Location of the library and its history after Mikolas Ales´ death

Personal library of Mikolas Ales (1852-1913) is stored at the depository of the Museum of Czech Literature (in the so-called "woodhouse" Hvezda at Prague-Bila Hora). It has been placed there for several decades and its history is linked with the history of a special part of the Museum of Czech Literature - the Alois Jirasek Museum. In 1951, the Ministry of Culture decided to create Alois Jirasek Museum in a newly reconstructed Hvezda Summerhouse at Prague-Bila Hora. In 1968, the Museum received a generous donation by the Ales´ family, which included all of Ales´ left estate - several hundreds paintings, many written documents, furniture, personal effects and also Ales library. Alois Jirasek Museum and Mikolas Ales exposition were open to public until 1996 when the building underwent extensive renovation.

In 1951, Hvezda Summerhouse was extended to include also the imperial kitchens (so-called "woodhouse"), which in 1555-1558 used to serve as a background facility of the summerhouse. The woodhouse became the home for Alois Jirasek and Mikolas Ales expositions and served as the storage place for the left estate of both artists. In 1968-1970, the woodhouse was reconstructed for the first time. After the overall Summerhouse renovation (terminated in 2000), the Museum did not move to its original place and the area is now used by the Museum of Czech Literature for exhibition purposes. In 2006, after yet another reconstruction, the woodhouse opened its library study room. It now hosts an exposition on the life and works of Jiri Karasek of Lvovice, his library and other library units, including the library of Mikolas Ales. The library of Alois Jirasek is nowadays located (together with the exposition of his office) at the Museum of Czech Literature at Stare Hrady.

After the death of Mikolas Ales in 1913, the library was left to his daughter Maryna (1882-1973), who lived with her husband Emanuel Svoboda (1883-1967), the Head of the Economic Department of the Prague Magistrate, an admirer and expert on Ales´ work as well as his biographer (this explains why many books from Ales library include Svoboda´s bookplates). In 1957, Mr and Mrs Svoboda donated Ales personal library (with about one thousand books[1]) to the Museum of Czech Literature. However, the "Library of Mikolas Ales" at the MCL includes, according to the 1997 MCL Collection Guide (libraries 1953-1997), a total of 2.192 books. An examination of Ales original personal library[2], which he used during his life and which may indicate his interests and inspirations, could take place only after the reconstruction of the original collection. It was necessary to separate original library items from other items according to the accession list[3]. The base of Mikolas Ales library therefore consists of his original personal library and other sources related to Mikolas Ales as a person. This led to the establishment of a "topical" collection containing the personal library and a unique set of works related to the owner.

Reconstruction of the personal library

Before going on to describe the library, we should identify the set of books used during the reconstruction of Mikolas Ales´ library. As no list of original items existed, it was necessary to follow the acquisition list and to identify books originating from Ales personal library. However, the acquisition list, which became the most important tool in this task, does not include only items from Mikolas Ales library and cannot be considered as its catalogue. It is an internal MCL document, which reflects all acquisitions in the collection, i.e. items gained (by purchase, donation or otherwise) in 1960´s.

An analysis of this three-volume acquisition list (14,613 items) indicated that the collection includes items from Alois Jirasek library, Mikolas Ales library, books from the left estate of Emanuel Svoboda and books and magazines which have nothing to do with these collections but which were gained by MCL during this period.

The first volume of this list (acquisition numbers 1-4,215) includes call numbers starting with "AJ", the collection of Alois Jirasek library (11,100 volumes). This collection includes books gained from Alois Jirasek personal library, books focusing on his life and work or otherwise related to him (published during his life and mainly after his death). Documents gained from Jirasek personal library include a note "from the left estate of Alois Jirasek". Comments often describe inscriptions and notes written in the books.

The second volume of the acquisition list (starting with number 4,216-10,826) includes items marked as items "from the left estate of dr. Emanuel Svoboda" (from the acquisition number 7,625, call-number staring with "S"). It includes, inter alia, a large number of documents on Mikolas Ales, his life and work - Svoboda himself published books on Ales. List of books marked as the left estate of E. Svoboda (1,380 acquisition numbers) was studied as we may presume that Svoboda took some books from Ales´ library for his own library. Upon Ales´ death, Svoboda library and Ales library might have even been merged into one unit. Many books identified during the reconstruction process as books originating from Ales personal library included bookplates of both Mikolas Ales and Emanuel Svoboda, side by side. As many books, described as books "from the left estate of Mikolas Ales", include also bookplates of E. Svoboda, it seems that Ales´ daughter Maryna carefully selected her father´s personal books from the household library before donating the library to the MCL[4]. Books, magazines and other prints marked as items "from the left estate of E. Svoboda" were examined by their year of publications. Items published after the death of Mikolas Ales (which constituted the majority of Svoboda personal library) were excluded. Some publications issued before 1913 (i.e. before Ales´ death) were assessed by their content but were not considered of paramount interest (list of these items was prepared for possible further research). However, Svoboda could have bought older publications or could inherit them from his parents.

