The private archive of Leszek Kołakowski, internationally renowned Polish philosopher, historian of ideas and writer, was donated to the National Library of Poland in Warsaw by Mrs Tamara Kołakowska, widow of this eminent humanist, in July 2010, one year after his death. As well as an extensive collection of personal documents, the Archive includes manuscripts, typescripts, first printings in the press of most of the philosopher’s papers, notes for his lectures and talks, interviews, an abundant set of correspondence, comments for international press and a number of materials related to the political activity conducted by Kołakowski for many years. Studying Leszek Kołakowski’s Archive helps us to find out how deeply his own personality was engrained in his philosophy. What remained largely unnoticed is that this sceptic who preached in praise of inconsistency was inconsistent in this preaching himself, as he was well
aware of the whole range of situations in human life – which he called “basic human situations” – that required perfect consistency.
In 1950, at the National Library in Warsaw, an institution was created to launch an initiative for preserving collections on a scale unprecedented in Europe. At first, the Microfilm Station was in charge of producing surrogates of the most valuable monuments of writing that had survived the disasters of World War II. In the 1970s, its work was extended by a project of completing the collections of Polish newspapers and journals. In this way, over half a century of microfilming resulted in preserving integral series of periodicals as well as manuscripts, early printed books and mu-
sic documents housed in over 200 institutions in Poland and abroad. Furthermore, the collection of surrogates gathered by the National Library became the most complete scientific workshop for the Polish humanities.
The end of the 20th century and start of the 21st may be considered a symbolic ground-breaking moment, similar to the time barrier between incunables and early printed books. Microfilm studios first began to be equipped with scanners for microcopies, and then for originals. With the smooth transition from microforms to digitisation, the still unanswered question has arisen as to the future of microfilms in the world of digital libraries.
One of the most important music collections in the National Library is a set of 19th-century manuscripts of Elsner’s works. The collection currently consists of 33 pieces signed by the composer’s name. The manuscripts transmitting repertory consisting mainly of religious pieces and music for the stage, once belonged to the Library of the Directorate for State Art Collections and to the Music Library of Government Theatres – both of which found their way into the National Library in the 1930s. In 1940, Elsneriana manuscripts were requisitioned by German musicologists and transported to Berlin to the library of the Advanced School of the NSDAP, and then in 1942 to Cracow for an exhibition dedicated to Fryderyk Chopin. The collection survived, and in 1951 was returned to the National Library. This collection of manuscripts of works by Elsner has great historical value due to the large number of autographs and unique copies, especially among the manuscripts of operas that constitutes documentation of Elsner’s activities as a composer and music director of the National Theatre in Warsaw in the early 19th century.