THE BRITISH LIBRARY

European studies blog

05 December 2016

The Brothers Jovanović National Library

In 1920 the Serbian Legation in London donated 250 small size unbound fascicles of Serbian literature to the British Museum Library. This donation was a welcome addition to the Library Serbian collections, which then consisted hardly of a few hundreds Serbian literary works.

These issues were part of a collection of Serbian literature published in Pančevo, a small town in the then Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, from 1871 to 1912. The works were published by the Brothers Jovanović, Kamenko (1843-1916) and Pavle (1847-1914), printers and booksellers from Pančevo. In 1870 the Brothers Jovanović established a Serbian printing-press, and in 1872 a bookshop in their hometown. Their aim was to publish and sell Serbian school textbooks and literature, the long awaited educational and cultural needs of the Serbian people in Austro-Hungary.

The Brothers Jovanović’s bookshop was the first major Serbian publishing bookshop in the Monarchy, and with the bookshops funded earlier in Belgrade, in the neighbouring Princedom of Serbia, were the first to establish modern Serbian publishing and book trade.

Between 1871 and 1912 the Brothers Jovanović published about 400 Serbian titles of which about 100 were school textbooks.
The collection of works donated to the Library had been published in the series called: “The Brothers Jovanović National Library” from 1880 to 1890.

NBBJCover

 Front cover of a volume in the series. The Brothers Jovanović National Library. Jovan Rajić, Battle of Dragon and Eagles. (Pančevo, 1884). British Library 012265.e.5/44.

Above is the layout of the cover of the Brothers Jovanović National Library series: their bookshop was shown here as a cultural edifice built on the pantheon of Serbian and world literature presented and promoted in this series. Front of their national library are the Corinthian columns adorned in ribbons bearing the names of the greats of Serbian and world literature (the text in Cyrillic on the left column reads: Dositej, Kraszewski, Hugo, the right column bear the names of: Njegoš, Gogol and Goethe. The name of the series is inscribed across the arc which sits on the columns. In the left-hand corner is a roundel portrait of Dositej Obradović (1739-1811), a Serbian philosopher and writer, and in the right-hand corner is a roundel portrait of Prince Bishop of Montenegro Petar II Petrović Njegoš (1813-51).

The Brothers Jovanović published literature in affordable paper-back issues in small octavo format, printed in a small font. The majority of works in the series were made up of separately published issues. These were published in non-consecutive instalments usually over a several-month period. Up to 24 issues were produced per year and in total the series comprises 216 such issues published from 1880 to 1890.

The set of 250 issues donated to the Library also includes issues published by the Brothers Jovanović’s bookshop from 1871 to 1912, which were subsequently added to the Brothers Jovanović National Library series (they are numbered in the series from 217 to 348), when the bookshop was sold to the new owners in 1913. This set of 250 issues is incomplete as 11 issues are missing.

The Library’s set was bound in 124 volumes placed at shelfmarks 012265.e.5/1-149 and a number of works are bound together. It is the only single set held in a British public collection, and one of the most complete in Britain and Serbia. The Library’s set holds 158 separate works. The whole collection is described in 168 catalogue records

This collection has a historical significance for the British Library as the donation notably boosted its existing collections of Serbian literature. Today this collection is relevant for the study and research into the development of modern Serbian literacy, language and literature. It is a very useful survey of primary sources for the development of Serbian literature.

Radicevic

Frontispiece and title page with the author’s portrait and his autograph. Branko Radičević, Poems. (Pančevo, 1880). British Library 012265.e.5/95.

The collection contains works of the major Serbian writers of the Enlightment, Classicism and Romanticism who, in their lexical and stylistic innovation, contributed greatly to the development and promotion of modern Serbian literary language. This new literary form was based on the principles of Vuk Stefanović Karadžić’s language reform.

Pucic
Frontispiece and title page with the author’s portrait. Medo Pucić, Poems. (Pančevo, 1879 [reissued in the series 1913]). British Library 012265.e.5/101.

Đorđe Popović-Daničar, editor of the Brothers Jovanović National Library series,  saw that the modern writers of all periods and those who wrote in Russo-Slavonic and in Slavonic-Serbian were represented in the series thus showing the continuity in Serbian literature. He contributed greatly to the series by writing introductory texts, compiling works of lesser known writers, translating and transliterating from Russo-Slavonic and in Slavonic-Serbian into the contemporary Serbian language and the new orthography, and by translating from a number of major European languages. Popović-Daničar was remembered as the first translator of Don Quijote from Spanish into Serbian.

The presentation of Serbian national poetry is another strong feature of this collection.

Boj na Kosovu

 Frontispiece. From Battle of Kosovo. (Pančevo, 1880 [reissued in the series 1913]). British Library 012265.e.5/121.

A great prominence of Serbian national poetry in the series pointed not only to the significance and influence of spoken national language for the creation of the new literary language, but it also reflected the contemporary national and political aspirations and struggles in the Balkans and the rest of Europe of that period, leading up to the First World War.

Hajduci
Frontispiece. From Serbian Outlaws in National Poems. (Pančevo, 1882 [reissued in the series 1913]). British Library 012265.e.5/110.

The fact that in this series the Brothers Jovanović ventured to showcase Serbian literature, together with other works of world literature in Serbian translation, was surely a sign of confidence and trust they had for the future of the Serbian literature and its readers.

Milan Grba, Lead Curator South-East European Collections

Reference:

Žarko Vojnović, Iz Sparte svetlost, to jest, Život i podvizi Kamenka i Pavla braće Jovanovića: ujedno i bibliografija izdanja. (Pančevo, 2010). YF.2014.a.12874