Starting with the acquisition item No. 8,521 we begun to meet with documents marked as "from the left estate of Mikolas Ales". Thanks to the diligence of the responsible acquisition worker, we know the acquisition dates and places of inscriptions and signatures of Mikolas Ales. Unfortunately, notes and drawings were not recorded. Personal library items, marked with call numbers starting with "MA", are complemented by publications focusing on Ales´ life and work, which the library purchased on continuous basis and which were published during Ales´ life and after his death. Besides these acquisitions, the second volume of the acquisition list includes further publications related to Jirasek (since the collection on Jirasek kept growing) and publications purchased or donated to the MCL not related to Ales or Jirasek. These acquisitions were briefly looked over as they could have been second-hand books or purchases bearing the signature or bookplates of Mikolas Ales. These publications were examined taking into account the date of their publication and the subject of the document. The number of books published before 1913 was very small; they were mostly magazines, which, as we may suppose, were bought by the MCL library for its collections of 19th century magazines.

In the third volume of the acquisition catalogue (acquisition numbers 10,827-14,613), items with "MA" call numbers clearly dominate. Unfortunately, this library worker did not work as diligently as his predecessor - acquisition records are frequently illegible or lack information on the mode of the books´ acquisition. The third volume could have contained publications not marked as "MA", which could have been purchased in second-hand bookstores or gained from Ales´ descendants. Item No. 13,903, for example, refers to Vseslovanske cteni in 1850, which (according to the information on the record) was purchased in a second-hand bookstore and the record comment  states: "pencil drawings of Mikolas Ales". Two documents described as "parts of calendars, probably from 1878 and 1913", gained apparently in June 1971, are to include "Ales´ illustrations". Fortunately, in the end of the third volume, notes on the occurrence of individual features again started to appear.

For the purposes of the reconstruction of Ales personal library, the marking of books as originating "from the left estate of Mikolas Ales" was decisive. Books marked in this manner in the acquisition list were examined de viso, individual features were selected and the important ones were compiled in a list (put together from notes recorded in the acquisition list). Important features, especially drawings, notes and inscriptions, were digitalized, frequently occurring markings (such as bookplates and signatures) were illustrated by selected exampled and other occurrences were recorded in the list. A total of 975 bibliographic items were examined and processed in this manner, 170 of them were selected and their digital photographs made.

Books from the left estate of Mikolas Ales are grouped by the subject. Marcela Manakova, who used to work at the MCL at the time of the library donation to the Museum of Alois Jirasek and Mikolas Ales, stated that Maryna Alesova probably prepared a list of donated books in the same order, in which Mikolas Ales kept them in his library. It is probable that they were registered in the acquisition list in this sequence. Some magazines and books of the library include small notes with Maryna Alsova-Svobodova writing pointing out to Ales´ illustrations in particular books.

In order to allow the administration of collections registered in the above described acquisition list in the newly reconstructed premises in 1990´s, the items were placed in shelves according to their acquisition numbers, i.e. regardless of the original collection. Books from Mikolas Ales´ library are therefore mixed e.g. with books from 1960´s. Mikolas Ales´ library has not been physically separated and a special list of this personal fund was not made. A small amount of books remains to be transferred. According to Lubos Pecha, the Deposit Administrator, some books are still kept at the depositary at Stare Hrady Castle (in the exposition of Alois Jirasek office).

The relationship of Mikolas Ales to his library and the library structure

Mikolas Ales gathered a relatively large library, which he loved and was proud of. It reflects his interests as well as his profession. Books were the pride and pleasure for Mikolas Ales, he always knew where a particular book was kept and easily reached for the one he wanted to read or to quote. According to E. Svoboda, Ales loved chronicles and was familiar with Czech chronicles as well as e.g. the Russian Nestor Chronicles. He was a passionate reader of Palacky, knew the history of old Slavic tribes, folk poetry as well as artificial poems. He could quote poems of Kollar, Macha, Celakovsky, Erben, Vrchlicky, Cech, Lermontov, Pushkin, Petöffi, Longfell, Schiller and Goethe. He very much liked patriotic and heroic poems. He knew by heart Kollar´s poem Slavy dcera as well as Macha´s Maj. He mastered all details of matters he was interested in; for this quality he was frequently sought by artists and writers with a request for help. He had a perfect knowledge of old heraldry, folk costumes, weapons of Czech and other Slavic nations. Jirasek himself asked him in his letter to "dress" his novel characters of Hussites fighters, knights, folk people. L. Hlavacek quotes Ales´ letter to Marine of 31 July 1877: "There are many things for me to master as I have chosen the most difficult field of expertise - history, which requires extensive studies."[5] When asked to depict a scene from Czech history, he begun to study contemporary archeological sources in order to work as faithfully as possible.

