The Jagiellonian Library holds more than 106 000 early printed books and about 2 400 volumes of periodicals (published before 1800). These items are stored, catalogued and made available in the Section of the Early Printed Books.
The collection of early printed books in the Jagiellonian Library is, to a great extent, the result of the work of Cracow academic circles. The Jagiellonian Library is the only library in Poland whose holdings have increased naturally over the course of history. They were shaped by the needs of the academic community, serving as its basic workshop, which consisted of books strictly connected with the fields of research offered by the university. This explains the huge number of theological books, including Counter-Reformation and polemical texts, studies in canonic law, medicine, and the "liberal arts", as well as the considerable number of academic handbooks, which were used in Europe at that time, and also, of university prints such as the unique copies of prognostic texts, calendars, dissertations etc.
The historical increase of the collections is the result of numerous donations, bequests and foundations of professors, bachelors and scholars of the Academy, which are recorded in provenance notes. Among numerous donors and founders, those who deserve particular mention include Michael of Wiślica (died 1575), Jan Ponętowski (1540-1598), Jan Brożek (1585- 1652), Jan Muscenius (died 1602), Łukasz Piotrowski (died 1679), and finally, Benedict of Koźmin (1497-1559). The considerable increase of the collection is the result of the well-considered policy on gathering items, pursued since the beginning of the 19th century by the subsequent curators and directors of the Library, such as Jerzy Samuel Bandkie (librarian from 1811 to 1835), Józef Muczkowski (director from 1837 to 1858), Karol Estreicher (director from 1868 to 1905), and finally, Kazimierz Piekarski (librarian from 1925 to 1930).
The early printed book collection of the Jagiellonian Library also contains the libraries of monasteries from the whole Poland, each of which arrived here in different time and circumstances. Most considerable of these include the books from the library of the Cracow Jesuits, which were handed over to the Library of the Main Crown School after the dissolution of the Jesuit order in 1773, and the early printed books from the library of the Augustinian convent at st. Catherine's church in Cracow, which were handed over to the library in 1951, after the dissolution of that monastery. Some prints were obtained as the result of the exchange with the Kórnik Library and the Czartoryski Library in Cracow. The Library's collection of early printed books is continuously increasing thanks to acquisitions, donations and deposits.