Skip to Main Content

Bosnia & Herzegovina and the Bosnian Collections in the Library of Congress

Bosnian materials are located throughout the Library of Congress with the European Reading Room as the main point of contact. This overview of the collections describes books, electronic resources, journals, visual materials, and other special formats.


Image of the bridge in Mostar
Charles Pelerin. L'Herzégovine et le pont de Mostar [Herzegovina and the Mostar Bridge]. 1861. Library of Congress General Collections.

The Library of Congress has been collecting publications from Bosnia for about 100 years and has amassed a collection particularly strong in the areas of history, literature, economics, law, and the political and cultural life of the peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The intent of this guide is to provide an overview of the collections from and about Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Library of Congress to enable a researcher to assess if a visit to the Library will be necessary to undertake research. With descriptions of various genres of publications, as well as a bit of history on the development of the collections, the guide covers collection materials across most reading rooms and internal divisions of the Library, including our digital collections.

During the Austrian period of Bosnian history, 1878-1918, the Library of Congress acquired almost no publications from the region. It was not until Bosnia and Herzegovina became part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia that some materials began to trickle in via the International Exchange Service (managed by the Smithsonian Institution) or that a small number of purchases of Bosnian publications were made. Some philological titles also were acquired from the library of professor Martin Hattala (1821-1903) in 1904, namely for Bosnia, an ethnographic work Balkan-divan. Viesti, misli i prouke o zemlji i narodu, navlast u Bosni i Hercegovini by the Croatian Velimir Gaj.

Most publications from the 19th and early 20th centuries in the Library's collection were acquired decades after they appeared in print. The earliest acquisitions about Bosnia were works in English or German that were published in countries outside of Southeast Europe such as Das geschichtliche Verhältnis Bosniens zu Kroatien und Ungarn, perhaps the earliest book in the Library of Congress collection on Bosnia that was received via an international publications exchange. Another source of German-language publications on Bosnia and Herzegovina was the Redlich Collection of 864 Austrian publications acquired by the Library in 1941 from Dotation Carnegie Pour la Paix Internationale (Carnegia Endowment for International Peace) in Paris. Examples of pertinent works from this collection include Von Brod bis Sarajevo, a history of the region with fold out maps, and Gesammelte reden gehalten in der I. session des bos.-herc. Landtages, a collection of speeches from the first session of the Bosnian parliament published in Sarajevo in 1910.

Before World War II, publications exchanges and transfers of materials from other federal libraries were the most important methods of acquisition of Bosnian and Herzegovinian materials, with a few purchases or gifts. Large-scale exchanges and purchases began only in the late 1940s and provided not only a majority of the Bosnian publishing output of titles of research value, but also enabled some retrospective acquisitions of materials dating back before the war. Gaps in journal runs were filled and a few newspapers from Sarajevo began to be collected systematically. The Library's acquisition of materials from South Slavic countries was accelerated in 1967 with the introduction of the Public Law 480 Program, which enabled the Library to use Yugoslav domestic currency to set up an office in Belgrade and to purchase systematically all new titles from all parts of Yugoslavia and to subscribe to the most important journals and newspapers. The Library's Belgrade office operated for five years, and offered a unique opportunity for acquiring those titles that were issued in smaller print runs. Strong, comprehensive collecting of scholarly and current events materials begun during the communist era continues to this day with the Library maintaining both exchanges and an approval plan for Bosnian publications and acquiring approximately 3,000 pieces (both books and periodical issues) per annum. The collection has grown to over 12,000 titles published in Bosnia and Herzegovina, plus hundreds more titles about Bosnia published in other countries, one of the largest in the United States.

Bosnian Language Code

A note about the Bosnian language is needed. In the year 2000 the Library of Congress began to catalog many publications from Bosnia and Herzegovina with a code for the newly designated Bosnian language. As of 2023 the Library's collection of Bosnian materials contained approximately 6,000 titles with this code. The remainder of the materials from Bosnia will be cataloged in the Serbian (about 2,100 titles) or Croatian (about 2,700 titles) languages, or in other languages as appropriate. The researcher who attempts to use the language limiting feature in the online catalog should be aware of these sometimes imprecise language designations for much of the Bosnian collection.

Library of Congress Guides to Bosnian Resources

In addition to this overview-guide of the Bosnian collections, staff of the Library of Congress have produced several other more detailed guides on Bosnian resources. They are linked below.