Parish libraries of Wiślica praeposite in the second half of the 18th century

Parish libraries of Wiślica praeposite in the second half of the 18th century

Joanna Szady, Insitute of History, John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin
Update date: 31.12.2014

Parish libraries constitute a considerable part of the collections of books gathered by the church circles. It is assumed that in the Polish territories they began to appear in parishes at the beginnings of the 14th century, soon after monastic and cathedral libraries. The existing scientific studies on church libraries emphasize their specific, closed character aimed at spiritual development and inner perfection of different circles of the clergy. In the case of parish libraries, the aspect concerning education and complementation of knowledge necessary to raise the pastoral qualifications is also of importance. Due to the abundance and variety of the books, the libraries remain a testimony of the intellectual culture of the place where they
were situated and the people associated with them.

Research on the intellectual culture of church circles requires initial knowledge concerning the quantitative and qualitative condition of the libraries. An application of concurrent databases remarkably facilitates the process of mass analyses of the source material in the form of hundreds or thousands book titles. Computer applications allow for fast and varied operations on the source material – lists made depending on the current need, or searching for a book by means of different criteria. Such improvements affect the manner of reconstructing the library items, in addition to creating the basis on which to get a more comprehensive picture of the library collections. Thus, a path is opened to estimate and compare library collections in time and in space, and to get a synthetic view in the field of book geography.

The present publication is aimed to present results of studies concerning the contents of parish libraries in Wiślica praeposite (Cracow diocese) in the second half of the 18th c. and – at the same time – facilitate the process of book identification in other library collections so that each researcher in this field could draw from it while identifying the authors and titles of books. Through increased availability of the data the way of presentation adopted here (Internet search engine, web-GIS application) should affect the promotion of this area of research, identification of exchange of individual results of analyses, and above all an open attitude in undertaking interdisciplinary scientific undertakings, uniting historians, librarians and computer technicians. A clear advantage of this publication is also its visual aspect in the form of a cartographic presentation.


The publication presented here is an electronic [modified] version of a list of books from parish libraries which could be recognized in the course of identification. This list is included in: J. Szady, Księgozbiory parafialne w prepozyturze wiślickiej w II połowie XVIII wieku, Lublin 2008. The data base was prepared on the basis of library inventories included in the files of canonical visitations from the years 1782-1785.

A classical way of presenting selected library collections has prevailed in the analyses concerning parish libraries so far. The analysis of the number and the content of books collected in one center, administrative area or type of library is based on the identification of authors and titles. Then, the final effect is a description of a library (libraries) based on the list of books according to the source order. The problem of repeatability of books in each next library from a given area is solved in such an arrangement through a system of references in footnotes.

A significant modification was to introduce elements of geographical arrangement of library lists proposed in a monographic paper on the libraries of Wiślica praeposite in the second half of the 18th c. Each identified book was supplemented with the place (parish churches) where it was found and the sources from the inventories. In such an arrangement, somebody who searched for information had to know the author’s name in order to find a given book and see in how many places it occurred.

The present publication meets the challenge of these limitations in both versions of the printed inventory and it enables the search for a book according to a number of criteria (author, title, place, method of identification). Additionally, each registered title is placed in a geographical space (on a map).

This publication is based on the source material in the form of a library visitation inventory, which is a part of an external visitation of a parish church and which refers to the movable assets. Due to its character, such an inventory has a number of formal shortcomings. First of all, the books are not registered in it in an ordered manner which would facilitate their recognition. Records of titles were made in a simplified way deprived of complete bibliographic data. The most frequent shortcomings in book registers include a lack of the place and year of publishing, the name of the publisher and some formal features, for example the size and the number of pages. Records of a book in the inventory frequently omit the author’s name at the title, or the other way round, they register only the author, without the title. Records of titles also leave much to be desired as the inventory items are only a part
of the titles, or a compilation of selected words from the title. The way of recording books in the source directly affects the possibility of their identification, which means providing them with critical and confirmed bibliographical data.

In the course of identification a part of all book collections in the parishes of the studied area were successfully established. Long and arduous identification of books included reading the source record and establishing a full bibliographical description on the basis of various kinds of bibliographical and biographical references as well as library catalogues and inventories in addition to dictionaries and encyclopedias (see: a list of abbreviations).

Therefore, the user receives two types of information:

– source information: the source record of the title, an abbreviation of the source of information with the corresponding page where the book was recorded;

– critical (identification) information: the author’s surname and first name /sometimes in a few versions/, the title /other versions of the title/, the place and year of publishing, an abbreviation of the information source and the data on the method of identification.

The method of identification adopted in the analysis considered different ways of recording the books in library inventories. An inventory could include a record referring to the author and the title, or only the author. This caused that identification assumed only a presumptive and probable character. For this reason, two categories were introduces, namely complete and incomplete identification.

Complete identification refers to source records in the form of the author and the title, on the basis of which full bibliographical data were established (identification includes: the author, the title); records in the form of only the title, which clearly indicated the authorship (identification includes: the author, the title); records of only the title the author of which remained unknown even in identification sources (identification includes: the title)

Incomplete identification refers to source records providing only the author to whom a few works that they wrote could be referred (identification includes: author); source records in the form of the author and the title, which makes it impossible to recognize the book (identification includes: author).

The list omits unidentified titles, i.e. those whose source record made it impossible to recognize a given work. Their considerable part comprised only general statements, e.g. “homilies”, or records which made it difficult to read the name of the author or the title correctly.

Licencja Creative Commons
Text of the publication “Parish libraries of Wiślica praeposite in the second half of the 18th century”, authors and Institute for the Historical Geography of the Church in Poland is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Licencja Creative Commons
Data of the publication “Parish libraries of Wiślica praeposite in the second half of the 18th century”, authors and Institute for the Historical Geography of the Church in Poland is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.