Overviews of the Collections
The Hungarian Collections at the Library of Congress
Head, European Reading Room
A small part of the Library of Congress's Hungarian collection
dates back to the original holdings sold by Thomas Jefferson, whose
library contained the six volume work
Histoire des revolutions
de Hongrie (1735), by Domokos Brenner. A sizeable number of
Hungarian-related books was added during the period of the Hungarian
War of Independence (1848-49), and the visit of its leader,
Lajos Kossuth, to the United States in 1851-52. After the Austro-Hungarian
Compromise in 1867, organizations in Hungary began sending their
publications to their counterparts abroad and the Library of Congress
began receiving items from the Library of the Hungarian Parliament
and the Hungarian National Museum. In the first decade of the 20th
century, the Library of Congress received sizeable donations of
legal, historical, and cultural materials from these institutions.
Further expansion of the collection continued with the addition
of Hungarian materials transferred from the Smithsonian Institute.
But the greatest acceleration in the size of the Hungarian collection
occurred after the end of World War II, when the Library of Congress
began acquiring private collections, including the well-known Feleky
Collection, which previously had belonged to the Hungarian Reference
Library of New York. At present the number of works on Hungary
and Hungarians or by Hungarian authors has expanded to well over 200,000
items, including approximately 2,700 journals and magazines and 150 newspapers.
The Hungarian collection is well developed in all areas, and its
strength is maintained through the systematic purchasing of books
from Hungary, as well as the automatic exchange of material with
the National Széchényi Library, the Hungarian Academy
of Sciences, and other major Hungarian educational and cultural
Highlights in the Humanities and Social Sciences
The Hungarian collection in the humanities and social sciences
has been systematically developed, and every attempt is made to
fill lacunae where they exist. Besides material published in Hungary,
the Library of Congress collects the writings of Hungarian minorities
living in Transylvania (Romania), Slovakia, Ukraine, and the former
Yugoslavia, as well as in Western countries.
The Library of Congress possesses a sizeable collection of first
editions of important works of literature and politics, including
valuable books by the political thinkers and social reformers who
played leading roles in the Hungarian national awakening in the
1820s, the political upheavals of the 1840s, and the Ausgleich
of the 1860s. For István Széchenyi (1791-1860), the
founder of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the Library of Congress
possesses first editions of Stadium (1833), A magyar
académia korül (1842), Üdvlelde
(1843), Adó es
két garas (1844), Politikai Program, (1847),
and the posthumous Önismeret (1875). Of works by
Baron József Eötvös (1813-1871), writer and statesman,
the Library possesses first editions of Die Reform in Ungarn (1846), the English-language translation The Village Notary (1850); Gondolatok (1864), and Die Nationalitäten-Frage (1865). LC also has a first edition of Lajos Kossuth's Felelet Gróf Széchenyi Istvánnak (1841), as well as his speeches in English and biographical works about him published during and immediately after his visit to the United States in 1851-1852. Also from this period, but belonging more to literature than politics, is the first collection of verse by the Hungarian national poet, Sándor Petõfi (1823-1849). One notable recent acquisition is the collection of over 60 first editions by the well-known Hungarian writer, Gyula Krúdy.
Other valuable first editions dating to this time but in a completely
different field are A Grammar of the Tibetan Language in English and Essay
Towards a Dictionary: Tibetan and English, by the Hungarian
Sándor Csoma de Kõrös (1784-1842), the founder of Tibetan
studies in western Europe in the last century, and both published
in Calcutta in 1834.
Interesting works of more recent vintage are two registries (1925 and 1937) of land
ownership in Hungary published between the two World Wars. These
are especially valuable to those who have returned to Hungary to reclaim land that had been confiscated by
the communist government in the late 1940s. Also of interest is
the collection of Hungarian samizdat (underground/unofficial
literature) on microfiche. Most of this material dates from the
1980s, the last decade of Communist rule in Hungary.
Highlights in Science and Technology
The contributions that Hungarian and especially Hungarian- American
scientists have made to the world is well known. The Library of
Congress' Manuscript Division holds some of the papers and correspondence
of physicist Georg von Békésy (1899-1972), aerodynamicist Theodore von Kármán (1881-1963), mathematician John von Neumann (1903-1957), biochemist Albert Szent-Györgyi (1893-1986), psychologist David Rapaport (1911-1960), physicist Leó Szilárd (1898-1964), Edward Teller (1908-2003), and Sándor Ferenczi (1873-1933).
