Old printed, rare and valuable books

Size and content of the collection

The collection of old printed, rare and valuable books encompasses a total of approximately 17,000 volumes of books and periodicals printed in the 15th-21st centuries and is organised in separate collections. The content of the collection is varied: it includes publications used in liturgical practices, religious and dogmatic writings, educational, socio-political, didactic, scientific literature and fiction in Bulgarian, Church Slavonic and other languages.The specific criteria when developing the collections were the special polygraphic design, the artistic merit of the bindings, as well as the presence of author signatures, ex-libris, etc.


With the establishment of the National Library started the building of collections of old printed, rare and valuable publications and periodicals from the Revival period. In 1879-1883 the Bulgarian merchant Nikola Kovachev, who lived in Vienna donated the full edition of the newspapers Turcia, Narodnost, Macedonia, Dunavskazora, Pravo, Napredak, Vek, LyubenKaravelov’s newspapers Svoboda and Nezavisimost, HristoBotev’s newspaper Zname. The long list of donors over the years shows the main contribution of our compatriots from the Revival period and the present day for the collection and preservation of this valuable literary heritage. Among them should be mentioned PandeliKisimov,VasilManchov, Peter Mateevfrom Kotel and many others.The collection is constantly enriched with new acquisitions via donations and purchases.


The library holdings are organised in the following collections:

  • I. Slavonic Cyrillic printed books of the 15th-19th centuries
  • II. Bulgarian Old Printed Books and Periodicals 1806-1878
  • III. Bulgarian rare and valuable books after 1878
  • IV. Foreign old printed, rare and valuable books, mainly related to the Bulgarian political and cultural history; books related to the history of the Balkan and Slavic peoples, and books of particular cultural, historical, artistic and polygraphic value from the 15th century to the present day.
  • V. Miniature editions.

The collection of Bulgarian printed books and periodicals from the Revival period (1806-1878) is the richest. It encompasses 1670 titles in 8486 volumes and thus fully displays what was published during the specified period. The most significant among them are KIRIAKODROMION sirech NEDELNIK by Sofronii, bishop of Vratza (1806),RIBEN BUKVAR (the Fish Primer) by Dr.PetarBeron (1824), BOLGARSKA GRAMATIKA (Bulgarian Grammar) by Neophyte of Rila (1835), TZARSTVENIK ili ISTORIA BOLGARSKAYA (History of Bulgarian kings) by Khristaki Pavlovich (1844), BALGARSKI NARODNI PESNI (Bulgarian Folk Songs), collected by the Miladinov brothers (1861), PESNI I STIHOTVORENIA OT BOTIOVA I STAMBOLOVA (Songs and Poems by Botev and Stambolov) (1875), etc. The periodicals of the Revivalperiod include about 95 titles of newspapers and magazines, among which is the first Bulgarian magazine LUBOSLOVIE, (Smyrna, 1844-1846), edited by Konstantin Fotinovand the first Bulgarian newspaper BALGARSKI OREL (Bulgarian eagle) (Leipzig, 1846-1847), published by Dr. Ivan Bogorov.
The collection of Slavonic Cyrillic printed books includes editions that marked the beginning of the South Slavonic and the Bulgarian typographyin particular.The copies of books printed in the first Slavonic printing offices in Cetinje (Montenegro) and Târgoviște (Romania) are extremely valuable. These are two Cyrillic incunables OSMOGLASNIK (Octoechos), Cetinje, 1494 and PSALTIR s POSLEDOVANIE (Psalter), Cetinje, 1495, and also FOUR GOSPELS from 1512, printed in Târgovishte by monk Makarii. Special attention has to be paid to the Venetian editions of the 15th century, especially those produced by JakovKraikov, the first Bulgarian printer: CHASOSLOVEC (Horologion) (1566), Psaltir s posledovanie (Liturgical Psalter) (1569) and Slujebnik (Leitourgicon) (1570). This collection also includes:the first Bulgarian printed book with elements written in modern Bulgarian –ABAGAR by Fillip Stanislavov (Rome, 1651), STEMATOGRAPHIA by ChristoforZhefarovich (Vienna, 1741) and the poem LAMENT (Ostrog, 1603), published in memory of Prince Alexander of Ostrog. The publication is a rare book, and the copy kept in the National Library is the most complete known to science so far. The collection is rich in valuable samples of the Russian and Ukrainian printing tradition.
The collection of foreign old printed books, rare and valuable publications of the 15th-20th centuries encompasses about 4,100 titles in 5034 volumes sorted by languages (Greek, Latin, English, French, Russian, German, Italian, Spanish). Greek printed books are the most numerous. A significant part of them are brought from the village of Arbanassi, Sozopol, Nessebar, Samokov and are filled with handwritten notes. The collection includes many rare publications which would be of great value to any world libraryas one of the oldest printed publications of Pindar from 1515, the first edition of works by St. Basil the Great from 1535, the 1688 edition of GLOSSARIUM AD SCRIPTORES MEDIAE ET INFIMAE GRAECITATIS by Charles du Fresne, sieur du Cange, the printed edition of the Souidas Lexicon published in 1705, the magnificent 1653 edition of PHOTII MYRIOBIBLION, the 20-volume set of CORPUS BYZANTINAE HISTORIAE from 1729, many beautiful editions of liturgical books. The library possesses two Latin incunables from 1477 and 1493. The latter, SCHEDEL, HARTMAN. LIBER CHRONICARUM, makes a lasting impression with its lavish decoration. It was donated to the National Library in 1968 by Mr. LyubenBasmadjiev, a Bulgarian living in Switzerland. Among the other books in this collection there are first or especially valuable editions of classic authors of foreign literatures in original languages, as well as signed ex-libriseditions. The most interesting among them are: editions of works by Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Voltaire (PENSÉES DE J.J. ROUSSEAU. V. 1-2. Geneve 1785 and VOLTAIRE, FRANÇOIS-MARIE AROUE. OEVRES CHOISIES de … Wien, 1810); an edition of the Bible translated by the German theologian and religious reformer Martin Luther(BIBLIA. DAS IST: DIE GANTZE HEILIGE SCHRIFT VERDEUTSCHT DURCH DR. MARTIN LUTHER, Nürnberg, 1736 ); the three-volume dictionary from 1681 by the French historian and Byzantologist Charles du Fresne, sieur du Cange with an ex-libris of the King Ferdinand I of Bulgaria (1887-1918). The edition IL REGNO DE GLI SLAVI… by the historian MavroOrbini from Dubrovnik, published in Pesaro in 1601, is directly related to the Bulgarian history. This was one of the sources of IstoriyaSlavyanobolgarskaya(Slavonic-Bulgarian History), written by PaìsiyHilendàrskiin 1762.

