Another important and valuable collection which is now part of Cieszyn Library comes from the People’s Library, a cultural and educational society which was the heart of Polish national life in Cieszyn from its establishment in 1861 to the mid-1880s. In fact, the beginnings of the People’s Library go back to 1849, when an institution called the Polish Library for the People of Cieszyn Silesia was established as part of the Cieszyn Association for Self-Improvement in the Polish Language. It was the first official Polish organization in Cieszyn, founded in 1848. The aim of the Polish Library was to gather and popularize Polish literature. Apart from numerous donations, it included small book collections which used to belong to youth self-education groups functioning in the protestant secondary school. In 1854, the Polish Library was dissolved. Its resources were confiscated and incorporated into the Leopold J. Szersznik’s Library.
In 1863, the People’s Library, which continued the traditions of the Polish Library, recovered its book collection and used it as the foundation for a new library, which at the time consisted of 800 volumes. Thanks to donations from Polish writers, publishers, booksellers and bibliophiles the collection of the People’s Library grew significantly. (Apart from local activists, the donators included: Jan Milikowski, Julia Goczałkowska, Klemens Mochnacki, Mieczysław Dzieduszycki, Józef Ignacy Kraszewski, Reverend Karol Teliga, the heirs of Ignacy Bagieński, and the Association of Polish Students in Munich). When it was given to the Educational Society of the Duchy of Cieszyn, it included about 12,000 bibliographic records. Today, it contains 17,000 volumes, within that 2,000 old prints (and 7 incunabula).
Even though the collection of the People’s Library consists almost exclusively of donated items, its profile is well-defined. It is dominated by Polish belles lettres and works on history, philosophy and theology. The collection of periodicals is also quite extensive. It includes e.g. Polish emigration magazines from the 19th century. Due to the fact that many donated books came from old and often exquisite collections gathered by bibliophiles, there are numerous valuable and rare works in the People’s Library. It is enough to list some of the polonica: Leopolita’s Bible, the Brest Bible, the Nesvizh Bible, the Jakub Wujek Bible (the first edition), the Gdańsk Bible, the 16th and 17th century editions of chronicles written by Wincenty Kadłubek, Johannes Longinus, Maciej Miechowita and Marcin Kromer, Łaski’s Statute of 1506, Reformed Catechism of Königsberg (Königsberg, J. Daubmann, between 1554-1573), as well as a complete New Athens by Benedykt Chmielowski with a hand-written inscription by the author. When it comes to foreign publications, there is a complete Encyclopédie, De rebus a Carolo Gustavo gestis by Samuel von Pufendorf, Quadragesimale de christiana religione by Bernardino of Siena (Lyon, J. Carcain, c. 1490) and Epistola de morte Hieronymi by Eusebius of Cremona (Cologne, U. Zell, 1470). The last two items are the only copies of these works registered in Poland. The collection of the People’s Library is also very interesting when it comes to provenance. There are books which come from collections gathered by Andrzej Załuski, the co-founder of the first public library in Poland; Antoni Sielawa, archbishop of Polotsk; count Jan Tęczyński; the Czartoryski, Zamoyski and Tarnowski families; Vilnius Jesuit High School; the Polish Museum in Rapperswil; and École d’Artillerie in Strasbourg. Many works have splendid ex libris and supralibros.