Mikolas Ales held books in high esteem. Many books are bound in hardcover and his calendars include also lists of books which should be bound. He was buying books even though he never was wealthy, as E. Svoboda confirms[6]

Mikolas Ales books are nearly always marked by his bookplate, mostly a bookplate depicting a pagan idol with TRIBOG title over and a note "EX LIBRIS M. ALES 1907"[7]. The bookplate was printed on a thin greenish paper; sometimes, bookplates were drawn on the book board paper. These often include also Ales´ signature and the date of the purchase of the book. In several cases, rubber stamp "M.A." can be found. Books are written in Czech, German and Latin (older books inherited after his parents), there are also publications in Polish, English and Hungarian. According to Svoboda, Ales used dictionaries and tried to understand the content as: "Ales´ efforts to understand the mood of books led him to attempts to master at least basics of foreign languages to allow him to read books in their original version and to understand the meaning of the text with the assistance of dictionaries." Foreign books he read mostly in his youth in cases where translations into German did not exist. Ales knew the Russian alphabet, he also understood Serbian quite well and studied Polish language. He was not very familiar with English, nevertheless he was glad when his American friends, who established a Czech-American Painter Society "Mikolas Ales" to honor him, sent him books on Red Indians (his library contains a book on Red Indians from the Southwest by G.A. Dorsey published in Santa Fe in 1903). 

Speaking of the language dimension of Ales library, we must not forget language dictionaries and textbooks found in the collection. These books include Nímet és magyar szólára: Wörterbuch der deutschen und ungarischen Sprache (Pest, 1860); Erster Unterricht in der ungarischen Sprache by Johaness Hammerschmidt (Güns, 1836), which contains the „M.A." rubber stamp and handwritten short vocabulary on the board-cover; publication Do you speak English? Nein! (Hamburk, 1888?); Rusky snadno a rychle by F. Vymazal (Praha, 1896) and Polsky snadno a rychle by the same autor and Latinsky snadno a rychle (Praha, 1898). We must mention also the Italien praktisches Handbuch für Reisende by E. J. Jonas purchased by Ales probably for his 1879 Italian trip undertaken with Frantisek Zenisek to master tempera and fresco painting techniques before starting the decoration of the National Theatre foyer. The book includes Ales´ notes on travel details and connections and the expenses of the trip. The "portable" part of the "study literature" of Ales library includes dictionaries and encyclopedias, especially Universal-Lexicon by H. Jakobi (Vienna, 1874), Slovnik naucny by F.L. Rieger (Prague, 1887) and twelve volumes of Pierers konverstaions-lexikon published in 1888-1893 in Berlin and Stuttgart.

Besides Ales books, the library includes also several textbooks shared by Ales brothers (with many small drawings), several books inherited after Ales´ brother Jan, three books given to Maryna Alesova and several books inherited after Ales´ parents (books published in 17th and 18th century and during the first half of 19th century). These are religious books - hymn-books, bibles and prayer-books: Smutna paust opusteneho pana Jezise při horskem umuceni k autrpnemu vzdycháni... by L. Fabricio (Praha, 1760),  Conspectus historiae Hungariae... by J. Severin (Bez, 1778), Missale romaneem - Ex decreto Sacrosancti consilii... (Antverpiae, 1627), Lutherischer Scrupulant J. Krause (Prag, 1714), Prava mestska kralovstvi ceskeho (1576), Busbequius: Epistulae ad Rudolphum II. Imperatorem anno 1682 (without cover), a handwritten book Modlitby pro kazdeho pravokatolickeho krestana (1806), prayers from 1816, also handwritten, Modlitba pane neb Otce nas (Praha, 1721), Knez radu sv. Benedikta klastera Brevnovskeho (Praha, 1777), Luther´s Biblia, das ist: die ganze göttliche Heilige Schrift (Büdigen, 1740), Praxis pietatis by J.A. Komensky (Praha, 1786), collection of prayers signed „Veronika Alsova" (1869), Koniasovy Wejkladove na wsechny nedelni a swatecni Epistolly tez Evangelia celeho roku (Hradec Kralove, 1740) or Prodromus gloriae Pragenae by J.F. Hammerschmid (Pragae, 1723) or Confectbuch und Haus-Apotecken (1584).

