The Teleki Library is an encyclopaedic and scientific collection of books, founded by Sámuel Teleki (1739-1822), a Hungarian aristocrat, with the specific purpose of preserving and treasuring all published results that science and culture had produced - while still making it available for everyone. Teleki Library is one of the oldest public libraries Transylvania, it was opened in the autumn of 1802 and since then it has been opened continually. So this library is an encyclopaedic collection of printed books, published between the 15th and the first half of the 19th centuries. Sámuel Teleki had travelled widely abroad, and his studies took him first to Switzerland, then to Holland, France, Germany and Austria, where he had the opportunity to visit several public- and private libraries. In the latter years of his life he became Chancellor of Transylvania, residing in Vienna. As a young man, he began to buy and collect the most valuable and unique books, first editions, prints of the most famous editors like Aldus Manutius, Frobenius, Plantin and Elzevir. The most complete series in his collection are those illustrating the period of the Enlightenment - the period in which Sámuel Teleki himself lived. He chose and purchased his books only after thorough consideration and according to a very well established scheme.
The original collection of books, totalling some 40,000 volumes, is valuable from several aspects: it has 71 incunabula (books printed before 1501) - the oldest of which is that of Galeotto Marzio’s “Liber de homine ”, printed in Bologna in 1474.
The books also have significant scientific, cultural and artistic value. There are books belonging to the most famous philosophers such as: Aristotle, Lucrece, Hobbes, Bacon, Thomas More, Locke, Hume, Descartes, Leibnitz, Voltaire, Montesquieu, Rousseau and many other progressive writers of the Enlightenment. There are also books on world history, mathematics, physics, chemistry, botany, zoology, architecture, medicine, theology and technology. The names of Franklin, Newton, Guericke, Bernoulli, Kepler, Tycho Brahe, Galvani, Volta, Linné, Lavoisier, Laplace, Paracelsus, Hipocrates, Vesalius deserve special mention.
The books are written in Latin, Greek, German, French, Hungarian, Italian, English, Romanian and also in several Oriental languages, most of them in parchment or leather bindings. Teleki was also a passionate collector of engravings, maps and atlases.
Sámuel Teleki compiled the first catalogue of a public library, which he published in 4 volumes, so his contribution to the development of library science is also worth noting.
The building is baroque in style and the arrangement of the books, paintings, busts and furniture have all remained the same since Teleki’s time. On the ground floor there are the busts of Sámuel Teleki and of his wife, Zsuzsanna Bethlen de Iktár. Other busts and statues are copies of the originals from the Vatican Library, and they represent illustrious persons of ancient Greece and Rome. Opposite the entrance and above the entrance-door there are the portraits of Sámuel Teleki. There are also portraits of King Matthias Corvinus, Gábor Bethlen, Mihály Teleki - Sámuel’s grandfather. Teleki purchased for his library the portraits of Ignác Batthány and Sámuel von Bruckenthal - both founders of famous libraries in Transylvania.
In 1955 the Teleki Library was enriched with the library of the former Protestant College (now the Bolyai Farkas High-school) comprising some 80,000 items. The collection of the Teleki-Bolyai Library also contains fragments from libraries of closed down religious houses and confessional schools; also private libraries - acquired through generous donations. The number of old books, periodicals and manuscripts total about 240,000.