Ioanna T. Stergiopoulou [1]


The majority of new libraries today, without a historic past, tend to match very much with each other, to the point where they are something like “copies”, featuring nearly the same catalogues, with the aim to distinguish themselves from so many of those libraries that have a special connection with historical conditions and events that established them with their own identity and personality. These old, traditional libraries, often in small ways[2], aside from large urban centers, link the past to the present, serving the memory, and enhance and broaden the historical research.

The “Koventarios” Municipal Library of Kozani (KMLK), is a library with a rich and long history, the study of which helps us to understand this history above all else. The role the library plays, as a tool of information, in the life of residents of the area to get to know their cultural and social level, but also their interests in various periods of time.

All the data that we have on the library and its history, is found scattered in its archive and offers a complete picture of the library through the course of history. A systematic study of the archives is a necessary step for any serious research undertaken about the area, so that one can come up with a positive, scientific, and well-documented conclusion that is not in uncertain and subjective testimonials which are often based on secondary sources. We would not be able to, therefore, in effect quote a more detailed history without this systematic study of the archives. We make note, however, of the continuous function and of the continuous interest for the enrichment of its collection, which testifies to its useful character and confirms the label as a library with a broad horizon of knowledge. The thought and primary concern of each municipal authority is the continuous interest of the local community and the careful use of experience and technology with the aim to always be fair and not to discriminate and exclude the spread of knowledge.

Kozani is right to fell proud for her library that is among one of the most important libraries in Greece, the main reasons being not only the large collection of old books, the manuscripts, and the archives it contains, but also the large volume of contemporary collections it holds.

The History: From the Establishment (17th century)…

From the 17th century when the city, due to its location, evolved into a cultural and commercial center of the greater area of the Balkans, the Kozanite elites, scholars, and merchants, began to play a greater and more important role in events, beginning with the history of the library, which was established and built with the love and appreciation of her children[3]. This interest by wealthy Kozanites for learning and politics steered the establishment of schools and the organization of a scholarly library in their country, which evolved after many enterprises and changes into the modern municipal library, becoming the pride and joy of Western Macedonia[4].

Already from 1690 the commissioners of the Greek Museum delivered 440 religious books and literature of the monk Joseph, as we are informed by a handwritten list. To this first core of the scholarly library, which, according to the scholar and author Joseph Megdane[5], was housed in the Episcopal House, in 1745 the collections of books of the Saint Sotiri, and the bishop Meletiou came to be added, as well as books by other donors in 1752. Thus, in another handwritten list of the library, which is one century from the previous (from the same century), we read: “October 1791) 4 deliveries to the library of Father Jonah.” The total number of books that library received from the Father Jonah of Sparmioti are 545 volumes of literature, religious, philosophical, and historical content, although, a few years later, in 1800, the number of books increased dramatically to 822 volumes[6].

"which was established and built with the love and appreciation of her children"

− N. P. Delialis

Veltioseos House

In 1813, progressive Kozanites built next to the church of St. Nicholas, in the city center, a vaulted building in which they installed the library and next to it another building with the inscription Veltioseos House, in order to meet there, at times, the “educated” At this institute came all the books of the scholarly library and in a short while the library “increased even more with thousands of volumes, of which various nice fellow colleagues donated from different places, places where the works of Aftadelfon Taikatzi were purchased with care.” At the same time, George Rousiades who lived in Vienna was appointed commissioner of the library with the charge “to diligently gather as many other newly printed books and as many that are made or issued.” Aside from the Veltioseos House, which the educated peoples used as a reading room, the library loaned its books for use at home, as various handwritten receipts show as well as from hundreds of registrations in two codes, of which one served as the “Literary Catalogue”. In 1818 the bishop of Servia and Kozani Veniamin went to Dacia and when he returned “he brought back over 100 volumes of works: while a little later in 1839, Panagiotis Mouratis donates his personal library, which is 173 volumes. Numbered among them were the “Great Etymology” of 1549, which was printed in Venice, and the “Volume of Reconciliation” which was collected by Dositheos, Patriarch of Jerusalem and printed by Demetrius Pathouras in 1694 in Iași, Moldavia. Two books, bulky and written in large print, that are hard to find today. Another donation from this period contains valuable and rare material. They are the works of Efronius Raphael Popovitch, who was born in Kozani in 1775 as Charisios Papadimitriou (Papagiannousis) and he died in Iași at the end of the year 1851, he donated his collection of books and manuscripts to the library of his hometown. Mentioned with his book “Souidas” and the “Map of Greece” by Rigas Velestinli that was copper plated by Francois Miller and printed in Vienna in 1797. With these new acquisitions the library was enriched and grew until it was decided in 1873, due to inadequate space, that a hall be added and at the same time a commission was set up for the reclassification of the library and the reorganization of the library catalogue. This commission, which completed its work on 18 November of the same year, was composed of the principle John N. Kalostipi and the teachers Christopher D. Giannopoulo, Mark N. Pavlidi, and Evangelos Diafa. The classification that was used was “genre”. They separated, that is, the material into six categories, which they called “parts” and these parts were divided into subcategories. For example, the subcategory “Compositions” were the magazines, writings, and newspapers that the library received at the time, such as the “Day”, the “Age” the “Amaltheia?” the “Sun”, the “Hope”, the “Byzantium”, the “Synekdimos?”, the German “Wayfarer”, and the French “Independence”, none of which exist today. The Veltioseos House, in spite of the intangible charm that is exercised from the establishment until even the 19th century, it was forced to close its doors at the beginning of the 20th century.

