier Polski [Polish News] filled the role of a current Polish bibliography. Books sent sent to "the Zaluski" were the object of criticism in the periodicals associated with the library. This initiative was conceived as "auto-transmissible": the information on new works was to encourage publishers and authors to give, spontaneously, copies of their works to the Zaluskis (what one could call today the phenomenon of synergy). New works came from publishers in all the cities of Poland: Wilno, Lwow, Lublin, Poczajow, Suprasl, Zamosc, Poznan, Kalisz etc., from learned societies. Numerous writers from the Zaluski circle donated part of their collections (such as Radziwill, Czartoryski, Sapieha, Antonina Zamoyska, the Jesuits of Lithuania, the Carmelites of Cracovia, etc.).

Zaluski himself served as intermediary for the Polish bibliophiles for foreign acquisitions, since under the Saxon kings bookstores did not reliably provide that service.


Collections of objects

The library also possessed various curiosities. First off, the building of the Zaluski Library is known to the inhabitants of Warsaw as "the House of Kings" (Dom pod Królami), because of the busts of the sovereigns of Poland which decorate its facade. André Zaluski bought them in 1746, from the widow of the palatine of Lublin, Stanislaw Chomentowski.

The gallery of sculptures and paintings was found in an annex constructed specially for this purpose. Other busts of kings and dignitaries of the Polish kingdom were housed there. In addition, numerous busts and sculptures in relief, as well as medallions of scholars, decorated the principal reading room.

The print room contained a large collection of engravings, mostly works of the principal European engravers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: more than 40,000 engravings of which only 13,500 were returned to Poland before the Second World War. This collection, as well as the collection of medals, was begun in 1731 with purchases made in Leipzig. One year afterwards, Zaluski writes in his Programma Litterarium, "I am collecting medals as well as 'kopersztychy [engravings]' that are Polish or connected with Poland."

As for maps, it was Bruzen de la Martinière, an inhabitant of the Hague, who gave Zaluski the collecting bug for those. Zaluski decided to buy, in Amsterdam, 60 giant maps that he planned to hang on the walls of his apartment.

Zaluski assembled an impressive collection of maps of Poland, "tam veteris quam geographicarium [both ancient and geographic]". The geographic collection was to serve the Maximum Lexicon Universale Historico-Polonicum [Great Universal Dictionary of the History of Poland], a work planned as early as 1732.

It was his intention to include, among others, a chapter entitled, "Topographium, veterem et recentiorum, Provinciarum, regionum Urbium, Oppidorum, montium, fluviorum et aliorum locorum insignium veteros sarmatiae et modernae Poloniae cum adjecta, situs, longitudinis, distantiae et qualitatis locurum specificatione [Topography, ancient and more recent, of provinces, urban regions, towns, mountains, rivers, and other significant places of ancient Sarmatia and modern Poland, together with locations, longitudes, distances and descriptions of places]".

Lastly, Zaluski prepared the work entitled, Polska w obszernych swoich wiadomosciach skrócona [Brief Description of Poland, in Several Volumes], of which the first part is Opisanie Polski topograficzne i cywilne [Topographic and civil description of Poland], including the study of the maps of Poland, ancient Polish topographic places, rivers, bodies of water, and mountains.

As if these collections were insufficient, the Zaluski also housed a natural history museum, with its herbaria and "other things from the mineral, animal and vegetable kingdoms [in Latin]"; also mathematical instruments, geometric, physical, and astronomical. Collected principally by André, these objects did not have the approval of Joseph, who tried to reclaim the rooms where the collection was housed to use them for books. The instruments were much appreciated as teaching tools, however; in 1752 it was suggested that they be used at the school for military engineers.

From the time when the Palace was purchased, André Zaluski planned to install "ad instar observatorii [some sort of observatories]" in the attic, and on June 6, 1761 "well-born ladies and noblemen" were able to observe the passage of Venus across the sun, guided by the Jesuit Father Luskina, trained in astronomy in Vienna and the owner of precision astronomical instruments bought in Paris.


Junosza Coat of Arms

The Junosza Coat of Arms.
(Engraving, 1743, by Michael Bukowski, National Museum of Warsaw.)



When the Zaluski brothers began organizing their public library, they had at their disposal the model of foreign libraries and numerous manuals. This is why one finds principles valid in other European libraries, in the organization of jobs, the rules for the duties of librarians, and the required levels of competence.

