Provincial Library of the Capuchin Province in the Czech Republic
In 1575, the first attempt to bring the Capuchin Order into the Czech Republic is linked to the name of the Archbishop of Prague, Antonín Bruse from Mohelnice. And it was only twenty- four years later in 1599, when the Capuchins finally arrived under the leadership of St Lawrence of Brindisi at the request of Archbishop Zbyněk Berka from Lipé and Dubé and with the support of Pope Clement VII. Thus Prague became the birthplace of a new province. After long negotiations with the town, a parcel of land for the building of the friary was chosen in the district called Hradčany where, after the Emperor’s authorisation, the cornerstone was laid on 23 May 1600.
Probably the first friars brought some of the books with them, but this can only be proven by a detailed analysis of the library itself. Friars who came later to the Prague friary surely took advantage of their convent to enhance their spiritual life and preaching ministry by the much needed collection of books. The extensive introduction to the Catalogus librorum bibliothecae Fratrum Capucinorum Pragae in Hradczin written in 1728 offers an insight into the development of the library in the 17th century.
Prime place in the lists of books belongs to the list created in 1669 by Atanáš of Rosenheim, which contains 2,322 items. Individual books were categorized alphabetically. The largest part of this collection was comprised of scholastic and philosophical works. Over the years the library was amplified by another 1,136 items, as documented by another catalogue written by Julián of Salzburg in 1675. The friars who deserve special mention regarding the development of the library are Pavlín of Morava, Markvard of Halberstadt or Aurelián of Svitavy. By the end of the 17th century the library already housed 5,036 items.
In 1720 countess Markéta of Valdštejn announced her intention of supporting and strengthening the Prague library, also paying to enlarge the library. The precise number of books donated by this benefactor is difficult to estimate, but we get some idea from the catalogue of 1728, where 8,021 items are mentioned as comprising the collection of Hradčany. Moving these items into the newly established library brought a new system as well as the mending of damaged volumes when the spine of the books was painted grey with pink in the corner. The friary together with the library survived the enlightenment decrees of the Emperor Joseph II, which in the case of Hradčany were not carried out. In the years 1850-1852 another library catalogue containing 10,051 items was printed. And by 1889 there were already 12,000 books.
The friary as well as the library survived World Wars I and II. A change comes in 1950 when political power in the country shifts into the hands of the Communist Party and the Capuchins are exiled from their convent. By this time the library contains 27,000 items. The books are apportioned out to state museums and institutions. In the 1990’s when the friars return to their convent, their books are returned as well. Thus in the Prague library there are items from the other convents of the province. At the provincial chapter in 1997 it was decided that the provincial library would hold all returned prints and manuscripts of our friaries that were occupied in 1950. The main part of the library is located in Prague – Hradčany and the other in Brno. The books from Sušice are held in its town library. At present the Hradčany library has newly catalogued approximately 23,000 items, 5,000 titles from the 19th and 20th centuries in addition to a collection of periodicals and 545 ancient manuscripts. There are still about 10,000 of these prints waiting to be catalogued.
LITERATURe:BAJGER, Matyáš. Knihovny kapucínských klášterů v Čechách a na Moravě. Brno: Masarykova univerzita. Filozofická fakulta. Ústav české literatury a knihovnictví. Kabinet knihovnictví, 2004. 86 s., 11 s. příloh. Vedoucí diplomové práce Mgr. Zdeněk Kučera, Ph.D.RABAS, Vavřinec. Řád kapucínský a jeho působení v Čechách v 17. století. Praha: [Vydavatelstvo Časopisu katolického duchovenstva], 1937. xii, 164 s. (Knihovna Časopisu katolického duchovenstva. Řada nová; č. 8.).