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The Collections Of The Library

The old material of the library was gathered mostly by donations from the local community, which gives a social cross-section of three and a half centuries’ book-collecting and reading Székelys. In this regard it has a library museum character.

1. Codices, letters patent, manuscripts

Our only surviving codex is the most valuable item not only in the library, but in the whole museum. The other items, the partially researched codices of the 16th–18th century, namely the Vasady-Codex, the Csereyné-Codex, the Emília-Codex, and the Apaffiné-Codex, containing the work of Sebestyén Tinódi Lantos considered to be his first, a variant of one of the earliest poems of Bálint Balassi, rare recipes of medicine and dishes, have unfortunately become the victims of the rescuing attempts from World War II. The Csereyné-Codex was the eldest known Hungarian psalm book.

The Apor-Codex, this partially preserved breviary, with the monogram of the writer Péter Apor on the cover, conceals – among other things – the psalms of the first Hungarian Bible-translation, the so-called Hussite Bible, including the prosaic translation of the well known Psalm XC, (at that time Psalm LXXXIX, according to the Catholic Vulgata) so popular since the Reformation and following the activity of Albert Szenczi Molnár. The Hussite Bible can be considered the fourth Hungarian literary work, following the Halotti beszéd és könyörgés (Funeral Prayer), the Ómagyar Mária-siralom (Old Hungarian Marian Lament), and the Legend of St Francis; the other parts can be found within the Vienna-Codex and the Munich-Codex. The codex was compiled around 1500 on the Nyulak Island (today Margit Island in Budapest), and it was bound around 1520 in a printing shop in Buda. It had probably survived the Turkish occupation in Buda, and after the reclaiming of the city it was taken to the court library in Vienna. That is where Péter Apor brought it back from in 1699. It was donated to the Székely National Museum by his great-great granddaughter, Baroness Zsuzsánna Apor – Pünkösti Gergelyné, so it arrived first to Imecsfalva, then to Sepsiszentgyörgy. It survived the end of World War II in Budapest, where it had been taken for a reprint edition. (The restoration of the codex was plannned even in those days, but it was only carried out in 2009–2010 at the National Széchényi Library.) The discovery of the Apor-Codex and the Csereyné-Codex by Gyula Vasady Nagy was the first outstanding scientific exploit of the museum, and the reason why we have been constantly receiving the publications of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences since 1881.

The collection of letters patent, compiled by Dénes Cs. Bogáts, was scheduled to be edited by János Herepei already in 1943, but the war interfered. The typed manuscript of the volume was preserved in the Bogáts-fund, but the letters patent were taken away in the evacuation from 1944, respectively by the formation of the state archive in 1961. At present we can provide five letters patent, respectively fragments from these letters from the 16th,–17th centuries, issued by reigning princes of Transylvania and by Ferdinánd III, King of Hungary.

Up to 1945 within the manuscripts we could have found valuable works by important authors from Háromszék, such as the first copy after Metamorphosis Transylvaniae by Péter Apor (the publishing of the book was made after a later copy), the original manuscript of the first work of Péter Bod (Besiege of the House on the Rock), the first article of József Benkő, still a manuscript, called Filius Posthumus etc. The remaining twelve meters of material shows visitation records, psalm books, military works, mixed within works of pilgrimage literature.

2. Books

The most important collections are the following:

No incunabulum was preserved; the only existing missal-fragment shared the fate of the evacuated material. We have just about one and a half dozen of 16th century books, which have survived the world war. The number of 17th century books is around four hundred. There are thirty volumes left from the Old Hungarian Library series (Hungarian works before 1711), which are the most important ones for us. We have the only complete edition of the articles of the 1633 Transylvanian Parliament, printed in the short-lived print shop of Jakab Lignicei in Gyulafehérvár. The material from the 18th century is far richer. Of the many thousand pieces, about two hundred and fifty Hungarian volumes were considered of outstanding importance by the specialists of the National Széchényi Library from Budapest, being included in the corpus of the Old Hungarian Prints (Hungarian prints from the beginnings to 1800).

