At the core of the astonishingly rich collection that the SHM library houses there are gifts of patrons of the arts, scientists and bibliophiles who shaped the history of the Russian culture in the 19th – early 20th centuries The donors included founders and curators of the Historical Museum I.E. Zabelin and A.S. Uvarov, collectors A.P. Bakhrushin and P.V. Shchapov, a prominent statesman and defense chief General N.N. Myravyev-Karsky, outstanding editor and publicist A.S. Suvorin, historians G.F. Karpov and D.I. Ilovaysky, and others. The famous bibliographer and historian A.I. Stankevich was a former of the SHM library.
Nina Pavlovna Zvereva (1903-1998), the SHM Library chief from 1940 to 1976, was one of the distinguished Department employees. In 1938, by a resolution of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR, the collections of the Historical Museum’s library were moved to Starosadsky Lane to become the backbone of the State Public Historical Library. In 1940 when N.P. Zvereva took charge of the Department a normal acquisition and a formal description of available books began, the circulation department re-opened and the work on catalogues started. Toward the end of the war and during the early post-war years the Library acquired a lot of valuable book collections transferred from the exchange fund of Museum of Revolution, Library of Moscow State University, some individuals, or made purchases in second-hand bookstores.
Currently, the library contains over 200 thousand volumes of first-rate editions on archeology, Russian and foreign history, religion, philosophy, ethnography, Russian and foreign Arts, secondary historical disciplines, linguistics and literary studies. The best part of the collection consists of books in European languages.
The most valuable editions of the books collection (incunabulae, West-European editions of the 15th-19th centuries, books published in Russia in the 18th century, editions of the 19th-20th centuries covering events and epochs of historical importance, the first editions of crucially important historical documents, the first and lifetime editions of outstanding scientists and writers, confiscated and banned editions, books issued in small numbers) compose a fund of rare books. The collection’s value is evidently increased by the fact that many books belonged to famous workers of science and culture and have their bookplates, owner’s inscriptions and notes.
Highly artistic editions (“books-masterpieces”) or “ordinary” books illustrated by their owners, extra-binding book -: even this brief list is fairly enough to prove that the Books Department is of major interest.