Solidarity Collection at the British Library
London Euston Road 96, United Kingdom NW1 2DB
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Name of collection
- Solidarity Collection
Provenance and cultural activities
The Solidarity Collection in the British Library contains underground publications released by the Solidarity Union and other opposition groups from 1976 to 1990. To that end, the official name of the collection is misleading. The origins of the collection go back to the 1970s when Hanna Świderska (1930-), curator of Polish collections at the British Library, began buying smuggled illegal publications from anonymous visitors. Having organized unofficial book exchanges between the British Library and the National Library in Warsaw and the Jagiellonian University Library in Krakow, Świderska had an excellent network of collaborators among Polish librarians who were sympathetic to the opposition. She also received Polish samizdat from the Literary Institute in France. In 1984, Świderska used these materials in the British Library exhibition, “Works of George Orwell in the languages of Eastern Europe”. In February 1989, the collection included 293 books and pamphlets and 324 mostly incomplete titles of bulletins, newspapers and journals.
The Solidarity Collection significantly expanded after the collapse of state socialism in Poland. The British library purchased Polish samizdat items, books, periodicals and ephemeral publications from three collectors, Marek Szyszko from Lublin, Marek Garztecki, journalist, diplomat, and former Solidarity representative in London, and John Taylor, an activist of the Polish Solidarity Campaign formed by British sympathizers of the Solidarity movement. In 2010, the Polish Library POSK in London donated a large pool of underground publications, including books and journals.
Of prominence are book holdings which include forbidden works by Polish authors, among them such masters of Polish literature as Tadeusz Konwicki, Marek Nowakowski and Stanisław Barańczak. The large selection of non-Polish authors testifies to three important features of the Polish independent publishing, the important role of translators in the development of samizdat, the openness of the Polish cultural opposition to the outside world, and cultural exchanges between Polish émigré publishers and underground presses in People’s Poland. By the late 1980s, the underground publishing houses became a significant alternative to state-owned publishing houses which could not publish the works of George Orwell, Arthur Koestler and Evgienii Zamiatin, to name a few authors.
Description of content
- The collection consists of 1,759 books, 831 periodical titles and 469 ephemeral publications which were released by Solidarity Union and other Polish opposition groups from 1976 to 1990.
- grey literature (regular archival documents such as brochures, bulletins, leaflets, reports, intelligence files, records, working papers, meeting minutes): 1000-
- publications (books, newspapers, articles, press clippings): 1000-
Stakeholder(s) of the collection
- Szkuta, Magda
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
London, United Kingdom
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Creator(s) of content
Important events in the history of the collection
- completely open to the public
- British Library. Polish Collections in the British Library. [London]: British Library, Humanities and Social Sciences, 1990.
Author(s) of this page
- Kunicki, Mikołaj
British Library. Polish Collections in the British Library. [London]: British Library, Humanities and Social Sciences, 1990.
History of the Literary Cultures of East-Central Europe: Junctures and disjunctures in the 19th and 20th centuries. Volume III: The making and remaking of literary institutions, ed. Cornis-Pope Marcel, Neubauer John, Benjamins Publishing, 2007.
Solidarity Collection, Szkuta Magda (post on the blog of British Library; 31.08.2015) https://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/european/2015/08/solidarity-collection-.html?_ga=2.192632867.843323322.1544621392-1149033494.1542811704#
Szkuta, Magda , interview by Kunicki, Mikołaj, April 12, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection