THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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12 posts categorized "Bulgaria"

09 May 2016

Our May Acronym Heaven: EU, EL, EUPL, ELIT, ELF, ELN, ACE & BL

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As European Literature Festival 2016 begins, we welcome back journalist and broadcaster Rosie Goldsmith to our blog as she introduces the events and gives a hint of what to look forward to at the Writers’ Showcase event on Wednesday 11th

For European Literature (EL) lovers, the month of May is the equivalent of Christmas, Hanukkah or Eid – it’s the festive highlight of our year when we celebrate our year-round efforts to publish and promote our beloved EL. Time to polish the champagne glasses (Boyd Tonkin), buy a new T-shirt (Daniel Hahn) and get out those red shoes (Rosie Goldsmith). This May we have an embarrassment of international literary riches: our first ever European Literature Festival and the first ever annual Man Booker International Prize (MBI)  in conjunction with the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (IFFP: RIP) .

Eight years ago we had a dream, that we could gather together the best writers from the rest of Europe to London for a one-night-only special event. It had never been done before. Thanks to the mass collaboration of sponsors and partners, our dream became reality. The event became European Literature Night (ELN), initiated by EUNIC London, the Czech Centre and the British Library, and taking place in London and cities all over the continent. Over these eight years our ELN evening has become a week, then a month and this May it is the showcase event in our first European Literature Festival (ELF), embracing more than 30 countries, 60 writers and including poetry, graphic novels, literary fiction, non-fiction, crime thrillers and translation workshops. This year we also have some real British celebrities to boost the brand – Kate Mosse, Mark Lawson and Ian McMillan – and not just cut-price slebs like me and Danny Hahn. EL in the UK has itself become a celebrity. Next year maybe the cover of Vogue? Although we’ll have to do something about our acronyms.

  Rosie Goldsmith speaking at European Literature Night 2015
Rosie Goldsmith at the podium on European Literature Night 2015 (photo (c) MELA)

Here’s the full, fabulous programme: www.europeanliteraturefestival.org.uk and congratulations to ELF’s Artistic Director Jon Slack for making it happen.

As chair of the judges, Director of European Literature Network (ELNet) and host of ELN (keep up!), May is my personal merriest, busiest month. And I can guarantee that we have pulled it off again: the best of contemporary European literature (ok, EL!) is coming your way. British Library (BL – of course!), Wednesday 11th May.

Our six ‘winning’ writers are all literary celebrities ‘back home,’ magnificently translated and selected by us, the judges, from a pool of 65 European writers submitted by publishers and cultural organisations last November. Joining me on stage will be: Burhan Sönmez (Turkey), Dorthe Nors (Denmark), Gabriela Babnik (Slovenia), Peter Verhelst (Belgium), Jaap Robben (Netherlands) and Alek Popov (Bulgaria). They are all outstanding - unique, original, mind-expanding and fun. I love ELN and my two hours on stage, vicariously bathing in the reflected glory of our stars, conducting the equivalent of a BBC Live broadcast. (British Broadcasting Corporation!)

As our ELF Publicity promises: “The discussion will travel from the Turkish prison cells of Burhan Sönmez’s Istanbul, Istanbul to the turned upside-down-lives in Dorthe Nors’  twisted and imaginatively-realised streets of Copenhagen; to Slovenian writer Gabriela Babnik’s  seductive tale of forbidden love on the dusty plains of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; via Peter Verhelst’s deadpan Belgian humour in his Gorilla-narrated fable about the story of human civilisation (and its collapse). There is a tormented relationship unfolding between widow and son on Dutch-writer Jaap Robben’s remote and stormy island (located somewhere between Scotland and Norway); and we finish in Alek Popov’s strange and comic novel that moves between Bulgaria and New York, where two brothers question whether their long-deceased father is, in fact, dead.”

Photographs of Rosie Goldsmith and the participants in European Literature Night 2016
This year's ELN line-up

As our ELF superstar-host Kate Mosse says: “At a time when the countless shared histories and stories from our many friends and strangers in Europe are danger of being lost in the politics of the EU debate, an initiative like the European Literature Festival is more important than ever.” Who needs supermodel Kate Moss on a Vogue cover when you have superstar novelist Kate Mosse?

On behalf of ELNet & EUPL & with thanks 2 ACE & ELIT I’ll c u 4 ELN @BL! LoL RGx

14 March 2014

A Marvel in the British Library Bulgarian Collections

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  First page of the Gospel of Mark showing St Mark copying the Gospel surrounded by images of the young Christ, John the Baptist and Isaiah on a decorative background.Headpiece of the Gospel of St Mark from the Gospels of Tsar Ivan Alexander. In the red roundel a portrait of St Mark shown copying the Gospel surrounded by the young Christ (above), John the Baptist (left) and Isaiah (right). The design of all headpieces in the Gospels follows a circular pattern on a decorative floriated background.

