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The Lost Libraries of Transylvania: Some Examples from the 15th and 16th Centuries

The Lost Libraries of Transylvania: Some Examples from the 15th and 16th Centuries

By Adinel Dinca

Paper given at the 75th IFLA World Library and Information Congress (2009)

Abstract: Although books in Latin were used in Transylvania during the Late Middle Ages (c.13 ‐ 15), the collections of the province (all in dire need of good catalogues) have been enriched above all through several notable acquisitions since the eighteenth century. As everywhere else in Europe, the Enlightenment was an age of bibliophiles like the Governor Brukenthal (1721 ‐ 1803) in Sibiu, Bishop Batthyány (1741‐1798) in Alba Iulia, and Count Teleki (1739‐1822) in Tîrgu Mureş. However, these libraries also held manuscripts and early printings produced or purchased in Transylvania since the medieval times, remains of a rich, yet troubled history regarding the local book culture reflected in three different examples.

The first example concerns the parish library of Sibiu. Not only is there a direct contemporary source for the history of this collection (a very thorough list of the various objects possessed by the church, including hundreds of titles), but most of the books are still at hand, although now part of a larger collection. The second example is a less fortunate one. According to several reliable catalogues from 1575 onwards, issued by librarians of the Lutheran College from Braşov, the collection of medieval manuscripts (all enlisted and kept in the library separately) was even richer than the one in Sibiu. The great fire from 1689, that consumed almost the entire settlement, led to the destruction of the library.

Very few books were saved, but some of them can still be identified. The third example refers to a dispersed collection as well. The prestigious library of the Jesuit College from Cluj, scattered in 1603 during a Protestant riot, also inherited many medieval books. There are no written evidences about the former status of the library, except for the ownership notes within the books. Thus, this paper’s aim is to present with the help of these cultural contexts the author’s variety of methodological experiences and difficulties in scientifically reconstructing the holdings of some important Transylvanian libraries of the 14th, 15th and 16th Centuries.

Click here to read this article from the International Federation of Library Associations

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