The storage of the library after Capek's death and its history

 Personal library of Karel Capek (1890-1938) is privately owned by Capek's descendants and stored at a house in Bratri Capku Street (Prague-Vinohrady). Karel Capek lived in this house from 1924 until his death. Nearly two thousands of books and magazines are stored in three rooms and their status is very similar to the one at the time Karel Capek's death. According to Sona Scheinpflugova, a niece of Capek's father-in-law Karel Scheinpflug, who has been living in the house at the time of the library processing, Capek's library was not moved after Capek's death.

The most important part of the collection (stored in Capek's office) is placed in two large glassed library cabinets of dark wood. Eight shelves accommodate a total of 1,458 books (mostly in two rows). Further 400 publications are placed in other rooms: in bookshelves of the "Friday Men" room and in a small bookshelf in a nearby small bedroom. In Capek's office, books are also placed in shelves and on Capek's desk.

We cannot say whether the collection was left in its original state - i.e. as built by Karel Capek. We may suppose that books in the two large library cabinets have been re-arranged after Capek's death as the third, sixth and eighth shelve of the second closet include books of Karel Capek's wife, Olga Scheinpflugova[1]. Also, 45 books from the collection belonged to Karel Scheinpflug, judging by signatures and rubber stamps in the top right corner of the title page of the books. Other books seem to have been left in place (they are mixed regardless of their content). However, we are not sure what really happened.[2] 

Capek library contains also several volumes inscribed to Capek brothers, to Karel Scheinpflug or to Olga Scheinpflugova. Frantisek Langer´s Grandhotel Nevada, with the author´s inscription to Frana Sramek, is standing side by side with a copy of the same book inscribed to Karel Capek and Opusteny dul by K. Scheinpflug inscribed to Josef Capek.[3]


The composition of Karel Capek library

Karel Capek, as a writer and as a human being, was interested in wide range issues. This fact is reflected also by his library - it encompasses books on telegraphy, radioactivity and atom composition, brain physiology, the place of human being in the universe, drug addiction, physics, psychology and analysis, genealogy, healthy nutrition, graphology as well as publications on mysticism and religion. Capek library includes also seven volumes of proverbs from various countries, 27 volumes of fairy tales, folk stories and customs of various nations. There are also many French books as he was greatly interested in French literature.

Capek library tells us a lot about its owner. It includes works used by Capek while working on the translations of modern French poetry, writing his dissertation, fairy tales, plays and short stories, but it also includes books on gardening, garden plants catalogues and travel guides.

Books located in the two large library cabinets are usually grouped by authors or by subject.

The first large cabinet includes mostly Czech and foreign prose and poetry, very frequently with inscription of the authors. The first and second shelves are fully occupied by Czech poetry and prose - works of Capek's contemporaries, often with authors´ inscription. There are works of Jaromir John, Richard Werner, Jiri Mahen, Antonin Sova, Otokar Theera, Jiri Karasek of Lvovice, F.X. Salda, J.S. Machar, Miloslav Rutte, Jakub Deml, Jaroslav Durych, Rudolf Medek, Jan Neruda and K.M. Capek-Chod, J. Vrchlicky, V. Halek and others (the collected works of the last four writers were inherited from Capek brothers´ father, the personal library of whom can be found at Strz in Stara Hut nearby Dobris).

The third shelf contains world fiction (Erich von Mendelssohn, Dante Alighieri, Charles de Coster, Adalbert con Chamisso, Friedrich Holderein and others) together with collected works by J.W. Goethe and Wilhelm Hauff (also from Karel Capek father´s library as indicated by the rubber stamp).

The fourth shelf is filled purely with world fiction publications: W.M. Thackeray, G.K. Chesterton, Lewis Carrol, Jules Superviell, Jules Romains, J.B. Cabell, J.B. Shawn, H.G. Wells and Virginia Wolf. There are also three volumes of Bozena Nemcova.

The fifth shelf is dedicated nearly exclusively to French authors: André Gide, Charles Maurras, André Maurois, Jean Cocteau, Jean Giraudoux, Gérad de Nerval, J.A. Rimbaud, Rochefoucauld, René Arcos, Charles Vildrac, Jules Supervielle, François Mauriac, François Rabelais, Charles Baudelaire, J.J. Rousseau, Stendhal. One volume contains an inscription by F.T. Marinetti; there are also two volumes of a French poetry anthology entitled Poetes d´Aujourd´hui by A. van Bever and P. Léautaud and many other items.

