THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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8 posts categorized "Lithuania"

03 April 2018

Literature of the Baltic countries in English translation

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In this centenary year of the independence of each of the Baltic republics, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, great efforts are being made to promote the three very distinct literatures of those countries in translation. Until now, when lists of works appearing in translation were produced by the literature-promoting agencies of each country, English translations made up the shortest list among the European languages.

Since English is more widely spoken in Europe than the other languages into which translations are made, it is a matter of urgency to rectify this, and now, in this centenary year, being marked by ‘market focus’ status at the London Book Fair in 2018, there is a chance to showcase the rich diversity of Baltic literature – in translation.

The reverse side of the coin is the huge competition for the attention of English-speaking readers in the marketplace. Only a small proportion of each country’s literature is seen as worth translating into English, given the relative unpopularity of translated literature among Anglophones.

Part of the problem in the Baltic case is that there are practically no opportunities to study these literatures, either in the original or in translation, at British universities. At the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (part of University College London), from 2018 it will be possible to study an undergraduate course introducing the literatures of these three countries in English translation. The range of available texts is now at last expanding rapidly.

Each of the Baltic republics’ governments operates a state-subsidised translation programme; these have existed almost since the countries regained their independence in 1991. With the centenary celebrations and the market focus at the London Book Fair, English is being emphasised as a target language this year. Both modern works and the classical canon are being represented, and the introductory course will try to give at least a taste of as many genres and generations of writing from each Baltic country as possible.

BalticKalevipoegCoverCover (above) and titler-page (below) of Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald, Kalevipoeg (Tartu, 1935). Ac.9076/19. 
BalticKalevipoegTitlepage

The languages are ancient, but the literary traditions are relatively young. To present the ‘folk’ literature of each nation is to be thrust into the 19th-century National Awakening which followed in the wake of Enlightenment scholars such as Herder and their influence filtered through the Baltic German nobility (at least in Livonia, the northern half of the region). In Estonia the national epic Kalevipoeg (The Son of Kalev) was largely the work of 19th-century authors Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald and Friedrich Robert Faehlmann, inspired by the more genuinely ancient folk poetry of the Kalevala in Finland.

In Latvia, too, the work of epic ancient heroism Lāčplēsis (The Bear Slayer) was the work of one 19th-century author, Andrejs Pumpurs. The germ of this creation, however, lay in much older oral verse, as gathered by Krišjānis Barons in his vast collection of dainas – short rhymed verses reflecting folk wisdom on various aspects of life, love and the annual cycle of the seasons.

BalticBlogLatviansongsTitle page of Latwju dainas (Jelgawa, 1894). X.900/4488

The situation in Lithuania was slightly different, the result of different historical processes and the long political association with Poland. The first notable Lithuanian work available in any kind of English translation is Kristijonas Donelaitis’ 18th-century poetical cycle Metai (The Seasons) – there were earlier poets and writers, but their work is still virtually inaccessible to the English speaker.

From the 19th century onward certain trends are detectable that reflect European literary movements of the time, but the works are also specific to each country’s situation. 19th-century literature is inextricably linked to the struggle for recognition and development of the languages as literary vehicles in their own right.

Early examples of the novel genre, such as the Latvian Kaudzīte brothers’ Mērnieku laiki (The Time of the Surveyors), are not readily available in English. In fact, any literature written before the first independence period (1918-1940) is hard to come by in English translation. Breaking away from foreign cultural models was linked to the prevalence of Russian and German in education in the Baltic countries. The full flowering of the novel came with independence, with authors such as A.H.Tammsaare and Friedebert Tuglas in Estonia and Andrejs Upītis in Latvia. Among the most prolifically translated Baltic authors is Jaan Kross of Estonia.

BalticBlogTuglasTitlepage

Title-page and frontispiece of  Friedebert Tuglas, Riders in the sky (Tallinn, 1986). YA.1992.b.648

Poetry in translation is mostly confined to anthologised work, but it spans both of the independence periods. Some poets have achieved international distinction, such as Tomas Venclova from Lithuania and Jaan Kaplinski from Estonia. What is more difficult to obtain in English is drama – very few plays from the Baltic republics have appeared in English, not even the works of the Latvian Rūdolfs Blaumanis, and thus the survey of literature in translation is a little lopsided as to genres.

Kaplinski Through the Forest YK.1997.a.3737Cover of Jaan Kaplinski, Through the Forest, translated by Hildi Hawkins (London, 1996). YK.1997.a.3737

Contemporary literature is much more widely available in translation. Writers who lived into the second independence period, or are writing now, are making their literatures known more than ever before. In Lithuania, Ričardas Gavelis and Jurgis Kunčinas; in Latvia, Pauls Bankovskis and Zigmunds Skujiņš; in Estonia, Andrus Kivirähk and Indrek Hargla have recently become available in English, to name but a few.

