The British Library holds are one of the leading research collections in the world for the study of Central Europe.
About the collection
Our holdings strongly support research in humanities, social sciences, and Central European studies. Both print and non-print publications are collected from the countries of origin in vernacular languages and in English, as well as those published by ethnic minority and diaspora communities. Our Central European collections are complemented by archival material, maps, philatelic items, photographs, music scores and sound recordings, as well as printed books, journals, newspapers, statistics and official publications,.
Our collections include four Cracow incunabula, ten incunabula of Czech/Slovak provenance and fourteen by Hungarian authors printed in various European cities. Our 16th-century holdings include 292 books printed in Poland (mainly in Cracow), 251 titles printed in the territory of today’s Czech Republic and Slovakia and 50 Hungarian imprints.
The 19th-century collection on Central Europe is strong on material published both in the countries themselves and by émigrés in the West. Publications of learned societies, academic libraries and universities are well represented. There is a good range of material published in the 19th and early 20th century including science, philosophy, history, literary criticism and literary classics, as well as the avant-garde movements of the 1910s-1930s.
The substantial and influential output of the London-based Polish émigré publishing houses was acquired by legal deposit. In addition, we have an important collection of independently published books, newspapers and pamphlets from the period 1976-1989, known as the Solidarity collection. Wide-ranging studies and documents of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and the 1968 Prague Spring form an important collection of material for researching 20th-century history and politics.
Since 1989 the Library has continued to collect widely in all areas of the humanities and social sciences. The collections are rich in material reflecting the social, political and economic aspects of democratic change in the 1990s, and in other subjects such as Jewish studies, ethnic minorities, gender studies and environmental issues. In addition, current topics such as modern history and politics, European Union membership, migration, human rights, social and economic conditions are well represented.
What is available online?
We continue to make available out-of-copyright books, including Polish, Czech, Slovak and Hungarian as a result of large-scale, library-wide digitisation projects. To find them search Explore the British Library and then refine your result list by Access Options: Online.
Selected items from our collections are available on Europeana 1914-1918.
A number of images from our Polish, Hungarian, Czech and Slovak collections can be viewed using the British Library’s Flickr account.
Arianta – Polish scientific and professional electronic journals
FBC - Federation of Digital Libraries includes on-line collections of Polish cultural and scientific institutions
Polona - Polish Digital National Library provides access to literary and scientific texts, historical documents, journals, prints, photographs, musical scores and maps
MEK – Hungarian Electronic Library
EPA – a database and archive of Hungarian periodical publications
Manuscriptorium: Digital Library of Written Cultural Heritage – hosted by the National Library of the Czech Republic, but under a single digital library interface, it provides access to historical resources otherwise scattered in various digital libraries around the world.
Webarchiv – a digital archive of Czech web resources.
What is available in our Reading Rooms?
The British Library subscribes to a number of electronic resources, which are listed under Slavonic and East European electronic resources and are available onsite in the Library’s reading rooms. Some of these resources are bibliographic databases, while others give access to full-text content. Among these the British Library subscribes to CEEOL (Central and Eastern European Online Library), which provides access to full-text academic journals on the arts, humanities and social sciences.
Some print bibliographies and catalogues remain essential reference sources:
- Arnold, Geoffrey, Short-title catalogue of Hungarian books printed before 1851 in the British Library (London: British Library, 1995)
- Czigány, Lóránt, The László Waltherr Collection of Hungarian pamphlets in the British Museum (London: Szepsi Csombor Kör, 1969)
- Hellyer, Peter and Devana Pavlik, Czech and Slovak samizdat: a catalogue of British Library holdings (London: British Library, 2nd ed., 2003)
- Guzner, Bridget and Ildiko Wollner, Hungary 1956: a catalogue of British Library holdings (London: The British Library, 1997).
What is available in other organisations?
Central European material can also be found on Europeana, which brings together digitised collections of libraries, museums and galleries.
OSZK DK - digital library of the National Széchényi Library of Hungary
Kramerius – digital library of the National Library of the Czech Republic