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Overviews of the Collections

The Polish Collections at the Library of Congress

Ronald Bachman
Former Polish Area Specialist

General Collections

The 6,500-volume Thomas Jefferson library, acquired by the United States Congress in 1815, included only three examples of Polonica - - an English version of the May Third Constitution of 1791, published in London; A. L. Caraccioli's La Pologne, telle qu'elle a ete, telle qu'elle est, telle qu'elle sera (Paris, 1775); and G. B. Mably's De gouvernment et des loix de la Pologne (Paris, 1781). Preoccupied with the survival of the Union and the cares of nation building, Congress and its Library generally ignored the distant regions of Eastern Europe throughout the nineteenth century. As a result, in 1901 the Polish holdings totalled only 97 volumes. In 1907, with the acquisition of the 80,000-volume library of Siberian bibliophile G. V. Yudin, the Library's Polonica holdings increased threefold. Nevertheless, it was not until the end of World War II that development of a world- class collection of Soviet and East European (and hence, Polish) research materials became a priority of the Library of Congress. 

The appointment in 1951 of Dr. Janina Hoskins as the Library's first Polish Area Specialist (a position she would hold for nearly four decades) marked the beginning of a systematic effort to acquire current and retrospective publications for the Polish collection. In the context of the present guide, the term "Polish collection" embraces all print and nonprint research materials that either originated in Poland, concern Poland, or are in the Polish language. The Library's Polish holdings do not constitute a collection in the sense of volumes physically collocated in a designated room or wing. Integrated by subject classes into the general collections, Polish materials are to be found in each building of the Library complex and practically on every stack deck. Through a variety of acquisition channels -- purchases, institutional exchanges, transfers from other U.S. Government agencies, copyright deposits, and gifts -- the Library has amassed one of the world's major Polish collections, including nearly 150,000 books in the Polish language alone. The collection continues to grow at the rate of approximately 3,000 new titles annually. 

A quantitative ranking indicates the strengths of the Polish collection lie in history, belles lettres, biography, bibliography, art and architecture, and the physical sciences. The Library does not acquire in the fields of clinical medicine and agriculture. Scholarly works of a generic nature that do not contribute substantively to the body of human knowledge as a rule also are not collected. Thus, most textbooks and works on scientific phenomena that do not pertain uniquely to Poland do not fall within the acquisition profile of the Library.  

Accounting for perhaps one-fourth of total Polonica holdings, history is the heart of the collection. All time periods and schools of historical thought are represented, including works by such icons as Jan Dlugosz, Adam Naruszewicz, and Joachim Lelewel. Although the oldest and rarest imprints are housed in the Rare Book Division (see below), the general collection also offers many unique first-edition nineteenth and twentieth-century works, e.g., the Latin-language serial Scriptores Rerum Polonicarum (Krakow, 1872-1917); Oswald Balzer's Genealogia Piastow (Krakow, 1895) or his three-volume Krolestwo Polskie, 1295-1370 (Lwow, 1919); or the serial Gesamtuberblick uber die polnische Tagesliteratur [Presse], 1894-1939. Historians will also find a convenient chronicle of events during the communist period in the daily Polish Press Summary (1951-1959), prepared by the American and British embassies in Warsaw and, from the Polish government's perspective, in the Krajowa Agencja Informacyjna Biuletyn, 1956-1989. The Library also offers long (often complete) runs of the major Polish historical journals published in Poland and abroad, e.g., the Kwartalnik Historii Kultury Materialnej (Polish Academy of Sciences, Institute of the History of Material Culture, 1953-present); Acta Poloniae Historica (Polish Academy of Sciences, Institute of History, 1961-present); Ochrona Zabytkow (Ministry of Culture and Art, Historic Monuments Documentation Center, 1948-present); and Zeszyty Historyczne, an influential journal published by the Paris-based Instytut Literacki (1962-present).

Two recent acquisitions of particular interest to Polish historians (available in the Microform and Electronic Resources Center in the Jefferson Building) are Polskie Archiwum Biograficzne (Polish Biographial Archive), a set of more than 500 microfiches compiled from 180 biographical reference works from the 17th to the 20th centuries; and Polish Military Archives, a collection of 92 reels of microfilm from the Central Military Archives in Warsaw. The latter includes letters, memoranda, policy papers of the Polish Cabinet of Ministers, the Minister of Defense, the General Staff, and other high military bodies; most of the documents deal with the early Cold War period (1945-55), but some records extend into the 1960s, and there are plans to film material from World War II and from the interwar period.

The Library of Congress possesses a large, balanced collection of perhaps 15,000 volumes of Polish belles lettres and works of literary criticism. Because of the copyright deposit law, English translations published in the United States automatically are added to the collection. A major recent acquisition in this category is W. S. Kuniczak's superb translation of the Sienkiewicz trilogy. Scholars will find volumes of poetry, novels, essays, short stories, and the personal correspondence of writers from every period in the evolution of Polish literature--from its Latin roots in the Middle Ages to the earliest works in the Polish vernacular to the Golden Age of the Renaissance and on to the Baroque, the Enlightenment, the Romantic Period, Positivism, Young Poland, and the succeeding movements that constitute modern Polish literature. Holdings from the Romantic and Positivist writers are particularly strong and include the complete works of such literary giants as Adam Mickiewicz, Juliusz Slowacki, Zygmunt Krasinski, and Boleslaw Prus (Aleksander Glowacki). 