Baltic literature in English translation is still patchy in its coverage. Certain writers who are central to the canon in their own countries – Oskar Luts in Estonia, Jānis Rainis in Latvia and Vincas Krėvė in Lithuania, are still sorely under-represented. But this is an exciting time to become acquainted with this previously little-known corner of Europe and the literary treasures it holds.

Baltic montage

Christopher Moseley, Teaching Fellow in Estonian, SSEES, UCL

On 9 April the British Library will be hosting ‘Being Baltic’, a discussion with three leading Baltic writers – Mihkel Mutt (Estonia), Nora Ikstena (Latvia) and Kristina Sabaliauskaitė (Lithuania) chaired by Rosie Goldsmith. You can find more details and book online here.

 

25 March 2018

The Centenary of the Belarusian Democratic Republic

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I remember very vividly my confusion when in March 1990 I found myself on a park bench reading a thin samizdat publication, Dzien Voli (‘Freedom Day’), dedicated to the anniversary of Belarusian independence. It was delivered to Minsk from Vilnius where much Belarusian samizdat was published at that time. In the Soviet Union, we were told that Belarus and Belarusians had always been part of something else – of other countries and peoples.

From Dzien Voli I learned for the first time a story of the Belarusian Democratic Republic (also translated as Belarusian People’s Republic; BNR in its Belarusian abbreviation). It was proclaimed independent by representatives of civic and political organisations and parties in Minsk on 25 March 1918. They used a very short window of opportunity – just a few days – between the Russian Bolshevik army leaving Minsk and the advancing Germans entering the city.

Belarus Nationalemblems8296tt46
Flag and state coat of arms of the Belarusian Democratic Republic, frontispiece from Za Dziarzhaunuiu Nezalezhnasts' Belarusi = For national independence of Byelorussia (London, 1960). 8296.tt.46

Neither the occupying German authorities nor the Russian Bolshevik government fully recognised the BNR, though both had to take its existence into account. The BNR government in Minsk attempted to form its own army, school system, local authorities, trade and diplomatic missions. It was most successful in building relations with the Ukrainian Democratic Republic, which had declared its independence three months earlier and secured recognition from the occupying German authorities. The BNR’s main income came from forest wood sold to the Ukrainian government in exchange for cash and food supplies. The BNR government managed to established diplomatic missions in several other countries and took part in the Versailles Peace Conference after the First World War.

BelarusGovernment_of_BNRNational Secretariat (the first government of the Belarusian Democratic Republic). Reproduced in  Uladzimir Arloŭ, This country called Belarus: an illustrated history. (Bratislava, 2013). YD.2013.b.892

In January 1919, the BNR government left Minsk before the advancing Bolshevik army. It later operated in Vilnius, Hrodna (Grodno), Berlin and Prague. After the Second World War the Belarusian diaspora sustained its existence. Its role as a government in exile has always been symbolic, but symbols are capable of communicating memories and inspiring the strongest feelings.

Without BNR, the Bolshevik government might never have permitted the creation of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (BSSR), which was among the founding members of the Soviet Union in 1922. Having their own state entity as part of the Soviet Union, though powerless in many respects, allowed the Belarusians to survive and develop further as a nation until full independence in 1991.

The BNR’s proclamation of independence was preceded by two other charters from the same body of civic and political representatives in February-March 1918. They confirmed the intention to build the future national state on democratic principles which can be easily found in the contemporary Constitution of the Republic of Belarus. The BNR government adopted the ancient Grand Duchy of Lithuania’s coat of arms as the state emblem and the white-red-white flag as the state flag. The independent post-Soviet Republic of Belarus initially adopted the same symbols. They were replaced, however, with variations of the BSSR symbols four years later –society was not yet ready for radical changes.

Belarus StampPahonia_(25_Hrošaŭ _Blue) _Stamp_of_Belarusian_People's_Republic

Pahonia: Stamp of Belarusian Democratic Republic (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

For decades, the BNR was the subject of ideological wars and myths. The discourse started acquiring a more evidence-based form when in 1998 two monumental volumes Arkhivy Belaruskaĭ Narodnaĭ Rėspubliki (‘Archives of the Belarusian Democratic Republic’) were published. These contained about 60 percent of documents from the early years of the BNR government. These documents survived in the State Historical Archives of the Lithuanian Republic  in Vilnius. Until the end of the Soviet Union, only selected and approved researchers had access to them. After Lithuania regained its independence, Siarhiej Šupa, a talented  journalist and translator (among his translations into Belarusian were George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984), stumbled upon them almost by chance and spent six years preparing their publication.

