The development of the BFPB

Anežka Baďurová’s text from the CD-ROM Bibliography of Foreign-Language Printed Bohemica 1501–1800. I. 16th and 17th century productions by printworks in the present territory of the Czech Republic. Prague, Czech Republic Academy of Sciences Library 2003.

In the study of the history of book printing in the Czech lands there are still many areas that have to be covered before it is possible to write a coherent, synthetic history of Czech books. This primarily concerns the creation of a monographic material basis, that is as comprehensive as possible an exposition of the activities of individual printworks with all the approaches, relationships and contributions to the culture of the time as well as to later traditions.

In Czech specialist literature there has always been an interest in the history of books, although the possibilities for research have always been dictated (and frequently limited) by the availability of sources, in this case the printed material produced by the printworks under research. the way in which our libraries work, preserving the literary output of previous centuries which can rarely be accessed except by using the name of the author of the published work, has influenced and to a certain extent still influences the choice of themes from the history of book printing in this country. Given this situation, research has focused to a greater extent on Czech printing from the 16th-18th centuries, as an initial basis of excerption is provided for this area of printing production by the Knihopis – the Bibliography of Czech and Slovak Books from the Earliest Ages to the End of the XVIII Century[1], which was completed in 1967. Although Latin and German contributed significantly to the linguistic profile of works published in our lands, the heuristics for research into foreign-language printing production are much more complicated. Foreign-language literature produced in our present territory from the 16th-18th centuries was a logical progression for the bibliographical project of a national retrospective bibliography and, in connection with this, data began to be collected in the mid-1950s by what was then the Main Library of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences[2]; however, in spite of that, to this day the results have not been presented in a book form commensurate with the Knihopis. This means that as far as printed information is concerned researchers have been forced to rely on their own demanding excerption of thematically related bibliographical summaries such as the Bibliography of Czech History by Č. Zíbrt,[3] Wolkan’s inventories of German literature,[4] the Handbook of Classical Poetry[5] and other biographies and published catalogues of various types and levels of processing, whether related to whole libraries or selected book collections.[6] Naturally, the compilers of the bibliography of foreign-language printed Bohemica also provided interested parties with data from unpublished bibliographical material,[7] but this never fully satisfied the requirements of literature searches conceived in a more complex form than is supported by an outline of listed publications or even the card indices of bibliographic descriptions of foreign-language Bohemica (mostly arranged alphabetically according to the author’s name or anonymous title word, with a modest number of accompanying indices). Neither of these possibilities, therefore, increases the means of access to the assembled data. Unfortunately, in the case of the forthcoming Bibliography of Foreign-Language Bohemica too, auxiliary card indices sorted by subject, language or chronology were not established concurrently with the descriptions, nor were links to the names of the translators, adapters, editors, etc, included with the descriptions. the only overviews which guided the writing of the bibliography were records of the descriptions of illustrations and lists of the output of specific printworks. Despite their provisional nature, these auxiliary indices, maintained for the internal use of bibliographers, ended up becoming a valuable resource for many studies concerning the activities of printworks in this country (see note 7). It is hoped that by making them available to the public they will be even more widely used. However, it is necessary to bear in mind that they were intended only as an auxiliary aid and have not undergone systematic revision during the period of the bibliography’s compilation. It is therefore possible that they could contain duplicate records because someone overlooked an edition which had already been recorded or because a work was listed under the name of another author on the basis of a more thorough analysis. the standard of the records also fluctuates – at the outset there was only a very short entry on the work, which was described in detail under the listed author.

The only method which comes close to meeting researchers’ expectations in terms of quick and reliable orientation in bibliographical material is the transfer of existing traditional card-based records into a computer database, naturally with the addition of appropriate key words and the basic classification of works according to anticipated research questions. In the late 1980s, when the work of excerpting and describing foreign-language Bohemica from the collections of Prague’s libraries was drawing to a close, the possibility also arose of utilizing new information technology which was being introduced into some libraries at that time. Unfortunately, there was no software programme available which was suitable for the complicated rules of cataloguing and bibliography, on the basis of which tens of thousands of existing descriptions of old printed material had been processed. At the same time, it was clear that under the existing conditions around 23,000 detailed analytical descriptions of foreign-language Bohemica and a further 22,000 abbreviated records created over decades by different teams and often using different methods could not be quickly edited into a book. Therefore, there was only one solution – to create a database using our own programme. Although this was accomplished[8] and it continues to be used with the history collection in the Library of the CR Academy of Sciences, from the perspective of eager researchers, access to the whole bibliography of foreign-language Bohemica has not been fast enough. At this point it is appropriate to explain some of the aspects which are involved in work on a project of this type and which are barely noticed by those who await its results.

