While the Prussian authorities were busy erecting the Poznań stronghold and barracks, the Poles came up with an initiative of critical importance for enhancing Polish identity through science, culture and the arts. The brothers Edward and Atanazy Raczyński launched a project to create the “New Athens” in Poznań. In 1829, despite resistance from the Prussian administration, they succeeded in completing the construction of a library which today is Poland’s oldest public library in operation and also one of the largest. Its holdings feature a vast number of valuable manuscripts, old prints and source documents as well as popular books. In 1864, the Prussian authorities attempted to turn the library into a German institution. Yet, despite their efforts, the library remained a mainstay of Polish culture.
The Raczyński Library offers a wide range of Polish and foreign belles lettres, scholarly and general interest publications falling within the broad category of the humanities, as well as periodicals and newspapers. Its most valuable holdings are special collections of manuscripts, old prints, maps, graphics, photographs, videos and microfilms.