Baczyński's 'W żalu najczystszym' inscribed on the Polish National List of the UNESCO Memory of the World Register - News - The National Library

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Baczyński's 'W żalu najczystszym' inscribed on the Polish National List of the UNESCO Memory of the World Register

The manuscript of W żalu najczystszym (In Purest Sorrow) by the poet Krzysztof Kamil Baczyński has been inscribed on the Polish National List of the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.

The small volume of verses W żalu najczystszym by Krzysztof Kamil Baczyński – the leading poet of what is known as the Generation of Columbuses – lies somewhere between poetry, painting and drawing. Dedicated to his wife Barbara, it demonstrates Baczyński's extraordinary sensitivity in describing the traumatic experience of the apocalyptic times in which he lived. Written during the Nazi occupation, the poems are a testimony to the durability of Polish culture and the power of poetry to transcend the reality of wartime. The small handcrafted volume is a Gesamtkunstwerk, a literary and an artistic masterpiece in one.

Baczyński compiled the manuscript before his marriage to Barbara Drapczyńska, which took place on June 3, 1942, as a wedding gift for his wife. It is an exceptional work in the poet's oeuvre due to its personal nature, connected as it is with his future wife, the person he was closest to after his mother. The small volume contains a selection of works that Baczyński considered of sufficient worth to commemorate one of the most important events in his and his wife's life, embellished with drawings and watercolours. The artistic form of the volume derives partly from the Polish tradition of the piękna książka ("beautiful book") and partly from that of the medieval manuscript, with its illuminations and ornamental initials that lift it into the realm of the sacred. The strength of the volume as a testimony to the durability of Polish culture is enhanced by the fact that both the author and the addressee died in the Warsaw Uprising less than two years after their wedding. The manuscript is material proof of their mutual love and devotion.

The manuscript was purchased by the National Library of Poland in 1963 along with the poet's other manuscripts from Feliksa Drapczyńska, Barbara Drapczyńska's mother. A high-quality digitised version of the original manuscript can be accessed via the digital library polona.pl.

In recognition of his contribution to Poland, the Polish Sejm has announced that 2021 is the Year of Krzysztof Kamil Baczyński. January marked the 100th anniversary of the poet's birth.

The prestigious Polish National List of the UNESCO Memory of the World Register contains invaluable written documents relating to key events in the history of Poland. UNESCO established the Memory of the World Programme in 1992. Its aim is to permanently recognise the significance of humanity's many centuries of documentary heritage. The Programme draws society's attention to the necessity of preserving documents of particular historical importance which are a record of our culture and civilisation. Information about the objects honoured this year with inscription on the Polish National List will be gradually released on pamiecpolski.archiwa.gov.pl. The full list will be published on June 9.

W żalu najczystszym is the third item to be inscribed on the Polish National List this year, after Teki Górskiego and Balladyna.

Previous years have seen the inclusion of exceptional objects from Polish archives, libraries and other Polish institutions in Poland and abroad. The following items from the collections of the National Library of Poland already feature on the Polish National List: the Gesta principum Polonorum of Gallus Anonymous, the Kazania świętokrzyskie (Holy Cross Sermons), the Rocznik świętokrzyski dawny (Old Annals of the Holy Cross), the manuscript of Stefan Żeromski's Przedwiośnie ("The Spring to Come"), the first edition of Józef Pawlikowski's pamphlet Czy Polacy wybić się mogą na niepodległość? ("Can Poles win their independence?") and a poster of the Regency Council dated November 11, 1918 announcing the handing over of military power in Poland to Józef Piłsudski. The separate UNESCO Memory of the World Register includes two further objects from the collection of the National Library of Poland: manuscript scores by Chopin and the Codex Suprasliensis.

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