Library  Today

History of Library collection counted more than 230 years. Today Library of the oldest University in Russia is the large modern information center with access to world scientific information.

The central stacks of the university library are situated in the main building of St. Petersburg University, the Twelve Collegiums, which is monument of St. Petersburg architecture of the eighteenth century constructed by Domenico Trezzini. The library was accommodated in this building in 1891.

Library print collection runs to 6, 8 million copies and near 2 million titles. The library collection is divided between basic scientific stock and subject libraries of the University departments. Library includes Central Scientific library and 21 subject libraries. It has 40 thousand current users; 30 thousand of them are students.

University has access to more than 82 thousand electronic journals and more than 170 thousands electronic books.

The personnel of SPbU Library numbers 245 persons.

Historical reference

The Scientific Library of St Petersburg University is one of the oldest and largest university libraries in Russia. It also serves as a monument of the national enlightenment, science and culture. By the richness and variety of its stock it ranks among the most prominent libraries of the world. The basic stock of the library dates back to 1783, when Empress Catherine the Great presented the First Teachers Seminary with 1100 volumes from one of the private collection. Private donations have been supported the library throughout its whole history. Over 200 private collections of university professors and outstanding promoters of Russia science and culture are kept here. The collection of books acquired by the library in the middle of the nineteenth century most certainly are is of great historical and documentary importance. It include books from the collection of Petersburg Censorship Committee ( 20 thousand books ) and the Committee of Foreigh Censorship ( about 10 thousand books ), the archive and the library of the Liberal Society of Russian Philologists, and also the library of the Bestuzhev Higher Courses for Women, which was the first higher education establishment for women in Russia. The collection of rarities which numbers 100 thousand books includes a collection of 15-20th century editions as well as incunabules, paleotypes and books in old Cyrillic script. The collection of Oriental manuscripts ( about 50 thousand manuscripts ) kept in the Oriental Department of the library is unique.

Rare books and manuscripts collection

The most valuable in respect of its historical and cultural importance part of the collection is accumulated in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department.
The collection of rare books and manuscripts numbers about one thousand Slavic and Western-European manuscripts and more than 100 thousand rare books. The oldest relic of written language kept in the Scientific Library of St.Petersburg University library is a fragment of “Sluzhebnik”(Liturgarion) of the 11th century originating from the Northern France. Among the medieval manuscripts there are several volumes of the “Corpus juris civilis” of the Emperor Justinianus with lawyer’s commentaries dating back to the 12th -14th century and a manuscript copy of Latin Bible dated 1411. The most ancient Slavic manuscripts from the university collection are “Triod”(Triodion) of the 14th century and an interesting fragment of the Gospel with a curious Bulgarian inscription of 1858, indicative of the rescue of this burned extract from the Turks. Among the Russian manuscripts there are quite a lot of outstanding literary and historical relics: “Alexandria”, “Sudebnik”(Code of laws) of Ivan the Terrible, “Ulozhenije” (Code of laws) of czar Alexei Mikhailovich; small scroll “Kratkij Letopisetz”(Brief chronicle) of the end of the 17th century. The archive of the Free Society of Amateurs in Literature, Science and Arts (1801-1826) kept in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department is a most valuable source for research on Russian literature of the beginning of the 19th century. The archive also contains a lot of autographs of the outstanding writers of the time, lists of works of N.M.Karamzin and K.N.Batushkov.
All the old-print books, foreign books from the 15th century to 1800, Russian books from the beginning of home book-printing to 1800; illegal, banned and destroyed by censorship books; the most outstanding relics of typography; first editions and classic’s lifetime editions, are subject to keeping in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department. Besides, some of the collections, which were acquired by the library, with the collections of books of the Censorship Committee, the Committee of Foreign Censorship and book collections of outstanding Russian cultural workers among them are also included in the collection of the Department.
The library stock of rare books includes considerable collections of old-print books. The collection of the books printed during the earliest period of typography, incunabula, is comparatively small and it numbers 96 editions beginning from the sixties of the 15th century. There are rarest and exceptionally valuable relics among the incunabula: the German Bible of Strassburg printer Heinrich Eggestein, richly decorated with hand-written capitals; “Saxon Mirror” of 1484, Bernard Breidenbach ‘s “Peregrinatio in terram sanctam” with a great amount of splendid engravings, the famous Hartmann Schedel’s “Liber chronicarum” of Nurnberg printer Anton Koberger’ edition of 1493. More than half of the volumes of the library incunabula collection is not represented in other libraries of Russia, and some of the editions are known to exist only in two or three copies.
The collection of books of the 16th century which numbers about 15 hundred books is not less valuable. Among them there are a lot of outstanding relics of European Renaissance: the first editions of works of Erasmus of Rotterdam; an outstanding relic of Utopian Communism - Thomas More’s “Utopia”; the second, Basel edition of the brilliant work of Copernicus “De revolutionibus orbium coelestium” ; astronomical works of Tycho Brahe; works of Petrarca and Boccaccio; historical chronicles; geographical atlases and cosmographies; codes of laws and political pamphlets.
Rare books of the 16th and 17th century which evaded bonfire take special place in the collection. These are books which had been entered in the Pope’s Index of banned books and were subject to unconditional extermination but survived till our days owing to the courage of their authors, publishers and owners. Among them are rare lifetime editions of the thinkers of the past: Giordano Bruno, Guilio Cesare Vanini, Spinoza, Galilei, Ramus, Machiavelli.
Early Slavic book-print is presented in the Scientific Library of St.Petersburg University collection by a first-print book of Cyrillic print “Octoichus” of Krakow printer Schwaipolt Fiol published in 1491. This is one of seven copies, which survived till our days. The beginning of Russian book-printing is represented by “before-Feodorov” Gospel printed in an anonymous Moscow printing house at the beginning of 1550s and Moscow and Lvov “Apostles” (1564 and 1574); Zabludov’s Gospel of 1569, Ostrog’s “New Testament” of 1581 and a particularly rare copy of Feodorov’s “Book of hours”(Horologion) of 1565 among them. There are extensive and complete collections of early Vilno printing houses and editions of Moscow printing house of the 17th century in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department. Among them are: the first Moscow “Azbuka”(ABC) of Vasily Feodorov Burtzev (1634) and engraved “Bookvar”(ABC) of Karion Istomin of the end of the 17th century.
The Scientific Library of St.Petersburg University has a good collection of Russian books printed during Peter the Great time. This collection includes study books and science editions connected with the epoch of reforms. The collection of Russian books of the 18th century was started by a collection of Russian bibliophile of the 18th century P.F.Zhoukov, laying the foundation for the university library, is of great value for the history of Russian culture.
Rare and lifetime editions of outstanding men of home and foreign science and culture, classics of Russian and world literature which are kept in the St.Petersburg University library are of exceptional value. There are rarest editions of Galilei, Kepler, Newton, Linnaeus and Laplace, M.V.Lomonosov and D.I.Mendelejev, works of A.S.Pushkin, N.V.Gogol, L.N.Tolstoy, F.M.Dostoevsky; owing to the acquisition of books of the Censorship Committee the library has the most valuable collection of censors’ copies of books, published in Petersburg in the first half of the 19th century. The books with autographs of outstanding writers and scholars: F.M.Dostoevsky, T.G.Shevchenko, A.N.Maikov and A.A.Fet take up a significant part in the collection.
Numerous editions of the epoch of West European revolutions of the 19th century, works of the classics of Utopian Socialism came to the library of the university with the books from the Committee of Foreign Censorship. These books make up a unique collection of foreign books banned in Russia during the reign of Nicholas I.
The Department has compiled and published catalogues of some of the most valuable collections: “Catalogue of Incunabula”, “Catalogue of Books of Cyrillic Print of the 16th-17th century”, “Catalogue of Paleotypes” (editions of the first half of the 16th century). The book “The Beginning of the University Library, (1783). P.F.Zhoukov’s collection as a monument of Russian culture of the 18th century: Catalogue”.

General Regulations

The Scientific Library of St. Petersburg State University is open for all the students, teachers, researches and employees of St. Petersburg State University- for all registered as a borrower and have university reading card. The students and professors from other higher educational establishments of St. Petersburg and from other cities of Russia can use the reading halls of the library.

The library is open:

Monday-Friday          10-20

Saturday                     10-18


E-resources and Catalogues


Access to resources from the list of electronic subscription open only via unique ID of St. Petersburg university customer in any time from any point of the world.

E-books -,

E-journals -,

E-resources -


Address and contact:

199034, St. Petersburg, Universitetskaya nab. 7-9

Library director:  Marina E.Karpova

Tel. +7(812) 328-27-41

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.