Because of their printing, the books published by the Franciscans of Csíksomlyó are extremely important, ranging from the Latin and Hungarian Tripartitum, the booklet printed for the consecration of the chapel from Lake Szent Anna, to the pulp novel describing the execution of Marie Antoinette and to a 19th century education manual. Csíksomlyó was the central point of Hungarian reinforcing of Catholicity during the 16th century; without its later neighbourhood, the headquarters of the Székely Infantry from Csík, we cannot talk about the beginnings of the Hungarian freemasonry; the first newspaper of the Székelyföld was born here, in its printing shop, because of the demand related to the events of 1848–1849. The first newspaper from Háromszék was also printed during the Hungarian Revolution, along with the first book, a Reformed spelling-book from Kézdivásárhely.

Regarding their content, a significant part of the books represent ecclesiastic and law literature. Practical, professional-educational works were becoming more and more frequent among the Hungarian books as early as the 18th century. Agricultural works, dietetics were gradually completed and substituted by Hungarian belles lettres and science; handbooks, dictionaries in greater and greater numbers. Belles lettres means Pázmány, Mátyás Nyéki Vörös, Gyöngyösi, Dugonics, Gvadányi, the dramas of Farkas Bolyai, Himfy, Kölcsey, illustrating the development of the modern Hungarian literature, not to mention the rich material from the reform era and later, up to the books edited in Transylvania in the interwar period.

Many of the first edited great Hungarian scientific works are also related to our region (Péter Bod: Magyar Athenás; the group led by György Aranka, an atelier accomplishing the first critical edition of Janus Pannonius, while we possess the second edition of Zrínyi’s Török áfium...), the first Hungarian mineralogy by Ferenc Benkő, the first manual of chemistry by Ferenc Nyulas. These are followed by such an outstanding work, as the Tentamen of Farkas and János Bolyai, with the famous appendix that was to create a new world. In parallel with the great dictionaries we can observe the renewal of the language in different scientific areas, such peculiarity as the volume entitled A szolgálat regulamentuma az erdélyi felkelő nemesség lovasságának számára (1810), the regulation of the cavalry of the Transylvanian nobility, and also the first Hungarian manual of general geology by Mihálka, a volume from the later period of the Hungarian language reform.

The manuals represent a separate and rich collection. As a curiosity we can mention is the MD dissertation of Pál Kovács, a writer belonging to the Aurora circle, a pedagogical work on women, which was published in 1833 under the title A Nevendék Nőnem. Another aspect of information services and distribution was represented by the rich material of ecclesiastic, military, civilian registers, attending the early statistical works, or the multitude of mixed calendars, including some rarities.

Popular literature, having its place in this classification, is represented by the pulp novels of the trades from the dualist period, together with the cheap criminal stories of the “Hungarian world”. Later on, characteristic to the totalitarian system, an odd genre becomes quite appreciated: the brochure, serving the most varied types of propaganda, a print whose place is among the booklets.

3. Hungarian periodicals and newspapers

This group can be discussed only starting with the end of the 18th century and in parallel with the evolution of the books. Instead of presenting our outstanding collection, we would like to outline the fact that we have a rich material starting with the beginnings of Hungarian journalism (Magyar Hírmondó from Bratislava, edited by Sándor Esztelneki Szatsvai and Dániel Pántzél, but also the Magyar Kurir, Magyar Merkurius and Magyar Minerva from Vienna, Mindenes Gyűjtemény, Sokféle, Magyar Könyv-ház from Komarno etc.).

The milestones of Hungarian and Transylvanian scientific organization were the first academic journals, the first thematic scientific-educational periodicals, showing sometimes regional ambitions or a mixed content with belles lettres (Tudományos Gyűjtemény, A Magyar Tudós Társaság Évkönyve, the 1814 Erdélyi Múzeum, Marosvásárhelyi füzetek by Mentovich, the 1856 Erdélyi Múzeum appendices, EME Évkönyve from 1860; Nemzeti Gazda, Fillértár, Mentor erdélyi népkönyv, Természetbarát etc.).

The scientific periodicals started in the dualist period or later are indispensable collections of our scientific library even in our days. We will not enumerate the rich diversity of the belles lettres and cultural periodicals, as there is a wide palette of items from the satirical and fashion papers of the 19th century up to the Transylvanian periodicals of the interwar period (e. g. Pásztortűz, Korunk, Hitel).

