Manuscripts Department

Opening hours:

  • Monday – closed
  • Tuesday 9 am – 6 pm
  • Wednesday 9 am – 3 pm
  • Thursday 9 am – 3 pm
  • Friday 9 am – 3 pm


  • Please, arrange the date of visit in the Special Collections Reading Rooms at least one day in advance by e-mail or telephone.
  • Users of the Special Collections Departments are obliged to have valid library cards. Number of visitors to the Special Collection Departments is included into the general limit of readers in the Library.

3rd floor, room 354
phones: (+48 22) 55 25 900, 55 25 902

The University of Warsaw Library Department of Manuscripts collects manuscript documents dating from the Middle Ages (including parchment codices) to present times and doctoral theses defended at the following faculties of the University of Warsaw: Polish Studies, Biology, Geology (until 1974) and Physics (until 1985).


The origins of the University of Warsaw Library collection of manuscripts dates back to 1816 when the Library was established. First pieces in the collection included objects acquired from the collections of the Library of Warsaw Lyceum and the Library of the Court of Appeals and collections obtained by Samuel Bogumił Linde from the monasteries in the territories of the Congress Kingdom of Poland. The collection had been increasing in size so dynamically before 1830 that in the eve of the November Uprising outbreak it consisted of approximately 2,000 inventory items, with nearly half of them being medieval codices. The University of Warsaw and the University of Warsaw Library were badly affected by the collapse of the Uprising. As a result of severe repressions the considerable number of manuscripts was confiscated and transferred to Petersburg in Russia. The Library retained 303 objects considered harmless to the tsarist empire.
Since that moment until the 1860s the collection was stagnant and virtually unused. The stagnation of the university life and research on manuscripts limited the activity around the collection to preservation and cataloguing only.
The year 1862, when the University of Warsaw was reopened as the Main School (until 1869), brought a radical change to the whole situation. The Kingdom of Poland Public Education Act passed in May 1862 obligated the Main Library not only to maintain but also to enhance its collections. This favourable period ended with the outbreak of World War I when in 1915 the whole collection of 1,380 items was evacuated to Rostov-on-Don.
In the 1920s the University of Warsaw Library managed to reclaim the prevailing part of its collection of manuscripts. However, it was obligated to transfer them to the National Library of Poland (the transfer was performed in 3 stages in 1930, 1931 and 1936).
Although manuscripts the Library acquired in the interwar period were not numerous, the collection had included 4,100 objects by September 1939.
The last irreversible damage to the collection was caused by the collapse of the Warsaw Uprising in October 1944 – approximately 4,000 manuscripts (nearly 95% of the Library manuscript collection) together with special collections of other Warsaw libraries were torched by Nazi occupying forces.
In the post-war period the remaining part of the collection that survived the war (262 manuscripts) was cared for by Adam Lewak – the Director of The University of Warsaw Library, a historian and expert on manuscripts. In 1949 it became the core of a new collection housed in newly opened Manuscripts Department. The collection consists currently of over 6,000 manuscript items and 1,746 doctoral theses.


Next to several medieval codices, among which the earliest one dates back to the 9th century, the Department boasts valuable historical Polish sources from the period between the 16th and 18th century, including the archives of monastic orders of the Capuchins, Augustinians, Canons Regular and Carmelites as well as nobility miscellanies, autographs of the Enlightenment writers (Ignacy Krasicki, Stanisław Trembecki, Franciszek Zabłocki) and fragments of Józef Wybicki’s personal papers. Among 150 separate documents and diplomas (from the 12th to 19th century) users may access a collection of manuscripts concerning Mogielnica, including the medieval conferment documents issued by Mazovian princes and dukes.
The collection of the Warsaw Scientific Society, established in 1907 and deriving from the circle of Warsaw members of the Polish Academy of Learning, donated to the Library in 1945 involves papers of the Society members, such as Aleksander Jabłonowski, Bronisław Chlebowski, Samuel Dickstein, Feliks Kucharzewski and Michał Federowski (including ethnographic materials gathered in eastern Belarus) and General Jan Krukowiecki’s personal papers.
Another sub-collection donated to the University of Warsaw Library in 1945 involves the archives of Evangelical Reformed Church spanning the 16th to 20th century and providing sources for the history of Reformation and dissident movements in Poland. This collection includes fragments of the archives of former Małopolska Evangelical Reformed Union (16th to 19th century), personal papers of Karol Diehl (the Senior General for Evangelical Reformed Churches and the President of Evangelical Reformed Consistory in the Duchy of Warsaw and Congress Kingdom of Poland), records of Evangelical Reformed Chapel in Warsaw and some other chapels from the territory of the Kingdom of Poland, fragments of clergy and believers’ legacies, including papers of Aleksander Woyde and Józef Spleszyński.
Larger sub-collections of shared provenance include the papers of writers, scholars and political and social activists from the 19th and 20th century: Maria Dąbrowska and her husband Marian Dąbrowski, Stanisław Stempowski, Stanisław Posner, Ludwik Krzywicki, Karol Sulikowski, Stanisław „Orsza” Broniewski, Robert Bielecki, some of the University of Warsaw professors (Stefan Pieńkowski, Jerzy Pniewski, Marian Danysz, Janusz Zakrzewski, Wacław Borowy, Witold Kula, Antoni Mączak, Istvan Csaplarosa and others). Of great interest are the family archives of the Peszko, Krasiński, Łoziński and Bułhak.
Moreover, the Department collections include the autographs and letters of such writers as Stefan Żeromski, Julian Tuwim, Teofil Lenartowicz, Maria Konopnicka, Eliza Orzeszkowa, Antoni Słonimski and Czesław Miłosz.
Materials concerning World War II may be found in the archives of Szare Szeregi (the underground Polish Scouting Association) and Biuro Informacji i Propagandy Armii Krajowej (the the Bureau of Information and Propaganda of the Home Army), personal papers of Józef Roman Rybicki – the Warsaw head of Kedyw (the Polish Directorate of Sabotage and Subversion) and papers left by Robert Bielecki.
Finally, the Department collections include a small set of oriental manuscripts in Turkish, Persian, Arabic, Armenian and Hebrew. Users of the Department collections are offered access to the Department reference works (approximately 4,000 items) provided with a separate alphabetical and subject catalogue. In justified cases the Department reference works may be accessed in the Main Reading Room of the Library.

