University of Warsaw Library Archives
Tuesday, Thursday 10-14
1st floor, room 114
phone: 48 22 55 25 261
The University of Warsaw Library Archive collections met a particularly difficult fate just as much as the Library’s book collection. The Archive was confiscated and evacuated to Russia after the November Uprising in 1832 and again in 1915 during the WWI. Both evacuations dispersed the collected documents, which could never be restored to their original state despite the fact that a large portion of the Archive was returned to University of Warsaw Library due to the agreements reached in the Peace of Riga (the Riga Treaty) on March 18th, 1921.
The German occupation of Warsaw 1939-1945, the stationing of German police and army in the library’s buildings, and finally the evacuation of the book holdings to Germany towards the end of WWII further damaged the Archive collections. Additional destruction occurred in the course of the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. Despite this, the interwar and WWII’s archive collections can be considered as exceptional against the background of the University of Warsaw General Archive which was almost entirely consumed in fire.
The most complete holdings of the university library’s archives concern the postwar collections.
The University of Warsaw Library collections can be an excellent source for studying a number of fields and topics: the history of the library; nineteenth- and early twentieth-century private book
collections and educational institutions; the history of readership and literacy in the same period; the role and significance of the library in the formation of Polish elites and intelligentsia.
The earliest period of the University of Warsaw Library’s existence (1817-1831) – when it went by the name of the Public Library – is represented in the Archive by, among others, the book catalogue of the Medicine Department from 1822. The book collection itself, encompassing 40.000 volumes, was included into the Library’s holdings in 1825.
For the years 1832-1871, during which the Library had following names: the Governmental Library, the Library of the Warsaw Scientific Circle, the Main Library, the Archive’s holdings are more complete. We find the inventories of book purchases for the years 1834-1870 as well as the catalogues. The inventories also keep track of the catalogues of the books taken over from the Real school in Szczebrzeszyn, the Nobility Institute in Warsaw, the library of the Bernardine monks in Warsaw as well as the Governmental Committee of Internal and Spiritual Affairs. This period is also represented by the record of the Tzarist contributions to the library from 1840s. We will also find records of books submitted for binding as well as records of the books lent both into the reading room and as home loans, organized by visitors’ last names. The collections of the official correspondence of the Library is rather scarce for this period, nevertheless it includes letters of the Curator of the Warsaw Scientific Circle, and the correspondence of the Governmental Library (1842- 1867).
The years 1871-1915, during which the Library was a part of the Imperial University of Warsaw, represent an even more complete record. We find a large number of inventories of book purchases, lists of doublets and catalogues, documents confirming the inclusion of both institutional and private book collections into the Library’s book holdings, among others collections of the clerk and bibliophile Arkadiusz Tolochanov. Other valuable documents are those of the Librarians’ Committee 1879- 1884 and the correspondence with the Censorship Office (1876-1897). The reading room’s records contain signatures of many well-known persons. An interesting part of the collection is the materials of the Polish Bank’s Library taken over by the University of Warsaw Library in 1899: inventories, catalogues, and the bank’s correspondence, including monitoring records of the bank’s clerks.
The years of WWI left interesting documentation, among others the correspondence of the libraries driven at the time by the German Empire’s Warsaw Governorate as well as the General Governor’s library’s records. The library commenced its functioning in August of 1915, and the period until 1918 is documented with the library’s statistics prepared for internal purposes, the records of readers visitors, and various forms of reports. Attention should be paid to the “Diary of the University Library and for the period from August 7, 1915 to October 7, 1915”, hand-written by the Commissioner in charge of the Library of Poniatowski Stanisław (1916-1919).
The interwar period is surprisingly well-documented in the University of Warsaw Library Archive, thanks to the meticulous record keeping throughout the period and good reorganization in the 1930s. The functioning and organization of the library is documented by internal regulations and circulatory documents. The book holdings are documented by the inventories, registers of purchases, receipts of purchases and registers of private donations. The book loans are documented by the lists of readers and visitors and documents of the “interlibrary loans” section.
The organization of the Library’s book holdings are documented by cataloguing instructions. The employee’s personal files are also well represented in the Archive, among others, by the records of
vacation leaves, disciplinary issues, lists of employees, and the unique records of the Employees Savings and Loans Association. Additionally we find the thorough annual reports.There are also separately organized partial collections of records produced by the Warsaw University and the Polish Association of Librarians from this period.
The period of German occupation (1939-1945) left very interesting records of the Library which then functioned as the primary division of the Staatsbibliothek Warschau’s organization. The records include the employee’s reports to German officials; internal circulatory documents issued by the Library’s commissioner Dr Witte; memorials of his Polish deputy, director Adam Lewak sent to the German officials. We will also find records of the replacements of the books between the different divisions of the Staatsbibliothek. The book loans are documented by lists of visitors and readers as well as book loans and interlibrary book loans for the years 1942-1944.
From the period of the German occupation the documentation collected by the head of the Scientific Libraries Department at the Faculty of Science and Teaching of the Warsaw District and the commissary head of the State Library in Warsaw was partially preserved. Dr. Wilhelm Witte stayed in Warsaw from 1940.07.11 to 1944.07.27. The partially preserved documentation concerns budget and accounting matters. In addition to extensive correspondence, circulars and orders, reports of branches I, II and III of the Staatsbibliothek, personal files and employment lists are also issued. We also have materials concerning the collection and transfer of collections between the individual branches, economic matters concerning victualling and library equipment.
After World War II the library was mostly occupied with recuperating and rebuilding its collections. These efforts are documented in records of accepted collections, registers of donations and exchanges as well as correspondence about the so-called secured collections. Both the whole library and its divisions have documented actions. Acts from recent years witness technological transformation the library faced, giving a picture of a modern institution, connected with national and international libraries, and occupying an important position in culture and science.
- Visitors can access the collections only in the Archive’s reading room.
- Visitors should accept and follow the terms and conditions of access to the Library’s Archives.
- Only pencils and/or laptops/mobile devices are allowed for making notes.
- More extensive use and searches in the Archives should be announced in advance (via telephone or e-mail).
- With the exception of researchers, visitors are obliged to present a recommendation letter signed by a supervisor or the institution they represent.
- The catalogues of the collections are available in the reading room of the Library’s Archive.