Among the Hungarian newspapers excels the offer of 1848–1849, but there is also a rich collection of Transylvanian Hungarian papers from the turn of the 19th–20th century, from the interwar period and from the era of popular democracy as well. With some small hiatuses we were able to compile a continuous series of local newspapers. Our first paper, the Nemere moved from Brassó to Sepsiszentgyörgy in 1874, where in the 1880s József Málik, one of the best editors of that time, turned it into the Székely Nemzet, which later one becomes the Székely Nép. After World War II it was followed by the Népi Egység up to 1948, but there were two decades without our own paper, a period of time which lasted to the administrative reform of 1968 (enabling the start of the Megyei Tükör: today the Háromszék).

4. Booklets, diplomas, and posters

In this category we include the funeral orations, occasional poetry, pamphlets, warrants and bills, obituaries, invitations, cards, writing papers with heading or monogram, forms and letters etc. We also have an important collection of decrees, some being signed by more than outstanding personalities. One can find here the articles of the 1633 Transylvanian Parliament, already mentioned above, but also the leaflet from Vienna containing the answer of the imperial and royal committee to the demands of the orders sustaining Ferenc Rákóczi II in 1706, the warrant issued for the arrest of Horea and the other Romanian rebels, the proclamations of General Bem to the people of Transylvania in 1848–1849. Among the leaflets we can find some rarities such as the proclamation to the Székely soldiers from March 1919. The collection of obituaries, containing many thousand items, is a quite valuable genealogical material.

The majority of the colourful and spectacular diplomas is given by the ones from the 19th and 20th centuries, certifying the attendance and membership of someone, being first of all a testimony of the entire society life and events of the bourgeois world. Like in the case of any other library collection, it is necessary to mention the handmade unique pieces. Naturally the letters of nobility were not discussed here, but there are newer interesting things too: the freeman diploma given by the city of Sepsiszentgyörgy to József Potsa, lord of the county, made in Budapest, which is a masterpiece of typography and goldsmithery. Another interesting piece dates from the year of the world crisis breakout, 1929, and it is a document in honour of the Székely National Museum jubilee, hand made by Károly Gulyás, the curator of the Teleki Téka, expressing the fate, the possibilities and the relation between two institutions of the Hungarian minority.

The posters can preserve the history of a given institution, thus they provide the possibility to follow the cultural events of our museum throughout its history. Our most important and complete collection is that of theatre posters, which preserve programmes, names and stories from the end of the 18th century, thus from the early age of Hungarian acting. There were times when the museum, as an institution of leading administrative rank was getting the storeroom copies even from Marosvásárhely. From the other placards of different topics we get to know when and who entered cities during the changes of power, what kind of orders and directions they brought with them; we can also discover who was trying to fight for our community interests and to what extent, or who desired to show himself/herself as their repository.

5. The collection of maps

Our region had been a military borderland for centuries. At the times of military mapping the orders of the two-headed eagle were executed here by three border guard regiments, and Sepsiszentgyörgy, being the headquarters of the Székely Hussar regiment, was the military centre of the lands from Hátszeg to Tölgyes, from Aranyosgyéres to Bodzaforduló. Handmade and printed maps, wall maps, postcard maps, military reports, maps as newspaper appendices, applied maps, educational blank maps, relief and three-dimensional maps, and of course a whole line of atlases of the most diverse specialization make up this collection.

Among our handmade maps we can admire results of cadastral measurements or the documentation of border adjustments. The printed ones hide such treasures as the rare, top secret map of Hungary from 1769, made by Ignaz Müller, a map that could not be consulted without a special authorization from Vienna, not even by the lord of the county. We can take into our hands the maps of Mikovny and Lipszky, maps that praise the work of Ferenc Karacs or specific maps of our region, such as the first Hungarian geological synthesis of Herbich, called A Székelyföld földtana (1878).

We have to mention at least three atlases: the three volumes of Marsigli’s monograph from 1726 entitled Danubius Pannonico-Mysicus, including the spots with deadly gases from Hargita Mountains, a composite volume with a copy of the world’s oldest astrological map based on telescopic observations from 1742, and the Oskolai magyar új átlás by Ésaiás Budai, edited in Debrecen in 1804, which was in fact the third Hungarian school atlas (the first had been edited by the same group four years earlier).