In his letters to Joseph, elder brother André recommended several times (1748-1754) that the positions should be occupied by three "bibliotekariusz [librarians]" and two "adjutants [assistants]". The manager of the library was called a "Prefect"; this position existed from 1751. Previously the directors of the library had the title "Secretary" or "referendarz koronny [representative of the crown]". Later, after the death of Joseph (1774), the directors were called "curators".

In 1746, when the library already owned 180,000 volumes, the personnel proved insufficient; the processing backlog was accumulating, given the rapid growth of the collection, the most rapid among the great European libraries. In comparison, the imperial library of Vienna, with a smaller collection than that of the Zaluski, employed fourteen librarians in 1774. In the best case, in Warsaw there were seven librarians.

The polyglot Joseph possessed an uncommon memory. He said, "I know ten languages, Latin, Polish, French, Italian, German... I understand all English, Spanish, Portugese, Dutch, and Czech books. A certain foreign emissary has thus said of me: 'Monsignor Zaluski could be the interpreter of the Tower of Babel'." To this list should be added Greek and Hebrew.

As for library personnel, the Zaluskis were very demanding. They made sure that their personnel perfected their knowledge abroad. Familiarity with languages, knowledge of several disciplines and classical literature, poetry writing, musical and artistic culture (notably in painting), a good memory, professional knowledge, an open mind, ability to perfect professional skills: such were the principal qualities required.

The most important among the personnel was Janocki, who spent 40 years at the library. Joseph had brought him from Dresden, in 1745. In 1751 André had financed a sojourn in Dresden for him, "that he might be a perfect librarian". It was Janocki who wrote the biography of Joseph Zaluski, and who published several bibliographic works based on the library's collection.


The death of Joseph Zaluski in 1774, and the Library from 1774-1795

In October 1767, Nicolas Repnin, the Russian ambassador to Poland, unhappy with the opposition and their anti-Russian tendencies, had several members of the Senate removed, among them Joseph Zaluski. Joseph was imprisoned from 1767 to 1773, and he died the following year in Warsaw.

Despite his imprisonment, for some years Zaluski was exceptionally active intellecturally, working on the publication of literary and scientific works: the history of his family, bibliographies and encyclopedias, but also poems, dramas and autobiographical narratives. From Kaluga in Siberia, he continued to manage "his" library: among his cares were daily problems, roof repairs, cataloging, and the work and behavior of the librarians. One of them was strongly reprimanded by Zaluski for his abuse of alcohol, and forcefully urged to devote more effort to helping develop the catalog.


Portrait of Józef Zaluski

Portrait of Józef Zaluski.
(Lithograph, 1861-1863, by C. Schultz,
in Biuletyn Informacyjny Biblioteki Narodowej 1997 no. 4.)


Zaluski especially advised concern with fire prevention: "fire, fire, the pumps should always be ready and in good working condition". He also watched over the completion of projects begun before his imprisonment. In his letters he requested that all the bills of the book agents and foreign bookstores be paid -- those in Amsterdam, Berlin, Leipzig, Wroclaw. (5)

In his letter addressed to King Stanislas in August of January 1774, Zaluski defended the idea of founding an academy. At the same time he declared himself ready to donate the collections of his library, which had meanwhile been passed on to the Jesuits for a public use, to the academy in perpetuity.

After his death the library, by public demand, came under the personal protection of the king. Stanislas August gave the position of director to Count Ignacy Potocki, as well as the Komisja Edukacji Narodwej [National Education Commission]. In fact, the library from that time on was under the authority of that national institution.


Influence of the library

Until now the role that the Zaluski Library played in Polish cultural and scientific life has been underestimated. It created a true intellectual milieu by attracting not only the learned but also all those interested in the history of Poland, its literature and its culture.

Thanks to numerous emissaries and foreign correspondents, the library created real scientific networks. The information agency of Antoine Ignace Gibes, founded in the 1740s, was in operation until 1756. Gibes received scientific news which was edited afterwards in Warsaw, then transmitted by post horse to the provinces; he exchanged publications and even money. This is why Zaluski entrusted to him the administration of the Association of Scholars, a society whose task was to send for "interesting works published abroad". The bookseller Michel Gröll had a "kantor [card catalog]" of addresses and sales firms, the reviews Warszawskie Ekstraordynaryjne Wiadomosci [Extraordinary News of Warsaw], Journal polonais [Polish News] (in French) and bookselling agencies not only in Poland but abroad. In 1764 Zaluski entrusted Gröll with the auction at the library.

