The national library was commemorating its 203rd anniversary on 25th November 2005. The celebrations were made more memorable by the granting of a new award of excellence, which will be given to outstanding personalities in science, art or the public sphere whose professional work, public activity and financial donations have helped the National Széchényi Library. The first academic to be awarded the honorary title of Life Member is Professor Domokos Kosáry.
Professor Kosáry, the former President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, received the prestigious title for his persistent activity inside and outside Hungary for boosting the National Széchényi Library’s reputation, for sharing his vast academic experience with the library’s scholars and for the dedication and success of the decade he spent at the head of the Corvina Foundation Board.
Bibliothecarius Emeritus is a title created in 2000 to acknowledge those scholarly librarians who have spent their whole working lives in the national library. By contrast, the new award is to honour those prominent public figures that support the institution from outside. The fact that each year maximum one life membership is granted is an indication of its high value.
A student at the Budapest Eötvös College, Domokos Kosáry had such masters as Zoltán Gombocz, Gyula Moravcsik, Gyula Szekfű. Starting from 1941 he was a distinguished member of the Pál Teleki Institute. He very much anticipated and supported the changes but soon he was disappointed with the results. In 1949 he was forced to leave the profession altogether. At the time of the 1956 Revolution he was the president of Hungarian Historians’ National Commission, for which in 1957 he was arrested and sentenced to four years in prison. Being marginalised and the years of imprisonment proved to be professionally ‘fruitful’, because these years resulted the Széchenyi in Döbling volume, which was first published in 1981. He received amnesty in 1960.
The main focus of Professor Kosáry’s research is Hungary's history in the modern age. One of his major works is Introduction to the Sources and Literature of Hungarian History. He started compiling Introduction in 1951, produced several volumes and still working on it. The wealth of sources and methodology applied in his Civilisation in 17th century Hungary (1980) and Hungary in Europe’s Modern Age International System (1985) may serve as models for every historian. In addition to his comprehensive undertakings that bridge full historical periods, his studies about the Görgey issue, or the ones about Kossuth and Széchenyi reflect his ability to analyse eminent historical figures in a precise and objective manner. Professor Kosáry holds the Széchenyi Award, and is member of several foreign academies of sciences.
At the award-giving ceremony, Mária Ormos, a full member of the Academy and historian Gábor Hanák emphasised the Professor’s exceptional human qualities. Domokos Kosáry survived dangerous times, historical turning points and intellectual ‘infections’, but his books always helped him through these turbulences. He is a keenly synthetic thinker, who does not only describe phenomena but is constantly analysing them. Since Professor Kosáry is a man of books, it is not a surprise that he is the first to be awarded the national library’s title of honour.
Domokos Kosáry has always stayed faithful to history and its requirement of not entering into any compromises for the sake of day-to-day politics. The brief speech he made to thank for the honour comes from a wise old man, whose advice is that “even under the most inhuman conditions we should try and be faithful to ourselves.”
Péter Ekler email@example.com