The Polish Library in Paris, founded in 1838 is situated in the very heart of Paris on the Île Saint-Louis, on the banks of the Seine. It was established by emigrants after the November Uprising of 1830. They wanted to create an oasis of Polish culture and free political thought, a place of meetings and discussion and therefore collected valuable books and artworks, as well as documents and memorabilia of prominent Poles. Despite its name the Library today is both an archive as well as a museum. It houses, among others, the first edition of Nicolaus Copernicus’ works, memorabilia of Frederic Chopin and manuscripts of Adam Mickiewicz.
Participants of the so-called Great Emigration Adam Czartoryski, Adam Mickiewicz, Karol Sienkiewicz and Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz (among others) were all members of the Polish Historical and Literary Society. They aimed to create a library that would collect Polish national literature, a substitute to the Polish National Library in exile of the enslaved nation, an intellectual center for the emigrants, as well as an archive to document the life of Poles on French soil. In time, the Library started also to gather national memorabilia and to create an art collection: paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, photographs and cartographic materials of Polish authors in France.
For the following generations of emigrants the Polish Library was a subject of pride and concern, even though they were not always able to take care of it properly. For the countrymen back in Partition Poland, especially those subjected to Russification and Germanisation and later those exposed to communist propaganda it became a myth — a particular myth, for it was really existing. The methods and authorities responsible for the library’s management changed during the almost 200 years of its existence, and often its development possibilities were influenced by the uncertain financial situation. Yet regardless of its position, especially during times difficult for Poland, the Library was an important bridge between Poland and France.
The Library is until today an important center of Polish culture in France. It serves as a library but, perhaps more importantly, also as an archive and a museum. Visitors can see the Salon Frédéric Chopin where memorabilia of the composer are presented, the Adam Mickiewicz Museum (established by his son Władysław in 1903), and an exhibition of sculptures by Bolesław Biegas. The library and reading room can also be visited, and those conducting scientific research are welcome to use the archival collections. Many cultural events are also taking place in the Library – temporary exhibitions, lectures, meetings with authors and concerts.
The Library’s collection consists of 200,000 volumes, including circa 50 incunables and a few thousand antique books. The archive houses 5,000 manuscripts. The collection also includes 25 thousand drawings and prints, 15 thousand photographs, almost 1,500 paintings, 1,000 posters, 600 medals and coins and 350 sculptures.
THE POLISH LIBRARY IN PARIS:
6, Quai d’Orléans
Tél. 01 55 42 83 83
Fax : 01 46 33 36 31
the museums and the reading room: Wednesday-Saturday: 2.15pm-6pm
the archive: Tuesday-Friday: 9.15am-1pm; 2.15pm-6pm
Translated to English by Magdalena Wójcik