The sixth shelf contains books of Capek's colleagues and friends - Ferdinand Peroutka, Eduard Bass, Vaclav Vancura, Frantisek Langer, Frana Sramek, Karel Polacek, Otokar Fischer, Otakar Vocadlo, S.K. Neumann, Viktor Dyk and V.V.  Tomek. There are also travel guides by Karel Baedeker.

The seventh shelf contains many books with inscriptions: books by Karel Scheinpflug, Josef Capek and some of Capek's own books illustrated by Josef Capek and inscribed to Karel Scheinpflug, seven volumes of Jindrichuv Chodsky sbornik, works of Martin Kukucin and O. Hvezdoslav, Thomas Mann, Josef Kopta and others.

The bottom shelf includes two editions of Macha´s Maj, five volumes of G.E. Lessing works inherited from Capek's father, collected works by W. Shakespeare, ten volumes of Ceskoslovenska vlastiveda and several other publications (Georges Duhamel, F.L.Celakovsky, Petr Bezruc, Oskar Kokoschka and other authors).

The second library cabinet is filled with specialized books - philosophy, esthetics, literary theory, digests of world literature, literature history, history and sociology. The publications were used by Capek probably (and in some cases certainly) for his studies and while working on his dissertation project (1915). The shelf further includes fairy tales from all over the world.

The first shelf contains many books on literature (Ceske pisemnictvi s ptaci perspektivy by Arne Novak, Soucasna literatura Spojenych statu by O. Vocadlo, Moderni ruska literatura 1885-1932 by V. Pozner, texts by J. Mukarovski and Emanuel Radl). There are also books by Albert Einstein about his relativity theory, a book on scientific graphology by R. Saudek, Problem poznani skutecnosti by L.Rieger and other specialized publications.

The second shelf includes texts by Bergson, Lucien Lévy-Bruhl, Charles Lalo and A. Mamelet in the Bibliothèque de philosophie contemporaine edition, three volumes of Handbuch der verglaichenden Psychologie published in Munich in 1922, historical books by Josef Susta, Pragmatism by James William, books on esthetics (Otokara Hostinskeho Estetika by Z. Nejedly, Vyvoj anticke estetitky by K. Svoboda, Reci do prazdna: soubor stati o architekture, bydleni, ustroji a jinych praktickych vecech by Adolf Loose), etc.

The third shelf contains volumes dedicated to the history of Czech literature and twelve volumes of fairy-tales from all over the world (Die Märchen der Weltliteratur). The remaining 56 books belonged to Olga Scheinpflugova, judging by the inscription and date of publishing.

The fourth shelf contains eights volumes of world proverbs in English, five volumes of the edition Home university library of modern knowledge - works on religion, psychology and ethics, two volumes of Aesthetika by Benedetto Croce, works by Henri Bergson, Arthur Schopenhauer, William James and others.

The fifth shelf is dedicated mostly to T.G. Masaryk. i.e. Masaryk´s works, books by J.B. Kozak, Emanuel Radl, Evzen Stern and Donald Lowrie on Masaryk. Included are also (certainly not by chance), publications by E. Benes inscribed to Capek. Beside these publications, the shelf contains also fairy-tales from around the world (from Malaysia, Africa, Greece) and many other prints of Czech and foreign literature.

The sixth shelf is dedicated to literature - Co cist? Informace o svetove literature: the volumes which were probably used by Capek for his studies - Geschichte der Philosophie by August Messer, System der Ästhetik by E. Neumann, Die philosophie der Gegenwart in Deutschland by Oswald Külpe, Ästhetik by Richard Hamann. But also Skepse a gnose: vyznani filosoficke by Karel Vorovka, Tak pravil Zarathustra by F. Nietzsche in two Czech editions, La pensée contemporaine Paula Gautiéra,  Essay o vede a vire: prispevek k problemu nabozenskemu and other works by J.B. Kozak, History of psychology by J.M. Baldwin, and others. There are also several volumes of the edition Mathematisch-physikalische Bibliothek focusing on the quantum and atom theory (perhaps these were the information sources for Capek when writing his plays) accompanied by Chinesische literatur by Eduard Erkes, and others.

