Joachim Lelewel’s collection: travel descriptions

Joachim Lelewel’s collection: travel descriptions

The personal library of Vilnius University professor Joachim Lelewel (1786-1861) was bequeathed to the university library; to be precise, in 1857 all the books, manuscripts, atlases, and maps were given to a Polish immigrant school in Batignolles, France (Biblioteka Scholy Narodowej Polskiej w Batignolles) with a condition to present the collection to Vilnius University after Lelewel’s death. His last wish was granted in 1926, after the collection was brought from Kurniki. Lelewel’s collection is based on “sciences that help understand historical sources”. It contains many works by the professor himself, although the majority are books on geography, cosmography, Classical times and early modern period of history, as well as travel descriptions, etc. Among the books are works by John Franklin, Adam Olearius, Claudius Ptolemy, Christoph Cellarius, Antoine François Prévost and many other travellers, geographers and historians. There are also about 400 individual works concerning numismatics – numismatic collection catalogues of Belgium, England, Russia, Poland, etc., various studies on numismatics and so on. There is ample material on the November Uprising, as well – various proclamations, public speeches by leaders and participants of the uprising, later studies on the causes of the ultimate failure of the uprising, and so on. The collections contains many books concerning issues of literature and cultural history, textbooks in various languages (Dutch, Turkish, Arabic, Hebrew, etc.), fiction works by Adam Mickiewicz, William Shakespeare and others, multiple dictionaries, encyclopaedias, and bibliographic publications.

Antoine François Prévost, called d’Exiles, usually known simply as the Abbé Prévost (1697-1763) – the French priest, historian, journalist, translator and writer, patriarch of French Romanticism, familiar to most as the author of Manon Lescaut – has also written a monumental 15-volume work Histoire générale des voyages (Universal History of Travels, originally issued between 1746 and 1759). His treatise was very popular among the masses, therefore it was appended and reprinted multiple times. The library stores a slightly newer issue of Histoire générale – 61 volumes (with a few volumes still missing), published between 1748 and 1761. We hope that the virtual version of Histoire générale will not only satisfy curiosity, but will also allow to familiarize oneself with the knowledge of those days through the eyes of the common people and witness their views when they encounter widening horizons of information, breaking stereotypes and dissipating the mists of obscurity. This voluminous publication was a part of Joachim Lelewel’s personal collection – famous Polish-Lithuanian scientist, geographer, cartographer, engraver, and historian, one of pioneers of numismatics in Europe, a sponsor of culture, bibliographer, educator, and professor at Vilnius University, University of Kraków (now Jagiellonian University) and Free University of Brussels.