At the heart of the Library's outstanding collection of literary criticism are numerous complete runs of scholarly journals, including several issued by the Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences, e.g., Pamietnik Literacki (founded in 1902 by the Adam Mickiewicz Literary Society of Lwow); Biuletyn Polonistyczny (1958-present); Z Dziejow form Artystycznych w Literaturze Polskiej (1963- present). The collection also offers a complete set of Tworczosc (1945-present), whose first issue contained new works by Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz and Jerzy Andrzejewski. Important emigre literary journals include the Paris-based Zeszyty Literackie and the quarterly Oficyna Poetow, published in London.

European Reading Room

For the convenience of researchers and for the security of frequently consulted reference works, some 500 titles relating to Poland are assigned permanently to the European Reading Room (ERR). Shelved according to LC subject classes, this miniature Polish Library provides easy access to selected encyclopedias, dictionaries, statistical handbooks, country studies, gazeteers, bibliographies, histories, and other research tools. 

Among general encyclopedias in the ERR, three deserve mention: a handsome 1984 reprint of the 28-volume Encyklopedyja powszechna published by S. Orgelbrand in 1859-1868; the 22- volume Wielka ilustrowana encyklopedja powszechna (Krakow: Wydawnictwo "Gutenberga," 1929-38); and the 13-volume Wielka encyklopedia powszechna PWN (Warsaw: Panstwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, 1962-70). 

Frequently visited by genealogy researchers, the ERR offers several classic works on Polish noble lineage and heraldry, including Adam Boniecki's 16-volume Herbarz polski: wiadomosci historyczno- genealogiczne o rodach szlacheckich (Warsaw: Gebethner i Wolf, 1899-1913) and a 1979 reprint of Kasper Niesiecki's Herbarz polski (Leipzig: Breitkopf & Haertel, 1839- 1846). The reprint contains supplementary materials and splendid color illustrations of numerous coats of arms. Genealogists also will find in the ERR Jan Stanislaw Bystron's classic works on Polish given and family names. Another resource of interest to genealogists, as well as biographers and historians, is the multivolume encyclopedic dictionary of Polish biography, Polski slownik biograficzny. Begun in 1935, this monumental work now is roughly two-thirds complete. 

Researchers make heavy use of the ERR's 1975-1977 reprint of Filip Sulimierski's Slownik geograficzny Krolestwa Polskiego i innych krajow (Warsaw: 1880). The definitive work on the complex problem of Polish placenames, this 15-volume classic provides detailed descriptions of the history, economic assets, and administrative subordination of cities, towns, and villages throughout the territory of the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Complementing Sulimierski's work is Stanislaw Rospond's Slownik nazw geograficznych Polski zachodniej i polnocnej, also available in the ERR. 

Reflecting the strengths of the Library's overall Polonica collection, the ERR Polish shelves contain more titles on history than any other subject. A number of these works are in English, including Norman Davies's God's Playground: A History of Poland (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983); The Cambridge History of Poland, edited by William Fiddian Reddaway (Cambridge: The University Press, 1941); Adam Zamoyski's The Polish Way: A Thousand-Year History of the Poles and Their Culture (New York: F. Watts, 1988); Piotr Wandycz's The Lands of Partitioned Poland, 1795-1918 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1974); Oskar Halecki's Poland (New York: F. A. Praeger, 1957); Stanislaw Mikolajczyk's The Rape of Poland: Pattern of Soviet Aggression (New York: Whittlesey House, 1948); Jan B. De Weydenthal's The Polish Drama, 1980-1982 (Lexington, Mass: Lexington Books, 1983); and Roman Laba's The Roots of Solidarity (Princeton: 1991). 

Many of the Polish-language histories in the ERR relate to the Polish experience during World War II, e.g., the ten-volume Wojsko Polskie: krotki informator historyczny o Wojsku Polskim w latach II wojny swiatowej, edited by Stanislaw Komornicki (Warsaw: Wydawnictwa Ministerstwa Obrony Narodowej, 1965-87); Henryk Batowski's Polska dyplomacja na obczyznie 1939-1941 (Krakow: Wydawnictwa Literackie, 1991); and Andrzej Leszek Szczesniak's Katyn: lista ofiar i zaginionych jencow obozow Kozielsk, Ostaszkow, Starobielsk (Warsaw: Wydawnictwa Alfa, 1989). 

Among the ERR's key reference works on Polish cultural history, including its popular roots, are Jan Stanislaw Bystron's two-volume Dzieje obyczajow w dawnej Polsce (Warsaw: Nakl. Trzaski, Everta i Michalskiego, 1933); Aleksander Bruckner's two- volume Encyklopedia staropolska (Warsaw: Nakl. Ksiegarni Trzaski, Everta i Michalskiego, 1939); Julian Krzyzanowski's Slownik folkloru polskiego (Warsaw: Wiedza Powszechna, 1965); the multi-volume Atlas polskich strojow ludowych edited by Jozef Gajek (Lublin: Nakl. Polskiego Tow. Ludoznawczego, 1949-1988); Boleslaw Klimaszewski's An Outline History of Polish Culture, translated by K. Mroczek (Warsaw: Interpress, 1984); and Bogdan Suchodolski's A History of Polish Culture, translated by E. J. Czerwinski (Warsaw: Interpress, 1986). 