The seventh shelf contains again Czech fiction - Vitezslav Nezval, Hanus Jelinek, Otokar Fischer, Jaroslav Kvapil, translations by Josef Mach and Frantisek Peroutka, Bohumil Mathesius, Jaroslav Durych and other Czech authors. But there are also Basne by Guillaume Apollinaire, works by Charles Vildrac, Heinrich Mann, Paul Severa, Luc Durtain and the complete edition of Meyers Lexikon (published in 1924-1933).

The last shelf contains Palacky´s Dejiny naroda ceskeho (which originally belonged to Capek's father), works by Hans Kramer and Georg Buschan, Völker Rassen Sprachen by Felix V. Luschan, six volumes of the ethnology edition Kulturen der Erde published in 1923, Buddhismus svetovym nazorem, moralkou a nabozenstvim by L. Prochazka, two volumes of Die Wunder der Welt by Ernst von Hesle, and others. Judging by the inscription, the remaining thirty books belonged to Olga Scheinpflugova.

The library of "Friday Men" contains mostly detective stories (published often after Capek's death).

The library in a nearby bedroom accommodates books on gardening, maps and travel guides (Denmark, Norway, Latvia, Finland - purchased by Capek probably during his trip around Europe), garden catalogues, Palacky´s Dejiny naroda ceskeho v Cechach a na Morave as well as two editions of Ottuv slovnik naucny.

A long shelf in Capek's office contains various books - works by T.G. Masaryk, Jan Mukarovsky, Vyvoj politickych idei by F.J. Hearnshaw, eight various editions of a publication on Czechoslovakia (with Capek's foreword), gardening books and other publications such as Mobilisace ducha a zeleza: 11 prednasek o mobilisaci mravnich sil naroda na obranu statu (published 1936) and several magazines (Lumir, Ceska mysl: caspois filozoficky, Pritomnost, Veda a zivot, Kriticky mesicnik, Zivot and Salduv zapisnik; none with Capek's notes).

Capek's desk contains quick reference books (dictionaries Czech-German/German-Czech, Czech-Italian/Italian-Czech, French-Spanish/Spanish-French, Polish-German/German-Polish, Latin-Czech/Czech-Latin), Sach´s French-German encyclopedia dictionary, German-English Muret-Sanders encyclopedia dictionary and Slovnik jazyka ceskeho. On the desk there are also piles of books, which Capek probably didn´t finish reading - most of them were published between 1936 and 1939: Bergson a tendence soucasne fysiky by Milic Capek, Acta radiologica et cancerologica bohemoslovenica, Exposition internationale des arts et des techniques paris 1937: plan officiel, Dech na skle by Josef Hora, K patalogii slovenského nacionalismu by Frantisek Tichy, XV. Congrès international de la fédération P.E.N. Paris: 20-27 Juin 1937 and others.


Capek's notes in the books of his personal library

Autographs, inscriptions, notes, excerpts, documents inserted into books

As many other readers, Karel Capek made marks in his favorite books. Several dozens of his publications include his autograph ("K. Capek" or "Capek"). These publications were probably purchased by young Capek (books published in 1903-1913). These include Prirodoveda a psychologie by V. Wund, Flut´s Die Anthologie der jüngsten Beletristik, Dejiny novoveke filosofie: od Mikulase Cusana az po nase casy by R. Falckenberg, L´ame primitive by Lucien Lévy-Bruhl and the other seven publications published in the Bibliothèque de philosophie contemporaine edition, Psychologie und Logik: ein Einführung in die Philosophie by T. Elsenhans and others.

