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Lithuanian Collections

This page provides an overview of the Lithuanian Collections, illustrated by specific examples. We acquire material across the spectrum of the humanities and social sciences


In the following text, codes which appear in brackets after references ([1462.b.18]) indicate British Library shelfmarks.

The exact size of the Lithuanian holdings is not known, since, like other country/language holdings, they have no separate catalogue and are dispersed within the rest of the collections.

The Lithuanian collection originated in much the same way as the Latvian and Estonian, as a by-product of the Library's German, Polish and Russian collections.

The British Library holds some examples of the oldest forms of vernacular literature, the folk songs of ancient Lithuania, for example, a copy of the second edition of Liudvikas Rhesa's collection Dainos (Berlin, 1843) [1462.b.18]. Early religious literature, which appeared as a result of the Reformation, is also represented. One of the most important and rare early books in Lithuanian, the Postilla by Jonas Bretkunas (Konigsberg, 1591) [C.37.f.29] is in the Library, as is one of the three surviving fragments of the first Lithuanian Bible (Genesis-Joshua) translated at Oxford by Samuel Boguslaw Chylinski. Its printing, probably in London in 1660, was never completed. The Library also has a copy of the second edition of the first complete Bible (Konigsberg, 1755).

Secular literature did not develop until the 18th century, and one of the treasures of the collection comes from this period - the poem Metai by Kristijonas Donelaitis (1714-1809), first published under the title Das Jahr, together with a German translation, by L. Reza (Konigsberg, 1818). The speedy growth of Lithuanian literature in the 19th century is reflected in the collections very inadequately, especially as regards early editions of the writers and scholars of the period. One of the most important works of the 19th century is the first history of Lithuania in the language, Lietuvos istorija by Simonas Daukantas (1793-1864), published posthumously (Plymouth, Pa., 1893, 97) [9456.e.5]. Of the complete sets of three of the journals which played a very important part in the national revival - Auszra, Varpas and Ukinkas - only one volume (for 1884) in the British Library collections survived the bombing during World War II. Older periodicals are very inadequately represented.

While far from complete, the collection of pre-World War II Lithuanian material includes important items from the independence period, including official publications. After 1945, Lithuanian material published both in Lithuania and by émigrés abroad was acquired more systematically. Lithuanian material published in the United Kingdom by émigré publishers such as Nida was acquired via Legal Deposit.

Since Lithuania regained independence the scope of Lithuanian language publishing has widened considerably. Within budgetary constraints, we continue to acquire as wide a selection as possible of academic and scholarly publications, imaginative literature and official publications, likely to be of interest to researchers. Currently, we acquire some 100 monographs a year in Lithuanian and an increasing number of journals and newspapers from our exchange partners in Vilnius. 

Catalogues, printed guides and other resources

  • Cyrillic books printed before 1701 in British and Irish collections: a union catalogue. Compiled by R. Cleminson, C. Thomas, D. Radoslavova, A. Voznesenskii. (London: The British Library, 2000) [HLR011.440947].
  • Milukas, A. Lituanica (rastai apie Lietuva) British Museum'e Londone (Zvaigzde, Nr.43, 1901)
  • Navickiene, Ausra and Janet Zmroczek. Lietuvisku knygu rinkinys Britu bibliotekoje [The Lithuanian book collection in the British Library] (Knygotyra 1998, 25 (32) and 1997, 33)
  • Robinson, D. F. Lithuanian books in the British Museum (1578-1937) (General linguistics, Vol. 10, No.2, 1970)
  • Zmroczek, Janet. Anglo-American Lituanica in the Humanities and Social Sciences Collections of the British Library (Vilniaus universiteto bibliotekos metrastis, 1995)
  • Lithuanian internet resources
  • Slavonic and East European Collections
  • Explore the British Library

Lithuanian material available elsewhere in the British Library


Ela Kucharska-Beard, Curator, Baltic Studies
European Studies
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7940