Highlights in the Arts
The Library possesses a modest collection of original materials by
Hungarian composers. The most important collection is that of Franz
Liszt (1811-1886): over 252 music manuscripts plus variations,
including manuscripts written entirely in Liszt's hand, as well
as other manuscripts and printed scores with annotations written
by Liszt himself. Famous works in the collection include the Concerto
for Piano and Orchestra in E flat major,
No. 1 (S124) and many of the sixteen Hungarian Rhapsodies.
The Liszt collection also contains more than 250 first editions
of his works and more than 270 items of correspondence. The Library
also possesses several musical manuscripts of Béla Bartók
(1881-1945), including his Concerto for Orchestra and String
Quartet No. 5, as well as a small collection of Bartok correspondence.
Other Hungarian or Hungarian-American composers with collections
of musical manuscripts and correspondence at the Library of Congress
include Leopold Auer (1845-1930), Ernst (Ernõ) von Dohnányi
(1877-1960), Emmerich Kálmán (1882-1953), Zoltán
Kodály (1882-1967), and Tibor Serly (1901-1978).
The Library has acquired over the years a large collection of rare
Hungarica. In many cases it has facsimile editions where the originals
are lacking. Although LC possesses no rare Corvinas (books that
formed the Library of Hungarian King Matthias in the late 15th
century that were dispersed throughout the world after the Turkish
conquest of Hungary in the 16th century), it does have facsimiles
and catalog reconstructions of that famous collection.
The Library's most famous item of rare Hungarica is the beautifully
illuminated Nekcsei-Lipócz Bible, a 14th century
Latin codex. In 1988 the Library, together with Helikon Publishers
of Budapest, co-published a facsimile edition of some of its more
lavishly illustrated pages. Other Hungarian incunabula at LC include
two editions of the second oldest history of Hungary in print,
the Chronica Hungariae (Brünn and Augsburg; both published in 1488), by János
Thuróczy, royal judge and historian. A notable 16th century
publication is the first edition of István Werbőczi's Tripartitum opus juris consuetudinarii incyti regni Hungariae (1517), held by the Law Library. Summing up the rights of the Hungarian nobility, which had just
recently (1514) brutally suppressed a peasant uprising, it was
one of the main sources of Hungarian civil law before 1945. Besides the first, the Library also possesses several subsequent editions.
With the acquisition of the Feleky Collection of Hungarica in
1953, the Library of Congress obtained several hundred old and
rare books about Hungary in the English language. These books reflect
the turbulent history of Hungary beginning with the Turkish conquest
in 1526, the wars among the Habsburgs, the Turks, and the independent
rulers of Transylvania for the next century and a half, the retaking
of Budapest and the expulsion of the Turks from Hungary, and the
Rákóczi war of independence against the Habsburgs (1703-1711).
Such works include Martin Fumee, The Historie of the Troubles
of Hungarie: containing the pitifull losse and ruine of that kingdome,
and the warres happened there, in that time betweene the Christians
and Turkes (London: 1600), and Letters from the great Turke
lately sent unto the Holy Father the Pope and to Rodulphus naming
himselfe King of Hungarie and to all the Kinges and Princes of
Christendome (London: 1606). The latter book was first translated
from Hebrew into Italian, then into French, and lastly into English.
Other important historical works include Gidion Pontier's A
New Survey of the Present State of Europe, containing remarks upon
several soveraign and republican states (London: 1684), and
the French-language Histoire du prince Ragotzi ou La guerre
des Mescontents (Paris: 1707) by Eustache Lenoble.
Religious currents of the times are also reflected in rare items
in LC's possession, for example in the first edition of Assertio
vera de Trinitate (Geneva: 1573) by the Hungarian Calvinist
István Szegedi Kiss, and the first Hungarian translation
of the Vulgate version of the Bible by György Káldi
Another rare item at LC that concerns Hungary is a well- preserved
copy of the second oldest extant newspaper in the English language,
the Corant or Weekly News from Italy, Germany, Hungaria, Polonia,
Bohemia, France, and the Low Countries, dated October 11, 1621.
It consists of a small, single sheet printed on two sides. Until
this copy was found in 1913 by Charles Feleky, the earliest issue
of this weekly newspaper known was the May 23, 1622 issue in the
possession of the British Museum. The second news item, dated Vienna,
September 22, 1621, announces that differences between "outlandish" (Spanish)
and German generals have been resolved, but until this day "noe
imperiall Generall has beene yet named" against the Transylvanian
Prince Gabor Bethlen, whom it reports to be in Buda.
