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Joachim Lelewel (1786-1861), a distinguished Pole, politician and historian, went down in Polish historiography as the author of pioneering writings on history, the history of writing and bookselling, and the history of cartography and numismatics of antiquity and the Middle Ages. He worked in Warsaw and Vilnius, where he was professor of general history at the University of Vilnius. After the fall of the November Rising, as an emigrant he stayed briefly in France. In 1833 Belgium gave him shelter. He settled in Brussels, where he spent 28 years of his extremely busy life. His scientific achievements in numismatics from that time brought the Polish scholar international recognition and fame.
Lelewel was also an amateur printmaker, hand-crafting illustrations for his publications. He made nearly 270 engravings in etching and chalcography techniques.
In 1897 the National Museum in Krakow purchased a large number of his prints from Wiesława Jadwiga Russocka, Lelewel's niece. This unique collection of 232 chalcographies was presented to the general public for the first time. The plates are exhibited alongside selected titles of Lelewel's most outstanding works, in which one can see graphic prints made from them - maps, numismatic charts or copies of woodcuts illustrating Polish old prints. The collection also includes examples of matrices which were never published as engravings in the scholar's books.
The graphic legacy is presented against the background of Lelewel's biography. Presented here are his images, as well as numerous examples of drawings and paintings that served as models for engravings. Also presented are a few of his works not strictly connected with academic work (e.g. portraits of his family and friends), as well as a small number of his keepsakes.