A famous Bulgarian manuscript, the Gospels of Tsar Ivan Alexander (British Library Additional. MS. 39627) will be celebrated once again at a forthcoming seminar in the British Library. The manuscript will be discussed in the context of our shared European cultural heritage and as the cornerstone of literary and cultural developments in the Balkans. The Balkan Day seminar is at the British Library on 13 June 2014.

The Gospels of Tsar Ivan Alexander – in Bulgarian Четвероевангелието на Цар Иван Александър, and also known in Bulgaria as the ‘London Gospel’ (Лондоското Евангелие на Цар Иван Александър) – is a manuscript of great importance and generally referred to as a masterpiece of Bulgarian, Slavonic and Byzantine medieval art. In Bulgaria the Gospels are celebrated as a national treasure and often seen as an important cultural link between Britain and Bulgaria.

During the rule of Tsar Ivan Alexander (1331-71), the Bulgarian medieval state was already past its height, but this period was marked by cultural revival before the country was finally subdued by the Ottoman Turks in 1396. The Gospels were made for the Tsar in 1355/56 at Tŭrnovo, the centre of the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185–1396).

After the Ottoman conquest of Bulgaria, the manuscript was taken to safety first to Moldavia and afterwards to the monastery of St Paul on Mount Athos in Greece. Here the manuscript was presented to the Hon. Robert Curzon, fourteenth Baron Zouche of Harringworth (1810–1873), a traveller and collector of manuscripts. The manuscript was bequeathed to the British Museum Library (now the British Library) in 1917.

St Mark presenting his Gospel to the Tsar, with an image of the Ascension At the beginning or the end of each Gospel in this codex is an image of the Evangelist presenting his manuscript to Tsar Ivan Alexander. Here is image of from the Gospel of Mark, with a a scene from the Ascension of Christ depicted above. (Add.MS.39627 f.134v)

The Gospels were displayed and celebrated as an outstanding artistic treasure in at least nine major national and international exhibitions in five cities (Sofia in 1977 and 1996; London in 1977/78, 1994, 2007 and 2008/09; Liverpool 1989; Athens 2002 and New York 2004). They have also exhibited in the British Library’s Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery  several times, most recently in 2007 to celebrate the entry of Bulgaria into the EU and in 2012/13 to promote the publication of a full digital version of the Gospels of Tsar Ivan Alexander, which is available on the British Library Digitised Manuscripts website.  

The Gospels of Tsar Ivan Alexander are written in Bulgarian Church Slavonic and were the work of a single scribe. The first pages of each Gospel display his calligraphic skills in ornamented initials, titles in gold and formal uncial letters in black:

Opening of the Gospel of Luke with images of St Luke, Christ and Zachariah on a decorative background
Headpiece of the Gospel of Luke. In the vertical arrangement a roundel portrait of St Luke is in the centre. A bearded Christ (above) and Zachariah (below) are depicted in two smaller roundels. Add.MS.39627 f.137r

The Gospels of Tsar Ivan Alexander have been a subject of scholarly interest ever since they were deposited on permanent loan to the British Museum Library in 1876.  Since then a number of studies and catalogue entries have been written about the manuscript. In the 2000s Bulgarian scholars from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, the University of Sofia and The St. Cyril and Methodius National Library in Sofia thoroughly researched the Gospels of Tsar Ivan Alexander with the aim of providing a detailed codicological description of the codex.

The British Library holds over 70 Slavonic and East European Cyrillic medieval and early modern manuscripts (Russian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Ukrainian, Serbian, Macedonian, and Bosnian); some of them are of very fine workmanship. The Gospels of Tsar Ivan Alexander constitute the first digitised manuscript in this collection.

  Opening of the Gospel of John with images of St John the Evangelist and the Holy Trinity on a decorative backgroundHeadpiece of the Gospel of  John with a portrait of St John minutely  executed in a red roundel and three smaller roundels below depicting the Holy Trinity. Add.MS.39627 f.213r

For more images and description of the Gospels of Tsar Ivan Alexander see the British Library Medieval manuscripts blog post  of 17 September 2012.

Milan Grba, Lead Curator South-East European Collections

References:

Ralph A. Cleminson, Union catalogue of Cyrillic manuscripts in British and Irish collections. The Anne Pennington catalogue. (London, 1988) 2725.e.600

Ekaterina Dimitrova, The Gospels of Tsar Ivan Alexander. (London, 1994) YC.1995.b.3420

Exhibition catalogues:

Slavianski rŭkopisi ot Britanskiia muzeĭ i biblioteka = Slavonic manuscripts from the British Museum and Library. (Sofia, [1977]) 2719.e.11

Byzantium: treasures of Byzantine art and culture from British collections. (London, 1994) YC.1995.b.5285

Byzantium: faith and power (1261-1557). Edited by Helen C. Evans. (New York, 2004) LC.31.b.1397

Sacred: books of the three faiths: Judaism, Christianity, Islam. (London, 2007) YC.2008.a.6318

Byzantium, 330-1453. (London, 2008) LC.31.b.5843