Printed treasures from the Golden City

Tuesday, February 22, 2011 at 8:04 AM

If “God is in one of the letters of one of the pages of one of the four hundred thousand books of Clementinum,” as a librarian claims in a short story by Jorge Luis Borges, who was also the director of the Argentine National Library, we will never know. But the nature of the divine is one prevailing subject in some of the most magnificent books curated in the historical collection of the Czech National Library. This includes works of the Czech reformer Jan Hus and the theologists Johann Amos Comenius, Erasmus of Rotterdam and Martin Luther.

With a history dating back to the 11th century, the Clementinum hosting the Czech National Library until today used to be one of the world’s major Jesuit colleges and was established as an observatory, library and university by the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria in the late 18th century. The Czech National Library has many unique collections such as the Mozartiana, Comeniana, a large number of Bohemica and one of the most comprehensive collections of Slavonic literature in the world. The works collected in the Clementinum are written in a multitude of languages: besides Czech for instance Russian, Polish, South-Slavic languages, German, Latin, Italian, French and Greek. The digitization of these books will offer valuable sources for scholars and interested readers all over the world.

Today we are announcing the agreement with the Czech National Library to digitize up to 200,000 works from the historical collection, managed by the Department of Historical and Musical Archives of the Czech National Library and the Slavic Library. These are all published between the 16th and 18th century.

Through this cooperation important works of literature, philosophy and the natural sciences which could only be accessed by a few will become a common good. Projects like this help to overcome not only geographical but also cultural and social boundaries.

We are very happy to be able to open up another European treasure chest to everyone and welcome the Czech National Library as our twelfth European library partner.


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