Ceremony marking the transfer of the Hector Hodler Library to the National Library
On Monday, May 29, a ceremony was held at the National Library of Poland to mark the transfer of the Library of the Universal Esperanto Association (Universala Esperanto-Asocio, UEA) in Rotterdam to the National Library. Also present at the official signing of the agreement between the Director General of the National Library Dr Tomasz Makowski and the President of the UEA Dr Duncan Charters was the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Culture and National Heritage, Professor Piotr Gliński.
Thanks to an agreement between the National Library of Poland and the UEA, nearly seven and a half tonnes of unique materials from the library and archive of the UEA have been transferred from Rotterdam to Warsaw. The staff of the National Library and staff and volunteers from the UEA spent several days packing the materials prior to shipping, working under the watchful eye of L. L. Zamenhof – the creator of Esperanto, who was born into a Jewish family in Bialystok and whose portrait hangs at the UEA headquarters.
Welcoming the guests, Director General of the National Library Dr Tomasz Makowski said that thanks to the agreement with the UEA, "today we celebrate the arrival in Poland of the magnificent Hector Hodler Library, one of the largest, most complete libraries on the worldwide history of the Esperanto movement. For Poles, this is a part of our own history: the Esperanto language and Esperanto movement were created here in Poland by Ludwik Zamenhof. They will always be part of our Polish heritage". Dr Makowski thanked all those individuals due to whose efforts "more than seven tonnes of books, journals, postcards, archival materials from the nineteenth century to the present day, almost a complete set of publications and archival materials documenting Esperanto around the globe, have now arrived in the National Library. What lies ahead is the conservation and cataloguing of this huge collection. (...) We intend to publish a printed catalogue of the whole collection. We also plan to apply for the collection – that is, the experience contained in the Hodler Library – to be inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register". Dr Makowski added that the Polish National Library guarantees that "Esperanto will never be forgotten and that it will always be remembered as a part of world heritage, and a part of Polish heritage".
Deputy Prime Minister Piotr Gliński: "From now on the National Library will be a centre for the documentation of Esperanto. It is my wish that these unique resources, under the professional care of the National Library, will be fully utilised not only by researchers and specialists but by enthusiasts and those who keep the idea of Esperanto alive."
President of the UEA Dr Duncan Charters said that he was "very pleased that the collection is going back to its source, the place where Esperanto was born. It is important that Esperanto should be a part not only of Polish national heritage but also of international cultural heritage. (…) The Universal Esperanto Association is happy to have found a good home for this wonderful collection. We believe that the Polish National Library will be able to protect the collection in the best possible way."
The most valuable part of the collection is the Hector Hodler Library, one of the largest collections of Esperanto books in the world. The collection dates backs to 1908 and is connected to the activities of the Swiss Esperanto Society in Geneva. In 1912, this was purchased by the son of the eminent painter Ferdinand Hodler, Hector Hodler (1887-1920), a Swiss Esperantist and the co-founder of the UEA, who on his death left the expanded collection to the UEA. The Library now comprises nearly 30,000 books, yearbooks of periodicals, and boxes of photographs and records. It also includes some of the first printed works in Esperanto, dating from the late nineteenth century, and some interesting translations into Esperanto of classics of Polish literature and contemporary works.
The archive materials from the UEA transferred to the National Library include the following: a collection of documents relating to the activities of the UEA (including internal documents, correspondence with members, entries for literary competitions), a beautiful collection of rare postcards in Esperanto, posters relating to events in the life of the UEA (world congresses, conventions, anniversaries), recorded Esperanto courses (vinyl records, video cassettes, cassette tapes, CDs), games and toys for teaching children Esperanto through play, photo albums and commemorative stamps.
The Hector Hodler Library and archive materials from the UEA are currently undergoing the normal disinfection and conservation checks prior to being catalogued and ultimately digitalised. Thanks to this generous donation, the National Library of Poland will become the chief Esperanto documentation centre for researchers from all over the world, an important part of Polish and world heritage.
The ceremony was followed by a seminar on the importance of Esperanto and the Hector Hodler collection, featuring the following speakers:
- Professor Pascal Dubourg Glatigny (CNRS, Paris): The challenge of conserving a transnational heritage: the future of the Hector Hodler collection
- Dr Ida Stria (University of Warsaw): Accessibility of Esperanto library resources from a linguistic perspective
- Professor Denis Eckert (Géographie-cités, Paris/Centre Marc Bloch, Berlin): Warsaw as a starting point for the diffusion of lingvo internacia: The first Esperanto textbooks and dictionaries and their authors (1887-1890)
- Professor Marek Nahajowski (Academy of Music, Łódź): Esperanto in the world of music science – status quo and perspectives for further development