The idea of a public library accessible to all was propagated throughout Poland by the Zaluskis. Numerous private collections owned by magnates were made public by the second half of the eighteenth century (Radziwill, Sapieha). In 1754 Sierakowski gave his own library to the Jesuit college in Przmeysl, financed the construction of the library building, and the post of a librarian, all with the condition that the library be open to the public. In 1781 King Stanislas Auguste decided to make his collection of books accessible to the Republic.

In 1790, a decree of the Komisja Edukacji Narodowej stipulated that the libraries of the national schools of Cracow and Wilno be open to the public. One year later that same "K.E.N." spoke of the necessity of creating public libraries in the cities. In addition, numerous ecclesiastical and academic libraries and archive collections belonging to magnates imitated the functioning and arrangement of the Zaluski library.

The learned of the Zaluskis' circle, through their publications, requests for documentation, and the library's collections, helped the spread of the modernization of education. The schools organized their own collections and used the collection of the Zaluski: mathematical and physical instruments, globes, etc. Numerous school manuals were based on the library.s sources.

For some twenty years the library was the center of culture and scientific thought in the liberal spirit. After the death of André, the Jesuits took over the administration and control of the library. With their arrival Joseph began to exclude some troublesome documents.

In his research, Kozlowski presents an impressive list of the Library's activities which had an impact on the development of science in Poland. It suffices to emphasize the initiation of the depository copy, of a national bibliography, of published catalogs of printed works and manuscripts, as well as the Library's activities in publishing and printing and documentary research for Polish and foreign patrons.


Exlibris, Zaluzki Library

Exlibris of the Zaluski Library.
(Etching by Jan Józef Filipowicz, mid-18th century, National Library of Warsaw.)


The Dispersal of the collection

While the Zaluski brothers were still alive, some books were given away or sold at auction, with their consent. In the 50 years of its existence, the library lost several volumes destroyed by humidity or stolen. These losses can be enumerated at some 15,000 to 20,000 volumes.

What became of that collection -- its sad fate -- was in total contradiction with the will of Joseph Zaluski: "I forbid the division, sale, or dispersion... of my library."

The Zaluski library, "transferred" to St. Petersburg as spoils of war, served as the basis for the Imperial Public Library (opened in 1814). During successive moves, many books were destroyed or lost. According to the historian Joachim Lelewel, the Zaluski's books, "could be bought at Grodno by the basket" (korzec=60 volumes). It seems that 30,000 volumes were saved from pillaging by scholars (Tadeusz Czacki, Joachim Chreptowicz).

In the same way, in St. Petersburg the Zaluski's books disappeared or were dispersed. Several thousand rotted in caves. Many were sold at auction. Others were scattered among other Russian libraries.

Some parts of the Zaluski collection came back to Poland on three separate dates: 1842, 1863, and after the peace treaty with the Soviets between 1923 and 1935, after Poland had regained its independence at the end of the First World War.

It is difficult to estimate precisely the number of volumes which were returned, since these restitutions also included documents with provenance from other Polish collections. According to Kozlowski about 50,000 of the Zaluski's books were returned in all. (6) After the twentieth century restitution, books from the Zaluski library formed the nucleus of the Polish National Library, founded by presidential decree on February 24, 1928.

The Nazi aberration caused around sixteen million volumes to disappear in Poland: 70 to 80% of libraries were carefully burned by the Brandkommandos, soldiers of fire whose mission and specialty were to burn Warsaw. In October 1944, the Krasinski library thus disappeared, with all of its books and manuscripts from the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries. The Rapperswil collection did as well, with its considerable holdings on the history of the country, which emigres had laboriously accumulated in Switzerland until the independence of Poland in 1918 had allowed them to install it in their own country. (7)

The collection of the Zaluski library previously returned by the Soviets suffered the same fate at the end of the Second World War. Some 170,000 volumes of the National Library were moved by the order and under the protection of German officers to a "safe place", but the Nazi troops burned them after the Insurrection of Warsaw, in October 1944. Thus, unfortunately, the restored portion of the Zaluski collection burned almost entirely.

