The base of the parochial book collections of the Catholic church in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth during the Stanislaus era
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Płock Diocese

The basic source for research of the parochial book collections of the diocese were reports of general visitation announced by bishop Michał Jerzy Poniatowski on 8 March 17751, carried out in 1775-1776 and supplemented in 1781 with identical dean's visits recognised as general2 ones. They contained not only information about parochial book collections, but also about the parsons' private book collections.

In the body of Visitation Records of Diocesan Archives in Płock, the visitation records of 262 parishes out of 300 existing in 1772 were preserved. There were no materials regarding the deaneries of Andrzejewo, Kamieńczyk and Łomża, and several reports of individual parishes from other deaneries. For 215 parishes, information about books and for 179 full inventories of book collections have been preserved. All existing reports were printed by Michał Marian Grzybowski in 15 volumes Materials on the History of the Land of Płock3.

Table 1. The identification degree of copies in all collections of books of the diocese of Płock.
Degree of identification None Only genre Author Author and genre Probable Complete Total
Number of copies 386 1952 110 209 410 545 3613
Percentage of the whole collection 11% 54% 3% 6% 11% 15% 100%

In 215 parishes, in which parish book collections were recorded, a total of 3,613 books were collected. I did not manage to identify only 390 of them - i.e. only 11% altogether. The identification of only the genre is the most common and includes numerous liturgical and record books that exist in almost all parishes. It was quite frequently possible to identify the author and the genre because, in response to the questions about the books used in pastoral work, the parsons often responded according to the scheme "sermon + surname". The data given below differ from that presented in the already published article on Płock4 book collections. Firstly, I used a different calculation method - I also took into account the books whose presence and number was stated in the report, but without a detailed inventory. I decided that regardless of the generality of this information, it is important, for example, due to the calculation of the average number of book collections. Additionally, in the meantime, it was possible to identify some of the copies better.

Vilnius diocese

In contrast to the diocese of Płock, information on book collections comes from several independent visitations, surveys and inventories of varying degrees of usefulness, drawn up throughout the entire thirty-two years of the pontificate of Ignacy Massalski. I discuss only those whose contents and degree of conservation allowed for their use in this research5.

The youngest useful reports were created as a result of a general dean's visitation during 1796-1798, ordered by the administrator of the Vilnius diocese, Dawid Pilchowski. Unfortunately, the only preserved materials are those of the visitation in the Deanery of Oszmian and Deanery of Kupiszka6. The main body of the sources is composed of deanery visitations conducted regularly between 1782 and 1786 in accordance with the regulations stated in the pastoral letter of 24 February 17827. On 31 October 1781, Bishop Massalski gave them the de facto rank of general visitations and replaced the liquidated deanery8 congregations with them. Unfortunately, they are scattered, and the condition of preservation of the files relating to individual deaneries varies9 considerably. The most complete material about the deaneries: Połock, Wilkomierz, Pobojsk, Kowno and Brasław, of which the last four were published in Polish and Lithuanian as part of the series of Fontes Historiae Lithuaniae10. In addition, for the diocese of Vilnius many individual parochial inventories and ones independent from the visitations from the years 1765-179611, as well as descriptions of the parishes of Hermaniszki and Widziniszki following from an episcopal survey carried out in the 176612 have been preserved.

In all surviving visitation reports, surveys and inventories located in Vilnius archives and libraries, information about 170 parishes has been preserved, that is 36% of 464 parishes existing in 1772, of which 148 have retained any information about any books and for 86 a full inventory of the parochial book collection has been kept. This is not much, but attention should be paid to the geographically uneven condition of the preservation of materials - in Vilnius, there are almost no records of the south-eastern part of the diocese at all, which means that the north-western areas are very well documented.

Table 2. The identification degree of the copies in the parochial book collections of the diocese of Vilnius.
Degree of identification None Only genre Author Author and genre Probable Complete Total
Number of copies 419 1703 57 91 306 687 3263
Percentage of the whole collection 13% 52% 2% 3% 9% 21% 100%

In all sources that I found, 3,263 books were recorded of which 419 (i.e. 13%) could not be identified. The number of copies specified only by the genre and therefore mainly belonging to the official and liturgical collection amounts to 1703, which equals 52%. However, in comparison with the Diocese of Płock, specifying solely the author or the author and genre is rare, and frequently it is the matter of complete or probable identification of a particular book. This difference is due to the fact that in the Diocese of Vilnius only parochial book collections were described, with few exceptions.

Roman Catholic Chełm Diocese

Most of the data on the contents of parochial book collections comes from the reports of the visitation announced by Bishop Wojciech Skarszewski in the pastoral letter of 16 February 179213. It was carried out in the newly created Diocese of Chełm and Lublin, which included eastern deaneries of the Diocese of Kraków Due to the late date of the visit, the reports include books purchased by the parsons who managed parishes already in King Stanisław August's times. Thanks to the exceptional diligence of the visiting inspectors, the specimens recorded by them have been identified much more effectively than in other dioceses. Unfortunately, the Kościuszko Uprising interrupted the visitations and as a result, only materials from the deaneries of Krasnystaw, Turobin and Łuków (which belonged to the Diocese of Kraków14 before the reform of the Great Parliament) are available.

In addition to Wojciech Skarszewski's general visitation, scattered reports from the visitations of individual parishes ordered by Bishop Antoni Okęcki during 1772-1779 have been preserved, as well as numerous inventories from the entire period of the reign of Stanisław August Poniatowski15. The last source are almost complete reports of the general visitation ordered by Bishop Walenty Franciszek Wężyk during 1763-176416. Unfortunately, most of them do not contain comprehensive information about book collections.

