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Czech and Slovak Collections at the Library of Congress

Czech and Slovak materials are held throughout the Library of Congress. The European Reading Room is the reference point for these holdings. This guide provides an overview of materials, in different formats, in the general and special collections.

Overview of the Collections

Detroit Publishing Co. Pravčická brána, Czech Republic. [between ca. 1890 and ca. 1900]. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Reading Room.

The Library of Congress is considered to be the best repository of Czech and Slovak books, periodicals, and other reading materials outside the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The monographs and bound periodicals relating to the culture of the Czechs and Slovaks amount to some 115,000 items, with the yearly acquisitions of monographs averaging about 1,500 over the last 10 years. The Library has about 2,000 Czech and Slovak periodicals, of which about 600 are currently received, and more than 170 Czech and Slovak newspapers, with 14 titles currently received. It is estimated that about 80 percent of all these materials are in Czech or Slovak, English being the predominant language of the rest.

While the Czech and Slovak collections in the Library are generally good, they are especially strong for books and periodicals published after 1945. This is due to the fact that after 1945 monographs and periodicals published in Czechoslovakia (now the Czech and Slovak republics) were purchased by the Library on the basis of a blanket order.

The period of the 1920s and 1930s (the era of the First Czechoslovak Republic) is also well represented. Some of the holdings of works from this period have been acquired retrospectively, with stress being laid on volumes showing the excellent Czechoslovak craftsmanship in book design and printing.

Another area of relative strength is Czech and Slovak exile and samizdat literature published during the Communist era.


The essence of Czech and Slovak history and culture, as it is reflected in published works, is well represented in the Library of Congress. A scholar wishing to explore the best Czech and Slovak achievements in scholarship and spiritual life by focusing on five outstanding figures (John Hus, Comenius, Ján Kollár, Ĺudovít Štúr, Thomas G. Masaryk) would find an astonishing 1,017 volumes by or about these personalities in the LC catalog:

  • John (Jan) Hus, (1369-1415), the religious reformer, 222 volumes
  • Comenius (1592-1670), the noted educator, 512 volumes
  • Ján Kollár (1793-1852), poet, national awakener, 49 volumes
  • Ĺudovít Štúr (1815-56), writer, national awakener, 58 volumes
  • Thomas (Tomáš) G. Masaryk (1850-1937), philosopher, statesman, 286 volumes

A researcher interested in literature would find the following holdings of the six leading authors:

  • Karel Čapek, 285 volumes
  • Jaroslav Hašek, 146 volumes
  • Božena Němcová, 143 volumes
  • Karel Hynek Mácha, 93 volumes
  • Jaroslav Seifert (Nobel Prize winner in 1984), 89 volumes
  • Josef Škvorecký, 119 volumes

The quality of the holdings is also extraordinary. No fewer than 25 of the Comenius volumes are books published before 1800. The Comenius collection in the Library of Congress includes nine editions of his famous Orbis sensualium pictus, including the first American edition published in New York in 1810. Works by Thomas G. Masaryk include the first edition of his first book, Selbstmord als sociale Massenerscheinung (1881) and its English translation, Suicide and the Meaning of Civilization(1970). Both historically important and rare is a microfilmed set of the critical and literary monthly Athenaeum published by Masaryk in 1884-93. Of the works by and about Karel Čapek, one of the first noted European authors of science fiction, the Library has the first American edition (1923) of his 'fantastic melodrama' R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), with photographs of the first American production. Jaroslav Hašek's world-famous Good Soldier Švejk is represented by almost 30 editions (the Czech original and translations into several languages). There are close to 20 editions of the seminal poem "Máj" (May) by Karel Mácha which marks the beginning of modern Czech poetry. The Library has the first edition (1836) and the 100th edition adorned with engravings of Václav Mašek and printed in 100 copies. The collection of the works of Jaroslav Seifert includes the first edition of his first book of poems, Město v slzách (City in Tears) (1920), and a luxury edition of the book Poštovní holub (The Carrier Pigeon) (1929). The latter was published in 350 copies, of which the Library has Copy No. 34, signed by the author.