The Reading Room of Kozani

In 1916, four years after the liberation of the city, under the initiative of the venerable hierarch, then bishop Erinopoulos and later Ecumenical Patriarch Photius II, the independent reading club of Kozani was founded. With the core books of the Veltioseos House and the thought of the “intellectual needs of the members and the overall service to the intellectual needs of the community of Kozani, as well as bringing about the ethical and intellectual improvement of the community”, the reorganization of the library began. The board members of the association was established with influential persons of the community from the city, such as George K. Varvoutis, lawyer, congressman, and minister, Constantine Tsitselkis, lawyer and writer, P. N. Lioufis, headmaster and author of the history of Kozani, K. M. Papaconstaninou, writer, et al. However, since the library came into economic distress that lasted four years, and after consultations, the town ultimately took over the library.

The Municipal Library

On July 10 1923, there was a solemn opening of the Municipal Library. After the blessing followed the regards and speeches. The main speaker was George Panagiotidis, then the director of the school, who detailed a comprehensive history of the old library and the objectives of the new library. Lastly they signed a protocol that gave the property of the association to the town with the special condition that: “the books, magazines, and newspapers can not be sold or disposed of by the town of Kozani and the property of the association must be used as a reading room or for the purpose of establishing a reading room.” The books that were delivered to the town amounted to 6,976 volumes. The Municipal Library was founded at first in one of the halls of the town hall, where it functioned for eleven years until 1934, from where it was transferred to the basement area of the then newly built city hall, where it operated until 1963. It was this period that it began to become widely known with the adoption of her catalogue by N. P. Deliali, with the attention that develop brave and great things. In 1963 it was rehoused in the newly built expansion of the town hall where the ground floor and first floor were constructed with investments by the brothers Constantine and Demetrius John Koventariou, our fellow ex patriots in the USA, for the exclusive housing of the library. In 1985 it moved to the 2nd floor where it is housed to this day, although from 1989 it stopped to be a part of the town and was converted to a public entity, and is run today by a 13 member board. In 1995 the Greek State through the Ministry of Culture acknowledged for one more time the importance of the collections of the library and proclaimed Kozani the “City of Books”, and bestowed the town with the title “Institute of Books and Reading” (INBR) making the improvement of the library the primary focus. On the occasion of this event was the largest donation in recent years from the Metropolitan of Kozani Dionysus, who donated his personal library and continued the tradition of benefactors of the past centuries.

The Collections

In the collections of the KMLK, aside from the modern pieces (publications after the liberation of the city in 1912), it includes distinct categories: a) manuscripts, b) forms, c) simple writings, d) archaeological collections, e) the Psarianos Library, and f) map collection.

