Personal libraries > About the project

About the project

The "Libraries of Leading Czech Personalities" - "Knihovny vyznamnych ceskych osobnosti" digital library has been established under the framework of a project entitled "Information Systems to Make Accessible Libraries of Leading Personalities as a Part of the National Cultural Heritage". The project implemented by the Institute of Information Science and Librarianship of the Faculty of Philosophy of the Charles University Prague has been funded by the Czech Ministry of Culture. The project started in March 2007 and terminated in December 2009.

The main purpose of the project is to offer, via a publicly accessible digital library, wide access to information about the existence of personal libraries of leading personalities located in collections of libraries and museums or in private hands. These libraries embody the memories of the life and work of their owners and can therefore be perceived as part of the national cultural heritage, which should be preserved and protected.

The title "personal library" or "private library" (Personal Bibliotek, Bibliothéque personnele) refers to a collection of books, journals and other printed documents owned by a concrete person and used by him/her for his or her work, respite and hobbies.

Even though nearly everyone has a personal library, the project focuses on private libraries of leading personalities of national or regional importance (or personalities important in their area of expertise), whose libraries - or the examination of whose libraries - can bring new information to experts as well as general public. The project focuses mainly on Czech personalities of 19th and 20th century regardless of their profession. As a sample and for the purpose of building the digital library focusing on personal libraries we have selected six libraries - libraries of musicians, writers and a painter who are well known to Czech users. Access to this information also sheds a new light on the life of these personalities from the perspective of books they purchased, received or used for their work and pleasure. There have been chosen libraries preserved nearly untouched as well as libraries, where only fractions survived.

When examining the collections of personal libraries, the project workers focused, after the identification of surviving books, on the identification and reflection of exceptional features such as signatures, inscriptions, bookplates, notes and highlighting. These features illustrate the mode of work of their famous owner, the origin of the books, the relationship between the owner and the particular book (its content or its author) and at the same time confirm the ownership of the item by the person concerned. These elements, together with the identification of the books, constitute the most important part of the established digital library.

The baseline of the six personal libraries presented is the list of books with remarkable rememberances of their owner, i.e. books bearing the signs of its relationship with their famous owner. Digital copies of these features were made. (Where a library contained a large number of e.g. similar signatures (bookplates, etc.), a sample of these representations was recorded and other occurrences were mentioned in the list of all detected volumes of the particular personal library). Individualized book have been listed by the first letter of the author´s name. Each name of the book includes also basic bibliographic and physical description and information on its actual location. Notes and inscriptions, which are difficult to read, have been transcribed to simplify their reading. Individual authors, works or individual features can be also searched using the search window in the upper left corner of the page (with the option to search only the selected library or all libraries). In the latter case, both books and other text documents published under the framework of the web site will be searched.

The list of individualized books is accompanied by the list of list of all detected volumes of the personal library (project workers tried to find books which survived as well as books mentioned in writing). This list offers users information about the interests of the library owner, interests, which formed or confirmed his/her opinions and pleasures. However, it must be taken into account that in most cases the library is not as complete as it was at the time of its owner´s death or during his/her life.

Articles on each of the six libraries focusing on the library history after the death of its owner and other interesting information related to the personal library concerned were prepared.

Another part of the web application is the list of Some Other Surviving Personal Libraries, which includes information on personal libraries (mainly on the territory of the Czech Republic) mentioned in written sources or the existence of which is known to the project workers. Subject words are not always complete; in some cases only basic information could be included. However, in the opinion of the project team, even partial information can help scholars in their research. This database shall be updated and amended on continuous basis.

When preparing the list, project workers used the already prepared internal list of personal library units of the National Museum Library prepared by Marie Sirova, former Library Director, and Eva Lachmanova, Head of the National Museum Basic Library. The project workers are very grateful for the provision of this list allowing them to gain and publish information on the National Museum Library collections. Very useful was also the update of information on personal collections of the Museum of Czech Literature prepared by Alena Petruzelkova, chairman of the Museum of the Czech Literature Library.

Since this is the first digital library of its kind, it has been prepared as a pilot project. It does not include materials such as historically precious documents; however, it does capture valuable features of personal libraries´ books and preserves them in digital form (backup in case the physical library collection is damaged).

Technological handling of the project. The long-term archiving, maintenance and accessibility of this digital library files and data exchange (using the OAI-PMH protocol) is provided through the Digital Depository of the Charles University of the Exlibris company.

Pictures and other content of this web application are protected by the Creative Commons licence.