West European Books of the Sixteenth to Twentieth Centuries
The foreign book stocks are made up of works published in European languages since 1501 in various fields of learning: history, theology, philosophy, natural sciences, medicine, social sciences, law, printing, belles-lettres, the arts, technology, and classical philology.
The collection of foreign books expanded particularly rapidly in the course of the nineteenth century. Works were purchased from booksellers at home and abroad and also acquired from private individuals. The Public Library obtained the remarkable collection of Pavel Sukhtelen and the rather smaller collections of Prince Golitsyn, Prince Lobanov-Rostovsky, Academician Gamel, the botanist Martsius, Doctor Laut, and the scholar and Palestinian traveller Tobler. These stocks gained significantly in quality with the entry of books from the Hermitage and Tsarskoe Selo libraries, the General Staff library and that of the Department of Public Education. Quite a number of publications also came as gifts from different foreign governments, learned societies and individuals made in an expression of respect for the library and its staff, whose names were familiar to scholars worldwide.
Engravings of The Temptation and The Banishment from Paradise from Giacomo Filippo da Bergamo's Chronicles. Venice, 1503
Ornamental engraving by Urs Graf in Erasmus's collection of proverbs and sayings. Basle,1515
Today the total number of stocks in this area is approaching two million items. Of these 40,000 are sixteenth-century publications — masterpieces by early printers in Italy, France, Germany and the Low Countries. Early editions of Greek and Latin writers are in the Classical Languages section, while rare atlases of botany and zoology, anatomies and treatises such as the work of Andreas Vesalius can be found in the Natural Sciences section. There are a large number of early books in the History section, which also includes material on related disciplines: archaeology, genealogy, heraldry, numismatics and sphragistics. Unique descriptions of journeys with many maps and engraved views, illustrated publications of antiquities, collections of books on Palestine, "Mazarinades", and sixteenth- to nineteenth-century calendars are only a part of this rich collection.
Original small-print-run publications appeared in the nineteenth century on the finest kinds of Dutch, Indian and Japanese paper devoted to the early history of book-printing and to the ex libris. Numbered copies of such works were donated to the library by famous European publishers and scholars.
The library acquired a fair number of rare and precious books which are now kept in the sections of art and technology, printing and theology. Hundreds of different editions of the Bible, works by Erasmus, Luther and Calvin, and engraved publications of portrait galleries, palaces, fortresses and the first European "cabinets of curious" are a rich field for researchers.
The European Books holdings includes the notable collection of Rossica, which contains foreign publications on the subject of Russia.