In the first period (1540-1773) of the Society’s history, beside three university libraries, two upper school libraries and 41 lower (secondary) school libraries, 40 Jesuit libraries were in operation in their Houses. The ones in Buda, Cluj and Bratislava gained national reputation, while the library in Trnava became well-known for its scientific collection throughout Europe. This latter one is the legal predecessor of today’s ELTE University Library, Budapest.
In the second period, since 1814 (in Hungary since 1853), establishing libraries started again; as they could not reobtain the old ones, new collections were born. The most significant of them were two secondary school libraries in Kalocsa and Pécs, but the ones in the College of Szeged, in the Centre of the Province in Budapest and in the Manresa Retreat House and Novitiate were also very important. New book collections primarily supporting the pastoral-liturgical work were formed as well in the smaller Houses in the countryside, e.g. in Szeged, Hódmezővásárhely, Mezőkövesd, Nagykapornak, Kispest and Kaposvár.
In 1950, due to the violent suppression of religious orders by the communist government, a major part of the libraries was either demolished or deprivatized including the holdings of the Houses in the countryside and of the Historical Library founded in 1934 together with the Archives.
The emigrant part of the Hungarian province (Section II), however, continued to organize its own libraries all around Europe and overseas. Due to this fact and the generous donators, new Jesuit libraries were established after the restitution of the Society in Hungary by the middle of the 90s. In every House and institute of the Hungarian Province local cabinet libraries were formed.
The reestablishment of the Historical Library and the Archives took place in 1991. At the same time collecting the scattered items also started. As a result, the Historical Library received back as many as 1100 volumes, the largest part of which are books dating from between the 16th and 19th centuries. In October, 2010 the holdings were located in the same common storeroom, thus enabling the revision and preservation of the stock.
In the summer of 2012 the holdings were further enriched since the Historical Library received back 1000 volumes from the Library of Pannonhalma Archabbey, also consisting of books from between the 16th and 19th centuries. By July, 2012 a stock of old-print books was thus formed with 2100 volumes. With the help of the restorers of Pre-Con Company it was undusted, cleaned and sterilized in a preventive conservation procedure at the cost of the Society of Jesus. Thus the stock is now in a better condition, cleaned and conserved for many years ahead. One can find a summary catalogue of the books based on which a more thorough, professional processing started with the help of interns from the Library Major at ELTE Faculty of Arts. The collection consists of works mainly on theology, history, church history, canon law, civil law and literature, and grows constantly at a small rate.
The other, in fact much bigger part of the Historical Library serves as an auxiliatory library to the Archives. It contains mainly Jesuit-related books; ones on Jesuit history or written by Jesuit authors. This part of the collection has been rearranged recently and is being augmented year by year with current Hungarian and international publications on the history of the Society of Jesus.