6. Archive and special funds

The Székely National Museum is the only Hungarian minority scientific institution and public collection which has its own continuous, practically complete institutional archive. Its material from 1875 to the beginning of the present-day organization and legal status is an organic part of the library.

Concerning the funds that are preserved here, we have to point out the books and documents of the former curators of the museum (first of all Géza Nagy, Ferenc László, János Herepei, Dénes Bogáts, Samu Konsza, Zoltán Székely, Ádám Kónya) and the funds of Gábor Bálint Szentkatolnai, Károly Kós, Lajos Roediger, Ernő Balás, Gyula László, Pál Binder, and Zsombor Kádár. Gábor Bálint, the polyglot Orientalist, whose character appears in G. B. Shaw’s Pygmalion was the helping hand of the founders of our museum, and we keep his manuscripts and books. It is well known that the library of Károly Kós was destroyed at the end of World War II, but a part of the remaining books and manuscripts (his Turkish vocabulary from Constantinople, bibliophile booklets printed by him, such as Atila királról ének) were given to our museum. The photographs of the multitalented, long-lived Lajos Roediger were registered into our photo collection, while his manuscripts and other materials were partly taken into the national archives in 1961, partly left in our archive. Ernő Balás, the politician, trade union activist and above all an engineer of the interwar period, was planning the industrialization of Transylvania and the electrification of the Székelyföld.

On 1 April 2015 MAGMA Contemporary Art Space from Sfântu Gheorghe celebrated its 5 years anniversary. During these five years we have collaborated with around 250 artists, art theorists, philosophers, etc. and together we contributed to what MAGMA is today.[ details ]
MAGMA Contemporary Art Space from Sfântu Gheorghe cordially invites you to the opening of the group exhibition Examples for Non-universal Chair on March 18, 2015 at 18:00. [ details ]
MAGMA Contemporary Art Space from Sf. Gheorghe kindly invites you to the opening of the exhibition 'DREAMHUNTING' by Igor BUHAROV (Kornél SZILÁGYI), Ivan BUHAROV (Nándor HEVESI) and Vasile CROAT (László HORVÁTH). [ details ]
On January 15, 2015 at 19:00 MAGMA Contemporary Art Space from Sfântu Gheorghe cordially invites you to the opening of the exhibition entitled The geometry of water by Hungarian artist Ágnes PÉTER winner of the first prize at the second edition of the International Graphic Art Biennial in Szeklerland.[ details ]
SALON VIDEO and MAGMA Contemporary Art Space cordially invite you to the opening of the archive-exhibition salonvideo_SUBmissions.[ details ]
Magda CSUTAK // Solo Exhibition[ details ]
Ivan Ladislav GALETA solo exhibition[ details ]
Opening: 14. February, 2014., 19:00[ details ]
Group exhibition[ details ]
Zoltán Szegedy-Maszák & Márton Fernezelyi [ details ]
The 35-year anniversary exhibition of MAMŰ[ details ]
Prints, Drawings and Photos from the Ethnological Archives[ details ]
MAGMA Contemporary Art Space invites you to the opening of the exhibition entitled Master and disciple 4 of the artists Ilona NÉMETH and Jaro VARGA [ details ]
Joint temporary exhibition of the Hungarian Museum of Trade and Tourism, the Hungarian Museum for Science, Technology and Transport and the Fazakas & Kimmel Collection [ details ]
The commune Árkos and the Covasna County Capital, Sepsiszentgyörgy will host an extraordinary event: the ‘Spiral’ International Contemporary Art Symposium takes place here at the Training Center and the garden of the Szentkereszty Castle. [ details ]
Our exhibition attempts to give an overview of the main events, effects and consequences of the greatest plague epidemic of European history, the Black Death, which first devastated Europe in 1347-1349. [ details ]
Holidays and Encounters II. – Ethnographic exhibition and Europe in Miniature cultural program in the Székely National Museum[ details ]
Executive editor: Vargha Mihály.
© Copyright: The Székely National Museum, 2023.