The ERR also provides a good starting point for a study of the history and contributions of the once thriving Jewish community of Poland. Key works include Gershon David Hundert's The Jews in Poland and Russia: Bibliographical Essays (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984); Aleksander Hertz's Zydzi w kulturze polskiej [also available in English] (Paris: Instytut Literacki, 1961); Maurycy Horn's two-volume Regesty dokumentow i ekscerpty z Metryki Koronnej do historii Zydow w Polsce, 1697-1795 (Wroclaw: Zaklad Narodowy im. Ossolinskich, 1984); and Bernard Dov Weinryb's The Jews of Poland: A Social and Economic History of the Jewish Community in Poland from 1100 to 1800. All of these works contain extensive bibliographies. 

As a small sampling of the Library's extensive holdings on the history of the Polish American community, the following key works are available in the ERR: Miecislaus Haiman's classic Polish Past in America, 1608-1865 (Chicago: The Polish Roman Catholic Union Archives and Museum, 1939) and Kosciuszko in the American Revolution (New York: Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences, 1943); George Simor's Guide to the Archives of the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences of America (New York: The Institute, 1988); Joseph W. Zurawski's Polish American History and Culture: A Classified Bibliography (Chicago: Polish Museum of America, 1975); Frank Renkiewicz's The Poles in America 1608-1972 (Dobbs Ferry, NY: Oceana Publications, 1973); and Joseph Anthony Wytrwal's America's Polish Heritage: A Social History of the Poles in America (Detroit: Endurance Press, 1961). 

The ERR offers researchers a good introduction to the Polish plastic arts with such references as the multi-volume Polska bibliografia sztuki 1801-1944, edited by J. Wiercinska and M. Liczbinska (Wroclaw: Zaklad Narodowy im. Ossolinskich, 1975- 1986); Stanislaw Lorentz's Przewodnik po muzeach i zbiorach w Polsce (Warsaw: Interpress, 1982); Adam Milobedzki's Zarys dziejow architektury w Polsce (Warsaw: Wiedza Powszechna, 1978); and Edward Rastawiecki's three-volume Slownik malarzow polskich, tudziez obcych w Polsce osiadlych lub czasowo w niej przebywajacych (Warsaw: nakl. autora, 1850-1857). 

Among the rich collection of works on literary studies, linguistics and lexicography, a few titles merit attention: Alexander Bruckner's Slownik etymologiczny jezyka polskiego (Warsaw: Wiedza Powszechna, 1970); the 11-volume Academy of Sciences' Slownik jezyka polskiego, edited by Witold Doroszewski (Warsaw: Wiedza Powszechna, 1958-1969); Stanislaw Skorupka's Slownik frazeologiczny jezyka polskiego (Warsaw: PWN, 1974); Julian Krzyzanowski's A History of Polish Literature, translated by D. Ronowicz (Warsaw: PWN, 1978); Czeslaw Milosz's The History of Polish Literature (New York: Macmillan, 1969); and Lewlaw Bartelski's Polscy pisarze wspolczesni: informator 1944-1974 (Warsaw: Wydawnictwa Artystyczne i Filmowe, 1977). A useful source of literary quotations is Ksiega cytatow z polskiej literatury pieknej od XIV do XX wieku, compiled by P. Hertz and W. Kopalinski (Warsaw: Panstwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 1975). 

Poland's distinguished bibliographic tradition is reflected in the ERR collection by the Estreicher family's classic 40-volume Bibliografia Polska, covering the period 1455-1900; Wiktor Hahn's Bibliografia bibliografij polskich do 1950 roku- (Wroclaw: Zaklad Narodowy im. Ossolinskich, 1966); Janina Hoskins's Early and Rare Polonica of the 15th-17th Centuries in American Libraries: A Bibliographical Survey (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1973); Jan Wepsiec's Polish Serial Publications, 1853- 1962 (Chicago: 1964); Witold Taszycki's three-volume Bibliografia onomasytki polskiej (Krakow: Naklad Uniwersytetu Jagiellonskiego, 1960-1983); and Jan Kowalik's five-volume Bibliografia czasopism polskich wydanych poza granicami Kraju od wrzesnia 1939 (Lublin: Katolicki Uniwersytet Lubelski, 1976-1988). 

ERR visitors will find a representative selection of publications from the Polish Main Statistical Bureau, including the most current yearbooks not yet available in the general collections. The works provide statistical data on a range of topics, including economic performance, demography, education, environmental issues, and publishing activity. 

The ERR has custodial responsibility for current, unbound Polish- language serials and newspapers. The Library currently receives more than 25 Polish-language daily and weekly newspapers. Older newspapers are microfilmed and accessible in the Newspaper and Current Periodicals Reading Room in the Madison Building. Roughly 200 Polish titles are listed in the guide to the Library's microfilmed East European newspapers. Bound periodicals are shelved in the general collection according to subject class.  