Certain treasures miraculously were spared (an example of a saved treasure -- Rocznik Swietokrzyski [Swietokrzyski Annual]). From time to time, documents from the Zaluski Library, "Zalusciana", appear in auctions.


Watercolor, The Zaluski Library

View of the Public Library.
(Watercolor, ca. 1785, by Zygmunt Vogel, National Museum of Warsaw,
in Biblioteka Zaluskich : Corona urbis et orbis National Library of Warsaw, 1997, color photo by R. Stasiuk.)


Sources of reconstruction

Because of the consequences of this strange and tragic fate, it is difficult to reconstruct a complete picture of the Zaluski collection and the functioning of the library. Too many documents, letters, archival sources, catalogs and inventories have been lost forever. Nonetheless a partial picture can be reconstructed thanks to secondary documents, which have preserved the information originally found in the primary sources, among them the documents presented at the 1933 exposition at the National Library in Warsaw, and historical and biographical works published between the two World Wars.

However some letters of Joseph Zaluski remain, of which only a small part have been published. Jan Kozlowski, the Polish historian of science and libraries, did remarkable research on the Zaluski Library and at the time [the 1980s] made reference to 8500 letters still preserved in Warsaw. Letters addressed to Zaluski often bear annotations, which permit a glimpse of his dialogue and his reactions "in the heat of the moment", even if his responses are more rare than are the letters addressed to him. A book by Kozlowski using numerous sources scattered throughout Poland and the rest of Europe has been announced, for publication by the National Library in Warsaw.





Notes to Part 2:

The Death of Joseph Zaluski in 1774, and the Library 1774-1795

Dispersal of the collection




Selected References

Zaluski Library

History of Libraries in Poland




Some Statistics

* Collections of printed works and manuscripts in the Zaluski Library by language: (after Kozlowski)


Printed WorksManuscripts
Latin39%Latin> 50%
French28%German> 10%
German18%French> 10%
Italian6%Multilingual> 10%


* Manuscripts by discipline: (According to the classification of the Imperial Library of St. Petersburg, after Kozlowski)


History11.3%Natural history0.4%
Polygraphy7.5%Liberal arts0.1%
History of literature3.8%


* Overview of the current state of the Zaluski collections in Polish libraries:


Printed works:
12,000Library of the University of Warsaw
>7,000-8,000National Library
Isolated printed works in the majority of large public or private libraries, for example:
Public, SeminaryWarsaw
Jagiellonska LibraryCracow
Ossolineum, Library of the UniversityWroclaw
>2000National Library of Warsaw
Isolated manuscripts in the following libraries:
Czatoryski, JagiellonskaCracow
Ossolineum, Library of the UniversityWroclaw
8,500 letters of Joseph Zaluski (1724-1773)National Library




** And note the following, just announced : **

Soyez les bienvenus au Centre de l'Académie Polonaise des Sciences
74, rue Lauriston - 75116 Paris

* le 24 novembre 2005, 19h30 (jeudi) *

Conférence: "La vie étrange de l'une des plus grandes bibliothèques européennes XVIIIe siècle ; la collection Zaluski à Varsovie"
par M. Maria Witt (Université Paris X Nanterre).

Entrée libre. Réservation conseillée
par tél. :
par fax :
ou par mail : sekretariat.parispan@free.fr
W3: http://www.academie-polonaise.org/fr/aktualnosci.html






From this point you can link / jump up to,

The FYI France Home Page ,

or you can link / jump over to:

1.00 FYI France: Print Libraries in France
2.00 FYI France: Digital Libraries in France
3.00 FYI France: E-Newsletter and Archive
4.00 FYI France: Publishers in France
5.00 FYI France: Book-Dealers in France
6.00 FYI France: Calendar
7.00 FYI France: Discussion and Debate
8.00 FYI France: La Francophonie
9.00 FYI France: Internet Training & Consulting
10.00 FYI France: Essai
11.00 FYI France: Translation Services
12.00 FYI France: Bibliographies / Resource Lists
or you can,
Return to the top of this page .

M. Eiffel

Copyright © 1992- by Jack Kessler, all rights reserved.
W3 site maintained at http://www.fyifrance.com
Document maintained by: Jack Kessler, kessler@well.sf.ca.us
Last update: July 16, 2008