The history of the imperial public library’s division of natural sciences

The cornerstone of the Imperial Public Library was Załuski brothers’ library that had been taken from Warsaw as a war trophy. Initially, the library holdings brought to St. Petersburg were sorted, based on the language and sectoral principles. Scientifically-based rearrangement of holdings began in 1809, based on A. N. Olenin’s bibliographic system that did not provide for librarians’ administrative responsibility for the divisions entrusted to their care. The divisions were given separate administrative statuses in 1850 when M. A. Korf was the Director. The organization of the Library as a complex of relatively independent divisions existed till the 1930s, having played an important role in providing information support for various branches of the fundamental and applied science. Eventually, this organizational structure began to seriously hinder the Library’s further development and the Library had to be reorganized based on the functional principle.
In this paper, the comprehensive history of the Library’s Division of Natural Science that had practically been created anew in the 1850s is reconstructed for the first time. We have analyzed the work associated, primarily, with creating the systematic catalogs, acquiring new holdings including the Russian scientists’ donations, and servicing the Library’s readers, specialists in natural sciences. The paper shows the dynamics of the readers’ enquiries and changes in the themes of enquiries depending on the readers’ prevailing interests during each period. It is noted that the abundance of foreign holdings in this Division attracted the renowned specialists in natural sciences to join its staff. These included the Head of the Division P. K. Kozlovskii, K. A. Becker who was highly esteemed by Korf, and F. P. Köppen, zoologist / entomologist and one of the founders of the Bureau of International Bibliography at the Academy of Sciences.


Recommended bibliographic description

, The history of the imperial public library’s division of natural sciences, Voprosy Istorii Estestvoznaniia i Tekhniki [Studies in History of Science and Technology], , p.  161-184

    © Studies in the History of Science and Technology: Quarterly scientific journal of the Russian Academy of Sciences (2015)
    ISSN 0205-9606. Индекс 70143