The ERR also offers a representative cross-section of independent publications dating from the mid-1970s through the demise of the communist regime. Access to this material is facilitated by Z. Kantorosinski's The Independent Press in Poland 1976- 1990. An enlarged and updated version of the bibliography was placed online in 1996. In the Microform and Electronic Resources Center (Jefferson Building), researchers will also be able to access a commercial microfiche collection of Polish Independent Publications based on the holdings of Radio Free Europe and the Polish Library in London. 

Rare Books

The Rare Book Division's holdings of materials of interest to Polish specialists are extensive and diverse. Janina Hoskins' 1973 work Early and Rare Polonica in American Libraries indicates 270 titles among the Library of Congress holdings dating from the 15th-17th centuries; 121 of these works were found in no other American repository. The Rare Book Division also possesses a rich collection of 18th-20th- century Polonica. Many of these works are to be found in the numerous special collections in the custody of the Rare Book Division, including the well-known Jefferson, Yudin, Russian Imperial, and Rosenwald collections. 

The Rare Book Division has a special collection of miniature editions of literary works, including several dozen by Polish writers. Reflecting the composition of the Library's general Polish collection, the largest share of the Rare Book Division's Polonica falls under the heading of history, followed by belles lettres, the physical sciences, and religion. Subject classification of these older works, however, obscures their intrinsic interest to researchers across disciplines. Notable examples of the Library's rare Polonica include:

Polish History

Barska konfederacja. Manifeste de la Republique confederee de Pologne, du quinze novembre mil sept cent soixante-neuf/ traduit du polonais. 1770. 293 p. (DK4331.B37)

Caraccioli, Louis Antoine de, 1721-1803. La Pologne, telle qu'elle a ete, telle qu'elle est, telle qu'elle sera... Varsovie et se trouve a Poitiers, Chez M. V. Chevrier, 1775. (DK414.A2C2. Jefferson Collection)

Chelminski, Jan V. 1851-. L'armee du duche de Varsovie. Paris: J. Leroy et cie, 1913. A folio including 52 plates (50 color). Biographic notes and portraits of Polish generals and officers. (DK417.C5 Office Folio)

Dlugosz, Jan, 1415-1480. Historia Polonica. Lipsiae, Sumptibus: I. L. Gleditschii, 1711-1712. (DK419.D58)

Dzikowska konfederacja, 1734-1736. Solennissima manifestatio. [n.p.] 1735? 20p. The manifesto of the Dzikow Confederation was issued by the supporters of Stanislaw Leszczynski against Augustus III during the War of Polish Succession. (DK432.D9)

Heidenstein, Reinhold, 1556-1620. De bello muscovitico quod Stephanus, rex Poloni, gessit, commentariorum libri VI. Balise, per Conrad Valdkirchium, 1588. 184 p. Concerns Stefan Batory's war against Ivan IV of Russia. (DK429.5.H4)

Komski, Jan. Za drutami [15 szkicow z kz] (Behind Barbed Wires [15 sketches from a concentration camp]). Munich: "P.B.I" Information Agency, 1946. 15 leaves of plates. Preface and legends in English, German, and Polish. (D805.A2K64)

Kromer, Marcin. De origine et rebus gestis Polonorum . . . Basel: I. Oporinum, 1558. 719 pages. (DK419.K75)

Lasicki, Jan, 1534-1605. Clades Dantiscanorum anno Domini MDLXXVII, XVII Aprilis, a Ioanne Lasicio descripta & emendatius secundo edita . . . Francofurti, Apud A. Wechelum, 1578. Concerns Poland under Stefan Batory. (DK429.5.L38

Lelewel, Joachim, 1786-1861. Trzy konstytucje polskie; 1791, 1807, 1815. Poznan: J. K. Zupanski Press, 1861. 108 p. (JN6753 18661.L4)

Linde, van der. Leven en daaden van Johannes Sobietzki de III, tegenwoordig--regeerende Koning van Polen. . . Amsterdam: J. en T. ten Hoorn, J. Bouman en A. Dirkse Oossaan, 1685. A handsome engraved frontispiece depicts the great Polish and European hero, Jan Sobieski. (DK4310.L5)

Naramowski, Adam, 1681-1736. Facies rerum Sarmaticarum in facie Regni Poloniae Magnique Ducatus Lituaniae gestarum . . . Vilnae: Typus Universitatis Societatis Jesu, 1724-1726. Provides biographic information on Polish statesmen and nobility. (DK4133.N37 1724)

Okolski, Szymon, 1580-1653. Orbis quo antiqua Sarmatarum gentilitia, Cracow: F. Caesarij, 1641-45. 3 vol. Contains coats of arms and other information on Polish nobility. (CR2065.038)

Orzechowski, Stanislaw Okszyc, 1513-1566. Fidelis subditus, sive, De institutione regia ad Sigismundum Augustum. . . Varsaviae: Typis S.R.M. in Collegio Schol. Piarum, 1697. First published in 1584, the work concerns the duties of Polish kings and rulers up to Sigismund August. (JC381.074 1697)

