Kazimierz Stronczyński’s Description and Views of Antique Monuments in the Kingdom of Poland, 1844-1855
The records of Poland’s and Europe’s first state-run process of cataloguing historical objects
Description and Views of Antique Monuments… is a great piece recording historical objects in the Kingdom of Poland that helped the nation maintain its national awareness at the time of partitions. Created with full approval of the Tsar authorities, it consists of 5 volumes of text and 7 albums with over 400 watercolours and gouaches by eminent artists. The piece makes an invaluable record of the 19th century historian’s methodology and the birth of modern cultural heritage and conservation studies. The principles of scientific description of monuments put forth by the author are accurate to this day. In some cases, drawings may be the only iconographic record of a historical object that is no more here.
The cataloguing of historical objects in the Kingdom of Poland was conducted in two stages, between 1844 and 1846 and between 1851 and 1854. Various complementary works were carried out simultaneously. The sketches were being copied and volumes of the manuscript, transcribed and bound. The records were deposited at the Main Library, today’s University of Warsaw Library. In 1815, Stroczyński’s work was brought to Russia along with some of the most precious library pieces. It returned in 1923 pursuant to the Riga Treaty and has been part of the said Library to this day.
The copy kept at the University of Warsaw Library is the only one to have survived. It is a wonderful historical record of 19th century calligraphy, its cover being an exquisite specimen of Warsaw’s bookbinding in the mid 19th century.