BelarusArkhivyBNR
Arkhivy Belaruskaĭ Narodnaĭ Rėspubliki (Vilnius, 1998) YA.2001.a.24459

In Belarus, the consensus about the Belarusian Democratic Republic is still in its infancy. The topic has been politicised to an extreme degree until very recently. A new political situation, partly prompted by the events in Ukrainian Crimea and Donbas, has forced the authorities to re-examine the nation’s foundational events. The newspaper Nasha Niva recently reported that the Presidential Administration commissioned a report on the role of the BNR from the Belarusian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of History. The report has not been made public, but its essence can be deduced from the book to which the Director of the Institute referred the journalist investigating the story. In the Institute’s collective work Historyia belaruskaĭ dziarzhaŭnastsi ŭ kantsy XVIII - pachatku XXI st. (‘A history of Belarusian statehood from the end of 18th to the beginning of 21st centuries’) the BNR is characterised as the first attempt at a national Belarusian state.

BelarusHistoryiaHistoryia belaruskaĭ dziarzhaŭnastsi ŭ kantsy XVIII - pachatku XXI st. (Minsk, 2011-2012) ZF.9.a.9153

A new generation of civic leaders, more pragmatic than those who led the political opposition in Belarus in the last twenty years, worked on getting permission from the authorities to celebrate the BNR centenary publicly. They also run a large and successful crowdfunding campaign to fund the celebrations. Among the events the authorities agreed on is a large open-air concert in Minsk and the installation of a memorial plaque on the building in which the independence of the Belarusian Democratic Republic was proclaimed on 25 March 1918. It is fascinating to see how a sleepy (until very recently) country gets busy on rethinking its own past and how this past may shape the nation’s future.

Ihar IvanouHead of Learning Resources, QA Higher Education, London.

Further reading:

D. Michaluk, ‘From the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to the Belarusian Democratic Republic: the Idea of Belarusian Statehood, 1915-1919’Journal of Belarusian studies vol 7, no. 2 (2014), pp. 3-36. ZC.9.a.9127

Pers Anders Rudling, The Rise and Fall of Belarusian nationalism, 1906-1931. (Pittsburg, 2015). YC.2016.a.6887

Jan Zaprudnik, Belarus: at a crossroads in history (Boulder, 1993). YC.1995.b.7225

The proclamation of Byelorussian independence, 25th of March 1918. (London, 1968). X.709/26118.

Siarhiej Šupa talks about his research [in Belarusian]: https://www.svaboda.org/a/29048119.html 

21 November 2017

Orwell in Translation

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George Orwell’s Animal Farm was first published on 17 August 1945 and on 28 August the Russian scholar and critic Gleb Struve wrote to Orwell to say that he found the book “delightful” and would like to translate it for the benefit of Russians, “who could read the truth about their country only when outside it”. Replying to this letter on 1 September, Orwell wondered “what the procedure is. Are books in Russian published in this country, i.e. from non-official sources?” He told Struve that, at about the same time, he had received a letter from a Pole who wanted to translate the book into Polish. Orwell’s main worry was how to pay his translators, but he said he was “anxious that the book should find its way into other languages. If translations into the Slav languages were made, I shouldn’t want any money out of them myself (The Complete Works of George Orwell (CWGO), vol. 17, pp. 274-5). 

Animal Farm Polish

Cover page of Polish translation: Zwierzęcy folwark ....(London,1947). 012642.pp.100.

The first translation of Animal Farm into a Slavic language – in fact, into any language! – was into Polish. It was made by Teresa Jelenska, the wife of a Polish diplomat, and published at the turn of 1946 and 1947 in London by the League of Poles Abroad.

Teresa Jelenska was also instrumental in putting her son’s friend, a young Polish-born Ukrainian Ihor Szewczenko  in touch with Orwell. Szewczenko, then aged 25, wrote to Orwell in April 1946 immediately after he had read Animal Farm and saw at once, as he put it, “that a translation of the tale into Ukrainian would be of great value to my countrymen” (CWGO, vol. 19, p. 72). Szewczenko (who later changed the spelling of his name to Ševčenko, the heading under which his works can be found in the British Library’s catalogue), translated Animal Farm while commuting between Munich, where he lived with his wife and mother-in-law, both Soviet-Ukrainian refugees, and Quackenbrück in the British zone of Germany, where he worked for a Polish newspaper.

