Baron Sigismund Zois’s library: the centre of enlightenment culture in Slovenia

October 15th 2019 - April 26th 2020

naslovnica razstave

Sigismund Zois (1747–1819) was an Enlightenment patron and mentor of Slovenian poets, writers, and scholars. He played a key role in the cultural and scientific advancement of the Enlightenment in Carniola, acquired an extensive book collection. Most of this collection, comprising 2,295 titles in approximately 5,000 volumes is now kept at the National and University Library in Ljubljana. The Exhibition presents examples from his book collection and is a part of the celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of Zois’s death.


Though Zois’s moderately comprehensive yet selective library was among the smaller collections in the European context, it was among the largest private collections that came into existence during its owner’s lifetime in Carniola or in the present Slovenian territory. After the start of the salon’s activities at the beginning of the 1780s, the collection was becoming better stocked with literature that supported a variety of scientific and cultural activities of Zois’s protégés and peers.

A comparison of Zois’s library with other larger book collections in the Carniola of that time shows it to be the most up-to-date and vital. For example, the Auersperg library and the Seminary Library mostly remained monuments of baroque science and culture. The quite up-to-date library of the Carniolan Agricultural Society ceased to develop on account of the society’s disbandment in 1787, while the Lyceum Library, which was the largest, significantly lagged behind when it came to contemporary trends in science. A wide network of Zois’s personal acquaintances and connections, which he was able to establish as a wealthy aristocratic entrepreneur, also importantly contributed to its diversity and up-to-dateness. Contrary to some other contemporary private book collections of the period in the Slovenian territory, it was also very directly involved in the endeavours for scientific, cultural, and economic development and progress. Because it was an integral part of his salon and because Zois gladly shared it with his friends and acquaintances, it seems that its role and purpose was two- or three-fold: besides reflecting his personal interests and preferences, bibliophile agendas and practical needs, it also had the function of a representative repository of the most current science and knowledge, and a ‘reservoir’ for quite concrete cultural and scientific projects. The lacunae make it impossible to completely examine the library’s former total extent. Nevertheless, it is still possible to conclude that the library stands alongside Zois’s salon as an example of an informal congregation striving for cultural and scientific progress in the late 18th and the early 19th century. Representing the centre at that time, from the present perspective it is also practically a unique, almost entirely preserved monument of the Enlightenment culture of this kind in Slovenia. (From the Catalogue of the Exhibition).

dr. Sonja Svoljšak (NUK) and dr. Luka Vidmar (ZRC SAZU)
Exhibition room NUL

Monday - Saturday  10 AM - 6 PM

Public guided tours (in slovene language):

Wednesday, December 11th 2019, at 11 AM (dr. Sonja Svoljšak)
Wednesday, January 15th 2020 at 11 AM (dr. Luka Vidmar)
Wednesday, February 12th 2020 at 11 AM (dr. Sonja Svoljšak)
Wednesday, March 18th 2020 at 11 AM (dr. Luka Vidmar)
Wednesday, April 15th 2020 at 5 PM (dr. Sonja Svoljšak)







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