A Brief History of the National Library of Technology

Founding and Early History


The collection of what we know today as the National Library of Technology in Prague originated in 1718 as a collection of books belonging to the first Engineering Professor of the Czech Estates, Christian Willenberg (1655-1731).

Professorship of Engineering was instituted in the Czech Estates Decree dated November 9th 1717 and came into effect on Jan 1st 1718 for the purpose of teaching "military skills" (i.e., construction of fortifications). Based on this decree, Ch. J. Willenberg was named the Engineering Professor and given 300 gold coins as a lump-sum amount in order to purchase books and teaching materials. Books identified as part of the original collection have been by NTK to the present day.

With a Decree by the Estates dated Nov 9th 1717, 12 individuals were appointed as Prof. Willenberg´s students. He instructed them from his flat, in which he also kept the books and teaching materials purchased with the initial 300 gold coins. At that time, Prof. Willenberg lived in Prague's Lesser Town, in the so-called Saxon House.


In 1720, Prof. Willenberg moved and the book collection was transferred to Prague's Old Town, to a house on the corner of Liliová and Anenská Streets identified as a hostel for tailor´s journeymen.

Students´ complaints initiated this move because they were mostly housed in dormitories in the Old Town. Some of them also studied at the University. They all complained that the walk across Charles Bridge was waste of time and an unpleasant exercise because of heat in the summer and snow in the winter.

Johan Ferdinand Schor (1686-1767) became the second Engineering Professor of the Estates beginning on March 1st 1726. He taught his students and kept the book collection in his flat situated in 'Golden Wreath House' on Small Square. Prof. Schor enriched the collection at the expense of his own pocket.

Prof. Herget


Beginning in 1767, there was remarkable progress in the Estates School of Engineering (the name given to the original Engineering Professorship of the Estates) once the number of students significantly grew in the late 18th century, under Franz Leonhard Herget (1741-1800), third and last of the professors. After entering the office in 1767, he was teaching students and taking care of the book collection in his flats; first in Týnská Street, then in so-called 'Broumovský House' on Kozí plácek square (house demolished in 1900) and finally in the house on the corner of the Old Town Square and Melantrichova Street.


Because the number of his students kept growing, Prof. Herget looked for a place where he could run his school better than in his flat. He managed to find a lecture-room, three small rooms for books and teaching aids and a garden with a water drive where mechanical and physical experiments could be made in Prague Clementinum.

It is not known for sure in what part of Clementinum the school was located but the southern wing is assumed, the former printing shop of Jesuits (entrance from Karlova Street). The school and library were situated there in the years 1777-1786. 

In 1778, Prof. Herget managed to get an annual support of 250 goldens from the Estates to be spent on the purchase of books and teaching aids. The orientation of the school and thus also of the book collection changed from military to civil engineering and Prof. Herget completed it with literature on mathematics, physics, architecture, the art of building and mechanics. 


One of the most important achievements that Prof. Herget accomplished in his wide-ranging activities was the acquisition of so-called St Wenceslas´ Seminary (once the Jesuit Order had been abolished). Today the building is situated in Husova Street formerly called at that time Dominikánská Street, in the Old Town of Prague. The Estates School of Engineering moved into that building in the year 1786.

St Wenceslas' Seminary

The library had its place under the roof of the former St Wenceslas' Seminary in Husova Street as part of the polytechnic educational institutes. These institutes were the predecessors of the present day CTU during the period 1786 - 1935.

It was in this building that the Estates School of Engineering transformed into the Estates Polytechnic Institute in 1806. There was a subsequent division of the institute into two separate entities, the Czech institute and the German institute in the year 1869. From the year 1875 onwards, the two institutes were subordinated to the Austrian Ministry of Culture instead of being under the previous Czech self administration authorities. Education was provided in the format of either Czech or German imperial and royal technical universities. The library continued to be shared by both institutes until the German technical university was dissolved in 1945. The name of the library, Technical Universities Library, continued until the year 1960.

The library was situated in the rear section of the building. From 1834, when a new two-story wing was erected in the courtyard, visitors had to pass through two courtyards to access the library. The library was on the 1st floor and occupied three rooms with a total floor area of 114 m2. In the year 1875, the library grew thanks to a new reading room for students that had the floor area of 102 m2 and the capacity of 73 seats for readers. The reading room was set up it the rear section of the former flat that had belonged to the institute director. He was released from that function in 1863 because the management of the institute was henceforth carried out by its rector who was elected for one-year periods.

In 1891, when the existing space of the library became insufficient considering the increasing size of the collection, the German politechnical university rector assigned another hall to the German politechnical university.

