Central catalogue of early printed books in the National Library - no future? A contribution to a debate
In the 1930s Kazimierz Piekarski created a central catalogue of early printed books at the National Library in Warsaw. By the outbreak of World War II around 100 000 books were recorded there; in addition, files of owners and bindings were created. The materials were destroyed by the Germans during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. After the war the work was began anew. The Early Printed Book Centre and then the Early Printed Books Unit at the National Library, headed by Alodia Kawecka-Gryczowa, began cooperation with state and church libraries which would send copies of their catalogue cards to the central catalogue; at the same time the National Library staff carried out registration at various centres. Professor Kawecka-Gryczowa’s work was crowned by the publication of the central catalogue of 15th century printed books (Incunabula quae in bibliothecis Poloniae asservantur, vol.1–3, 1970–1993). Today, the central catalogue of early printed books contains descriptions of about 1 million books from over 150 libraries and has two sections: Polish-themed books and foreign books. Unfortunately, so far there has been no attempts to convert these materials into an electronic information source. The author presents arguments for the creation, on the basis of the existing central catalogue, of a separate on-line catalogue containing only descriptions of early printed books, and emphasises the fact that the database of Polish-themed books should be created first. Karol Estreicher’s digitally remastered Polish bibliography should be used to this end. In order to create a modern – not only in terms of access – source of information about early printed books, this database should then be expanded to include new information. This information is to a large extent already available in the card index of the central catalogue and in contemporary results of research into old culture. Modified descriptions should be verified with the owners and complemented by the sigla of the relevant libraries. Records of foreign printed books can be compiled on the basis of the information from the HPB database run by the Consortium of European Research Libraries.