Hungarian King's Bibliotheca Corviniana added to UNESCO's Memory of the World Register

The Bibliotheca Corviniana, the famous library of Renaissance Hungarian King Matthias, has now been inscribed into UNESCO's Memory of the World Register. The collection was the second largest library of its time after the Vatican's and it contained works written for King Matthias on philosophy, the arts, history, law, literature.

Radio Budapest spoke to the secretary general of the Hungarian National Commission for UNESCO, Peter Gresitzky.

"The register is called Memory of the World and was created in 1992 amidst the Balkan War. When NATO planes bombarded the Bosnian National Library, UNESCO Director-General Federico Mayor came up with the idea to establish the register to protect and preserve the intellectual treasures of the world. So, major libraries and archives should be put on this list. There are currently around 120 items on this list. Hungary has two - an early patent of technical development of television technology of the Hungarian engineer Kalman Tihanyi and now the Corvinas, which is the library of King Matthias from the second half of the 15th century. He was one of our biggest kings, who had very tight relations with Renaissance Italy and he bought a high number of handwritten codices and he set up a very interesting and wide-ranging library containing philosophical works, natural sciences, religious works, and the major books of the Greek literature and more."

Who wrote those books?

"These books were made mainly in Florence, Italy. At the time, the king ordered and bought books from Italy and his wife Beatrix also brought some books from Italy."

Because she was Italian...


Now, what happened to the collection of books over time?

"When King Matthias died in 1490 (at the age of 32), his successor King Laszlo II was bankrupt and unable to continue the collection. So, the elements of the collection were dispersed across the world because the people who were close to the king asked for gifts from the library. Luckily, the collection had this fate because the Turkey troops which came in later burned the library to the ground. So, the books which were distributed to the king's preferred people survived. This is why we find them in different collections all over the world."

Such as where, for example?

"For example in Vienna, in the Vatican, and in Germany. We find them in practically 24 different countries. Six of them formed a consortium and ordered the digitalisation of this collection. So, the remains of the collection are more or less available now for researchers and all those who are interested."

Can we admire any of the collection's books in Hungary?

"Yes. If I remember correctly, we have 53 Corvinas in Hungary. There are 35 in the National Szechenyi Library. I think there are around 220 all over the world."

What does the word Corvina mean?

"The full name of King Matthias was Matthias Corvinus and Corvina means that these books come from the collection of Matthias."