There are also books published later, small educational prints such as Krasna Olivie aneb Strasidlo z bile veze by P. Sedivy (Praha, 1798), Unislav a Svetivina by the same author (Bez, 1794), Provaznik u Petrohradu by V. M. Kramerius (Jindr. Hradec, 1836), Umrlci ruka by the same author (Jindr. Hradec, 1830), Opatovicky poklad a nejvyssi vrch by the same author (Jindr. Hradec, 1830), Edmund a Belinka by A.A. Svihlík (Jindr. Hradec, Praha, 1832), Krvavy poklad by F. Tomsa (Praha, 1836), Sedlohradska Ruzenka: bohomir mlady poustevnik (Praha, Hradec Kralove, 1830) and others.

The library contains many publications studied by Ales most probably "for the purpose of a most truthful depiction of situations from our national history". These include historical sources, such as thirty-two volumes of Soupisy pamatek historickych a umeleckych from individual towns and regions  published in Prague in 1897-1913; Pamatky archeologicke a mistopisne issued by Archeological Board of the Royal Czech Museum (Praha, published in 1860, 1863 a 1870); Cesko-moravska kronika by K.V. Zap (Praha), Slovanske starozitnosti by L. Niederle (Praha, 1902); Bajeslovi slovanske by J. Machal (Praha, 1907); Zivot starych Slovanu by the same author (Praha, 1911); three volumes of Poselkyne starych pribehu ceskych by J. Beckovsky (Praha, 1879-1880); twelve volumes of Dejiny narodu ceskeho v Cechach i na Morave by F. Palacky (Praha, 1848-1887); O narodnich pisnich a povestech plemen slovanskych by L. Stur (Praha, 1853); Husite cili Cechy od roku 1414 - 1424 by K. Herlos (Praha, 1868); Uhry od roku 1444 - 60 by the same author (Praha, 1872) or Narodopisna mapa uherskych Slovaku na zaklade scitani lidu z roku 1900 by L. Niederleho (Praha, 1900).

Study literature included also sources used by Ales probably as models for his illustrations or paintings. These are e.g. Moravske ornamenty published by the Patriotic Museum Society in Olomouc (Vienna, 1890, 1891), Slovacke vysivani stehem krizkovym a vrkuckovym by J. Sima (Praha, 1897); Dejiny kroje v ceskych zemich by C. Zibrt (Praha, 1892); Zur Geschichte der Kostüme (without cover, with Ales´ paining on the backside); Slovensko: sbornik stati venovanych kroji a lidu Slovenska, published by Umelecka beseda for 1901; Kroje a svatba v Lopasove  na Slovensku by P. Sochan (Praha, 1905); Ubory w dawnej Polsce (Warsava, 1901), Narodopisny sbornik okresu horickeho (Hořice, 1895); Narodopisny sbornik ceskoslovansky (Praha, 1897, 1899); Obrazy k ceskym dejinam (Praha, 1820); Dejiny ceske v kamenopisne vyvedenych obrazech predstaveny od sjednocenych umelcu Akademie prazské (Praha, 1824). 

The library contains also several special publications on drawings - Lehrbuch der Anatomie der Pferdes by F. Miller (Wien, 1853); Rozmery a obraty lidske hlavy by A. Dvorak (Praha, 1879) issued a year later as Knochen und Muskelbau des mänschlichen Körpes and several publications such as Rostlina v dekorativnim umeni by A. Bouda (Praha, 1902); Obraz dilo umelecke a technicke by F.K. Jirik (Praha, 1896); Malerische Länder- und Völkerkunde by W. F. Zimmerman (Berlin, 1863); Ceska skola malirska XI. veku, volume I. by F.J. Lehner (Praha, 1903); Salon: L´illustration (Paris: Societé des Artistes Français, 1903); Umeni vcera a dnes by K.B. Madl (Praha, 1904), which includes a hand-painted bookplate by Mikolas Ales; Neco o penezni cene del umeleckych by A. Snajdauf (Praha, 1894). Few publications on the subject on visual arts indicate that Ales used to visit the Academy Library during his studies. This is confirmed by Svoboda who says when saying that Ales used to recall his visits in the Academy university library where he studied and searched for information to be prepared for his "commission".

We won´t be surprised by the presence of biographies of visual art masters - Rembrandt, Rubens, Tizian, Dürer, Cavalo, Michelangelo and Velasquez published in under the edition Künstler - Monographien in Bielefeld and Leipzig in 1896-1899 as well as contemporary artists (J. Marak, J. Manes, V. Hynais, H. Schweiger, S. Pinkas or Ales´ friend E.K. Liska - with the author´s inscription). There are also other biographies such as Zivot a spisy V.B. Nebeskeho by I.J. Hanus (Praha, 1896); Miroslav Tyrs: strucny nastin zivota a pusobeni jeho (Praha, 1889); Julius Zeyer´s speech on the occasion of the 70th birthday of Vojta Naprstek (Praha, 1896) with Ales´ review notes or the publication Jindrich Fügner: nastin jeho zivota a pusobeni (Praha).

