The Magyary-Kossa Historic Veterinary Book Collection
The collection of books started immediately after the foundation of the veterinary department as a part of the Pest University in 1787. This is testified in ordinance no. 21870. of the Hungarian Royal Council of the Governor dated 3 September 1791 addressed to the Council of the University: „When Alexander Tolnay was appointed professor of the Veterinary Department of the University he dealt with the acquisition of books required for the department. He did not only look for books that could be used in the library of the university open to the public, but also ones that was asked for by the professors to aid their daily work.” Inventories had included lists of books ever since the foundation, and prove that the department always had a valuable collection of books of which the largest veterinary collection of Hungary has developed.
Tolnay purchased books not only from central funds dedicated to acquisition but managed to add very precious items to the collection like Seuter’s Hippiatria (1599), Ruini’s Anatomia et medicina equorum nova (1603). Mulomedicina by Vegetius (1574), a concise summary of ancient veterinary science, deserves special attention. It was published in Latin, among others, by János Zsámboki, a humanist scholar in Basel, thus it can be looked upon as the first veterinary Hungarica. The manuscript of the book was also found in Hungary in 1528.
Tolnay paid special attention to the development of the library until the end of his life, and had a fair acquisition budget, too. 203 of the 224 volumes he purchased can still be found in the collection. The first books in Hungarian are translations of his professor from Vienna, Wolstein, and his own books and were very popular all over the country. After the death of Tolnay, his followers (József Hoffner, Vilmos Zlamál, Alajos Szabó) carried on the development of the library with much care.
In 1874 Béla Nádaskay was entrusted with the organisation of the book collection of the veterinary institute that had become independent in 1851. He reported the following: ”Greater care has been taken of the library of the institution only recently, and I daresay that it has developed fairly, thus we have 731 works in 970 volumes, some of which have a historic value, but for the most part, it consists of more recent works of high scientific standard issued in Hungarian and German.”
The classification system, elaborated by Nádaskay, had consisted of 14 groups, which were later supplemented by 8 new groups serving the ordering of books. In 1902 Gyula Magyary-Kossa edited the catalogue of the Academy entitled „A magyar királyi Állatorvosi Főiskola Könyvtárának katalógusa” which enumerated 3586 works (6532 volumes). He emphasizes that „We paid special attention to the acquisition of old books written in Hungarian or of Hungarian relevance that were missing from the library so as to build an almost complete collection of veterinary Hungarica in the Academy that gives a perfect overview of the development of the veterinary service and training in Hungary.”
The present 250-volume Hungarica material of the collection consists of items in veterinary science and animal breeding (40%), human medicine (30%), agriculture (10%), natural history (5%), social sciences (2.5%) and miscellanea. Half of the books are in Hungarian, the rest in Latin or German. 212 volumes from before 1850 are included in a special catalogue entitled: „Az Állatorvostörténeti Könyvgyűjtemény régi magyar és magyar vonatkozású könyvei 1574-1850”.
Magyary-Kossa managed the library for nearly a decade and enthusiastically purchased old books which are precious pieces of the library even today. One of the outstanding pieces of this bibliographic efforts testifying his great philological capacities is the Hungarian veterinary bibliography („Magyar állatorvosi könyvészet 1472-1904”).
The professors of the university have always supported the library with valuable donations. Many of the ancient books were restored by means of university or other funds, and some pieces are digitized. The collection is completely searchable in the computerized catalogue of the library.
5000 volumes of the collection, ordered according to the subject classification of Nádaskay, were moved to a separate room in 1984, and the special collection was named Magyary-Kossa Historic Veterinary Book Collection three years later.