More information on the history and content of the Department collections may be found in:

  • Kozerska H., Straty w zbiorze rękopisów w czasie I i II wojny światowej, Warszawa 1960.
  • Kozerska H., Warszawska Biblioteka Uniwersytecka w latach 1832–1871, Warszawa 1967.
  • Stummer W., Oddział Rękopisów. In: Biblioteka Uniwersytecka w Warszawie. Przewodnik, Warszawa 1979, pp. 45–50.
  • Tyszkowa M., Z historii Oddziału Rękopisów. In: Biblioteka Uniwersytecka w Warszawie w latach 1945–1980, Warszawa 1998, s. 287–298.


University od Warsaw Library. Manuscripts Deparment. Catalogue of collections

Printed catalogues of manuscripts, card catalogues, informational publications:

  • Katalog rękopisów Biblioteki Uniwersyteckiej w Warszawie (The catalogue of manuscripts held by The University of Warsaw Library). Vol. 1 (manuscripts no. 1–262). Ed. H. Kozerska and W. Stummer, Warsaw 1963 – descriptions of manuscripts from “old holdings” (objects saved from World War II)
  • Katalog rękopisów… Vol. 2 (manuscripts no. 263–583). Ed. H. Kozerska and W. Stummer, Warsaw 1973 – descriptions of manuscripts from the collection of Towarzystwo Naukowe Warszawskie (the Warsaw Scientific Society)
  • Katalog rękopisów… Vol. 3 parts 1, 2 (part 3 only in type, available in the Department reading room) (manuscripts no. 584–1340). Ed. H. Kozerska and W. Stummer, Warsaw 1987 – documentation of the activity of Evangelical Reformed Church in the period from the 16th to the 20th century
  • Katalog rękopisów… Vol. 4 (manuscripts no. 1341–1646). Ed. H. Kozerska, W. Stummer, M. Tyszkowa, Warsaw 1990 – descriptions of papers, documents and correspondence of writers, scientists, political and social activists from the 19th and 20th century
  • Katalog rękopisów… Vol. 5 (manuscripts no. 1647–1837). Ed. J. Borysiak [et al.], Warsaw 1992 – descriptions of manuscripts from the period between 1914 and 1939
  • Katalog rękopisów… Vol. 6 (manuscripts no. 1838–2052). Ed. J. Borysiak  [et al.], Warsaw 1994 – descriptions of manuscripts from the period between the 16th and the 18th century and medieval documents issued by Mazovian princes and dukes
  • Katalog rękopisów… Vol. 7 (manuscripts no. 2053–2295). Ed. M. Tyszkowa, Warsaw 1998 – descriptions of materials from the period of World War II
  • Katalog rękopisów… Vol. 8 (manuscripts no. 2296–2513). Ed. J. Borysiak, E. Piskurewicz, W. Stummer, Warsaw 1998 – descriptions of 19th century polonica
  • Katalog mikrofilmów. Rękopisy. (The catalogue of microfilms. Manuscripts). Vol. 1–5. Ed. Ewa Piskurewicz, Warsaw 1986–1998.

Auxiliary catalogues:

  • the catalogue of manuscripts acquired by the Library in the period between 1945 and 2000 (includes index of names, geographic locations and subjects),
  • the subject guide on the Department acquisitions,
  • the catalogue of doctoral theses (arranged according to authors’ home faculties) with the alphabetical index of authors Information on the collections is also available from the online database „Acquisitions” (manuscripts and their preservation copies recorded in the Library inventory from 2000 onwards).

Practical informations

  • The Library user may enter the reading room of the Department with the pass issued by the Information Desk staff. In order to receive the pass the user is requested to show valid Library Card and ID card.
  • The collections of the University of Warsaw Library Department of Manuscripts may be viewed in the reading room of the Department only.
  • Manuscripts without any preservation form may be accessed by academic staff for research purposes without any restraints; students and postgraduates need to present written references from their tutors or thesis supervisors.
  • Preservation forms of manuscripts (microfilms, CDROM) are available without any restraints in the Library Reading Room of Current Periodicals and Microforms.
  • Copies of preservation forms (photocopies, microfilms, copies of microfilms and digital copies) may be requested for further research from the University of Warsaw Library Reprographic Office on the approval of the Department staff only.

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

Icons: Freepik ( from, Retina Display Icons ( from The Working Group (