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Slovak Collections

This page provides an overview of the Slovak Collections, illustrated by specific examples. We acquire material across the spectrum of the humanities and social sciences published in Slovakia, as well as material in the Slovak language published elsewhere in the world.

The official emblem of Slovakia

The official emblem of Slovakia © The British Library Board

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Collections

In the following text, codes which appear in brackets after references [C.36.f.21] indicate British Library shelfmarks.

The exact size of the Slovak holdings is not known, since, like other country/language holdings, they have no separate catalogue and are dispersed within the rest of the collections. It is known that the Library holds some 480 books printed in Slovakia before 1801. Although there are gaps in the collections due to the scarcity of early Slovak printed books, modern Slovak material is very well represented.

From the 10th century to 1918, the area of Slovakia was under Hungarian rule and its religious, political and cultural development followed that of Hungary. The latest research dates the beginning of printing in the region to the last quarter of the 15th century. The development of the first printing presses was influenced by Lutheranism and the 16th century was a period of travelling printers who, harassed for their religious beliefs, often had to change their place of work. One of the earliest examples in the British Library of a book produced under these conditions is Péter Bornemisza's Elso resze az evangeliomokbol (1573) [C.36.f.21] printed by him partly at Komjatice (near Nitra) and partly at Sintava (near Trnava).

The language of the landlord class and most of the urban population was Hungarian and it was in the Hungarian language that a large proportion of printing was carried out in Slovakia until the end of the 18th century. Books in Czech for the Slovak-speaking population (the standard Slovak language did not develop until the 1780s) were mostly imported from Bohemian and Moravian presses that were technically better equipped to produce larger volumes like Bibles, postillas and hymn-books. Such printing in the Czech language as existed in Slovakia concentrated on works of a popular nature such as textbooks and calendars. These have survived in only a few copies and are now very rare. Books in Latin, the language of the Church, are much better represented in the British Library collections.

Until 1700, the largest book production was concentrated in Levoca which was followed by Trnava, Kosice, Bardejov, Bratislava, Trencin and other places. Two examples in the collections of imprints from M. Telegdi's press at Trnava are his postil Az Evangeliomoknac [C.36.f.19] and Ordinarium officii divini [3365.de.11], both printed in 1580. From Bardejov comes Hungaridos libri poematum (1599) [11409.ee.15] by J. Bocatius, and Bratislava is represented by P. Pazmany's Peniculus paporum apologiae (1610) [3913.aaa.69]. Among the 17th-century Trnava imprints are G. Bársony's Veritas toti mundo (1681) [1020.h.16], and two titles by M. Szentiványi; Curiosiora et selectiora variarum scientiarum (1689) [718.e.29] and Dissertatio paralipomenonica (1699) [590.e.15].

In the 18th century the idea of Slovakia as a nation began to take shape. Problems of nationalities were the subject of M. Bencsik's Novissima diaeta nobilissima (1722) [9314.bb.31], and among the several works by S. Timon, the founder of Hungarian historiography, who formulated the definition of Slovakia as a nation, are Imago antiquae et novae Hungariae (1734) [9315.aa.33] and Epitome chronologica rerum Hungaricarum (1736) [9315.f.14], both printed at Kosice.

Mátyás Bél, the great Hungarian scholar began to stress the importance of Slovak as a national language. The Library has his Compendiolum regnorum sclavoniae (1777) [1608/373] printed partly in Bratislava, partly at Kosice, both important printing centres in the second half of the 18th century. The standard Slovak language, which developed gradually from the standard Czech, was codified in 1787 and it was the end of the century that heralded the beginning of the Slovak National Revival. There is a representative selection in the British Library of works by the founders of the Revival. The second edition of J. Kollar's Slawy dcera (1824) [11585.b.20] contains autograph notes by J. Safarik and J. Bowring, the English author and linguist who translated Eastern European poetry. The leading figure of the last stages of the Revival, poet, journalist, linguist as well as fighter for political and social reform, L. Stur is represented in the collections by several works, including O narodnich pisnich (Prague, 1853) [Ac.800/10 (16)] and Slavianstvo i mir budushchego (Moscow, 1867) [8092.g.6].

20th-century writers are covered on a wide scale in first or later editions and compilations. Since the 1960s, Slovak material has been acquired systematically by purchase and exchanges with Slovak libraries. The average intake of monographs is now around 450 titles per annum and there are some 150 current periodicals taken including daily and weekly newspapers.

Catalogues and printed guides

  • Explore the British Library
  • Czechoslovak collections in the British Library (London: British Library, 1989) [YA.1995.a.21571]
  • Hellyer, P. and D. Pavlik, Czech and Slovak samizdat: a catalogue of British Library holdings (London: British Library, 2003) [YA.2005.a.13821]

Other resources

Slovak material elsewhere in the British Library

Contact

Susan Halstead, Curator, Czech, Slovak and Lusatian Studies
European Studies
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London
NW1 2DB
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7588

E-mail: susan.halstead@bl.uk