The value of a modern library may be measured by the scale of its services, access to catalogues through the internet, speed of library collection acquisition processing, and accessibility of information sources both from its own database and reference sources in the virtual information world. However, the biggest interest is concentrated on the classical library collections, books and periodical titles. This is relevant to the share of librarians out of the total number of library employees that look up books in stores, prepare their lending into reading rooms or for external loan, as well as cataloguing and adjusting new acquisitions. This reaches more than 40 thousand books, magazines and other documents per year, which represents ca 1 km of newly filled shelves in the racks.

The Moravian Library has its beginning connected with the activities of the economic associations that arose during the Enlightenment era at the end of the 18th century, encouraged by empress Maria Theresia. After an initial effort to find their place and through a gradual association of several similar societies, the Moravian- Silesian Society for the Uplift of Tillage, Natural Science and National History and Geography was formed at the beginning of the 19th century, which set up its corporative library intended for public access in 1815 – but that happened only at the very end of the 19th century.

In the beginnings of the library, the collections grew very slowly, mainly from the gifts dedicated to the Economic Society, or in fact to its Franciscus’ Museum established in 1818, which the library was part of until 1899. Let us review some of the important library acquisitions that still retain significant historical value. The founding member of the Economic Society, Arch Count Hugo František Salm, dedicated a large collection of publications on national history and geography from his library at the chateau in Rájec, and purchased also the heritage of the Moravian topographer Joseph Schwoy. In 1819, an important genealogical acquisition was Zlobický’s collection dedicated by Count Joseph Auersperg. From that time comes also the collection of maps and graphical folios by Bernard Paul Moll, presented by his heir Vilém Vockel.

An important benefactor of the library was Count Bedřich Sylva Taroucca. Already in 1853 he made a present of 158 volumes of historical literature to the library, shortly followed by 3 507 volumes from all domains, including the famous D. Diderot– R. d’Alembert French Encyclopaedia from 1772, or the Economic encyclopaedia by J. G. Krunitz with more than 100 volumes, published in Brno from 1788. Also later Tarouca continued to send boxes of books, magazines and maps. His presents included also two imperial-style cabinets from the beginning of the 19th century,nowadays decorating the interior of the director’s office at the library. With these gifts, the library expanded by more than six thousand works, mainly from the domains of history, literary history, national geography and archaeology.

Another valuable acquisition, which followed in 1857, was a gift by Antonín Endsmann, knight of Ronov, who endowed his whole library containing 1845 volumes with shelves. Unlike these valuable gifts, the collection of the library’s custodian Albín Heinrich, containing 1763 hard cover volumes and 714 spine-sewn volumes, was purchased. In the second half of the 19th century, the library collections grew systematically and rapidly, although it was rather from gifts than though purchases. A change came in 1883 when Christian d’Elvert, as chancellor of the Moravian-Silesian economic society, gained an annual subsidy from the provincial assembly for the purchase of library collections.

Although in 1899 the library became independent of the Franciscus Museum, under which it had developed for the whole of the 19th century, taking the name of the Moravian Museum, it retained a special subsidy for the purchase of literature, reserved by the provincial committee. The library also determined to establish a collection of comenianas for which it received another special subsidy. While delimiting the collections’ contents between the library and the museum, there occurred one disadvantageous decision for the library, which was the cession of the manuscripts collection to the Moravian Archive in exchange for a collection of coins, which was devolved upon the library from the archive.

After the Moravian Library became independent, collections of three Brno-based societies were deposited there – from the Moravian Foundation, the Museum association and the German historical association. Interesting publications came especially from the Museum association, which was founded in 1888. The association published the library’s printed catalogue in 1893 and stated 1950 items categorised into 28 branches. Its fast development was due to miller Josef Čermák from Velké Meziříčí, who presented the library with 1 227 books from the estate of S. Vašátko, or knight František Šrom, donator of Brandl’s society called “A Book for every Moravian”; his present in 1898 contained a thousand books. The library of the association was open every Monday, but its use was low. After the formation of the Moravian Library, the association handed over its collection, but it kept complementing it. Therefore it was a valuable decision of the Museum association to grant the collection to the newly founded Masaryk University in 1919. It had 3 143 books, valued at 35 thousand crowns at that time. A selected 150 duplicate volumes were granted to the University library in Bratislava. Of similar content was the library of Matice moravská, which was also donated to the library in 1919. On the contrary, the collection of the German Verein für die Geschichte Mähren und Schlesien association was taken away in the twenties of the 20th century, when the German society saw no reason to join the two former institutions in donating to a Czech university. It was a loss for the composition of the library collections, which were complemented with regard to the acquisitions to the collection of those association library collections.

After the formation of the Masaryk University, the Ministry of education and national edification was facing the task of equipping the university with a scientific library. After the negotiations between the authorities of the province, which administered the Moravian Library, and the state as the founder of the new Czech university, the library came under the auspices of the state and changed its name to the Provincial and University Library, and the Ministry took significant credit for the expansion of the library collections. In principle, the library was looked upon as a museum of the nation’s literary life as well as a source of information for all fields of activities.

