Baron Sigismund Zois’s Library: The Centre of Enlightenment Culture in Slovenia
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.