Table 3. The degree of identification of specimens held in the parochial book collections of the Latin Diocese of Chełm.
Poetry labels None Only genre Author Author and genre Probable Complete Total
Number of copies 132 685 13 14 161 484 1491
Percentage of the whole collection 9% 46% 1% 1% 11% 32% 100%

Although the sources related to the Diocese of Chełm are the least structured and the least information about the genesis and program of individual visits has been preserved in them, we managed to collect information about 63 parishes out of the 83 existing in 1772, which is as much as 76%. What is more, the descriptions of Chełm parsons were so accurate that only 132 specimens out of 1489 recorded in inventories—i.e. only 9%—have remained without identification. In turn, I was able to completely identify as many as 484 specimens, which is 33%.

Kraków Diocese

The Deanery of Łuków was covered by the aforementioned visitation of Bishop Wojciech Skarszewski17. The largest amount of information comes from the reports on the general visitation, carried out during 1781-1783 and covering the entire northern part of the diocese remaining in the Commonwealth after the first partitioning. It was announced on 25 January 178118 by Bishop Kajetan Sołtyk19, and for the first year, he planned to visit north-east deaneries: Radom, Kunów, Zwoleń, Chodel, Urzędów, Kazimierz, Stężyca, Łuków and Parczów20. Exactly a year later, on 25 January 1782, he announced its continuation and inspection of the deaneries: Połaniec, Koprzywnica, Opatów, Zawichost, Kije, Bodzentyn, Solec, Wolbrom and Lelów. On 20 February 1782, in the pastoral letter to all the faithful of the Diocese of Kraków Bishop Michał Jerzy Poniatowski announced that he would replace Kajetan Sołtyka21, who had been removed from office. The king's brother finished the visitation ordered by his predecessor and consequently the reports from the deaneries of Lelów and Wolbrom bear his surname22. The following year, on 25 January 178323 he officially announced the continuation of work and visitations of the deaneries of Skała, Nowa Góra, Pacanów, Opatowiec, Witów, Sokolina, Proszowice, Książ and Jędrzejów24. The additional information about the deaneries, which became part of Galicia are reports on the visitation carried out on behalf of Bishop Kajetan Sołtyk during 1764-1766. Unfortunately, in most cases, they register only liturgical books and entry books. In addition, the preservation state of these reports is poor25 . However, some data is complemented by distributed inventories and dean's visits, many of which have become the basis for the research in the composition of selected parochial book collections of the Diocese of Kraków. I included the information contained in them in my database, providing appropriate information about the source of data26.

Finally, I managed to obtain information from 491 visitation reports and inventories of the parishes of the Diocese of Kraków, of which 421 contained information about parochial book collections. It means that I obtained information about books collected in 47% of the parishes existing in 1772. However, it is worth noting that the partitions are more responsible for such a state of affairs than the poor state of preservation of the sources. For deaneries remaining in the Commonwealth, the data is almost complete.

Table 4. The degree of specimen identification in the parochial book collections of the Diocese of Kraków.
Degree of identification Not undertaken None Only genre Author Author and genre Probable Complete Total
Kraków 6063 558 5698 75 229 842 2422 15887
All specimens 38% 4% 36% 0% 1% 5% 15% 100%
Identified specimens   6% 58% 1% 2% 9% 25% 100%

In the preserved reports on the visitation of the Diocese of Kraków, information about over 15,000 books was recorded. It is a number so great that even due to the advantages of the database described above over traditional methods, the duration of the research project was insufficient for full identification. In the case of the Diocese of Kraków, I did not prepare a full database of all the collections, but I used the developed research techniques to find the most accurate copies of the most popular works.

Greek Catholic Chełm Diocese

Most of the information about the parochial book collections of the Greek Catholic Diocese of Chełm dates back to the reports on the visitation ordered by Bishop Porfiriusz Skarbek Ważyński on 25 October 179227 and carried out by three general inspectors during 1793. The reports for all the deaneries which remained in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth have been preserved, except for the Ratno Deanery, which consisted of 25 parishes. In total, this source furnishes information about 115 of the 161 parishes existing at that time. The visiting inspectors recorded not only parish registers, but also parsons’ private books. Single inventories from several parishes28 were also preserved from the times of Bishop Ważyński. From the time of Bishop Teodozy Rostocki, mainly the visitations of the 21 parishes of the Ratno Deanery ordered in 178929 were preserved. From the time of his pontificate, individual parish inventories from 1789-1790 have also been preserved, bringing information about the next 10 parishes, mainly from Dubień Deanery30.

The number of visitation reports from the time of Maksymilian Ryłło's long pontificate is greater. A number of dean's visits from 1774-178231 has been preserved. In addition, the bishop ordered and personally carried out a general visitation during 1759-1761, which included all of the 547 parishes existing at that time. The reports have been preserved intact. This visitation was followed by a comprehensive study by Paweł Sygowski32. He reports only liturgical books. In addition, Maksymilian Ryłło ordered several dean's visits, showing the changes of individual parishes from decade to decade33.

Table 5. The degree of identification of copies in the parish libraries of the Uniate Diocese of Chełm.
Degree of identification None Only genre Author Author and genre Probable Complete Total
The number of parishes 38 1985 2 6 56 211 2298
Percentage of the whole collection 2% 86% 0% 0% 2% 9% 100%

Finally, we managed to collect information on book collections located in 250 parishes, that is 46% out of 540 parishes existing in 1772. As in the case of the Diocese of Vilnius, the distribution of data is geographically diverse. The deaneries, which remained in the Commonwealth after the first partitioning, were covered by the visit of Bishop Porfiriusz Skarbek Ważyński, and consequently, the information is almost complete. There is a lack of information about book collections in other parishes. In the Greek Catholic Diocese of Chełm, the numerical advantage of liturgical books over all others was even stronger than in the Latin bishoprics. The remaining books, however, were described so well that almost all of them were identified.