Michał Spandowski

A TRACE OF SAVONAROLA IN THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF POLAND

Girolamo Casanate (1620-1700), a Roman cardinal, donated his magnificent library for public use.  A year after his death, a library housing his collection opened in a specially constructed building, and ever since it has been in operation under the name of Biblioteca Casanatense.  Both the representative salone monumentale as well as the remaining stacks were then furnished with bookcases, where the arrangement of books has not changed to this day.

This kind of a situation, quite common among the historic libraries of Western Europe, was absolutely rare in our part of the continent, especially in Poland where the history of libraries was usually stormy and often tragic. This first case is best illustrated by one of the incunabula held at present at the National Library, the history of which we shall present below.  It is the Summa Theologica. Pars secunda secundae, by St. Thomas Aquinas, published in 1479 in Venice by Leonard Wild in folio (H1C2* 1463, IBP3 5315), its current call number being Inc. F. 1213.

St. Thomas Aquinas was one of the most frequently printed authors in the 15th century  – the working GW4 card-file lists around 330 editions of his works (or works ascribed to him).  Of all the texts he authored, the Summa Theologica, published either in its entirety or in parts, comes to the fore.  In Poland we have 29 editions of the Summa  (3 editions of Parts I-III as a whole; of individual parts published separately: 7 editions of Part I; 5 editions of Part II,1; 10 editions of Part II,2; and 4 editions of Part III), most of which (17 in all) came out in Venice. The popularity of the separately published parts of this monumental work stems from its volume, for example the entire Summa published in 1496 by Anton Koberger in Nürnberg5 numbers 832 folios in all.   

The copy under scrutiny arrived at the National Library shortly after World War II, when in 1946 the Greek Catholic Orthodox Church was suppressed in Poland and the state treasury took over its property, including the book collection of the Greek Catholic chapter in Przemyśl.  The preserved bookplate indicates the original owner of the incunable (fig. 1).

The nucleus of that library was formed by a collection numbering several hundred volumes held in the Greek Catholic cathedral in Przemyśl, gradually extended by gifts donated by, among others, bishops Maksymilian Ryłło (in 1792) and Jan Śnigurski (ca. 1833). A Przemyśl canon, Jan Ławrowski, is considered the proper founder of the Library of the Greek Catholic Chapter in Przemyśl. In 1835, he donated a substantial part of his own holdings – 7,727 works in 11,869 volumes – to the Chapter library which was then begun. As time went by, the size of the library continued to grow, chiefly owing to gifts, and by the summer of 1939 it had reached nearly 35,000 volumes.  After the library’s holdings were taken over by the state in 1946, they were divided and underwent partial dispersion. The main core of these holdings found shelter at the National Library, around five thousand volumes at the Catholic University of Lublin, and a small part of the collection remained on site in Przemyśl – at the National Museum, the State Archives and the Society for the Advancement of Sciences.6

The original owner of the volume under investigation was also Jan Ławrowski, whose stamp bearing the text: “Ex libris Joan.Lawrowski archidec. P” is placed on the recto of the first leaf (fig. 2, bottom). Who was Jan Ławrowski?

Jan Ławrowski  (1773-1846) was born in Terka, near Wołkowyja (district of Lesko).  He attended the Greek-Catholic Seminary in Lviv, after which he studied philosophy and theology at the university there and obtained doctorates in both disciplines. In 1798 he was ordained as a priest and became the prefect of the seminary and also a lecturer in philosophy and theology at the university.  In 1815, upon his resignation from the university chair, he was appointed the rector of the Greek-Catholic seminary and the canon of the Metropolitan Chapter in Lviv. In 1820 he moved to Przemyśl where he assumed the post of cathedral preacher (until 1833) and canon of the diocesan chapter. He was a pro-synodal examiner for three Lviv dioceses (Latin, Greek-Catholic and Armenian) and two Przemyśl  dioceses (Latin and Greek Catholic), as well  as the Director of the Cantors’ and Teachers’ Institute (in 1831-1835 and 1837-1840), and the first director (until 1832) of the Greek Catholic printing house bought in 1828 from the widow of Jan Gołębiowski. He published a number of works on theology and on the school system in Galicia. From 1820 he had been an honorary member of the Cracow Scientific Society. He was a bibliophile and gathered an impressive book collection (ca. 1818 it numbered over 15,000 volumes, and in 1832, ca. 33,000, including around 300 manuscripts and incunabula), as well as a numismatic and iconographic collection. He donated them to the newly created Greek Catholic chapter libraries in Lviv and Przemyśl. The second donation took place in 1835, and the confirmation of the act of donation in 1846.7      

Before Jan Ławrowski, our book belonged to the monastery of the Dominicans in Graz, as shown by the ex libris (directly underneath where Ławrowski put his stamp), which reads as follows: “Prima secundae Sancti Thomae conuentus Graecensis sancti sanguinis ordinis Praed[icato]r[um]” (fig. 2, top of page).



1 L. Hain, Repertorium bibliographicum,in quo libri omnes ab arte typographica inventa usque ad annum MD typis expressi ordine alphabetico vel simpliciter enumerantur vel adcuratius recensentur, Vol. 1-2. Stuttgartiae – Lutetiae Parisiorum 1826-1838.

2 W. A. Copinger, Supplement to Hain’s Repertorium bibliographicum. P. 1-2. London 1895-1902. Repr.: Berlin 1926.

3 Incunabula quae in bibliothecis Poloniae asservantur, Vol. 1. moderante Alodia Kawecka-Gryczowa composuerunt Maria Bohonos et Elisa Szandorowska, Wratislaviae 1970; Vol. 2: Addenda. Indices, moderante Alodia Kawecka-Gryczowa composuerunt Maria Bohonos, Michael Spandowski et Elisa Szandorowska, Wratislaviae 1993.

4  Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke. Herausgegeben von der Kommission für den Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke. Bd. 1-7, Leipzig 1925-1938. Bd. 8-11, Berlin – Stuttgart – New York 1978-2008 (repr.: Vol. 1-7, Stuttgart – New York 1968).

5 HC* 1436, IBP 5297.

6 To find out more about the library’s history cf. i.e. the introduction to: Z. Żurawińska, Z. Jaroszewicz-Pieresławcew,  Katalog druków cyrylickich XV-XVIII wieku w zbiorach Biblioteki Narodowej [The Catalogue of 15th-18th Century Cyrillic Books in the National Library Collection],  Warszawa 2004, pp. 13-14.

7 To see biographies of Ławrowski cf. i.e. Polski Słownik Biograficzny [Polish Biographical Dictionary], Słownik Pracowników Książki Polskiej [Dictionary of Polish Book Professionals], Encyklopedia Katolicka [Catholic Encyclopedia].