Firstly it is necessary to consider:

  • the techniques necessary to acquire information on the relevant publications and copies from their print run still in existence
  • the amount of material which it is necessary to research, evaluate and then describe bibliographically
  • the number of researchers required for the task and their level of expertise

When, midway through the 1950s, František Horák, then the editor of the Knihopis and at the same time the first director of the Main Library of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, decided to begin collecting lists of foreign-language Bohemica in accordance with Z.V. Tobolka’s plans, he delegated this work to one research group. the source of the printed Bohemica was the National Museum Library because it had (and still has) a separate Bohemical literature section. With a special depository like this it was possible to register the books almost wholesale directly from the shelves, without having to excerpt the shelf marks of the relevant works from the catalogue. In 1961 the registering of foreign-language Bohemica came to an end at the National Museum Library and work shifted to the Strahov Library, which at that time was part of the Museum of National Literature. There, naturally, it was necessary to carry out catalogue excerption – search for Bohemica by reading catalogue cards, verify whether or not they had already been given descriptions at the National Museum, compare those with descriptions with newly discovered printed material – where they corresponded, write in the Strahov shelf mark; where they did not correspond, record them in a notebook as requiring a loan, as with all the other Bohemica discovered and not yet registered at the National Museum. This method was then applied to all the libraries whose collections were examined for the bibliography of foreign-language Bohemica: read card after card in the library catalogue (or record after record in the collection catalogue or inventory list), verify the publications discovered in the bibliographic card index, add the shelf marks of corresponding copies to the existing descriptions, examine any irregularities, supplement the finished descriptions on the basis of comparisons with other discovered material or correct them and describe new finds in detail. At the time when the processing was being completed at the Strahov Library there were three or four people working on the bibliographical descriptions. This same number was subsequently employed at the National Library, and excerption work in the general catalogue and all of the original catalogues of separate collections which the National Library administered at the time was carried out by an external part-time work force. This arrangement – four internal workers and one external part-time worker – remained in place until 1991, when they completed the excerption of foreign-language Bohemica from the volumes of local catalogues from castle libraries administered by the National Museum Library and with it the collection of excerpts from the most important Prague libraries. With other smaller collections, within or outside of Prague, excerption work was carried out independently by the staff of the Department of Historical Bibliography.

The start of the 1990s brought significant changes in the preparation of the bibliography, and not always for the better; in fact, it could even be said that the overall effect appears to have been to slow down the previous pace of work. the order in which these changes are mentioned does not necessarily correspond to their importance, as they all have an almost equal value when taken as a whole. the department underwent a generational shift within a relatively short period – three of the posts on the permanent four-person team were occupied by new staff, graduates fresh from university, some of whom then left for personal reasons after having been trained, to be replaced by others. This continued until 1995, when a more stable line-up was again composed of graduates from the Faculty of Arts. However, in bibliographical work of this kind, experience is gained slowly – the sources, that is old printed works, are best understood and managed through one’s own studies. Therefore, the new bibliography researchers were involved in smaller thematic tasks, connected not only with the bibliography but also with the historical collection of the Academy of Sciences Library, which the Department of Historical Bibliography has had to administer in addition to its bibliographical work since 1967. This participation in selected projects as well as the independent research of the young workers was by no means some kind of self-serving and inappropriate disruption to the smooth continuation of work on the bibliography of foreign-language printed Bohemica. the period itself complicated access to material using the approaches which had been employed in previous years: whereas the necessary printed material had previously been loaned to the Academy of Sciences Library, that advantage was now lost for various understandable reasons. In addition, restitution meant that collections were moved, with some of them remaining inaccessible for study for some time, and it was therefore impossible to continue processing or verifying their Bohemica; the trial operation of the new database programme and the process of improving it also served to slow things down – as with the start of anything new, this was more time-consuming than routine work.

The nature of the bibliographic work in itself naturally changed. Gradually the number of publications for bibliographical description declined and the emphasis shifted to comparing, supplementing and attaching the shelf marks of other copies discovered to the publication described. In short, following the examination of the large historical collections of the Prague libraries it became more difficult to find unknown foreign-language Bohemical works in other book collections. This statement is not intended to justify the exclusion of any smaller collections from the research. Convincing evidence is provided by rare finds, even individual ones, in the libraries of museums, archives and galleries that have been researched. It is only an explanation of why, as seen through statistical tables, there has been a decrease in the number of Bohemical works described.

In an attempt to make the collected bibliographical material accessible as quickly as possible in a form as acceptable as possible to researchers, certain descriptions, originally arranged alphabetically, were divided according to the criteria applied to the concept of foreign-language printed Bohemica:

Listed separately in alphabetical order were:

  • editions of works produced in the 16th century by printworks within the territory of today’s Czech Republic (called foreign-language Bohemica by printer),
  • foreign editions of Bohemical works from the 16th century (i.e. the works of authors originating from the Czech lands or works by foreign authors relating to Bohemia and Moravia – called Bohemica by author and content),
  • editions of works produced in the 17th century by printworks within the territory of today’s Czech Republic (called foreign-language Bohemica by printer),
  • foreign editions of Bohemical works from the 17th century (i.e. the works of authors originating from the Czech lands or works by foreign authors relating to Bohemia and Moravia – called Bohemica by author and content),
  • foreign-language printed Bohemica from the 18th century (by domestic and foreign printworks).

Priority was then given to transferring descriptions of 16th and 17th century Bohemica by printer into the database. Naturally, at the same time research continued where possible into other library collections, during which it would have been unthinkable not to process other finds according to the remaining criteria and time classification. It was clear that the emerging database was still not a reliable guide to all of the bibliographic material which was archived in the card indices, and the decision was therefore taken, as an intermediary stage prior to publishing the entire bibliography (whether in the form of a database or edited into a book), to make the existing card indices available to researchers in the state they were in before computer processing of the data began, by means of scanned copies on a CD-ROM, which allowed researchers easier access to the collected material, at least in its current, though unfortunately uncorrected, form, and in simple alphabetical order according to the title of the work (with chronological sub-ordering of revised editions). This basically allows for only one means of performing a literature search, i.e. browsing the reproduced descriptions, but even that can be of significant help in the interim – both for answering simple questions as to which works were published where and how many times and where a copy of a specific edition is kept, and also, with more patient searching, for the output of specific printworks or even linguistic and thematic ordering, for which the CD-ROM’s extra index and list of printers could act as a guide.

The CD-ROM with its reproduced bibliographic card indices concludes a specific chapter in the history of compiling this national retrospective bibliography, since for several years now the bibliographic descriptions of newly located foreign-language Bohemica have been created solely for the computer database, into which the records from the original card indices are also being gradually transferred. It therefore pays for researchers to supplement their own literature search from the CD-ROM with an enquiry to the ASL Department of Historical Bibliography, whose staff are willing to verify any addenda to the bibliographic database. At the same time an important additional source is the card index of “desiderata”, which contains both brief records of Bohemica which have already been described as well as records excerpted from specialist literature or library catalogues where a description could not yet be created de visu using an extant copy (either because the desiderata from a specific library have not all been described for the bibliography, or because a work cited in the literature has not yet been found in any library collection). the aforementioned card index of desiderata contains 22,000 records acquired in this way, and these are also being gradually transferred into the database, although some of them are very limited in terms of data (e.g. the name of the printer is often missing) or may be incorrect (misprints or other erroneous information copied from the cited literature). the ratio of desiderata to prepared descriptions gives a rough indication of the long-term nature of the retrospective bibliography, conceived using the three aforementioned criteria for foreign-language Bohemica. It might seem that with today’s inundation of electronic catalogues and databases of varying types, accessible from the researcher’s desk, there is no sense in gathering data on printed material related to Czech book production of the previous centuries into another separate database. Undoubtedly these new conditions make it very easy to search for the chosen form of literature, and bibliographers themselves happily and successfully make use of this; nevertheless, it is evident that when it comes to bringing literature search access in line with the demands of national and international research, enormous advantages and resultant authority can be offered by a specialized bibliographical database based on a methodology of description which takes into account the informative value of the documents, analyzed from the viewpoint of the development of a national book culture and its standing in an international context.



[1] Knihopis – Bibliography of Czech and Slovak Books from the Earliest Ages to the End of the XVIII Century. Part I. Incunabula (up to 1500). Part II. Printed material from 1501–1800 (ed. Zdeněk V. TOBOLKA – František HORÁK), Prague 1925–1967. 10 vol.

The CR National Library continues the work of the Knihopis by publishing addenda:

Emma URBÁNKOVÁ, Knihopis – Bibliography of Czech and Slovak Books from the Earliest Ages to the End of the XVIII Century. Addenda. Part I. Incunabula (up to 1500). Prague, CR National Library 1994. 147 pp.

Knihopis – Bibliography of Czech and Slovak Books from the Earliest Ages to the End of the XVIII Century. Addenda. Part II. Printed Material from 1501–1800. Started by Zdeněk V. TOBOLKA, continued by František HORÁK and Bedřiška WIŽĎÁLKOVÁ. Section I. A. Nos. 32-917. with appendix and 16 illustrations. Prague, CR National Library 1994. V, 89 pp. Section II. B-Č. Nos. 918-1908. with appendix and 18 illustrations: nos. 17-34. Prague, CR National Library 1995. 128 pp. Section III. D-J. Nos. 1809-3641. with appendix and 23 illustrations: nos. 35-57. Prague, CR National Library 1996. 208 pp. Section IV. K-L. Nos. 3642-5134. with appendix and 26 illustrations: Nos. 58-83. Prague, CR National Library 1998. 172 pp. Section V. M-O. Nos. 5135-6687. with appendix and 19 illustrations: nos. 84-102. Prague, CR National Library 2000. 174 pp.

Orientation within the main line of the Knihopis is facilitated by selective indexes:

Petr VOIT, Index of authors, translators and editors in: Contributions to the Knihopis 1, Prague, CS State Library 1985. XV, 298 pp.; Petr VOIT, Index of anonymous title words, in: Contributions to the Knihopis 2, Prague, CS State Library 1985. VIII, 227 pp.; Petr VOIT, Index of titles, in: Contributions to the Knihopis 3, Prague, CS State Library 1985. IX, 210 pp.

Concordances with previous bibliographies are also an important support tool for the published volumes of the Knihopis: Bedřiška WIŽĎÁLKOVÁ, Concordance of the Koniáš Keys, Index, Jungmann and the Knihopis, in: Contributions to the Knihopis 6-10. Prague, CS State Library 1987-1988. 5 vol.

An overview of issues involved in bibliographically processing Czech-language publications is given in a number of reports and studies:

František HORÁK, developments and challenges in Czech retrospective bibliography. in: from the theory of librarianship. Scientific-theoretic collection dedicated to the memory of Dr Jaroslav Drtina, CSc. Prague, State Pedagogical Publishers 1970, pp. 131-160.

Mirjam BOHATCOVÁ, Bibliography and the history of book printing. in: National Museum Collection, series C – Literary History, vol. XVI, 1971, pp. 205-242.

František HORÁK, the Knihopis of Czech and Slovak books in reviews and in reality. in: Česká bibliografie 10, 1973, pp. 343-359.

Bedřiška WIŽĎÁLKOVÁ, the Knihopis of Czech and Slovak books (About the completion of the basic series of the list). in: Česká bibliografie 10, 1973, pp. 307-333.

František HORÁK, Czech national retrospective bibliography, in: 2nd national bibliography conference in Czechoslovakia. a collection of material. Prague SK ČSR, Brno SVK, 1981, pp. 107-108.

Petr VOIT, On the verge of a sequel to the Knihopis of Czech and Slovak books, in: Czech Bibliography. a collection of essays and material, vol. 22, 1986, pp. 102-117.

Mirjam BOHATCOVÁ, Addenda to the Knihopis began to be issued, in: Contributions to the Knihopis 11, for Dr. Bedřiška Wižďálková. From friends and colleagues on a significant birthday, National Library 1996, pp. 8-17, rés. Ger, Eng.


[2] A collection of articles and reports on the Bibliography of Foreign-Language Printed Bohemica 1501–1800 is appended to the CD-ROM as an individual section (Studies and reports concerning the bibliographical processing of foreign-language printed Bohemica from 1501–1800), an updated version can be found on the CR Academy of Sciences Library website


[3] Čeněk ZÍBRT, Bibliography of Czech history. Prague 1900–1912. Parts 1-5.


[4] Rudolf WOLKAN, Bibliographie der deutschen Litteratur Böhmens im XVI. Jahrhundert. Prague 1890.

Rudolf WOLKAN, Geschichte der deutschen Literatur in Böhmen und in den Sudetenländern. Augsburg 1925.


[5] Josef HEJNIC – Jan MARTÍNEK (started by Jan HRDINA and Josef TRUHLÁŘ), a handbook of classical poetry in Bohemia and Moravia (Enchiridion renatae poesis Latinae in Bohemia et Moravia cultae). Prague, Academia 1966–1982. Parts 1-5.


[6] An overview of works published after 1945: Josef HEJNIC – Anežka BAĎUROVÁ – Mirjam BOHATCOVÁ, Fragen der bibliographischen Beschreibung und Bearbeitung der tschechischen und fremdsprachigen bohemikalen Drucke des 16.–18. Jahrhunderts. in: Vorträge und Abhandlungen zur Slavistik 17, 1990. 56 pp. (Munich, Verlag Otto Sagner); Anežka BAĎUROVÁ, Zbiory dawnej książki w Republice Czeskiej: stan ich opracowania bibliotecznego i wykorzystanie naukove. in: Roczniki biblioteczne 43, 1999, pp. 69-103. Anežka BAĎUROVÁ, Historical book collections in the Czech Republic and the current state of their library processing. in: Collection of archival papers 2003, no. 2, pp. 641-684.


[7] Studies and dissertations for which manuscript material was also excerpted from the Bibliography of Foreign-Language Printed Bohemica 1501–1800 are included on the CD-ROM under Studies which made extensive use of previously unpublished material from the Bibliography of Foreign-Language Printed Bohemica 1501–1800.


[8] Anežka BAĎUROVÁ – Antonín VÍTEK, the specifics of describing early printed books. in: 4th national conference on bibliography. Collection of papers. Prague, National Library 1991, pp. 25-29.