Pastorius, Joachim, 1611-1681. Bellum scythico-cosacicu; seu, De conjuratione Tartarorum, Cosacorum, et plebis russicae contra regnum Polonicae . . . Dantisci, sumptibus Georgii Forsteri, 1652. 269 p. (DK508.P27 Pre-1801 Collection)

Poland. Committee of Enquiry into the Question of the Polish Prisoners of War from the 1939 Campaign, Missing in the U.S.S.R. - Facts and Documents Concerning Polish Prisoners of War Captured by the U.S.S.R in the 1939 Campaign. 1946. 454 pages, including plates, maps. (D805.R9P7 1939)

Poland's case for independence, being a series of essays illustrating the continuance of her national life. London: Published for the Polish Information Committee by G. Allen and Unwin ltd., 1916. 352 p. Contains essays on Polish history, demography, economics, literature, and music by such prominent scholars as A. Zaleski, R. W. Seton Watson, R. Kucharski, L. Janowski, and L. Litwinski. (DK 414.P75)

Solignac, Pierre Joseph de la Pimpie, 1687-1773. Histoire generale de Pologne. Amsterdam: H. du Sauzet, 1751-1780. 6 volumes. (DK4187.S64 1751)

Starowolski, Szymon, 1588-1656. Polonia, nunc denuo recognita et aucta. Wolferbyti, Sumptibus C. Bunonis, 1656. 102 p. Describes Polish administrative and political divisions. (JN6759 1656.S8 1656)

Udzial Polakow w zwyciestwie nad faszyzmem: dokumenty, 1939-1945. (The Participation of Poles in the Victory over Fascism: Documents, 1939-1945). Warsaw: Krajowa Agencja Wydawnicza, 1975. Polish sources documenting the history of the German occupation, 1939-1945. 49-piece portfolio includes color illustrations. (DK4410.U38. Spec. Format)

Velychko, Samiilo, 1670-ca. 1728. Lietopis' sobytii v IUgozapadnoi Rossii. (Chronice of Events in Southwestern Russia.) 1848. Discusses the war between the Cossacks and Poland. (DK508.7.V4)

Warszewicki, Krzysztof, 1543-1603. Christophori Varsevicii Turcice quatuordecim . . . Cracoviae, In officina Lazari, 1595. 313 p. Discusses Turkish-Polish relations. (DR439.W35)

Belles Lettres

Mickiewicz, Adam, 1798-1855. Konrad Wallenrod. Petersburg: Drukiem K. Kraya, 1828. 88 p. Published and signed by the author. (PG7158.M5K6)

Mickiewicz, Adam, 1798-1855. Pan Tadeusz; czyli, Ostatni zajazd na Litwie. Historia szlachecka z 1811 i 1812, we 12 ksiegach, wierszem (Pan Tadeusz: or, the Last Foray in Lithuania. History of the Polish Nobility in 1811 and 1812, in 12 Books of Verse). Paris: A. Jelowicki, 1834. 2 vol. (PG7158.M5P3 1834)

Milosz, Czeslaw. Swiat (The World). San Francisco: Arion Press, 1989. 57 p. A sequence of twenty poems in Polish, translated into English by the poet. Includes a portrait of the poet in dry-point engraving. Limited to 275 copies. Signed by the author and illustrator. (PG7158.M553A25 1989)

The Sciences

Copernicus, Nicolaus, 1473-1543. De revolutionibus orbium caelestium, libri VI. Norimbergae, apud Ioh. Petreium, 1543. 196 p, including tables, diagrams. (QB41.C76 1543)

Jan ze Stobnicy, 1470 (ca)-1530. Introductio in Ptholomei Cosmographia . . . The first work published in Poland to mention America, it describes the discovery and exploration of America. (G113.P9J3)

Sacro Bosco, Joannes de, fl. 1230. Introductorium copendiosum in Tractatum spere material mgri Ioanis de Sacrobusto. Cracouie: J. Haller (?), 1506. 143 p, including diagrams. One of the early works on astronomy. Includes work by Jan Glogowczyk, 1445-1507. (QB41.S2 1506 Rosenwald Collection)

Poles In America

Kraitsir, Charles V. The Poles in the United States of America, preceded by the earliest history of the Slavonians, and by the history of Poland. Philadelphia: Kiderleen and Stollmeyer, 1837. 196 p. Preface signed: Charles V. Kraitsir, m.d. The Poles in the United States (Memorial to the representatives of the people of the United States of America in Congress assembled. New York, April 9, 1834. An act granting land to certain exiles from Poland, June 30, 1834, signed by Andrew Jackson, p. 193-195). (DK414.K88)


Housing more than 40 million individual manuscripts in some 10,000 collections, the Manuscripts Division has the primary mission of collecting materials of research value for the study of the history, law, and civilization of the United States. Among these vast holdings, manuscripts of interest to Polish scholars also are to be found. In particular, the papers of the U.S. presidents, secretaries of state, diplomats, and sundry individuals personally or professionally associated with Poland merit investigation. Additionally, many of the hundreds of thousands of German documents in the Division's microfilm collections pertain to Poland, especially during the partition period and the twentieth century to the end of the Second World War. Below are listed in general thematic categories some of the Division's holdings of potential interest to Polish researchers.

