Book Donations in the History of the National Museum Library Based on the Records in Journal of the National Museum

Pages 11–32
Keywords National Museum – book provenance – National Museum Library – book acquisition
Type of Article Peer-reviewed
Citation VACULÍNOVÁ, Marta . Book Donations in the History of the National Museum Library Based on the Records in Journal of the National Museum . Acta Musei Nationalis Pragae – Historia litterarum. Prague: National Museum, 2015, 60(1-2), 11–32. ISSN 0036-5351. Also available from:
Acta Musei Nationalis Pragae – Historia litterarum | 2015/60/1-2

Within the four-year project of book provenance research PROVENIO, records on book donations to the National Museum Library (NML) have been excerpted from Journal of the National Museum from its foundation until 1893. The upper limit is determined by the introduction of NML acquisition books, which provide more detailed records of book donations. The primary objective of the excerpts was to create an aid for the identification of the provenance of important collections and collection items in the NML (especially manuscripts and early printed books, but also larger books sets). Nevertheless, this also led to the creation of a material basis for the study of the social composition of the donors and for the mapping of the participation of prominent figures of Czech culture and politics in the building of the NML collection. Based on this material, we have described three acquisition periods: from the foundation until 1849, 1850–1861 (with the upper limit being the end of Václav Hanka’s work as a librarian) and 1862–1893. In the individual periods, the structure of the donors changed, just like the composition of society and the role of individual social classes in the 19th century. In the first period, the most frequent donors of manuscripts and early printed books were clergymen, followed by teachers and professors, with the third position being taken by officials. These groups remained in the first three places also in the second period; in some years, clergymen lost their primacy in favour of one of the other two groups. In the third period, the number of the donors–clergymen decreased, whereas the teachers and officials remained, being complemented in their frequency by other professions – doctors, lawyers etc. The number of Czech institutions giving donations to the museum was low in the first period; in the second period, their number (only slightly) decreased. A turning point came after 1861, when activities of societies were allowed and the museum began to receive gifts from a wide range of associations and movements. These included mostly secular institutions; ecclesiastical institutions were underrepresented (as opposed to the massive involvement of clergymen as individuals). The donations of foreign institutions and individuals, described in this study rather fragmentarily, should be treated in even more detail in future. Concerning foreign donations in the first period, the influence of the contacts of the founder of the museum Kaspar Maria von Sternberg and the slavist Josef Dobrovský is evident. After Sternberg’s death, contacts with foreign natural scientists slightly weakened, like contacts with South Slavic scholars later, after the death of Václav Hanka. A specific group of donors on which we focused as well were women. In the first period, their number was practically negligible; they were mainly noblewomen, who were later joined by intellectuals, mainly writers. In the second period, their number did not grow much; in the third period however, one can observe an increase in the number of female donors as well as in the volume and values of the donations. Nevertheless, a considerable number was formed (besides intellectuals) especially by women as the executrices of the last will of their late husbands and other male relatives. Yet some female donors had purchased collection items for the museum on their own initiative. The article is complemented by graphs, documenting the representation of donors from various social classes in the periods examined.

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