A year later, when the translation was ready for publication by the Munich publisher Prometheus, Szewczenko wrote to Orwell again asking him for a preface for the book and Orwell, although he was “frightfully busy”, did indeed write the preface to the Ukrainian edition, which remains his most detailed explanation of his motives for writing the “fairy story”. He was particularly glad to find out from Szewczenko, who published his translation under the pseudonym of Ivan Cherniatynskyi, that his publishers in Munich were the Soviet Ukrainians, who defended the “acquisitions of the October revolution”, but turned against the “counter-revolutionary Bonapartism” of Stalin and the Russian nationalistic exploitation of the Ukrainian people. Orwell was “encouraged to learn that that kind of opposition exists in the USSR” (CWGO, vol. 19, p. 73).

Animal Farm Ukrainian

Cover of  the Ukrainian translation. Kolhosp tvaryn: kazka. Translated by ‘Ivan Cherniatynskyi’ with an introduction by George Orwell. ([Munich, 1947?]) 12593.f.40.

The first Ukrainian edition was not very lucky. Orwell informed his friend, writer Arthur Koestler on 20 September 1947 (CWGO, vol. 19, pp. 206-7), that “the American authorities in Munich have seized 1500 copies of it and handed them over to the Soviet repatriation people, but it appears 2000 copies got distributed among the DPs (Displaced Persons) first”. In the same letter Orwell told Koestler that he had given Szewczenko his address and added: “I have been saying ever since 1945 that the DPs were a godsent opportunity for breaking down the wall between Russia and the West”. Shortly before that, in his review of James Burnham’s book The Struggle for the World (London, 1947; 8011.ee.32.), he expressed a similar thought even more directly: “one of the most important problems at this moment is to find a way of speaking to the Russian people over the heads of their rulers” (CWGO, vol. 19, p. 105).

It was precisely the plan to send Animal Farm into the Soviet Union that made Orwell agree to fund the publication of Gleb Struve’s translation into Russian by the DP publisher Possev. Approached by Possev six months before his death, Orwell immediately supported the idea of publishing the translation in a book form (it had already been serialized in the publisher’s weekly magazine of the same name (no. 7-32, 1949) and smuggling it into the USSR, but he still wanted to know for sure who he was dealing with. “I suppose the editors of this paper are bona fide people and also not Whites?” – he asked his recent acquaintance, a German communist Ruth Fischer in a letter of 15 July 1949 (CWGO, vol. 20, p.146). The first part of his question could easily be confirmed, but it was more complicated with the second. As Orwell had feared Possev, unlike the Ukrainian publishers of Animal Farm, were indeed “Whites”. They enjoyed Orwell’s satire of the Soviet regime, but could not stomach him satirising the church and religion and the role they played in society. That is why – as it became known much later, in the 1980s – they censored Orwell and cut out from Animal Farm two paragraphs describing the role of Moses, the tame raven, who tells the animals about “Sugarcandy Mountain, to which all animals went when they died.”

Animal Farm Russian

Title-page of the  Russian translation. Skotskii khutor. ([Frankfurt am Main], 1950). 12654.de.12.

This was of course only the beginning. Eventually Animal Farm was translated into at least 70 languages, including Esperanto, but it is worth stressing that the Slavic languages (Polish, Ukrainian, Russian) were among the first. The French publication appeared later than expected, only in October 1947, because, as Orwell wrote to Koestler in January 1946, “The French publisher, who had signed a contract to translate Animal Farm, has got cold feet and says it is impossible «for political reasons»” (CWGO, vol. 18. p.28) – this no doubt was the result of the 1945 elections in France, when the Communists became the largest party in the French National Assembly. But those whose countries were directly under the Communist rule continued publishing the book abroad – in 1952 Animal Farm came out in Lithuanian and in 1955 in Serbian.

Animal Farm Lithuanian

Cover of the  Lithuanian translation. Gyvulių ūkis. Fantastině apysaka. (London, 1952). X.950/31145

Masha Karp, editor of The Orwell Society Journal and author of a forthcoming  Russian biography of George Orwell

References/Further reading

The Complete Works of George Orwell edited by Peter Davison (London, 2000-2002). Vols. 17 (YC.2001.a.13719), 18 (YC.2001.a.16202), 19 (YC.2002.a.23095) and 20 (YC.2002.a.23177)

Masha Karp. ‘The Raven Vanishes’. The Orwell Society Journal. No. 9, December 2016, pp. 16-19

Ksenya Kiebuzinski. ‘Not Lost in Translation: Orwell’s Animal Farm Among Refugees and Beyond the Iron Curtain’, The Halcyon: Newsletter of the Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library, no. 59, June 2017.  

03 November 2016

Samuel Boguslaus Chylinski’s Lithuanian Bible

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On 21 October, to mark the approaching 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses and of the start of the Protestant Reformation as well as the 350th anniversary of the death of Samuel Boguslaus Chylinski, the British Library hosted a seminar on the first printing of the Bible in Lithuanian (1660), the legacy of Chylinski and links between British and Lithuanian Protestants.

Samuel Boguslaus Chylinski, the son of a Calvinist preacher, was born around 1633 in Šventežeris, in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Educated in the Calvinist school in Kėdainiai, in 1653 Chylinski was sent to the Franeker Academy  in the Netherlands to study theology in preparation for the translation of the Bible into Lithuanian. Unable to return to the Grand Duchy because of the war, in 1657 Chylinski travelled to England where he received encouragement and financial support from his compatriot Samuel Hartlib as well as English Protestants including Henry Wilkinson, John Wallis and Robert Boyle. Boyle, a scientist and liberal thinker, was preoccupied with the idea of translating the Bible into vernacular languages, among others Irish, Welsh, Malay, Turkish and Lithuanian.

In 1659 Chylinski published an ornate pamphlet An Account of the Translation of the Bible into the Lithuanian Tongue in which he claims to have translated the whole of the Bible. An Account also includes a testimonial from Oxford professors and other prominent public figures supporting Chylinski in his endeavour. The pamphlet was meant for English patrons and was published in order to raise funds for the printing of Chylinski’s translation. The Latin version of the brochure, Ratio Institutae Translationis Bibliorum in Linguam Lithuanicam, was published in Oxford in 1660.

 

Chylinski Account 1214.a.5

Samuel Boguslaus Chylinski, An Account of the Translation of the Bible into the Lithuanian Tongue (Oxford, 1659)
British Library 1214.a.5

On July 12, 1661, Royal letters patent was issued by King Charles II, ordering a collection to be held towards the printing of the Lithuanian Bible and towards the relief for the Lithuanian Protestant churches devastated by the war. Money was to be collected in churches throughout England and Wales; door-to-door collections were also to be organised if necessary. The brief was sent to at least 40 major towns. A Privy Council memorandum, issued on the same day, stated that the brief should not serve as a precedent as the case was unique.

The printing of Chylinski’s translation started in 1660 but came to a halt in 1662 due to disagreements among Lithuanian Protestants. Chylinski’s printing expenses were misrepresented as his private debts and doubts were cast on the quality of his translation (it is important to remember that one of the persons appointed by the Vilnius Provincial Synod to check the translation was working on his own version). Chylinski lost the support of his patrons. His manuscript translation of the New Testament, in the British Library’s collections, includes many inscriptions, among others an unaddressed draft letter in which the author, destitute and desperate to return to his mother country, is asking for financial help. It is not known who the addressee was and whether the letter reached them. Chylinski died in poverty in 1666.

Chylinski MS

Manuscript of Chylinski’s translation of the New Testament, 1658. Add MS 41301

Chylinski wasn’t the first person who translated the Bible into Lithuanian. Jonas Bretkūnas translated the Bible between 1579 and 1590. His translation, never published, was based on Luther’s Bible  whereas Chylinski’s one was based on the Dutch Statenbijbel.

At the beginning of the 20th century there were three known copies of Chylinski’s Bible. The so-called Berlin copy has been missing since World War II; the Vilnius copy has been lost since 1918. The only surviving fragment of Chylinski’s printed translation of the Old Testament (Genesis-Joshua), acquired by the British Museum in 1893, is in the British Library’s collections.

Chylinski Biblia

A page from Chylinski’s Old Testament translation, (London 1660-1662 C.51.b.13


Ela Kucharska-Beard, Curator, Baltic Collections

References:

Gina Kavaliūnaitė, Samuelio Boguslavo Chylinskio Biblija (Vilnius, 2008- ). ZF.9.b.1272

 

29 May 2015

How the spy John Peyton put Poland on the map (to keep King James on the throne)

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Scholarship will always be indebted to George II, one of Britain’s least scholarly kings. In 1757 George boosted the reputation of the fledgling British Museum by donating some of the most precious books owned by his predecessors – 2,000 manuscripts and some 9,000 printed books. This donation, known as the Old Royal Library, has since passed to the British Library, where the manuscript portion is now known as the Royal Collection.

Among these manuscripts is an inconspicuous paper volume, written in a beautiful  late 16th-century Secretary hand. It contains the (then) only known, yet unfinished copy of the elaborately titled A Relation of the State of Polonia and the Provinces United with that Crowne, Anno 1598, familiar to historians as the most detailed English account of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Peyton MS_18_B_I-002The title-page of A Relation of the State of Polonia and the Provinces United with that Crowne, British Library Royal MS 18 B. i.

Because 16th-century Poland-Lithuania stretched into what is now Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, Latvia, and Estonia, A Relation of the State of Polonia has become an important source for many Central and Eastern European historians. But  the work  also marks a milestone in the history of English travel writing: it is a highly sophisticated account of Poland-Lithuania’s politics, law, administration, culture, and diplomatic relations, together with risk assessment – not unlike the country profiles contained in the CIA’s World Factbook.


Poland-Lithuania 10660i6(2)
Poland-Lithuania in the late 16th century, from Giovanni Botero, Eynkommen, Reichthumb, vnd Schätz aller Keyser, Könige, vnd vornembster Fürsten der gantzer weiten Welt ... (Cologne, 1599) 10660.i.6.(2.)

Such a wealth of knowledge called for a well-connected author, and scholars were quick to suggest George Carew, a career diplomat who was sent in 1598 to negotiate with Poland’s Sigismund III Vasa. Others put forward the Scot William Bruce (c.1560–after 1613), a professor of the civil law at the Zamojski Academy. Whereas Bruce’s authorship can be firmly excluded on the grounds of language and religion, Carew’s involvement is largely speculative.

In 2013 I decided to re-examine  the British Library manuscript, in the hope of finding evidence – any evidence – that would point towards the work’s author. It turned out that the text and the notes in the margin were written at different times: the events mentioned took place in 1598, but the marginal notes were added between 1602 and 1603. I also discovered that the paper came from Poland: I traced the watermark to the Olkusz paper-mill near Cracow, and it appears in two books printed in 1596 and 1597 by the court printer Jan Januszowski. With these new clues, I started to look for an Englishman who was in Poland between spring and autumn 1598, passed through Cracow, and had reason to update the text between 1602 and 1603.

That’s when I found John Peyton (1579–1635), son of Sir John Peyton (1544–1630), Lieutenant of the Tower. Peyton was in Cracow in the spring of 1598, and wrote a letter to his father detailing troop movements (I have since been able to prove that the younger Peyton was a spy in the employ of Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster Robert Cecil). Peyton’s trail led to a manuscript (Kk v. 2) in Cambridge University Library. This gathers Peyton’s travel accounts, including one on Bohemia with an eerily familiar title: A Relation of Bohemia and the United Provinces of That Crowne. Anno 1598. What’s more, the collection contains the copy of a letter, sent to King James’s secretary, in which Peyton explains that his ‘discourse of Polonia’ is missing because he had ‘presented [it] to the king at his Majestyes first comming to London’ (fol. 6r.). I realised that the British Library manuscript must have been presented to James I during his coronation in the summer of 1603.

The discovery of Peyton’s authorship of this important text meant that the existing entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography  needed radical expanding: at this time, John Peyton only figured as a paragraph in the entry for his more prominent father. The Dictionary’s editors responded enthusiastically to this find, and invited me to prepare a new, standalone entry for the younger John Peyton,  for publication in one of the ODNB’s regular online updates.

I started looking for other copies of the text, trawling through countless 18th- and 19th-century auction catalogues. The quest proved rewarding: a copy entitled A Relation of the Kingdom of Polonia, and the United Provinces of the Crowne, by Sir John Peyton changed hands at least five times between 1751 and 1898, when the trail went cold after a Sotheby’s action. Anthony Payne,  a former Director of Bernard Quaritch booksellers, located an annotated copy of the 1898 catalogue, which revealed that the book had been acquired by one of the Munich-based Rosenthal brothers – I later discovered that the buyer was Jacques Rosenthal. The ‘lost’ manuscript has since been acquired from an anonymous seller from Prague by St Andrews University Library  (I discuss this new manuscript, ms 38902, in the journal The Library).

But why would Peyton go through the expense of producing a lavishly written and gilded copy, which is then left unfinished? I found out that Peyton was among those waiting at Elizabeth’s deathbed in March 1603, on his father’s orders. When the queen died, Peyton raced to Edinburgh to break the news to James VI. He arrived second, but the king bestowed estates on Peyton and knighted him, publicly referring to Peyton as his ‘first knight’. The British Library copy was a well-timed coronation gift for James, its completion was interrupted by Elizabeth’s death. But the marginal notes and the change in the title from ‘Kingdom’ to ‘State’ (as an afterthought as is visible in the image), reveal that Peyton’s marginal notes furnished James with details about the then 200-year-old union of Poland and Lithuania – the only existing parliamentary union at the time. Unsurprisingly, James kept bringing up this type of union between England and Scotland over the next few years, and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was frequently discussed in British constitutional debates.  

Sebastian Sobecki, Professor of Medieval English Literature and Culture, University of Groningen

This post is based on the author’s research on medieval and early modern travel writing and on his identification of John Peyton’s authorship, first published as ‘John Peyton’s A Relation of the State of Polonia and the Accession of King James I, 1598–1603’ in the English Historical Review.   


19 February 2014

Light links : Lithuania to Königsberg & Kyiv to Rembrandt

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In the British Library's Lithuanian collections, probably the most important item is the only surviving fragment of the first printed Lithuanian Bible [Shelfmark: C.51.b.13], translated into Lithuanian by Samuel Bogusław Chyliński. The printing started in London in 1660. Although the whole Bible was translated, due to various disagreements only a part of it was printed (Genesis-Joshua). At the beginning of the 20th century only three copies of the printed part were known. The second one, known as the Vilnius copy, kept in St. Petersburg, has been lost since World War I. The third one, known as the Berlin copy, has been missing since World War II. Apart from the printed fragment of the Old Testament the library has also Chyliński's manuscript of his translation of the New Testament. It contains his private notes on the first and last leaves [Add.41310].

Watermark research on the first book ever printed in Lithuanian, the Catechismvsa Prasty Szadei,  by Martynas Mažvydas (Königsberg, 1547) of which there are only two known copies in the world (one in the Library of Vilnius University, the other in the Library of Torun University, Poland) and of a rare Cyrillic book Наука о седми сакраментах албо тайнах (Treatise on the Sacraments, Kyiv, 1657) by Sylvestr Kosiv (two copies in Marsh's Library in Dublin),  has revealed watermarks where it was thought there were none and has shown surprising links with Western Europe.

The author, thanks to support from the Bibliographical Society, has been able to image every page of the 1547 Lithuanian Catechism. This has revealed the crown watermark which has also been found in a 1548 book in the British Library.

Crown watermark
Crown Watermark, pages 2, 7, 10 and 15 from Catechismus (1547). Image courtesy of Vilnius University library.

Sketch watermark
Sketch watermark from Funck, Johann, Ein Sermon... (Königsberg, 1548; British Library 1578/6335.) Image courtesy of Vilnius University library.

The use of digital image processing has also allowed every gathering of this octavo to be re-assembled. The resultant Photoshop files have 19 layers. Eight are of the front-lit pages. Eight are of the back-lit pages. By selecting the appropriate layers one can therefore choose to view the re-assembled sheet either by conventional reflected light or by light passing through the sheet. Two other layers contain the page numbers. The top layer of the 19 is a rule which can be moved over the images and so rotated as to allow measurements. This facility was used to confirm that the chain line separation in both the books is 25 mm. Here are thumbnail images of the reassembled sheets:-

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Image courtesy of Vilnius University library

The watermark in the paper used throughout both copies of the Kyiv printed Treatise is a fool’s cap. The fool’s cap was widely used. Use of the on-line Bernstein watermark facility shows that the fool’s cap watermark in the Treatise is remarkably similar to one found in a Rembrandt etching.

This was recently reported in an article in the journal Solanus. Here are images for comparison:

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Image courtesy of Marsh’s Library

The image on the right shows the watermark NL-RHA-84 found in paper used by Rembrandt for a drypoint etching created in Amsterdam. The etching is of Saint Jerome beside a pollard willow and is currently held in the Rembrandthuis. It is signed and dated.

The full potential of the imaging techniques as described above is being realised across the globe. The author is eager to contribute to that process and would welcome comments at: look@earlybook.info

Ian Christie-Miller, http://www.earlybook.info
Information on the British Library’s Lithuanian Collections from Ela Kucharska-Beard, Curator and Cataloguer, Polish-Baltic Collections.

References:
‘Treatise on the Sacraments, 1657 -  Two Copies Compared:  The Paper and a Rembrandt’, Solanus: International Journal for Study of the Printed and Written Word in Russia and East-Central Europe. New Series,Vol. 23 (2013) 2716.a.2.

23 December 2013

BBC Ukrainian Book of the Year 2013

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“And the winners are: Yaroslav Melnyk and Maryana and Taras Prokhasko!” On Friday 13 December BBC Ukrainian announced the winners of its Book of the Year 2013 awards at the Conference Hall of Hotel Vozdvyzhensky in Kyiv.  

16mar2013_yaroslav_melnykYaroslav Melnyk

The BBC Ukrainian Book of the Year award was established in 2005. Many prominent Ukrainian writers have been winners: Jury Vynnychuk in 2012 for his Tango smerti (‘Tango of Death’ ) , Volodymyr Rutkivsky in 2011 for his historical novel Syni vody (‘Blue Waters’),  Serhiy Zhadan in 2010 for Voroshylovgrad – to name just a few. All these books are available for our readers in the original in our Ukrainian collections. Hopefully English translations will follow, thanks to the publishing house Glagoslav and other publishers offering translations of literature from Central-Eastern Europe.
 
In 2012 the nomination “Children’s Book of the Year” was added. Both awards are now presented in the partnership with the EBRD Cultural Programme. The lovely illustrated Khto zrobyt’ snih (‘Who will make the Snow’) by Maryana and Taras Prokhasko  won this year’s Children’s Book award.

Далекий_простір_обкладинка-OKYaroslav Melnyk’s novel Dalekyi prostir (‘The Remote Space’ or in another  translation ‘The Distant Space’ - cover of the book on the left, reproduced by kind permission of the author) was named the BBC Ukrainian Book of the Year 2013.  First it was in the Long list of 20 publications, then in the Short list of alongside Za chvert' desiata (‘Quarter to Ten’ by Yuriy Makarov  and Frau Miuller ne nalashtovana platyty bil'she (‘Frau Muller Isn’t Disposed to Pay More’) by Natalka Sniadanko.

Artyom Liss, the Editor of BBC World Service Europe Hub, writes about the novel: "The winning novel by Yaroslav Melnyk is a dystopia which explores the issue of freedom. The novelist writes about the freedom to see - to escape the world of the blind - but also to escape the world of those who can see, and who rule the blind. These are themes found in literature around the world, and through its protagonist’s journey, this novel very effectively explores what freedom means and what is its price."

Yaroslav Melnyk  is the most cosmopolitan Ukrainian writer of the 21st century. Born in Ukraine in 1959 he graduated from the Lviv University and started his literary career as critic. He soon established himself as one of the best literary critics in Ukraine. The British Library holds his first book of literary portraits Syla vohniu i slova (‘The force of fire and word’ - Kyiv, 1991; shelfmark YA.1996.a.7452) as well as small book of deeply lyrical poetry Ridna (‘Kindred spirit’; Dubno, 1992 shelf mark YF.2013.a.6021) donated to the library during his visit to London at the invitation of the London Ukrainian Literary Club.

LondonUkrainianLiteraryCLub-OK
Yaroslav Melnyk with members of Literary Club in London in March 2013

After studying in Moscow at the Maksim Gorki Institute of Literature Melnyk settled in Lithuania where he soon became a well-known writer and a member of the The Lithuanian Association for Writers. His works have been translated into French from Lithuanian (Les parias d'Éden in French translation was published in Paris in 1997 by Robert Laffont Publishers). The British Library holds a book of short stories in Lithuanian Labai keistas namas (‘Very Strange House’) published under the Lithuanian form of his name Jaroslavas Melnikas (Vilnius, 2008;YF.2009.a.7219). In 2012 Melnyk returned to writing in Ukrainian with his book of philosophical stories Telefonui meni, hovory zi mnoiu (Call me, talk to me’; Kharkiv, 2012;  YF.2012.a.25352).

You can find the fragments of an English translation of the Lithuanian version of The Distant Space by Diana Bartkute Barnard  and a synopsis of the novel  in the issue 34 of the  bi-monthly review of books and writing from around Europe Transcript,  published by Literature Across Frontiers.

Congratulations to the winners!


Olga Kerziouk, Curator of Ukrainian Studies

 

18 December 2013

“This country called Belarus”: our latest Belarusian acquisition

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In June 2013 I saw some information about the book  This Country Called Belarus: an Illustrated History  on the website of the Belarusian newspaper Nasha Niva. I contacted our supplier MIPP, a firm based in Lithuania, to buy a copy of the book straight away, because some books are so popular they sell out very quickly. In July 2013 the book arrived at the British Library and I catalogued it; it is now available at shelfmark YD.2013.b.892.
 
Nasha Niva 1908
Nasha Niva
from 1908 (Facsimile edition (Minsk, 1992) at BL shelfmark ZA.9.d.369

Nasha Niva was the first Belarusian-language newspaper; it was published by two major Belarusian cultural figures, Ivan Lutskevich and Anton Lutskevich, and appeared weekly between 1906 and 1915 in  Vilnius [Polish: Wilno, Belarusian: Vilnia]. Publication ceased when the Germans occupied the city in the First World War and was renewed briefly in 1920. The newspaper appeared once again in 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The editor at the time was Andrei Skurko.

This Country called Belarus
Cover of the book This country called Belarus (Bratislava, 2013). YD.2013.b.892

The author of the book — the first Belarusian edition of which appeared in 2003 — is Uladzimir Arlou, a well-known Belarusian historian and writer; the artistic designer is Zmitser Herasimovich. The translator is Jim Dingley, Acting Chairman of the Anglo-Belarusian Society. The book was published in Bratislava, Slovakia. The presentation of this book to the world was thus a truly international effort.

The book covers art, history, culture, famous historical figures and facts, biographies, all of which combine to make this book into a most beautiful publication about Belarus.

I hope our readers will enjoy reading it!

Rimma Lough, Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian Cataloguer