The earliest manuscripts the Library of Congress possesses concerning
Hungary and Hungarians are service reports and relevant correspondence
between George Washington and Colonel Michael de Kovats, Hungarian-born
commandant of the Pulaski Legion, dated June 1778. The interest
of the United States government in the Hungarian War of Independence
(1848-49) and its aftermath is reflected in the various manuscript
collections of U.S. political leaders. For example, the Zachary
Taylor Papers and the correspondence collections of Daniel Webster,
William H. Seward, John M. Clayton, and Hamilton Fish contain many
letters and other materials related to the war and the United States'
recognition of the Kossuth government. Many papers describe the
activities of the Committees for Hungary, formed in the United
States in the summer of 1849. Other materials reflect Kossuth's
flight to Turkey and his subsequent visit to the United States.
Also in the Library's possession is a collection of seven letters written by Louis Kossuth, as well as a bond issued by the Hungarian Fund in New York (1852) and an undated banknote published by the
Kossuth government. Later documents include those in the Woodrow
Wilson Papers that deal with Hungary and the Paris Peace Conference
(1919), as well as documents concerning the refusal of Congress
to ratify the peace treaty with Hungary, signed by the other powers
in June 1920. All these manuscript materials are housed in the Manuscript Reading Room.
One collection of microfilmed manuscript material is held in the European Reading Room: Records from the War History Archives in Budapest, a collection of 216 microfilm reels containing formerly secret military documents, primarily from 1949-1956. The Reading Room possesses similar materials from Poland and Romania.
The Library possesses a solid collection of maps of present-day
as well as historical Hungary, including the oldest map of Hungary,
compiled by a certain Lázár, a secretary to the Prince
Primate of the Roman Catholic Church in Hungary. This map appeared
in Abraham Ortelius's Theatrum orbis terrarum, first published
in 1570 and in many subsequent editions. Other notable maps of
Hungary include the series published by the Military-Geography
Institute in Vienna for the whole Austro-Hungarian empire, at scales
of 1:25,000 (1900-) and 1:75,000 (1875-). These maps are highly
detailed, and include small villages and geographical features
not present on maps with larger scales. At the same time, they
provide the Hungarian and German place names for towns and cities
that now have Slovak, Ukrainian, Serbian, or Romanian names.
The level of detail and the provision of Hungarian and German
place names make these maps especially valuable for historians
and genealogists. Also worth mentioning are the colorful Hungarian
county maps published in the first decade of the 20th century by
the Hungarian Geographical Institute. These maps have variable
scales, depending on the size of the county, but generally range
in scales from 1:300,000 to 1:470,000. Useful in conjunction with
the maps are the geographical lexicons, from the early Topographical
Lexicon of the Communities in Hungary Compiled Officially in 1773 (published
in 1920) to the recent (2011) Magyar helységnév-azonosító szótár [Hungarian Place Name Identification Dictionary]. Also of use are the gazetteers of Hungary
and the successor states published by the United States Board of Geographic Names.
Prints and Photographs
Of historical interest here are photographs by Matthew Brady and
associates during the Civil War of prominent members of the first
Hungarian immigration to the United States, including Major-General
Alexander N. Asboth, Major-General Julius X. Stahel, and Major
Charles N. Zagonyi. LC also possesses photographs of famous Hungarian
musicians: Béla Bartók and his wife, Ditta Pásztory (1903-1982),
Georg Solti (1912-1997), and George Szell (1897-1970), plus many drawings of Franz Liszt.
Also worth mentioning are the color photographs of Hungarian urban
and rural scenes, published as part of the largely uncataloged Photochrom
The Library also has more than 400 posters from World War II through
the late 1960s, designed by, among others, Mihály Biró,
István Farkas, György Konecsni, Tibor Polya, and Marcel
Motion Pictures and Recorded Sound
In addition to a small collection of films from Hungary, the Library possesses a number of American motion pictures by Hungarian-born producers and directors, including George Cukor, Adolph Czukor, Michael Curtiz, Alexander Korda, Ivan Tors, as well as movies in which American-Hungarians wrote the musical score (Miklós Rózsa) or played leading roles (Vilma Banky, Ilona Massey, Bela Lugosi, Paul Lukas, and many others).
American Folklife Center
In the Center are to be found 36 10-inch disks of Hungarian folk music and a 7-inch reel tape of Hungarian folk music originally recorded on cylinders by Béla Bartók during the 1910s and duplicated by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Also of interest
are the collection of American Hungarian folk songs, consisting of 130 12-inch records made in California by Sydney Robertson Cowell, and 248 12-inch acetate records made in Michigan and Wisconsin by Alan Lomax.
European-Americana and American-Europeana
Many highlights in this section have been mentioned above. Worthy of note are the biographical files of the former Hungarian Reference Library (1937-1942) of New York. Containing 3,600 pages of data on 920 individuals, these files are an important source for studying the history of Hungarian-Americans in the 20th century. The Library also has biographical dictionaries of Hungarian- Americans published in the United States.
Related material on the Library of Congress web site: