19th Century Publications Department

3rd floor, room 308
phone: +48 22 55 25 810
e-mail: gabXIX.buw@uw.edu.pl


The collections of the University of Warsaw Library Department of 19th Century Publications are granted the status of special collections. The Department boasts second richest (after the Jagiellonian Library) collection of the 19th century Polish literature and an extensive collection of 19th century West European literature, primarily in French and German, but also of Russian literature of that period

History and collections

The collections have been developed concurrently to the development of the University since 1816 when the University of Warsaw Library was established. They include Polish and foreign publications from the period between 1801 and 1918 (at present over 600,000 items, i.e. over 20% of the whole Library stock) on all subjects taught at the University at that time (including theology and medicine until the 1950s). It needs to be stressed that the Department collection of medical literature from the second half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century belongs to the most complete collections of that type in Poland.

Numerous publications in the field of mathematics and natural sciences, particularly German and French ones in the case of foreign titles, included in the Department collections originate from the period of the Main School (1862–1869), at present the University of Warsaw, and result from the interest in exact science characteristic of Warsaw branch of positivism. The collection of 19th century periodicals, newspapers, calendars and administrative reports is considered to be one of the largest and priceless collections in Poland, including such highly valuable objects as periodicals published in the territories of the Congress Kingdom of Poland and the collection of journals from the period of “the Great Emigration”, taking place after the November Uprising of 1830–1831.
Historical circumstances have resulted in the Department boasting the richest in Poland and one of the largest in Europe (except for Russia) collection of Russian publications from the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century as well as numerous works on Russia in various languages.
One cannot overlook the Department’s wealth of literature of other Slavic nations (besides the Polish and the Russians), such as the Czechs, the Ukrainians and the Belarusians.

The diversity and comprehensiveness of the collection of 19th century publications (close to completeness in the case of titles published in the territories under Russian rule in the aftermath of the partitions of Poland) resulted from the Library legal deposit privilege, in effect since 1819, entitling it to receive, free of charge, a copy of every title published on the territory of the Congress Kingdom of Poland. The content of the collection was further influenced by the purchases, subscription and exchange run by knowledgeable, cultured and patriotically involved scholars who worked as librarians at the University of Warsaw Library, namely Samuel Bogumił Linde, Joachim Lelewel, Father Adam Jakubowski, Karol Estreicher, Józef Przyborowski and Hipolit Skimborowicz.

The nature, content and provenance value of the collections have been enhanced with numerous priceless donations from various institutions and individual donors to the Library for nearly 200 years now.

The uniqueness and wealth of the Library collection of 19th century publications results from the assumption of libraries and book collections from the following Polish institutions closed or dissolved by the tsarist officials in the 19th century: the Medical School, the Academy of Medicine and Surgery, the School of Law and Administration, the Pupilage School, the School of Artillery and Engineering, the Friends of Science Society in Warsaw, schools run by the Piarists, Warsaw monasteries and convents, the Commission on Codification for the Kingdom of Poland in Petersburg, the State Commission for the Internal and Church Affairs and Public Education, the Council of the State for the Kingdom of Poland, the Council for Education, the Court of Appeals, the Bank of Poland and institutions closed in the 20th century, namely the Synod of Evangelical Reformed Church and Evangelical Reformed Chapel in Warsaw in the 1950s and the Main School of Foreign Service in the 1960s. In the times of the Imperial University of Warsaw (1870-1915) the Library collections were considerably enhanced with rossica donated by Russian libraries and scientific institutions as well as Russian scholars.

Numerous private book collections incorporated in the Library collection of 19th century publications include three unique libraries of:

  • Józef Kalasanty Szaniawski (1764–1843) – a philosopher, lawyer, political and educational activist, whose lifelong collection of books, consisting mostly of contemporary publications but also incunabula and 16th century books, atlases and etchings, reflects his educational achievements and ideological transformations, as he switched from rationalism to conservatism and ultra-Catholicism; the collection consists of publications in the field of philosophy, history, law, economics and medicine as well as dictionaries and encyclopaedias;
  • Ignacy Turkułł (1798–1856) – a Minister and Secretary of State for the Congress Kingdom of Poland, who, in the first place, collected literature published in the period between 1830 and 1855 and, being a tsarist official, was allowed to import books prohibited by the tsarist censorship on the territories of Russia and the Kingdom of Poland; his book collection includes publications in the field of law, political science, administration, finance, trade, political economics, politics, diplomacy, history, military science, geography, philosophy, theology, fiction and fine arts;
  • Arkadi Toločanov (1830–1897) – a Polonophile, since 1864 a tsarist Russian official in the Kingdom of Poland (a vice-governor and governor of the Provinces of Radom, Suwałki and Łomża), the chairman of the Landowner Credit Society in Warsaw and connoisseur of literature and fine arts who collected primarily contemporary literature in various languages in the field of humanities, including numerous polonica, translations of ancient classics and editions of modern literature, luxury and bibliophile publications, periodicals and illegal Russian and Polish titles from the second half of the 19th century published in Geneva, London and Paris.

The Library collection of 19th century publications forms an impressive resource for educational purposes and comprehensive research on the 19th century. At the same time it serves as a unique source material for the research on the history of books, libraries, librarianship, literature response and reading culture of that period due to the individual nature of its history and development.


Information on 19th century publications in the Library collections may be found in the Library catalogues and files:

  • The library OPAC – includes records for all books and periodicals acquired by the Library after 1994 (regardless of the year of publication) and all books housed in open stacks, including 19th century publications; the OPAC content is gradually enriched with descriptions of older publications, including those from the period between 1801 and 1918.
  • Digitised card catalogues:
    • Alphabetical catalogue of books – published after 1801 and acquired by the Library before 1998 (acquisitions past that date are recorded in the Library OPAC only).
    • Catalogue of periodicals:
      • Catalogue of periodicals and serials (acquired by the library before 1998),
      • Catalogue of administrative report (by universities, schools and other institutions),
      • Catalogue of calendars.
    • Catalogue of microforms – books, periodicals, calendars.
  • Card catalogue:
    • Subject catalogue of books – the Library acquisitions in the period between 1918 and 1997, excluding fiction (except for anthologies, fables, fairy tales and satires),
    • Name file,
    • Illustrator name file.
  • The University of Warsaw Digital Library (Crispa)


Practical information

  • The Department collections are of historic nature and may be accessed only in the Reading Room of the University of Warsaw Library. Users who wish to access those collections are requested to possess valid Library Cards.
  • Copies of objects from the Department collections may be obtained and further reproduced on the approval of the Department staff only. Users may request paid copies from the Library Reprographic Office.
  • Selected objects from 19th Century Publications Department are digitized and available online in the University of Warsaw Digital Library (Crispa)

The details on the availability of the Department collections are provided in The rules for accesing BUW special collections efective from 1st October 2012.


Icons: Freepik (www.freepik.com) from www.flaticon.com, Retina Display Icons (www.iconfinder.com/iconsets/TWG_Retina_Icons) from The Working Group (blog.twg.ca).