An outstanding service as to the establishment of the Estates Polytechnic Institute, solemnly opened on Nov 10th, 1806, was rendered by František Josef Knight Gerstner (1756-1832).

Gerstner also served the library by establishing it as a tidy and duly registered collection of books and magazines. On May 31st, 1831, he entrusted Karl Joseph Napoleon Balling (1805-1868), adjunct in the chemistry department and later on professor and rector of the polytechnic institute, with the task of organizing the books that previously had been kept by particular professors. The last professor laid down the base of the collection of the State Library of Technology in five thematic groups: mathematics, the art of building, chemistry, mechanics and military. He continued taking care of the library until 1865.

Technical Universities Library (TUL) in Eastern Wing of Clementinum


The idea of moving TUL into more appropriate spaces than those it had had in the building of the German technical university in Husova Street came in 1920 from the university council of the newly established CTU. At one of its introductory meetings, the council made a decision "to move the shared technical library into more appropriate spaces". In February of 1927, the rector of the German technical university and CTU jointly addressed the Ministry of Education with a demand that the ministry assign the needed number of rooms in Clementinum to TUL. These rooms came from those that were emptied once the Czech university had been moved to a new building of the Faculty of Arts. In response to the ministry´s inquiry, the director of the public and university library, Dr. Borecký, specified what spaces in the eastern wing of Clementinum could be made available and assigned to TUL.

The Ministry of Finance´ s approval of the renovation project was obtained at the beginning of 1931. The essential approval by the Ministry of Public Works was granted on June 23rd, 1932. The budget drafted by the Ministry of Public Works totalled CZK 4,430,412.75 with an additional CZK 25,000.00 intended for the historical ceiling restoration in the present day large study hall. Further complicated negotiations were conducted about more money to be spent on furniture, bookshelves, etc.

The project was drawn by Arch. Dr. Ing. Ladislav Machoň in a close cooperation with the TUL director, PhDr. Antonín Moucha. The inauguration of renovated spaces in the eastern wing of Clementinum took place on May 9th, 1935.

The library´ s interior with its technical equipment – e.g. pneumatic mail – as created by both of the above mentioned authors was considered by their contemporaries to be the best library implementation in Central Europe.

The pneumatic mail consisted of a tube running both horizontally and vertically. Closed metal baskets for transporting 1-3 publications were suspended on it. The system based on the design by Dr.Moucha was manufactured as a unique specimen by the company Mikrofone.

The large study hall was furnished to accommodate 142 readers and the historical wooden ceiling of the Jesuit theatre, renovated by the Academy of Arts graduate B. Číla, attracted the attention of every visitor.

The transfer of the library into sufficiently large, pleasant and well-equipped spaces resulted in a higher number of visitors that grew from 37,000 in the year 1934 up to 100,000 visitors in 1936.

State Library of Technology

In 1960, the name Technical Universities Library was changed to State Library of Technology (STK). As time went by, even the acquired spaces in the eastern wing of Clementinum could not serve the growing needs of the library. Despite the minor refurbishments and adaptations put in place, and the construction of depository facilities in Prague 4-Písnice in the years 1974-1981 (one archival store accommodating 100,000 volumes) and in Lhota near Dolní Břežany (two archival stores with a capacity of 200,000 volumes each), the space was still not adequate.

The search for a more long lasting solution to the problem of the library´s not fully satisfactory spaces continued. Eventually, from among several projects considered in relation to a new building, the National Library of Technology construction project in Prague 6-Dejvice, in the very centre of Czech technical education, was pushed through in the late nineties.

National Library of Technology

NTK buildingThe construction of the National Library of Technology (NTK) on the premises of technical universities in Prague 6-Dejvice was started in the year 2006. In September of 2009, it was inaugurated and open to the public under the new name of 'National Library of Technology'.

The new building in Dejvice has open access to the library collection of NTK (originally the State Library of Technology) and parts of the collections owned by the library of the Czech Technical University in Prague and the library of the Chemical Technology College in Prague.

The building NTK can accommodate more than 1.7 million volumes. The most asked for titles are freely accessible on the spot and that involves up to 500,000 volumes. In addition to that, NTK offers 1.286 places for studying, 448 places for relaxing (33 of which are outside on the patio), 18 team study rooms, 29 individual study rooms (carrels), and a night study room. The new building includes spaces that enable the library not only to provide modern library services but also to host conferences, exhibitions and other cultural events.


Editor: Stephanie Krueger
Last modified: 24.10. 2013 21:10  
Contact: +420 232 002 545, stephanie.krueger@techlib.cz