Beside specialized literature, Ales library includes also fiction - books frequently bear the inscription of friends whose works he illustrated and his admirers (inscriptions by A. Jirasek, K.V. Rais, V.B. Trebizsky, O. Zachar[8], E. Batek, J. Cermak, J. Jahoda and others). The library contains also poetry, such as the above mentioned Slavy dcera by J. Kolar (two copies - a copy published in 1893 with M.A. bookplate and a copy of 1893 marked by note "z knih Mikolase Alse"); Ohlas pisni ceskych by F.L.Celakovsky (Praha, 1881); Vrchlicky translations of Petöfi (Praha); Moderni poesie americka I and II (Praha, Otto, 1907, 1909); Svetlou stopou by J.V. Sladek (Prague, 1881); a bibliophile print of Maj by K.H. Macha (Prague, 1911); Sedmikrasky by L.K.Dostal with author´s inscription (Holesov, 1895); Vecerni pisne by K.Halek (Prague); Basne by M.J. Lermontov (Prague). There are also several plays - e.g. Goethe´s Faust (Czech edition from 1907 and German edition published in Leipzig at P. Reclam), Die Rauber by Schiller with hand-drawn bookplate (Vienna, 1835); nine plays by W. Shakespeare published by J. Otto around 1910; Moliere´s Misantrop (Prague); Peer Gint by H. Ibsen (Prague); Krejci Jehlicka aneb Kdo snum veri stin lapa by J. Kvetnicky (Prague, 1887) or Loupeznjcy na Chlumu by S.J. Nepomuk (Hradec Kralove, 1820). Older plays are probably the inheritance after Ales´ father Frantisek Ales, who studied law at Latin schools and used to act as an amateur actor.

Another part of Ales´ library consists of touristic publications focusing on areas nearby his place of birth and places he liked best, e.g Hrady, zamky a tvrze kralovstvi ceskeho, dil XI.: Prachensko by A. Sedlacek (Praha, 1890); first part of Pribeh mesta Turnova nad Jizerou prepared by J.V. Simak (Turnov, 1903); Album der Burgen und Schlösser in Königsreiche Böhmen (Saaz); Obraz minulosti starozitneho mesta Prachatic by F.J. Slama (Praha, 1838); Dejiny mesta Turnova nad Jizerou v Boleslavstí by J.V. Prasek (Turnov, 1879) and other.

Ales was much interested in native inhabitants of America (reflected in his cycle Zivly from 1881). This interest was awakened already in his childhood when he read stories about Red Indians and also later Ales had sympathy and understanding for the fate of Red Indians. His library included novels by J.F. Cooper (Der letzte Mohikan); Die Prairie (Stuttgart), Die Ausiedler an dem Quellen des Susquehannah (Stuttgart, 1832), Der rothe Freibeuter (Stuttgart); Lapac vcel (Prague) and Der Lootse (Frankfurt am Main, 1838). It also contains Chateaubriand´s Atala in both Czech and German edition (Atala aneb laska dvou divochu na pousti (published in Prague in 1805) with a hand-written note "Z knih Alse" and Atala - Rene published in Leipzig, which includes a bookplate as well as a rubberstamp of Mikolas Ales. Longfellow´s Hiavatha published in Leipzig contains his signature; the Czech translation by J.V. Sladek (Pisen o Hiawate, Prague, 1872) has several sentences highlighted. Books with Red Indians storied were probably shared by all Ales brothers: e.g. Der Seminalen Häuptling oder der Berrath des Mullaten by B. Adolfino (Hamburg); Der treue Seekadet and Die rothe Ceder der Utah by B. Hanusen; Der Pflegcoohn des Indianer by B. Frey (with M. Ales signature) and Unter den Maron-Negan and Die Blume des Ohio by B. Frey, all published at Mühl and Ruhr. Some were later inherited by Ales´ son Tomas (born in 1879), as suggested by the „Tomas Ales" signature on the cover (Die rothe Ceder der Utah and Die Blume des Ohio by B. Frey). Illustration in these books were colored (e.g. Der Seminalen Häuptling oder der Berrath des Mullaten by B. Adolfino); however, it is not clear who was the enthusiastic author of the coloring.

Besides these popular stories, Ales´ library contains also studies focusing on the history of America and Red Indians, on their way of life, customs and clothing. These publications include Opanovani Mexika by J. Maly (Prague, 1854); Dejepis kolonizace Ameriky (Prague, 1855) by the same author; Geschichte der Vernigten Staaten  von Nordamerica by E.O. Hopp (Leipzig, 1884), Die Prairien des amerikanischen Westen by R. von Schlagintweit (Köln; Leipzig, 1876), Indians of the Southwest by G.A. Dorsey (Santa Fe, Atchison Topeka 1903), Wanderungen eines Künstlers unter den Indianen Nordamerika´s by P. Kane (Leipzig, 1862), Handbook of American Indians north of Mexico J.R. Browne (Leipzig, 1862), etc.