Search in our collections here

The total number of manuscripts in the library is much larger from that which is referred to in the old catalogue of A. Sigala, due to the addition of the Sakellariou Collections and many other codes which were recently identified. The majority of manuscripts are post-Byzantine and later, mainly in the 18th and 19th century (texts which are related to the history of Kozani, written by Kozanite scholars or referring to the area, text anecdotes, or lesser known works which were preserved in a few manuscripts). Nearly all of the manuscripts are paper, with the exception of independent codices 1-4 and some papers or fragments used in bindings, which are parchment. The decoration of some codices with thumbnails or just with simple decorative elements is remarkable- such as titles and first letters- as well as the existence of high quality historical notes, in manuscripts and printed material (usually by the writer, or the scribe), of importance with relevant information about the history of the city or the area. Due to the prior relations of the library with the school of Kozani, many of the manuscripts and printed works contain useful programs for teaching. There are few useful church printed works. The recent attempts by the library to digitize and at the same time describe all of the material material is the beginning of an attempt to have access to all of the important information for every volume (bibliographical information, historical notes, description of the binding, etc.).
The majority of holdings by the library, donated by wealthy Kozanites, belong to the period of the 18th and 19th century, known as the period of Modern Greek Enlightenment. It was a period of spiritual rebirth and the awakening of Hellenism in which science was widely spread, and also the beginning the spread of freedom, history, respect for human rights, and religious tolerance. These ideas, that is, the movement of the European Enlightenment, directed and guided the Greeks of that era. There is also an important number of books from the 15th to 17th century with the oldest being a Latin text from 1494, and publications of Aristotle, Pindar, the “Efimeris” of the brothers Markidon Pouliou (the first Greek newspaper that survived), the map of Rigas, publications of the famous Venetian printer Aldus Manutius (Aldines) etc. Even some of the printed works have a relationship with Kozani, either because it contains works of Kozanites, or because the publication was paid for by Kozanites, or because their age and rarity in general is important, and makes the collection unique and contributes the maximum historical source of the time period which runs and reflects parallel to the interests of the residents of the city.
 The simple writings are mainly archival documents which give us many important pieces of information about the history of everyday life in Kozani and the wider region mainly in the period during the Ottoman rule. They are mainly ecclesiastical records, minutes of the elders, judicial, administrative, and educational documents written in Greek, and some in Ottoman, and are from the 17th up until even the 20th century. Many of the document codes and simple writings are from the Holy Metropolis of Servia and Kozani, which are separated according to church leaders, but there are also documents on file about the town of Kozani (e.g. the old cadastre of 1925[7]). The newer and modern archive[8] covers mainly the period from 1914 to 1950 and is separated simply in two portions: the town and the prefecture. The first section is mainly about the history of the city, while the second is about the entirety of Western Macedonia, since the seat of the general administration was Kozani. Later Florina and Kastoria became autonomous administrations, although the countryside Grevena decided to stay in Kozani. Perhaps the more shocking images are seen by monitoring the changes through the archive (universal or spatial etc.) and is particularly visible from periods of crisis such as, for example, the annexation of land by Greece in 1912 which concluded with the departure of numerous (Greek speaking or Turkish speaking) Muslims of the region. A body of newspapers from the same era (1914-1950) which was issued to the city of Kozani, supplements, specifies, and explains content of the majority of the documents that are referred to. At the same time there is a small number of photographs (buildings, events, faces) which also helps the completion of the picture.
 The KMLK also hosts and a small treasure of icons, holy heirlooms, woodcuts, engravings, architecture, and inscriptions, which date mainly to the post-byzantine period. These objects are sections of the old collection of the Late Christian and Post-Byzantine monuments which are kept in the local history museum of the Municipal Library, and come from the entire region of the Prefecture of Kozani. The systematic collecting and saving of antiquities from the municipality began in 1934 when the Municipality granted a hall to the Archeological Bureau at the newly built city hall for the formation of the Local History Museum “through the discovery of antiquities in the region of the Principality, and to avoid the loss of these antiquities to various other museums”[9]. Over time this collection was enriched and included findings from the prehistoric up until the modern periods, and folklore. Then, a large number of ceramics and currencies from the Classical up to the Byzantine periods, mainly for architectural reasons, were delivered to the Antiquities Curators of the Ministry of Culture, to be responsible for their preservation and their display[10]. In the modern collections a number of marble inscriptions (12) come from church buildings (Church of the Virgin Mary), but mainly come from from the sides of demolished houses of Kozani (e.g. Kontorousi, Koventariou) and fountains (e.g. Kontorousi, Metropolitan House) and date to the 18th and 19th centuries. These inscriptions give us valuable information, not only about the buildings which they come from, but also about the social context in general and offer a picture of the era. Extremely rare is the kind of prayer-icon stand from the 18th century, in the form of a case, that was suspended from the church of Saint Nikanor. Bearing the wooden frame, with floral decorations and an arched crown with the technique of carving in the air, which depicts angels who crown an eagle above the written form of the Father, are two supports which look like peacocks at the corners. Inside it contains sea-shells painted with a miniature scene of the Transfiguration on the concave side. 
The KMLK possess a small, although remarkable, collection of maps, simple writings, and atlases, among which the top position is held by the twelve page Map of Riga Velestinlis (1796-1797) already proclaimed a national monument of modern cultural heritage, and a four page world map of Anthimos Gazis (1800). For the organization and display of this collection, the Municipality of Kozani, the Koventarios Municipal Library, and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki[11], collaborated for the establishment of a Municipal Map Library at the recently restored Lassani Mansion, a building from the 18th century. The Municipal Map Library of Kozani aspires to become an innovative institution not only for the city, but also for the country with international prestige, supplementing the significant nationwide library, reinforcing the cultural profile of the city, and becoming a new educational attraction around the culture of maps and their educational power. With the appointment, promotion, and utilization of important, but up until now unknown collection of historical maps and atlases, mainly from the Hellenic period of the 18th century, sent to the birthplace of Kozanites who lived mainly in Central Europe, the Map Library offers Kozani a new subject and together with the library they will become a powerful dipole in the field of knowledge and culture. The Map Library is organized with a base of contemporary beliefs and practices for such institutions, giving emphasis to new digital technologies and international cooperation so that it can become an innovative, open, and attractive organization, and a center of cultural, educational, and scientific tourism. In this way, Kozani becomes the first city in Greece which acquires a municipal institution of this type, and pioneered the cultivation and development of the historical deficit of out country’s culture of cartography and maps. 
 The donation of a library constitutes an indisputable fact, pure and fair benefaction. The life and ethos of the same benefactor, the late Metropolitan of Servia and Kozani Dionysus, stood by the study of books, and transferred from his own writings to the people of Kozani. The same person believed that a book is not valuable as a physical object, but rather the value is what the reader draws by reading it [12]. Therefore, he bequeathed his collections, the content and size of which all the Kozanites in his flock recognized in 1995, and with the proclamation of Kozani as the city of books, continued in the tradition of enriching the local library with important donations by eminent men.
The largest section of the collections of the KMLK is the contemporary pieces, that is documents which have been issued after the liberation of the city in 1912. These collections, post-1912, are organized according to the international library standards, covering and representing the whole range of knowledge, and are continuously enriched to satisfy the needs of the user. And since the modern times are consistent with technology, the library, in addition to printed material, includes cds, dvds, and a significant digital collection. For the electronic processing and recording of the material of the KMLK, it uses the program ABEKT 5.6 made by the National Documentation Center of the National Research Foundation.


