The Raczynski Library was founded by Count Edward Raczynski (1786-1845), a nobleman of the Wielkopolska region, social activist, patron of art and science, writer, and publisher. The opening of the Library took place on May 5th, 1829, in a building erected specially for Library purposes at what today is Wolnosci Square 19. Raczynski wished the first public library in the Wielkopolska region to be a center of Polish culture under Prussian rule. He drew up a status defining the financial grounds of the institution, its organization, objectives and rules of book collection, in which he wrote: “I, the undersigned, overwhelmed with a desire to make the means to education and information accessible to everyone, hereby establish a public library in Poznan, the place of my birth. The library, along with the building erected (…) for its purposes, with all the books currently housed in the facility, and with funds allocated for remuneration, shall come into the perpetual possession of the city. (…) The objective of the Raczynski Library is to make its reading room, which is soon to be opened, accessible to everyone, regardless of user’s status, on fixed days and hours.”
Julius von Minutoli, the Raczynski Library, 1833
According to different sources, at the moment of its opening, the Library holdings amounted to 13,000 or 17,000 volumes, and the Raczynski family book collections constituted its basis. Under the provisions of the status, during a purchase of new books “a precedence shall be given to the books in which inhabitants of the Grand Duchy of Poznan may have a special interest, and generally to moral, historical, technical and philological books over the entertaining and ephemeral ones.” In 1830, the Library was granted the privilege of legal deposit, whereby it was entitled to a copy of all publications issued on the territory of the Grand Duchy of Poznan. The book collection expanded also thanks to Edward Raczynski and his librarian – Jozef Lukaszewicz’s purchases of precious manuscripts, old prints and cartographic objects. Numerous donations were of significant importance, especially the most valuable one made in 1835 by founder’s wife – Konstancja. In that donation, the countess bestowed upon the Library a part of Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz’s private book collection, which she purchased from that famous Polish playwright, novelist and poet. The collection consisted of splendid historical sources, precious manuscripts, old prints and atlases.
Under the provisions of the status, the Local Education Office was a management body of the Library. In 1864, after the death of Edward Raczynski’s son – Roger, Germans removed all his inheritors from the Education Office and changed the status to enable Germanization of the institution. Despite that, the Library was still a mainstay of Polish culture under Prussian rule thanks to the Polish book collections and Polish personnel.
Regaining of independence by Poland changed the situation of the Raczynski Library. In 1924 the Library was taken over by the city. The first director of the Library in the independent Poland was Antoni Bederski, and from 1928 till the outbreak of World War II – Andrzej Wojtkowski. Despite the loss of a privilege of legal deposit in 1919 and serious financial difficulties, the Library systematically expanded its holdings. Great assets of that period were the valuable special collection - first of all the legacy of many outstanding representatives of Wielkopolska society - as well as some materials of Polish organizations active in the times of Prussian rule.
|The Library in the 19th century||The Library in the 1920s.|
The development of the Raczynski Library was inhibited by the outbreak of the Second World War. During the Nazi occupation, the Library, similarly to other cultural institutions, was available only to Germans. However, thanks to the endeavors of the appointed director – Jozef Raczynski – it was protected from dispersion and liquidation. Unfortunately, in January 1945, during the fights for Poznan, the Library was destroyed by Germans. Library facilities were flattened and the holdings amounting to 180,000 volumes (constituting 90% of the pre-war collection) were burned down. Only about 17,000 copies from the special collection survived moved in 1943 out of Poznan to the Obrzycko estate by Jozef Raczynski. Owing to this move, a continuity of Library holdings has been preserved.
The ruins of the Library
building after World War II
|The Library in 1956|
After the War, the Library opened up in a facility once occupied by a school on Sw. Marcin Street 65 (in the years 1951-1989 Red Army Street). Some rescued remnants of various book collections from the whole city were housed there. In time, the new holdings were systematically expanded and made available in a general reading room and a newspaper reading room. Since 1949, a network of branch libraries encompassing the whole city has been developing. In 1956, the reconstruction of the historic library building and Wolnosci Square was completed; some library offices as well as the special collections have been located there.