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Discover the Czech National Library’s treasures with Google Arts & Culture

An opulent Baroque Library with ornate ceiling frescoes towering over rows of wooden bookshelves, radiating the grandeur of a bygone era.
The Czech National Library

Editor’s note: Today’s post is authored by Tomáš Foltýn, Director of the National Library of the Czech Republic.

In the Czech Republic, there are many fascinating and historically significant cultural monuments. Many are proudly listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, such as Prague Castle and the Charles Bridge. Not far from these world-famous monuments lies another one, a unique jewel: the Baroque Library inside Prague’s Clementinum, which houses the vast and valuable collections of the National Library.

Today, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Slavonic Library, which is part of the National Library, I’m honored to announce a partnership between our institution and Google Arts & Culture. This collaboration is a harmonious fusion of cultural heritage and modern technology. Thanks to modern imaging methods and virtual tours in Street View, everyone will be able to visit the unique Baroque spaces of one of the most beautiful libraries in the world at any time, no matter where they are.

  • A book section of The National Library hall with intricate woodwork, featuring a grand bookcase filled with old books, a decorative railing, and a wooden ladder for accessing higher shelves.

    The Baroque Library

  • An opulent Baroque Library with ornate ceiling frescoes towering over rows of wooden bookshelves, radiating the grandeur of a bygone era.

    The Baroque Library

  • Codex Vyssegradensis (signature XIV A 13) is perhaps the most important and valuable manuscript kept in the Czech Republic. Two pages with elaborate medieval illuminated manuscript, featuring decorative script, ornate initial letters, and intricate border designs.

    Codex Vyssegradensis - St. Wenceslaus in the initial

  • An ornate celestial globe with intricate design, displayed in a library with bookshelves in the background.

    The Sidereal Globe by Caspar Pflieger

  • Hand-coloured woodcut map of the New World by Sebastian Münster, first printed in 1540. Old world map of the Southeast Asian region with decorative elements, including a ship and a sea serpent.

    New Map of the New World

  • An extraordinary interior of the Mirror Chapel, for which the builders chose an impressive combination of marble, mirrors, gilded stucco decoration, frescoes and paintings. Mirrors used in the decoration of the walls and vault.

    Mirror Chapel of Clementinum

They can also view over 200 exceptional historical documents displayed on this occasion from the National Library's collections, four digital stories and a Czech National Library puzzle party for creative souls. The virtual experience on Google Arts & Culture also includes the exploration of significant historical manuscripts that are usually not available to the public, such as the Vyšehrad Codex — one of the most valuable manuscripts preserved in the Czech Republic — and digitized treasures like Caspar Pflieger's Star Globe and Sebastian Münster's Map of the New World.

Working with Google is nothing new for us. Nearly 200,000 old prints have already been digitized by Google in previous years. I am delighted that by working with Google Arts & Culture we can breathe new life into the Library's collections and make them available to the general public around the world in a stunning virtual presentation.

The magical Baroque Library reveals itself

The Baroque Library inside the Clementinum is an exceptional space with a unique genius loci that preserves the legacy of Jesuit culture to this day. The National Library holds nearly eight million volumes in its collections: Some are national cultural monuments, while others are registered in the UNESCO Memory of the World programme, thus belonging to the World Cultural Heritage.

Yet again modern imaging methods and virtual tours brilliantly showcase the living legacy of the National Library's rich and memorable collections. This new partnership not only gives people a chance to discover engaging stories and exhibits, but it hopefully inspires them to further explore the secrets and stories that Clementinum keeps in its historical books.

The National Library's treasures on Google Arts & Culture are available on the web and in the app (iOS/Android), in both English and Czech languages.

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