According to his first handwritten catalogue, the establisher of the library Vavrinec Čaplovič (born August 5, 1778 in Jasenová – died December 25, 1853 in Bratislava) was only fourteen when he started collecting books during his studies in Banská Bystrica. In the beginning, his collecting activities very primarily focused on the Orava region. While working as an archivist for the Zichy family between the years 1810 – 1852 in Bratislava, he had more opportunities to enlarge his valuable collection. Here, meeting with booksellers, antiquarians or new friends and supporters, she obtained books not only from Bratislava but also from Vienna, Linz, Budapest, Veszprem, Prague, Leipzig, Halle, Berlin, Ulm, Potsdam or Augsburg. The most admirable decision in his collecting carrier was a decree from April 15, 1839, in which Čaplovič donated his private collection to the people of Orava. At that time, the collection consisted of approximately 20 000 books and numerous artefacts. The established library was passed to the possession of the County of Orava that was bound to administer the collection. On Čaplovič’s expenses, the collection was transported from Bratislava to Dolný Kubín between the years 1839 – 1851 in 14 consignments. Even after this admirable act, Čaplovič kept enlarging the collection until his death in 1853. He listed all the new additions into 14 handwritten catalogues, 13 of which are still preserved and stored in the library archive. During sixty years of his collecting activities (from November 1, 1792 – April 26, 1852), he spent 63 455 guilders and 23 kreutzers.
The separate two-floor building of the Čaplovič’s Library was built between the years 1905 – 1911. In May 1911, the collection was being stored on the second floor, also with the reading room and the librarian’s office. The librarian’s flat, the reading society room and the exhibition room with valuable decrees, antiquities and other rarities, were located on the ground floor. The book loan started on January 1, 1914.
In 1954, the building was adapted for the Literary Museum of P. O. Hviezdoslav that merged with the library.
The library collection was reorganized and catalogued several times. The current catalogue was prepared by Dr. Ján Smetana during the inter-war period. The books were divided into 12 main groups by the field and 4 other groups. Since the last decade of the 20th century, the new acquisitions are recorded in the new separate groups of the New Collection (Novovytvorený fond – NF) and the Hand Library (Príručná knižnica).
The number of books in the collection of the Čaplovič’s Library, sorted according to the current catalogue:
- Bibliographies, lexicons – 2 234
- Theology – 4 862
- Philosophy – 2 528
- History and geography – 12 065
- Sociology – 1 303
- Law – 1 601
- Philology – 2 693
- Fiction – 3 603
- Mathematics – 2 289
- Natural sciences – 11 911
- Art – 1 665
- Revues and varia – 38 145
- R (rara) – 594
- C (manuscripts) 302
- P – 817
- K – 1 465
- New Collection (Novovytvorený fond – NF) – 4 390
- Hand Library (Príručná knižnica) – 1 144
Total: 93 611 book units (December 31, 2017).
In the valuable collection of the Čaplovič’s Library, the works of the Slovak, European and world literature, 320 manuscripts from the 14th – 19th century, 25 incunabula (old prints from the period before 1500) and 1 408 prints from the 16th century, can be found. The 1 293 works from the library’s art collection are also noteworthy, including portraits, vedute, sketches of theatre decorations, painting or architecture reproductions and botanical illustrations from various artists of the 17th – 19th century.
Interesting group of artefacts stored in the library is the collection of 1 607 hand-drawn and printed maps from the 17th – 20th century. Some of them capture the region of Orava, other focus on the area of today’s Slovakia and other countries of Europe and beyond.