The Ministry organised purchases of entire sets and often also provided special subsidies for literature purchases. Such sets included for instance the library collection of vicar Josef G. A. Szalatnay from Kuttelberk, the legal literature collection from the estate of Austrian prime minister Lamasch from Salzburg or the ample, more than 20-volume library of Slavic languages student Adolf Patera. Especially valuable acquisitions were the libraries of the oldest Moravian grammar schools. In 1920, on the occasion of a merger of the German grammar school in Jihlava with the local Practical education school, the pedagogical library collection of the former Jesuit grammar school was handed over to the University library in Brno. In a similar manner, the pedagogical library of the German State grammar school in Kroměříž passed to it. From the libraries of the nobility, as a gift from the Ministry of agriculture, about 3,000 volumes came to Brno from the Kravaře u Opavy chateau, and the collection of count František Josef Sylva Taroucca from Čechy pod Kosířem were auctioned to the libraries in Brno and Bratislava. In the annual reports of the library from the epoch between the world wars, we regularly find the names of donors, especially publishers, editors and scholars.

An important part of the collection consists of manuscripts and old prints from the estate of the princely Dietrichstein family from Mikulov who had been building up their library at the chateau since 1575. Mikulov was possessed by cardinal František of Dietrichstein, who took immense care of the library’s development, but his collection containing over 10 thousand volumes became the war booty of the Swedes, and now can be found in the Royal library in Stockholm as well as in other Swedish towns, and in the library of the Vatican. However, the Dietrichsteins soon established new library collections, but when they decided, for economic reasons, to sell them off at auctions at Lucerne and Vienna in 1933–1935, the Czech state did not allow them to take 117 manuscripts and 208 first copies abroad and purchased them; in 1944 they passed to the Provincial and University Library.

Among the important units that came to the library in connection with the University is also the personal library collection of the poet Otokar Březina. The Faculty of Arts of Masaryk University invited him to become a member of its teaching staff, and the grateful poet dedicated the scientific part of his library to it. Fiction from his library was endowed in his testament for the education of students at the state grammar school in Moravské Budějovice, and it remained there untouched out of sheer piety and in 1972 it was granted to the Moravian Library in Brno, where it now forms a complete unit again.

Another two, much smaller, collections came from the libraries of two scripturalists from the highlands. In 1976, a library was acquired from the estate of the poet Jakub Deml from Tasov, who is known to have given or sold away most of his books, and so Deml’s library collection at the Moravian Library remains but a fragment. A perhaps even smaller torso is the library collection of Josef Florian, editor of bibliophile editions from Nová Říše na Moravě, which used to be very ample, but the Moravian Library managed to acquire mere remnants from a second-hand bookshop during 2002 and 2003; however, the Florian editions deposited in the general collection of the library so far were incorporated into this independent collection.

An extensive event was the result of the dissolution of the monasteries in 1950, when the Brno library took over the administration of claustral libraries from half of the Moravian province. It is one of the merits of the Brno library that it did not stock together all the books from the cloister libraries, but kept the individual units in their original shape, and also in the original interiors, where possible; those were maintained at the monastery libraries of the Augustin friars, Capuchins and Minor brethren in Brno, Benedictines at Rajhrad, Premonstratensians at Nová Říše, Franciscans at Dačice and Moravská Třebová, and Knights of the Cross with the Red star at Hradiště u Znojma. These libraries, as well as all those that were stocked, were not only put in order, revised and catalogued, but their interiors were restored as well. They were returned to the orders after 1989.

The newest unit, which is gradually being processed into the library’s collections, is the sports literature of the physical culture and education bibliographer Přemysl Ježek. He worked as a pedagogue at the Brno technical university and gradually created the largest library collection of PE literature in the Czech lands. As most of the collections came from the time when the Moravian Library had the right of a compulsory copy of every publication, only the desiderate part of the Bohemian literature was taken from Ježek’s collection, yet it still represented thousands of books, brochures and magazines.

Beside larger units, there are many individual items of exceptional value in the library collections. If those are for example bibliophile releases, they are detached in a special unit. Nevertheless, also titles published in the period between the world wars by František Kalivoda, František Kaláb and other Moravian book designers are gaining in value, as we realise mainly in connection with requests for them to be lent to various exhibitions. As the mission of the library is to preserve the collections for future generations, the terms for external loans of prints are limited, and the collections are also preserved through digitalisation and electronic access.

A library of a universal type and large extent, such as the Moravian Library, stores its collections cost-effectively. It is due to the fact that the largest part of the financial expense goes on the very storage and administration of the collections, rather than their acquisitions. Therefore the largest part of the library collection is stored by format, and only the monographic releases from the serials are set separately. Only exceptionally, the collections are kept together by their origin, such as the komenianas, masarykianas, private collections of Otokar Březina, Jakub Deml, Josef Florian, etc. In all libraries, for security reasons, historical collections published before the year 1800 are detached in special collections with their own service regime, that are formally divided into manuscripts, incunabula and old prints, or selected collections of prints, such as Moll’s map collection or Schram’s collection in our case. These are, generally, collections that deserve bigger attention and therefore there is a reason to present them in an exhibition on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Moravian Library, and to publish this survey

Poslední aktualizace: 10.02.2016, 09:57