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The Library of the Faculty of History

The Library of the Faculty of History (formerly of the Institute of History) was formally established in 1930. However, its beginnings date back to 1915 when the reborn Polish University of Warsaw was inaugurated on 15 November and the Historical Seminar was opened there (largely thanks to Marceli Handelsman, later the first director of the IH). It conducted studies within the framework of five faculties (from 1919 – chairs). In 1916, their joint book collection, formed mainly from two former Russian collections (rich in West European source publications): the collection of the Higher Female Courses and the Historical and Philosophical Seminar of the Imperial University, as well as from doubles of the University Library and doubles donated by the Warsaw Scientific Society, amounted to 929 volumes.

By the time IH was established in 1930, the book collection had grown to 6865 volumes, and before the outbreak of World War II, it had almost doubled to about 12,000 volumes. However, the conflagration of the war consumed half of the collection. Its postwar reconstruction was made possible by the purchase of the fortunately saved library of the founder of the Historical Institute Prof. Marceli Handelsman (who died in a German concentration camp in March 1945) and the acquisition of a part of Prof. Oskar Halecki’s book collection.

Currently, the Library of the Faculty of History is the largest independent library in Poland with a historical profile, abundant in literature and source publications from all epochs from antiquity to modern times. The systematically supplemented collection of Polish and foreign publications is excellent support both for research conducted at WH UW and for university teaching in the field of historical sciences and related specializations and skills such as archival science and editing.

In 2020 the collection of BWH amounted to over 239 thousand units, including over 180 thousand books, about 49 thousand journals, over 1100 old prints, over 3220 maps, and among the separate source and teaching materials: about 14 thousand photographs and photocopies, 650 microfilms, nearly 200 stamp imprints. The most valuable part of BWH’s special collections is the collection of old prints, comprising 1003 works in 1105 volumes from the nineteenth and eighteenth centuries. Besides monuments of old historiography and works from the field of auxiliary sciences of history, it contains a number of rare source prints, atlases, maps, and plans.