Many books include inscriptions or the autographs of the authors or translators. Karel Capek had many friends among Czech and foreign colleagues, he was liked and esteemed by many readers and it is therefore not surprising that Capek got many books from their author (even though their sheets often remained uncut). Most of these books contain friendly and respectful inscriptions: Découvertes by Charles Vildrac and Chants du désespéré (1914-1920), both published in Paris in 1912 and other Vildrac´s books), Le grand homme by Phillipe Soupault (pub. in Paris 1929), Querelles de Famille by Georges Duhamel (pub. in Paris in 1932),  Sur les Quais de la Villete by Jules Romains (pub. in Paris in 1914), Débarcadères (pub. in Paris in 1922) and L´homme de la pampa (pub. in Paris in 1923) by Jules Supervielle,  Paroles devant la Vie by Alexandre Mercereau (pub. in Paris in 1913), Singing jailbirds by Upton Sinclair (pub. in Pasadena, 1924), Pays du soir by René Arcos (pub. in Geneva, 1920) or F.T. Marinetti´s Les Dieux s´en vont, d´Annunzio reste (pub. in Paris, 1908) and Le monoplan du pape (pub. in Paris, 1912).

Capek's "working" publications often include highlighted text, underlining, notes or excerpts. Highlighted text can be found in books used by Capek for his studies (e.g. L'évolution créatrice by H.Bergson, two volumes of Aesthetika: vedou vyrazu a vseobecnou lingvistikou by Benedetto Croce, Ästhetik by Richard Hamann, Dejiny novoveke filosofie by R. Falckenberg, Kritik der Urtheilstraft by Imannuel Kant, Art et psychologie individuelle by Lucien Arréat, and others). Names of various plants are highlighted in catalogues of Prague garden centres and in gardening publications (e.g. Praktische Blumenzucht und Blumenpflege in Zimmer by R.Betten, Alpinky - nabidkovy prospekt firmy Karel Stivin, Cernolice, Alpinky: specialni pesteni vytrvalych horskych rostlin, Prospekt Botanického zahradnictví C. Böhm, Malesice, Cernolice and others). Highlighted text can be found also in catalogues of publishing houses or edition lists (e.g. in his copies of The dancing star by Berty Ruck, Die Telegraphie by J. Bruns, La Préhistoire by Dr.Capitan, Le mobilisme moderne by A. Chide and others).

Relatively rare are excerpts written on small sheets of paper (e.g. the aforementioned Kritik der Urtherlstraft by I. Kant or Antologie francouzske poezie).

Last type of Karel Capek's notes in the books of his library are documents inserted into books: postcards (e.g. in Rabelais´ Gargantua et Pantagruel, Églantine by Jean Giraudoux or in Alpenpflanzen by R. Scharfetter), postal cards (Basnik Otakar Brezina a Jakub Deml by Jan Rambousek, Winterharte blütenstauden und sträuchner der Neuzie by K. Foerstr), purchase receipts (e.g. Masarykova cesta zivotem by J. Dolezal, Gedanken zur Rassenpsychologie by Kurt Hildebrant), visiting cards  (e.g. Itinerarios Antonia Aita, Les maîtres de la pensée Français by Paul Gaultier, Sebevrazda: hromadnym jevem spolecenskym by T.G. Masaryk, Nekolik poznamek o francouzske povaze by Ales Blaha), letters addressed to Karel Capek (Hudba v dusi by Frantisek Unger, Vzpoura by F. Zavrel, the above mentioned Winterharte blütenstauden und sträuchner der Neuzie by K.Foerstr, Geothes Egmont by Otokar Fischer, George Allen and Unwin Ltd. Summer books 1938 and others).[4]       

The content of Capek library helps us to put together a picture of Capek's personality, on the scope of his social life, popularity of his work, his interests and inspiration sources. Capek was an intellectual whose interests were reflected in his work, but he was also a gardener and a man interested in modern development - in all which leads to knowledge.


[1] There is also a separate Olga Scheinpflugova personal library owned now by her descendants.

[2] The work was nevertheless carried out very carefully and books were returned back to exactly the same position. Uncut sheets were left untouched (even though it complicated the book´s bibliographic description) in order to preserve the library status (cut or uncut sheets may indicate the reader´s interest in the book and its content).

[3] During the research, several items inscribed to Olga Scheinpflugova and books with rubber stamp of K. Scheinpflug were found. These books were registered, given a call-number (under the framework of Karel Capek's library) but they were not examined further.

[4] Unfortunately, images of letters could not have been made in most cases; however, it will be done later.