The Moravian Library has its beginning connected with the activities of the economic associations that arose during the Enlightenment era at the end of the 18th century, encouraged by empress Maria Theresia. After an initial effort to find their place and through a gradual association of several similar societies, the Moravian- Silesian Society for the Uplift of Tillage, Natural Science and National History and Geography was formed at the beginning of the 19th century, which set up its corporative library intended for public access in 1815 – but that happened only at the very end of the 19th century.
In the beginnings of the library, the collections grew very slowly, mainly from the gifts dedicated to the Economic Society, or in fact to its Franciscus’ Museum established in 1818, which the library was part of until 1899. Let us review some of the important library acquisitions that still retain significant historical value. The founding member of the Economic Society, Arch Count Hugo František Salm, dedicated a large collection of publications on national history and geography from his library at the chateau in Rájec, and purchased also the heritage of the Moravian topographer Joseph Schwoy. In 1819, an important genealogical acquisition was Zlobický’s collection dedicated by Count Joseph Auersperg. From that time comes also the collection of maps and graphical folios by Bernard Paul Moll, presented by his heir Vilém Vockel.
Although in 1899 the library became independent of the Franciscus Museum, under which it had developed for the whole of the 19th century, taking the name of the Moravian Museum, it retained a special subsidy for the purchase of literature, reserved by the provincial committee. The library also determined to establish a collection of comenianas for which it received another special subsidy. While delimiting the collections’ contents between the library and the museum, there occurred one disadvantageous decision for the library, which was the cession of the manuscripts collection to the Moravian Archive in exchange for a collection of coins, which was devolved upon the library from the archive.
Among the important units that came to the library in connection with the University is also the personal library collection of the poet Otokar Březina. The Faculty of Arts of Masaryk University invited him to become a member of its teaching staff, and the grateful poet dedicated the scientific part of his library to it. Fiction from his library was endowed in his testament for the education of students at the state grammar school in Moravské Budějovice, and it remained there untouched out of sheer piety and in 1972 it was granted to the Moravian Library in Brno, where it now forms a complete unit again.
A library of a universal type and large extent, such as the Moravian Library, stores its collections cost-effectively. It is due to the fact that the largest part of the financial expense goes on the very storage and administration of the collections, rather than their acquisitions. Therefore the largest part of the library collection is stored by format, and only the monographic releases from the serials are set separately. Only exceptionally, the collections are kept together by their origin, such as the komenianas, masarykianas, private collections of Otokar Březina, Jakub Deml, Josef Florian, etc. In all libraries, for security reasons, historical collections published before the year 1800 are detached in special collections with their own service regime, that are formally divided into manuscripts, incunabula and old prints, or selected collections of prints, such as Moll’s map collection or Schram’s collection in our case. These are, generally, collections that deserve bigger attention and therefore there is a reason to present them in an exhibition on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Moravian Library, and to publish this survey