The history of the graphic collection of the Jagiellonian Library dates back to the 16th century. It was not until 1919 when a separate Department of Graphic Collections was formed. Items of iconographic nature (including so-called albums, i.e. richly illustrated early prints, loose graphic prints, drawings, photographs, and postcards) were selected from the general holdings of the Jagiellonian Library. Henceforth, they have been stored and made available in a separate place. In 1999, the Department of Graphic Collections was merged with the Department of Cartography and has since then functioned as the Department of Graphic and Cartographic Collections. In November 2013, it was converted to the Section of Graphic and Cartographic Collections, which is part of the Department of Special Collections.
The graphic collection of the Jagiellonian Library consists of 58 300 items, including about 880 albums, 24 000 graphic prints, about 6 5000 drawings, and about 25 900 photographs. We collect all items of iconographic nature from the 13th to the 21st century, both of Polish as well as of foreign origin. However, the general profile of the graphic collection consists, above all, of cracoviana and galiciana. The vast majority of items in our collection were either donated to or acquired by the Library in earlier centuries.
The most precious objects in the graphic collection include Dutch and Italian etchings from the second half of the 16th century (bequeathed to the Jagiellonian Library by Jan Ponętowski), several hundred 17th century etchings of Jacques Gallot, 18th century etchings of Giovanni Piranesi, Italian miniatures from the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries (the collection of Jan Sierakowski, purchased for the Jagiellonian Library by Karol Estreicher at the end of the 19th century), watercolours of Jan Wojnarowski and Bogumił Gąsiorowski, which are a priceless record of the monuments of Cracow before the Great Fire in 1850. The collection also includes the drawings of, inter alia, Artur Grottger, Ignacy Kraszewski, Cyprian Kamil Norwid, Zbigniew Pronaszko, and Antoni Uniechowski.