L. & A. Birkenmajer Institute for the History of Science, PASc
Institute of Art, PASc
Institute of Literary Research, PASc
Wrocław University Library
A guide to medieval manuscript books in Polish collections
→ Collections by owner
The "Manuscripta.pl" Project
Manuscripta.pl is an ongoing collaborative project, which attempts to bring together bibliographic information concerning extant medieval manuscript books (and book fragments) in Polish repositories, to register Polonica (books of Polish provenance) in foreign archives, and to record all traces of lost (destroyed or missing) manuscript books relative to Polish collections. The originators of the project are deeply convinced that scholars working on medieval manuscripts not only in Poland, but all over the world need an information tool that will facilitate access to Polish materials.
The project is based at the L. & A. Birkenmajer Institute for the History of Science, PASc. In 2017, Institute of Art, PASc, and Institute of Literary Research, PASc, became institutional collaborators of Manuscripta.pl. The Wrocław University Library joined the project in 2018. Since October 2017, our activities are financed by a generous grant provided by the National Programme for the Development of the Humanities (Narodowy Program Rozwoju Humanistyki, No. 0084/NPRH5/H11/84/2017). But, even if all our team-members are employees of the Polish Academy of Sciences, we have managed to solicit for our cause the assistance of numerous professionals working in institutions all around the country and abroad, in particular librarians, who voluntarily devote their time and expertise.
Our general guidelines are set by the consecutive editions of the great work by Paul Oskar Kristeller (and collaborators)—Latin Manuscript Books before 1600—except that our aim is to go deeper into manuscript details. Our initial goal is to provide a census of all extant manuscript books in Polish collections, in the next stage we aim to work towards a national inventory. We are conscious of the immensity of the task, so at first we will concentrate on the smaller repositories—those that do not employ staff trained specifically to deal with medieval manuscripts. The big repositories, like the Jagiellonian Library, or the Wrocław University Library, have specialists who provide excellent information about their holdings, and are setting the standards of medieval manuscript description in Poland. Hence, these collections, at least for the time being, will be treated only in general.
Since something is better than nothing, we decided to introduce in the first place the information on individual manuscripts that is already available in historical literature, inventories, and on the Internet. This means that a lot of unreliable data is included! Our next goal is to accomplish a “head count” of codices, to find out how many manuscript books are actually extant, and where are they located. We will proceed to ameliorating our contents as quickly as possible, but it will take time. Therefore, the users are strongly advised to consider the data furnished by our website as preliminary not final. This warning does not apply to the manuscripts, as yet very few, which have received an MSPL number. This number is unique, and the intention is to rule out all the confusion with respect to call numbers that reigns in the literature concerning Polish medieval manuscripts (e.g. manuscripts of the Cracow Chapter Library, one of the most important repositories in Poland, are cited either by their inventory numbers, or by the numbers appointed to them in the Polkowski catalogue). The manuscripts that already have appointed MSPL numbers, have been personally inspected by members of our team, and the data was rechecked. It should be firm.
Apart from P.O. Kristeller’s magisterial opus, and the complementary article by Anna Kozłowska (1993), all the available printed guides are in Polish — regrettably, still a language not widely used outside Poland. Moreover, the transformation of Poland, after 1989, brought about—and still is bringing about—organizational changes in cultural institutions (e.g. renaming), which are particularly difficult for foreign researchers to sort out. Another factor is that the number of medieval manuscripts in Poland, paradoxically, is increasing. Research and cataloguing work conducted in state-owned and Church libraries, every now and then, result in “discoveries” of previously overlooked materials. If, in the late nineteen-eighties, after the publication of the first guide by D. Kamolowa—Zbiory rękopisów w bibliotekach i muzeach w Polsce (1988)—we assessed that the overall number of medieval manuscript books in Polish collections hardly exceeded 7,000, now it is estimated at ca. 8,000. This number does not include the fragments to be found in the majority of the older libraries, and the fragments retrieved from old bindings in all repositories, nor the bindings of incunabula and old prints that comprise reused medieval materials. Thus, we have concluded that a constantly updated website would be much more efficient from the point of view of the user than yet another printed guide, available only in specialized libraries, and soon out of date. Further, we have decided that our purposes would best be served by presentation in the English language.
The website we are offering is still in its early stages of construction. We are working towards establishing a fully professional website with a regular database. It is foreseen later on in the project.
The Mansucripta.pl team invites all persons willing to collaborate in the enhancement of the website to send their comments and additional data to the email address firstname.lastname@example.org
The Manuscripta.pl team includes the following scholars: