Let me Know by Letter! Contemporaries of Ferenc Széchényi on his Founding a Library

Let me Know by Letter! Contemporaries of Ferenc Széchényi on his Founding a Library

Let me Know by Letter! Contemporaries of Ferenc Széchényi on his Founding a Library
Edited, letters selected and arranged for press by Eszter Deák Eszter and Edina Zvara; Letters in Latin translated by Endre Attila Csobán and Róbert Szvorényi; Letters in German translated by Eszter Deák
NSZL–Kossuth Publishing House, Budapest, 2012., 280 pages
ISBN 978 963 097 439 4

6 490,- Ft

This beautifully illustrated book celebrates 210 years of the foundation of National Széchényi Library with a selection of the greeting letters to Ferenc Széchényi upon receiving the first copies of the catalogue of his library. The authors are renowned Hungarian and foreign personalities of that era’s cultural, academic and political life.

From the 1770s on, Count Ferenc Széchényi (1754–1820) was a conscious collector of Hungary-related prints, manuscripts, maps and coins that he added to his family library located first in Horpács, and then in Nagycenk. In his foundation letter dated 25 November 1802 he offered this rich private collection to the nation, and upon the approval of King Francis I on the 26 November it officially became the Library of the Hungarian Nation, today’s National Széchényi Library. Széchényi personally financed the publishing of the first three volumes of the library’s catalogue in 1799 and 1800, the copies of which he sent out to writers, scholars, politicians, churchmen, free royal towns, counties, church districts, scholar associations and universities to give notice of the library. In his Latin-language accompanying letter he asked all the recipients to answer in hand-written form, and contribute also themselves to the collection.

And the answers arrived!

Ferenc Széchényi collected them as ’decorous memories’ for posterity, and now they are part of National Széchényi Library’s Manuscript Collection. The approximately 700 autograph letters truly reflect Széchényi’s unparalleled patriotic act and the national reception of his library foundation. Our richly illustrated festive volume edited by Eszter Deák and Edina Zvara contains several photos of the almost 100 manuscripts written in Hungarian or published in translation. The majority of the letters are now made public for the first time. Their authors include Széchényi’s famous Hungarian contemporaries János Batsányi, Mihály Csokonai Vitéz, Sámuel Tessedik, Benedek Virág, Gergely Berzeviczy and Sámuel Teleki, and foreign scholars renowned in all Europe like Göttingen professor Christian Gottlob Heyne and August Ludwig Schlözer.

This source edition is complemented by an essay on Széchényi’s activity as a collector and sponsor of arts, and the biography of the authors of the letters. There is also a 700 item table that shows all the persons and institutions who received copies of Széchényi’s first catalogue.