The Early Book, Rare Book and Miniature book Collections

The Early Book Collection

The Early Book Collection contains the Library’s oldest and most significant materials. Some of them date back to the library’s inception and were collected by notable Serbian librarians, such as Đuro Daničić and Stojan Novaković. During the First World War, a substantial number of books was lost. The Collection was partially restored afterwards only to be completely destroyed once again on the very first day of Serbia’s involvement in World War II.  Currently, the collection contains approximately 5,886 titles, totalling around 15,000 volumes.

In 1973, Dušica Stošić and her team curated the Catalogue of Books in the Languages of the Yugoslav Peoples from 1519 to 1867. This catalogue stands as a valuable resource, showcasing a substantial section of the Early Book Collection, encompassing around 3,044 bibliographic units.

The Early Book Collection comprises both domestic and foreign early printed books and annual publications like yearbooks, almanacs and calendars. A fresh conceptual approach aims to provide a clearer profile for this collection. Its boundaries have been defined by the current Law on Early and Rare Library Materials. This collection’s timeframe is based on specific national criteria: the beginning year for the Serbian language and culture is set at 1638 (anything before this date is housed in the Archaeography Department), while the ending year is 1867, marking the official introduction of Vuk’s language reform (for Croatian and Slovenian, it’s 1835; for Romanian, it’s 1830; for Russian and Hungarian, it’s 1800; for Bulgarian, it’s 1878; and for Western European languages, it’s 1700).

Tasks involving the collection span uncovering, gathering, safeguarding, preserving, utilising, researching and appraising resources; organising and keeping records; processing materials and crafting catalogues; and protecting, microfilming, digitising, conserving and restoring the materials.

Although the collection is primarily based on religious, particularly Christian literature, it also houses works of distinguished figures of Serbian culture such as Jovan Rajić, Lukiјan Mušicki, Zahariјe Orfelin, Dositej Obradović, Platon Atanacković, Vuk Karadžić, Đura Daničić, Petar II Petrović Njegoš, S. S. Saraјliјa, Branko Radičević, Sterija, J. J. Zmaj, etc. It also contains the first primers, readers and textbooks, as well as early Serbian constitutions and laws. World literature luminaries are represented through their translated works, including those of Homer, Cicero, Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Cervantes, Byron, Hugo, Goethe and Gogol.

The collection also contains printed books in foreign languages, from post-incunabula onwards (there are over 120 books from the 16th century alone). The oldest is the history of Shkodër from 1504, titled De obsidione Scodrensi by Marinus Barletius. If we don’t count Croatian books within the collection, the most prevalent language among the foreign books is undoubtedly Latin, followed by Russian. To a lesser extent, there are also books in Italian, French, German, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Ancient Greek, Slovenian and Czech.

The shelf mark for the Early Book Collection starts with “S“.


According to the current Law on Early and Rare Library Materials, rare books are publications that fall into at least one of the following categories:

  1. Handwritten books created after 1867;
  2. Copies of publications that deviate from the overall print run profile, due to specific equipment or content;
  3. Bibliophilic editions of significant authors and/or bibliophilic editions with special scientific, historical, cultural or artistic value;
  4. Rare editions from wartime periods: 1912–1913, 1914–1918 and 1941–1945;
  5. Editions with a print run of fewer than 100 copies of particular scientific, historical, cultural or artistic value;
  6. Censored or proscribed editions preserved in a small number of copies of significant cultural value;
  7. Emigrant editions published outside the territory of the Republic of Serbia, preserved in a limited number of copies.

The shelfmark for the Rare Book Collection starts with “Ft“. The Collection currently comprises 216 titles. Among the notable books are Revelation by Rastko Petrović, several titles by the signalist Miroslav Todorović, a reprint of Miroslav’s Gospel from 1897, Famous 19th-Century Serbs 1901–1904, The Odyssey by Nikos Kazantzakis, Vera Pavladoljska by Matija Bećković and several bibliophilic editions.


The tradition of miniature editions dates back almost as far as regular printed books. The earliest known book of this kind, Diurnale Mogantinum, was published by Peter Schöffer in 1468, measuring 94 x 65 mm. The smallest printed book on record is Egon Prugmayr’s Alphabet in Pictures, released in Leipzig in 1971, measuring a mere 3 x 2.5 mm.

Although there’s no official documentation confirming the formal inception of the Miniature Book Collection at the National Library of Serbia, its origins are inferred from the initial entries in the inventory book, suggesting a founding date of 1977. The collection is based on the “eastern” Soviet dimension standard of 100 x 100 x 100 mm. Approximately half of the 240 titles in the collection are attributed to Károly Andruskó, a printmaker, bookplate designer and bibliophile from Senta. His collection predominantly features miniature, often handmade prints, primarily woodcuts.

The collection predominantly comprises fiction books but also encompasses bibliographies, institution-related monographs (schools, football clubs, the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, etc.), a handful of political pamphlets and dictionaries, some religious books, the Sarajevo Haggadah and a book by Immanuel Kant. Among the fiction works, notable examples include The Mountain Wreath by Petar II Petrović Njegoš, poems by Edgar Allan Poe, Alfred de Musset, Srečko Kosovel and France Prešeren, haiku poetry, short stories by Miroslav Josić Višnjić, Dositej’s Letter to Haralampije and Charles Perrault’s fairy tales. The collection predominantly features Serbian books, followed by Russian, French, Slovenian, Hungarian, German and Czech publications.

Two ultra-micro-miniature German books, each measuring 6 x 6 mm and the War Manifesto of Emperor Franz Joseph I from 1914 are particularly interesting items within this collection. This manifesto, only 24 mm in height, features a relief portrait of the Austro-Hungarian monarch on the front cover and bears the inscription “Memories from the World War”. In this tiny book, he outlines, in Croatian, the reasons behind initiating a war against Serbia. Another unique addition is The Lord’s Prayer, published in 1959 in Munich by Waldmann and Pfitzner, which presents the prayer in seven languages. Similarly, Der olympische Eid was released in 1972 by the same publisher, featuring text in six languages. These miniature books, stored in transparent cases with magnifying glass bottoms due to their minuscule size, are kept within protective boxes. They are the smallest items in the entire collection. They were likely issued to commemorate significant events – five centuries since the first Gutenberg books and the 1972 Munich Olympic Games.

The shelf mark for the Miniature Book Collection starts with “Mn”.


Contact Person:
Ana Vukobrat
Phone: +381 11 2451 242, ext. 78

Радно време

понедељак – петак од 8.00 – 20.00
(поручивање публикација 8.00 – 19.00)

субота од 8.00 – 15.00
(поручивање публикација 8.00 – 14.00)

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