Analog forms

With regard to the protection of literary heritage that has come down to us over the centuries, the National Library maintains a long-standing policy of preserving the original copies by reproducing them. Over the years facsimile editions have been made of a large part of the newspapers from the Revival period. Photocopies of Bulgarian printed books have been made.The National Library preserved one or two copies of them and they are available to the readers. There is also a microfilm collection that includes copies of rare and old-printed books, owned by foreign libraries and repositories. The digitisation of books and periodicals from the special collections is a strategic priority since 2009 and is an ongoing process.

Catalogues, inventories, publications

The library holdings and their collections are available via a system of alphabetical and chronological catalogues located in the specialised reading room “PROF. MARIN DRINOV” (Reading room No 1).The only exception is the collection of Bulgarian printed books and periodicals of the Revival period, catalogued in the analytical repertory “Bulgarian Literature of the National Revival Period”, volume 1 byDr. Mani Stoyanov. In this collection the books are stored in many copies. This requires the entry of all copies in a topographic catalogue based on the chronological list of the repertory. The extensive bibliography “Old Greek Books in Bulgaria” by Dr. M. Stoyanovdisplays the full diversity of the collection of rare Greek books.


Bulgarian old printed books (1806-1878) – COBISS and Digital library (the publications until 1860 are digitised)

Continuing editions 1844 – 1878 – COBISS and Digital library

Old printed, rare and valuable French, Russian, English, Italian books – COBISS and Digital library (partly)

Slavonic Cyrillic printed books of the 15th-20th centuries – COBISS (records were entered until the end of the 16th century) and Digital library (partly)

All the periodicals of the National Revival period stored in the National Library collections have been digitisedso far (with the exception of several titles, digitised in other Bulgarian libraries), as well as almost 30% of the Bulgarian old printed books.

Business hours of the Department: Monday to Friday 9:00-12:00 and 12:30-17:30.

Readers can request reproduction of materials from the collections by filling in the relevant form, in accordance with the library rules – Library Rules and Regulations and Price List of Services.

The old printed, rare and valuable books are available only inthe specialised reading room “PROF. MARIN DRINOV” with business hours: Monday-Friday from 8:30 to 18:00, Saturday from 9:00 to 15:00.On Saturday readers have access only to pre-ordered materials.