Poles in American History, 17-20th Centuries

The George Washington Papers, 1592-1937. The first U.S. president's papers date mostly to the 1748-99 period and concern his relations with the Continental Congress, the command of the Continental Army, and his presidency. Among the documents are 22 letters from Washington to Kazimierz Pulaski, whom he promoted to the rank of brigadier general of cavalry, and six to Tadeusz Kosciuszko, perhaps Poland's most revered patriot and a key figure in the American Revolution.

The Thomas Jefferson Papers, 1606-1889. The collection includes Jefferson's copies of early Virginia laws and historical records, among them the Records of the Virginia Company of London. The latter contain several references to Polish craftsmen recruited for their expertise in hemp, flax, potash, saltpeter/gunpowder, pitch, and tar--commodities critical to the survival of the Jamestown colony. Furthermore, the collection contains Jefferson's 12 letters to (and 40 letters about) Kosciuszko, as well as correspondence (16 letters) with Julian Niemcewicz, Kosciuszko's aide-de-camp in the 1794 Insurrection and a friend of the first three American presidents.

Papers of the Continental Congress; American Manuscripts, Revolution, 1779 Collection; the Nathanael Greene Papers, 1775-1785. Each of these collections include includes correspondence with Pulaski and Kosciuszko.

The Jonathan Bayard and Samuel Harrison Smith Collection. This collection contains letters written by Joel Barrow to his wife during his journey to Poland to interview Napoleon on American affairs.

The Papers of Count Adam De Gurowski, 1848-1898. This is a collection of 4,000 items of the Polish-born social historian, Pan-Slavist, and author of important works on slavery, the American Civil War, and U.S. relations with Europe. Correspondence with De Gurowski also can be found in The Papers of B.F. Wade, 1832-1881, an Ohio senator and Republican Party leader; The Papers of Henry Wilson, 1851- 1875, a Massachusetts senator and U.S. vice-president; and the Abraham Lincoln Papers.

The Caleb Cushing Papers, 1785-1906. The papers of this prominent lawyer/U.S. Congressman from Massachusetts/land speculator contain many documents concerning the Polish Emigration Land Company established in Virginia in 1869 for the benefit of Polish immigrants.

Poland before World War I

The German Captured Documents Collections. Although the 350,000-piece collection dates mostly to the inter-war and World War II period, it also contains valuable material relating to partitioned Poland. For example, the Rehse Collection contains a document transferring the allegiance of Lwow from the King of Poland to Maria Theresa of Austria in the First Partition. The Zimmermann Family Papers contain 14th-17th century materials from regional repositories, including Wroclaw. And the Deutsches Auslands Institut Collection contains some Copernican prints.

The Thacher Collection. A collection of about 1,300 pieces arranged in 15 portfolios, including one labelled "Russian, Polish, Oriental." The collection consists mainly of autograph documents and portraits of crowned heads of Europe and other dignitaries dating from the 14th century.

Indenture of Jan II Kazimierz, 1659. A papal document in Latin absolving the former cardinal upon his ascension of the Polish throne.

Acts of the Confederacy of Bar 1768-1772. The 60-item collection documents a movement formed in 1768 by the Polish landed gentry to mount armed resistance to the Russian occupation. Kazimierz Pulaski and his father were leaders of the movement.

World War I and the Reestablishment of the Polish State

The Stanley Washburn Papers, 1912-1945. The papers of a prominent newspaper correspondent containing numerous dispatches from Poland, Russia, and France during World War I.

The Wilson Papers. The 278,000-item collection includes minutes and other documents concerning the Paris Peace Conference and the reestablishment of an independent Polish state. In addition to case file no. 2950: "Poland 1915-21," other files contain abundant material pertaining to Poland, e.g., Wilson's letters to and from Ignacy Paderewski; Paderewski's correspondence with Georges Clemenceau, Herbert Hoover, Edith Wilson, Joseph P. Tumulty, R. Lansing, L. Marshall, E. M. House, and R. Dmowski (co-leader of the Polish delegation to the Paris Peace Conference); and several letters to and from Jozef Pilsudski (the first Polish president).

The Robert Lansing Papers, 1890-1933; The Henry White Papers, 1812-1931. These collections contain thousands of documents relating to these individuals' experiences as members of the Paris Peace Conference. Lansing was Wilson's Secretary of State, and White held diplomatic assignments in Austria, Great Britain, Italy, France, and the Argentine Republic.

Poland between the World Wars

The Henry Morgenthau Papers, 1795-1941. The 30,000-piece collection of diaries, correspondence, writings, and other papers of the prominent businessman and diplomat contains correspondence with Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Morgenthau's diary account of his visit to Poland after World War I, and papers relating to the treatment of Jews in Poland.

Declarations of Admiration and Friendship for the United States, 1926. This is a 111-volume series containing illustrations of representative Polish scenes and the signatures of the Polish president, other dignitaries, and five million Polish school children. The set was presented to President Coolidge as a testimonial of the gratitude and friendship of the Polish people for the United States on the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

The William Orr Papers, 1890-1939. About two-thirds of the collection is from the period 1920-27, when Orr served as a Y.M.C.A. adviser on education in Eastern Europe.