Ales loved songs and whenever he had a chance, he asked musicians to play his favorite folk songs. His library includes Narodni pisne moravske nove nasbirane by F. Bartos (Prague, 1901), Narodni zpevy albanske (Prague), Pjsne narodni by K.J. Erben (S.l.) as well as sheet music, such as Pijacke pisne (Prague, 1910), Setkani by M. Urbanek (Prague, Leipzig, 1912), Krepelinka by V. Soukup (Prague). But he certainly knew many more.

An important element of Ales´ library is calendars, e.g. old calendars with Ales´ drawings underneath the notes of his father and his own calendars where he recorded his work, daily affairs, household expenses and incomes and other remarkable events: Velky slovansky kalendar, Kalendar pani a divek ceskych, Velky obcansky kalendar koleda, Kalendar Koruny ceske, Kalendar ceskych mensin, Paleckuv Humoristicky kalendar, Kalendar narodni politiky, Vilimkuv kalendar humoristickych listu, Vlastenecky kalendar, Narodni kalendar, Kalendar Havlicek, etc.).

Ales´ library includes also magazines - individual numbers as well as (usually bound) annual volumes of magazines, often those to which he contributed with his drawings:

Cesky lid: sbornik venovany studiu lidu ceskeho v Cechach

Slovenske pohlady: casopis pre literaturu, vedu, umenie a politku

Rozhledy: revue politicka, literárni a socialni

Lumír: beletristicky tydenik

Ziva: casopis prirodnicky

Detsky maj

Svanda dudak: poutnik humoristicky


Listy lovecke: ilustrovany casopis venovany zajmum myslivosti, lovu a rybarstvi/Jagdzeitung: illustrierte Zeitschrift...

Jaro: pokrokovy casopis pro deti

Zlaty domov

Prazsky ilustrovany kuryr

Humoristicke listy


Cernoknaznik: humoristicko-satiricky casopis

Maj: kulturni casopis

Dilo: list venovany puvodni tvorbe ceske, hlavne dekorativni

Volne smery: mesicnik umelecky

Palecek: humoristicky tydennik obrazkovy

Telefon: casopis humoristicky a zabavny

Globus: ilustrierte Zeitschrift für Länder- und Völker

Obrazy zivota: obrazkovy casopis pro zabavu a pouceni

Sotek: satiricky casopis

Casopis Ceskeho museum

Posel z Prahy: kalendar historicky a politicky


Slansky obzor: vestnik musejniho a lit. spolku Palacky

Casopis turistu

Ruch: casopis studujicich

Almanach Ceske akademie cisare Fr. Josefa pro vedy, slovesnost a umeni

Individual features in books of Mikolas Ales personal library

Signatures, inscriptions, notes and drawings

The way readers interact with their books reflects their relationship to books. Mikolas Ales signed his books and probably held books in high esteem and considered them very important. His autographs together with inscriptions and handwritten notes also confirms his ownership.

Mikolas Ales library contains about fifty inscriptions. There are also handwritten notes in works of Ales´ long-term friend Alois Jirasek, his friend Bohumil Simak, Otokar Zachar and others. There are notes in calendars, textbooks and dictionaries and notes in books on Red Indians. Interesting are Ales´ opinions expressed in the memoires of Vojta Naprstek (Prague, 1896), Ales´ opinions on arts in the calendar Narodni straz for the year 1900 or Ales´ records relating the imperial visit during the decoration of the National Theatre foyer in the 1880 calendar (no cover).

Personal libraries of visual artists often bear the marks of their talent. The main objective of Ales library examination was to record his drawings, sketches, studies and small ornaments in books (noticed previously by Richard Khel, a member of the project team, and his student Jitka Marsalkova in her graduation work[9]), it is necessary to mention these drawings as well. 

Manifestations of Ales´ talent are visible in his books on the sides of the text, on blank pages, on reverse sides and on cover boards. Ales was an illustrator by nature as indicated in his childhood books. In his childhood, as well as in his adult life, he was influenced by stories of his uncle Tomas Fanfule, former soldier, who used to tell his nephews stories from military life. Small drawings and notes can be found in textbooks used by Ales brothers (they were of similar age, went to the same schools and textbooks therefore remained in the family). Artistic talent of the brothers (as already mentioned, Mikolas was not the only gifted painter, Jan was a wonderful draftsman as well) can be seen in the drawings in their textbook - small ornaments decorating the edges of pages and sometimes decorations and coloring of printed drawings. These books include Druha citanka a mluvnice: pro katolicke skoly v cisarstvi Rakouskem (Prague, 1863), which contains the signature of young Mikolas Ales as well as several signatures "Ales" signed already in well-trained hand and a study of Jan Hus figure, Ceska citaci kniha pro vyssi tridy gymnasium (Prague, 1852), where we can find not only a rubber stamp of Mikolas Ales but also small figural drawings, decorations and notes. Second volume of Schul-Naturgeschichte by J. Leunisse (Hannover, 1855) contains colored printed drawings as well as Ales´ study of a man, Grundzüge der Zoologie by L.K. Schmarda (Wien, 1853) contains large number of humorous illustrations (according to the seal, the book probably used to belong to Jan Ales), illustrations in the Erinnerungen magazine of 1857. The textbook Prirodopis for nizsi realne skoly by F.K. Zippe (Prague, 1862) was probably used by young Mikolas (judging by the "Mikolas Ales" rubber stamp and the date of the textbook publishing) as well as his son Tomas whose drawing is in the book. The first volume of Deutches Lesebuch by J. Mozart (Vienna, 1850) contains the largest number of drawings. It contains many figural and animal drawings done clearly by several authors of different age. Prvni citanka a mluvnice pro katolicke skoly v cisarstvi Rakouskem (Prague, 1862) contains only Ales´ bookplate, rubber stamp "Mikolas Ales" and small child scribblings. Antoher book shared probably by the Ales brothers is Warnungen für die unerfahrne Jungend oder Samlung von 257 Unglücksgeschichten aus dem Buch der Erfahrung (Prague, Joh. Buchler, 1804).

It would be difficult to identify who actually made which drawing. Pictures of soldiers, hussars and horses were probably made by Mikolas, animals and plants were depicted probably by Jan. There are also other books which might have belonged to Jan Ales. Mikolas´ brother Jan, older by two years (1848-1867), was a great draughtsman very interested in nature - he collected beetles, butterflies, liked to produce padded birds and even wanted to become a vet. He was registered in Vienna as a student of veterinary studies, however, he died suddenly on 19 April 1867.

Jan Ales´ drawings can be found in book on butterflies (Schmetterlingsbuch by F. Berge, Stuttgart, 1863) where we can find very precise drawings of butterflies signed by Marie Alsova, daughter of Mikolas Ales, who followed in her father´s footsteps, in the book Buch der Schmetterlinge und Raupen by Rockstoha (Halle) and Naturgeschichte des Chierreiches by A. Pokorny (Vienna, 1858). Mikolas Ales probably kept these books along with other things as a memory of his beloved brother.

Ales liked to go back to his textbooks (as it was the case with calendars where he wrote his notes in a fashion similar to his father). It is interesting to look e.g. at Narodni calendar na rok obycejny 1871 or at Kalendar Koruny ceske na obycejny rok 1870, which were probably kept by his father (judging by the handwriting), but which contain also young Ales´ drawings. Ales used to draw pictures also in calendars he kept in his own household. Large number of soldiers and hussars are depicted in Velky slovansky calendar na obycejny rok 1904. In velky slovansky calendar na obycejny rok 1903 Ales depicted a knight in suit of arms riding a horse, in Velky slovansky calendar na rok 1905 he draw a soldier on a horse (in a snow?) and a predator flying above his head. In Kalendar Vlastenecky poutnik na obycejny rok 1890 we can find, similarly to other calendars colored, drawings of arms and tools at blank pages, portraits and studies of historical events[10]. In Velky slovansky calendar na obycejny rok 1889 Ales depicted Matej Kopecky, who was also born in Mitotice (this is a draft study for the portrait of Matej Kopecky published later as MATEJ KOPECKY 1775-1847). In Velky obcansky calendar na rok 1902 Ales painted the picture of Antonin Dvorak as well as Jaroslav Vrchlicky shown in his study. We can also find there various drafts examining the of St. Wenceslas motive. Velky obcansky kalendar koleda na rok 1893 contains Ales´ early color drafts of male head prepared probably for a painting from Hussite times.

In his calendars, Ales recorded work performed, commissions, incomes as well as family anniversaries. These notes give us an insight into his work and private life.

Indications of Ales´ talent can be found also in books of his personal library. On the cover board of Schiller´s Gedichte (which bears no indication on the time and place of issuance) he depicted a Red Indian head with a feather headband. On the cover page of Cooper´s Der letzte Mohikan (Leipzing, F. Reclam) Ales drafted portraits of his university professors - Jan Swerts (who later became the Director of the Academy) and Emanuel Rom. In Pruvodce po Praze (Prague, Krecmar, 1848) by K.W. Zap, Ales painted Prague as he saw it upon his arrival in 1869. He also included a bookplate draft depicting a heron, which he later finalized and gave to his son-in-law Emanuel Svoboda. Bible svata was decorated with typical decorative ornaments. Similar features can be found also in Upominka na narodopisnou vystavu ceskoslovenskou v Praze 1895 (Prague, J. Jaros, 1895), where Ales draw a silhouette of a soldier on a horse. On the back sides of 16-sheets collection entitled Zur Geschichte der Kostyme we can find drafts of historical pictures and a beautiful study of a girl´s head. Besides these important features we can find highlighted text ornaments, flowers and newspaper clippings. In Neuer Hand-Atlas über alle Thiele der Erde (Nurnberg, 1840) we found a linen with the painting of canonicals. Rieger´s Slovnik naucny (Prague, 1866) was even decorated and "illustrated" with photograph clippings from newspapers.

