Since the establishment of the Institute of Czech Literature (ICL) in 1947, a group of its staff has been committed to creating a bibliography of Czech literature and literary studies. Under the leadership of Emanuel Macek in the 1950s and 1960s especially, bibliographic research flourished at the Institute with up to 40 staff involved in creating approx. 100,000 records per year. This period saw the development of the Retrospective Bibliography of Czech Literature, a card index which today comprises approx. 1.7 million entries representing all texts on literature – including fiction reprints and reviews of foreign literature – published in newspapers or journals in the Czech lands up to 1945. These records were later expanded as required, and they continue to be annotated and revised. The scope, duration and quality of this index make it a unique tool not only in the Czech Republic but also throughout the world. It is an especially valuable resource for researchers of topics in the humanities and cultural studies in Central Europe.
In 1961, the retrospective bibliography was joined by a new initiative known as the Current Bibliography. Intended as a second specialist resource, this project initially took the form of annual bibliographic anthologies of the latest Czech literary print publications (newspapers, journals, anthologies and books). Comprehensive book-length bibliographies were also produced for individual authors such as Jaroslav Hašek, Karel Čapek and Josef Škvorecký.
After some stagnation in the 1970s and 1980s, these bibliographic activities accelerated in the 1990s. Established in 1990, the Czech Literary Studies Bibliography was one of the first computer database (ISIS system-based) bibliographies in the Czech lands. It was updated in the 1990s when the Czech Literature of Exile Bibliography was also created. At the same time, part of the Retrospective Bibliography was converted into a database that was extensively enhanced with record classification and targeted decryption. Later staff also launched a unique Biographical Archive, which collects biographical material about key Czech literary figures that has been systematically verified (through public record checks, questionnaires and other investigations). This archive’s contents are sourced either from older ICL projects (e.g. the Lexicon of Czech Literature) or our own research. In the late 1990s, the annual bibliographic anthologies from 1961 to 1980 were completely digitised.
A large-scale digitisation of bibliographic resources has also been under way since the turn of the millennium. Since 2004, parts of the bibliographies have been accessible online with weekly updates. Between 2004 and 2008, the Czech Literary Biographical Database was developed using information in the Biographical Archive. An online version was launched in 2008. The card index of the Retrospective Bibliography was also digitised and placed online between 2009 and 2011 as part of a Czech Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport-sponsored project. This completed the digitisation of existing resources, which are now fully available on the web. The most important breakthrough of this project was, however, the development and integration of bespoke digitisation software to give web users access to the card catalogue. Today this RETROBI software is also deployed at other memory and research institutions in the Czech Republic.
Between 2012 and 2015, our researchers completed the Bibliography of Czech Literary Studies 1945–1960 project with the compilation of more than 80,000 entries and the merging of the two main parts of our bibliographies in a continuous timeline. In late 2016, the challenging conversion of original databases to the Aleph system was also finalised. As a result, the CLB arguably now has the most sophisticated database library system in the Czech Republic with a single platform giving data access to all users. In 2014 and 2015, the CLB research infrastructure – or the facilities, resources, collections, archives, services, systems and tools that underpin our work – passed a demanding international assessment and since 2016, it has been included in the official Roadmap of Large Research Infrastructures of the Czech Republic. This status was confirmed in an interim review in 2017. As part of this national roadmap, our infrastructure has stable funding for the next budget period, enabling the further development of bibliographic projects. The Czech Literary Samizdat Bibliography Section was formed at the ICL in 2016, and in 2017, the Czech Literary Web Bibliography Section was added thanks to a follow-up project backed by European structural funds. Last but not least, the CLB team has set up a Global and Digital Literary Studies Lab for global literary studies based on a Czech Science Foundation-funded junior project awarded in 2020.