[1] Δ/ντρια ΚΔΒΚ,
[2] Όπως είναι για παράδειγμα οι βιβλιοθήκες της Κοζάνης, των Μηλεών Πηλίου, της Ανδρίτσαινας κ.ά.
[3] Ν. Π. Δελιαλής, Κατάλογος εντύπων δημοτικής βιβλιοθήκης Κοζάνης. Μέρος 2ον .Θες/νικη, 1964
[4] Βλ. Βασίλη Γ. Σαμπανόπουλο (φυλλάδιο).
[5] Προφανώς δάσκαλο της Σχολής και βιβλιοφύλακα.
[6] Βασίλη Γ. Σαμπανόπουλος.
[7] Της περιόδου της εγκατάστασης των προσφύγων με τη φροντίδα της Κοινωνίας των Εθνών (1924-1929).
[8] Βλ. Αθ. Καλλιανιώτης, υπό έκδοση.
[9] Ν. Π. Δελιαλής, Συλλογή παλαιοχριστιανικών και μεταγενεστέρων μνημείων της Δημοτικής βιβλιοθήκης Κοζάνης. Θες/νικη, 1955.
[10] Βλ. Αγαθ. Δ. Τσιλιπάκου, υπό έκδοση.
[11] Με επιστημονικό υπεύθυνο τον καθηγητή του ΑΠΘ Ευάγγελο Λιβιεράτο.
[12] Παναγιώτης Δημόπουλος 2004