The Raymond Leslie Buell Papers, 1915-1984. Among the nearly 18,000 items in the collection of this prominent educator and prolific writer on international affairs are materials used in his book Poland: Key to Europe.

The Charles Schuveldt Dewey Papers, 1927-1931. This is a collection of 1,500 reports, memoranda, statistical studies, and correspondence concerning Poland assembled by this one-time Illinois Congressman who served as financial adviser to the Polish government.

Poland during and after World War II

The German Captured Documents Collections (particularly the archives from the Deutsches Auslands Institut). These collections contain much information on the administration of occupied Poland.

The Frank Kowalski Papers, 1907-1974. Among the 7,500 documents of this former Congressman from Connecticut are manuscripts describing the economic, political, and social conditions in Poland from 1945 to 1980 and a report based on interviews of Polish-born soldiers who served in the German army before 1944.

Protest of American Women of Polish Extraction to the Women of Germany, 1942. A petition sent to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The W. Averell Harriman Papers, 1869-1986. This 300,000-item collection of papers covers most aspects of the long and eventful career of one of the century's great statesmen and includes a number of documents pertaining to Poland, e.g., the Katyn Forest massacre and the Yalta Conference.

Poles in the Arts

Grosvenor Family Papers, 1827-1981. The 65,000-piece collection of papers of the prominent Massachusetts/ Washington D.C. family contains correspondence with the Polish- born American writer Joseph Korzeniowski Conrad.

The Elijah Walker Halford Papers, 1867-1928. Among the correspondents of this soldier/newspaperman/private secretary to Benjamin Harrison was the beautiful Polish actress, Helena Modjeska, who enjoyed enormous popularity in the U.S. Other letters to and from Modjeska are found in The Louise Chandler Moulton Papers, 1852-1908, and The Minnie Maddern Fiske Papers, 1884-1932.


The Library of Congress houses one of the world's largest and most diverse collections of Polish cartographic materials. The Geography and Map Division has custody of 2,750-3,000 single maps filed as Polish. A precise shelf count of all single and serial maps relating to Poland would be an impractical undertaking and would yield ambiguous results. Partitioned by its powerful neighbors, Prussia, Austria, and Russia, Poland literally disappeared from the map as an independent state in 1795, not to reemerge until the end of World War I. And within three decades, its borders were redrawn and shifted some 100 miles to the west. Consequently, many of the maps covering the territory of present- day Poland are filed with materials from Germany/Prussia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Russian Empire. The Division's extensive collection of topographic series maps embraces the entire territory of interwar Poland on a scale of 1:100,000. Much of the cartographic work completed by the Germans was reissued (with place name changes) by the Polish Military Geographic Institute. The Division also offers 1:25,000 topographic maps covering about one-third of present-day Poland. A rich collection of more than 200 Polish atlases also is available. 

The Polish single and series maps collections contain regional, national, provincial, county, and city maps--some so detailed as to indicate individual buildings and houses. The collections offer splendid examples of every cartographic genre--annotated road maps, maps of inland waterways, mineral deposits, historic sites, battlefields, ethnic and linguistic groups, forests, precipitation. Among noteworthy specimens of the cartographic art are:

Beauplan, Guillaume Le Vasseur, sieur de, d. 1670. Delineatio generalis Camporum Desertorum vulgo Ukraina : cum adjacentibus provinciis . . . Gedanum: Beauplan, 1648. A superb example of the engraving art of Willem Hondius of Gdansk, the plate was sold to the Polish crown in 1652. The piece is the first separately published map to use the name "Ukraina" in the title. (G7100 1648. B4 Vault)

Germany. Heer. Generalstab. Polnische Korridor PL25(Messtischblattformat) Nr. 1175-6177. Berlin: 1936? A set of 355 detailed maps of the portion of Polish Pomerania known as the "Polish Corridor." (G6522.P6 s25 .G4)

Lelewel, Joachim, 1786-1861. Atlas do dziejow polskich z dwunastu krajobrazow zlozony. Warsaw, 1830. (G1951.S1L45 1830 Vault)

Rizzi-Zannoni, Giovanni Antonio, 1736-1814. Carte de la Pologne divisee par provinces et palatinats et subdivisee par districts. London: 1772. (G1950.R5 1772 Vault)

Romer, Eugeniusz, 1871-1954. Geograficzno-statystyczny atlas polski redagowany i opracowany przez dra Eugeniusza Romera ... Cracow: Gebethner i Wolff, 1916. (G1951.G1R6 1916)

Woodrow Wilson Papers. The Proposed Frontiers of Poland. 1918. A pen-and-ink and watercolor map, annotated in the lower margin: Washington, October 8, 1918. The map also indicates the distribution of ethnic groups. (G6521.F2 1918.P7 Vault)

Zaremba, Jozef. Atlas ziem odzyskanych (Atlas of the new territories of Poland) . Warsaw: Glowny Urzad Planowania Przestrzennego, 1947. (G1951.G1Z3 1947)

Two particularly handsome examples of uncataloged single maps, executed by the prominent 17th century cartographers of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth Johann Baptist Homann and Frederick de Wit are filed simply as: Homanno, I. B. "Poland 17-- ?" and de Wit, F. "Poland and Silesia, 1649?"

