“The Books of Jacob” is one of the most popular epic novels in recent years. Olga Torakczuk’s work became favoured as the author received the Nobel Prize in literature. Not everyone knows that the books mentioned by Tokarczuk in her masterpiece are available in the University of Warsaw Library. Martyna Osuch from BUW tells more about it in a video.

Martyna Osuch works in the Early Printed Books Department of the University of Warsaw Library. She is also a doctoral candidate at the UW Interdisciplinary Doctoral School. Martyna Osuch reads whenever it is possible, even while waiting in a store queue in a store. At school, she preferred reading fantasy over obligatory school readings. Now, she reaches for various genres. 


Although “The Books of Jacob” is not her favourite book, she believes that it is a particularly significant piece for those interested in the history of the books, early printed books or modern history. At first, she got acquainted with “The Books …” as an audiobook, now she recommends it to the others.

“By “The Books of Jacob”, Olga Tokarczuk popularises knowledge regarding the early printed books. She mentions many authentic 18th-century publications that, as not everyone knows, can be found in Polish library collections today,” explains Martyna Osuch.


In her novel, Olga Tokarczuk referred to the works from the 18th century: “Nowe Ateny” by Benedykt Chmielowski and collected poems by Elżbieta Drużbacka. The cover of “The Books of Jacob” was inspired by the cover page of “Nowe Ateny” by Benedykt Chmielowski.  “We can observe that not only the typographic arrangement is practically the same but also the author included on the cover a travesty of the “Nowe Ateny” title,” stresses Martyna Osuch.


Tokarczuk and the increase in readership

In 2019, readership in Poland slightly increased. 39% of Poles declared to have read at least one book. “Undoubtedly, prestigious literary awards, such as the Nobel Prize for Olga Tokarczuk, play a significant role in shaping readers’ tastes,” reported the National Library of Poland. Olga Tokarczuk was among the top three most widely read authors in 2019 (together with Remigiusz Mróz and Stephen King).


Source: The National Library of Poland Report (in Polish) >>