It must be said that some books from Ales library contain the signature of the Head of the Prague Construction Department Mr Rudolf Hlubinka, a cousin of Emanuel Svoboda and a husband of Eliska Alsova, the younger daughter of Mikolas Ales. These are books, which were gained by Hlubinka and then given to his father-in law, or books, which he gained after the death of Mikolas Ales. Ales´ daughter Maryna seems to have picked up also books from other places before donating the library to the MCL.


Current status of Mikolas Ales personal library

In the end of his graduation theses, Marsalkova mentions the gloomy state of Mikolas Ales library. The book were kept in bad conditions (high humidity, unsuitable conditions in the room where the library was placed, books affected by mould, disorder, lack of storage capacities and lack of security arrangements). Marsalkova emphasized the cultural value of the collections (old prints from 17th and 18th century inherited from Ales´ forefathers) as well as its unique nature - the library includes many books on Mikolas Ales, his work and life collected by E. Svoboda. (During Marsalkova´s work on her graduation theses, books from M. Ales and E. Svoboda´s library were stored together in banana boxes). Marsalkova emphasizes that unless specific steps are taken in order to preserve the library, it is at serious risks of being ruined. The proposed solution foresaw the need to improve the storage conditions, to systematize the library, to prepare a list of books and promote its existence.

We are pleased to say that six years later, most of these requirements were fulfilled. The woodhouse was reconstructed and premises for the library of Jiri Karasek of Lvovice were found (whose personal library took up a large part of the depositary  and allowed the preservation of precious book collections). In 2007-2008, books from Mikolas Ales library were chemically cleaned, moved into the new depository and placed in shelves according to the acquisition lists to allow the appropriate handling.

The examination of Mikolas Ales personal library revealed some yet unknown drawings and the library composition allowed us to better understand the sources of his inspiration. The library offers very good information on Mikolas Ales - an artist supporting his art with careful studies and a man, who sincerely loved Slavic folk lore, Czech and Slavic folk and Czech countries.

We would like to thank Marcela Manakova for information on the history of Mikolas Ales personal library donation to the MCL. Information on Ales as a reader were taken from the book of E. Svoboda Jak Mikolas Ales zil a tvoril (Prague, 1920) and from the book of Ales´ daughter, Maryna Alsova-Svobodova, U nas doma (Prague, 1957).


[1] In his book on Ales´ life ("Jak Mikolas Ales zil a tvoril"), E. Svoboda recalls that Ales´ library included over two thousand books. We must bear in mind that personal libraries rarely survive as one complex unit. Financially or otherwise precious volumes often remain in the possession of the family, some are lost in the administration institutions, etc. This can explain the difference in the number of books in the library.

[2] We must make a distinction between the term original personal library and library collection of Mikolas Ales in the Museum of Czech Literature.

[3] It is necessary to explain the difference between a library collection of a leading personality and a collection of his or her original personal library. For example, the collections of the MCL includes libraries related to the work of leading personalities - e.g. library collection linked with the name of Eliska Krasnohorska - contains 5,000 books from the Women Production Fund of which Krasnohorska was a member and which existed between 1847 and 1926. These volumes were acquired by the MCL in 1973 and do not constitute a part of Eliska Krasnohorska´s personal library as might be supposed.

[4] A careful examination of items marked as "from the left estate of Mikolas Ales" makes us believe that they most originate from the personal library of Mikolas Ales (as indicated by the year of publication, bookplates, inscriptions, notes, drawings and biographic sources).

[5] Svoboda. Jak Mikoláš Aleš žil a tvořil.1920, p. 82.

[6] Svoboda. Jak Mikoláš Aleš žil a tvořil.1920, s.83-84

[7] This bookplate is found for the first time in 1907 in the book by J. Machal Bajeslovi slovanske (Prague, 1907).

[8] Otakar Zachar (1870-1921), tenant and brewer in Krocehlavy Brewery, Ales´ friend and patron.

[9] J. Marsalkova, Knihovna Mikolase Alse: Mikolas Ales (1852-1913), Prague, graduation thesis, Charles University, Faculty  of Philosophy, Institute of Information Science and librarianship.

[10] The author of these pictures could have been also Jan judging by the year of the calendar.