Motion Pictures, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound

For the Polish specialist, the Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division's most important research asset is its extensive collection of German archival films, including several thousand feature films, newsreels, and shorts captured by the allied forces in World War II. A large share of these films pertain to Poland, and although frequently propagandistic in tone, they provide an important visual record of German-Polish relations before and during the Third Reich. Listed below in chronological order are some of the German Collection's more interesting titles as presented in the card catalog.

Polen feiert seine Unabhangigkeit. (Poland celebrates its independence). Footage of November 16, 1916 Independence Day parade before General Pilsudski and later before General Rydz-Smigly). 1936.

Feinde (Enemies). Produced in Munich in 1940, the film is a drama about the German minority in Poland before World War II.

Feldzug in Polen (Campaign in Poland), 1939. Two reels.

Einnahme von Warschau (The Capture of Warsaw), 1939.

Scenes from Occupied Poland, 1939.

Besides the German Collection, the Division offers an interesting array of Western documentary/educational films about Poland, including:

Poland Invaded. (The Evening News, London). Rony Collection, #170.

Poland and the Soviet Power: background to recent history. Encyclopedia Britannica Films, 1961. A documentary record of the changes that have taken place in Poland since 1939.

CBS News Special Report. Poland--Days of Darkness. U.S.: CBS Television Network, December 17, 1981.

The Deliberate Death of a Polish Priest. United Kingdom: 1986. A documentary about the murder of Father Popieluszko.

CBS News Special Report. Lech Walesa at Congress. United States: CBS, November 15, 1989.

The Library's modest collection of Polish cinema includes two films by the renowned Polish director, Andrzej Wajda (Kanal, 1957, and Popiol i Diament, 1958; Krzysztof Kieslowski's award-winning La Double Vie de Veronique, 1991; two films by internationally acclaimed director Agnieszka Holland--Europa, Europa, 1990, and To Kill a Priest, 1988; Menahem Golan's The Magician of Lublin, based on a novel by Isaac Bashevis Singer, 1978; several films by Roman Polanski, including the Polish-language Dwaj ludzie z szafa, 1958; and Ryszard Czekala's Syn, 1970. In addition, the American Film Institute Collection includes a number of Yiddish-language films produced in Poland in the 1930s and 1940s.

Prints and Photographs

With some 15 million pieces, the Prints and Photographs Division (P&P) is the repository of an interesting array of Polish graphic material, including photographs of prominent persons, rural and urban landscapes, the German campaign in World War II, families in traditional folk costume, and aspects of Jewish life. The Nazi Collection from the F. M. J. Archiv in Munich contains many powerful images of life in occupied Poland, including a photograph titled Blick in ein polnisches Gefangenlager (A Look Inside a Polish Prison Camp). P&P also houses an excellent collection of about 3,000 Polish posters, including some extremely rare pieces, such as one by Poland's first professional poster artist, Tadeusz Gronowski, hailing Pilsudski's victory over Soviet forces. Among printed illustrations, the work of seventeenth-century engraver Stephano Della Bella showing Aristotle, Ptolemy, and Copernicus discussing astronomy is particularly handsome (92-516411).


Scholars exploring Poland's disproportionately large contribution to the body of Western classical music will find a superb collection of research materials in the Music Division of the Library of Congress. The works of all major and many minor Polish composers have been acquired, including numerous holograph scores. While bibliographic control of the Music Division's holdings (now estimated at more than eight million pieces) is being automated, the card catalogs in the Music Reading Room provide the most comprehensive access, particularly to material in special collections. 

Considering the composer's stature, it is not surprising that the works of Frederic Chopin are among the Division's most valued possessions, comprising his collected works, numerous first editions of individual pieces, and the autographed scores of his Mazurka in B minor, Opus 33, no. 4, and his Prelude in A-flat major, op. posth. Another treasure, the Paderewski collection, includes the second draft of his Minuet in G, Opus 14. Autograph scores by Karol Szymanowski, Tadeusz Kassern, Krzysztof Penderecki, Henryk Wieniawski, Tadeusz Jarecki, and numerous less known composers also are available.

American Folklife Center

The largest archive of ethnographic materials in the United States, the American Folklife Center (AFC) houses a collection of more than one million pieces, including manuscripts, sound recordings, photographs, video tapes, and a wide range of ephemera. The Polish American community is amply represented among AFC holdings. Much of this material is the result of fieldwork conducted in Polish communities across the United States and Canada. A noteable example of such fieldwork was the Chicago Ethnic Arts Project, conducted in 1977. The project collected extensive data on more than 20 ethnic groups in the Chicago area and focused on folk music, dancing, crafts, and performers. Polish subjects account for a large share of the field notes, the 335 sound recordings, the 3,700 color transparencies, and the 300 rolls of black-and-white film that came out of the project. Over the years, the AFC has brought many ethnic music and dance groups to perform at the Library, and photographs of their live performances can be viewed, e.g., Chicago's Highlanders performing at the Coolidge Auditorium of the Library of Congress in January 1977. 

Related material on the Library of Congress website:

European Division Online Publications by Country/Region

Poland Collections in the Archive of Folk Culture

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  January 13, 2020
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