10 July 2020
Coronavirus (Covid-19) ephemera material from Southeast Europe
The British Library has joined forces with the Central and Eastern European Online Library to connect to open access electronic resources and preserve ephemeral material about society and health in Southeast Europe during the pandemic in 2020.
Since 2006 the Central and Eastern European Online Library has provided access for our users to a growing collection of 2,300 humanities and social science journals from Central, East and Southeast Europe. This collection also includes more than 5,500 grey literature items and over 4,200 ebook titles.
A resource ‘Covid-19 in Southeast Europe’ has been created for information and research into the activities of the public health professionals and organisations in the fight against the infection. The resource provides useful data on the provision of public health infrastructure and Covid-19 hospitals, and details of the measures employed in combating the pandemic by country and region within Southeast Europe.
This online resource documents how the appearance of yet another virus from nature, SARS Cov-2, has affected the social, cultural, private and religious life and the health of the peoples of Southeast Europe. The material gathered in one place demonstrates the relativity of any current data comparison, such the one published by Forbes, ‘100 Safest Countries in the World for COVID-19’ , based on the Deep Knowledge Group report, and highlights the importance of locally available data. Some ambiguities and contradictions in publicly available reports demonstrate the lack of world leadership in the pandemic. On the other hand at the local level the data show various attitudes and differences in opinions between experts in advisory roles. These new experiences only serve to show the gravity and uniqueness, scale and complexity of the crisis the world is facing at the moment.
As far as Southeast Europe is concerned, one conclusion that can be drawn is that so far major casualties and the collapse of the healthcare systems have been avoided, and all countries have managed to preserve the functioning of the vital systems of state and society.
“How to protect yourself from a new coronavirus infection” A poster published regularly in the Belgrade daily Politika.
We are grateful to the Serbian public health institute for giving us permission to reuse their open access material, and to the Central and Eastern European Online Library for harvesting and arranging this material for our users.
The symptoms of a new coronavirus. Let us be responsible to ourselves and others.
The new coronavirus - recommendations for children. How to protect yourself against infection
“One - two - three. You too protect yourself".
How to use a mask properly.
Disinfection of the City of Belgrade’s Stari grad borough. Certificate of a building disinfection.
A leaflet from the Sarajevo Institute for Health and Food Safety put in a shop window reads: “Everything will be fine. Follow the prescribed measures and be careful. The coronavirus will pass.”
Other open access content related to research into Covid-19, including scholarly journals, can be located via our Find Electronic Resources pages.
The colleagues and partners in the Central and Eastern European Online Library and the British Library believe that access to e-resources is important, necessary and useful. However, ‘e-only’ – especially in connection with social distancing – cannot and should not replace the real human relations, interactions and encounters, which hopefully will return to our everyday life in the near future.
Milan Grba, Lead Curator South-East European Collections
Bea Klotz and Iulian Tanea, Central and Eastern European Online Library
05 June 2020
Booktrade and publishing in Southeast Europe during the pandemic in 2020
The British Library works with eight local suppliers in the procurement of books and serials from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia and Romania. This blog post draws on their reports about the book trade since 1990 and the effects of the current Covid-19 Pandemic. It follows a recent post exploring the British Library's historical ties with libraries and librarians in Southeast Europe and the ways in which they are dealing with the pandemic.
The book trade recovered valiantly from the turbulent times of the 1990s and we are fortunate to have suppliers who are dedicated partners and experts not only in the book trade and publishing but also in the literature, art and scholarship of their respective countries. Together with our library partners, they are credited with procuring up to 3,000 selected titles for the Library annually. Their considerable assistance in building up our collections of south-east European material is highly valued and appreciated.
As we contemplate our past and plan for the future, we would like to shed some light on the background to collection development in this very considerable area and the challenges which it is facing at present.
Detail of a bookshop in Tirana. Photo credit: Edvin Bega.
The publishing industry in Albania has changed dramatically in the last 30 years. While in the early 1990s original literature accounted for 75% of all published literary works, by 2019 the figure was less than 20%. In 1997 the Albanian government collapsed and a mass exodus from the country followed, including gifted writers and translators. Albania is yet to recover from it.
The new private publishing houses began to publish the classic works previously denied to readers in the totalitarian state. Undoubtedly this was inspired by the success of Ismail Kadare, and several other writers, translated into more than 100 languages.
Academic publishing has suffered from mismanagement and politicization, and a lot of research remains unpublished.
The earthquake in 2019 and Covid 19 in 2020 have caused several publishing houses to close, and the book trade has come to a halt. At present the number of new titles is very small. Some signs and activity give hope, though. Book sales during the pandemic have not fallen. It is to be hoped that this trend will continue after the reopening of the country.
A book launch in 2019 in Sarajevo City Hall (formerly National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina). Photo credit: Dragan Marković.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina the production and distribution of books and serials in the period from 1992 to 1997 can be characterized as a patriotic publishing period. Commercial and independent publishers, independent bookstores in south-east Europe and one in Bosnia were saved for the future thanks to the support of the Open Society.
However, patriotic publishing has continued to the present day. In recent years about 2,000 original titles have been published in Bosnia and Herzegovina per year, of which about 70% come from commercial publishers.
In 2019 Bosnia and Herzegovina saw a slight upward trajectory in the number of published titles. This year was also marked by the proactive work of the Association of Publishers to improve the status of writers, publishers and books.
Since the pandemic, bookstores have been closed and publishing houses have significantly reduced production. It is a very uncertain situation for the book market, and reminds our supplier of the siege of Sarajevo in 1992 with a notable difference – this time the enemy is invisible. A book supplied to the British Library that stands out is Bosanska knjiga mrtvih ('The Bosnian book of the dead' (Sarajevo, 2012) ZF.9.a.11211) which gives the names of 95,940 victims of war, and presents detailed data analysis of human losses.
Blossoming Japanese morello cherry-trees in front of the Bulgarian National Library “Sts. Cyril and Methodius”, a gift from the Japanese Embassy in Sofia. They are celebrated in April at the beginning of the springtime, symbolizing new life and hope. Photo credit: George Asenov.
Publishing and the book trade in Bulgaria have managed to stay afloat in the turbulent sea of the market economy in the last 30 years of transition. The main trends during this period have been an increase in the number of published titles, from 3,000 to 10,000 in recent years, and a significant reduction in print runs.
Literary publishing consists of about 70% original material and 30% translations. Contemporary Bulgarian literature is the bearer of national values and identity, tales of the nation’s joys and pains, and of one’s social outlook and personal experiences.
In the state of emergency, the activities of bookstores have stopped. Literary events have been cancelled. Many publishing projects are on hold. The number of books published in 2020 will be smaller, with a decrease of about 20-30% expected.
A recent selection of Bulgarian books for the British Library included the complete works of classical Bulgarian poets and writers such as Peio Iavorov (7 volumes, Sofia, 2010-2013; ZF.9.a.10476) and Nikolai Khaitov (17 volumes, Sofia, 2009-2015; ZF.9.a.8322). The newly-acquired Zografski subornik (Sofia, 2019; awaiting pressmark) documents research into the archives and library of the Bulgarian Holy Zograf Monastery on Mount Athos.
Interior of the Croatian Music Institute in Zagreb. Photo credit: Zvonimir Ferin.
Since the independence of Croatia in 1991, the number of publishers and publishing activities has been constantly on the rise. Many publishing houses disappeared in the years following the crisis of 2008, but the situation improved after 2014, bringing better times for the Croatian book trade.
Unfortunately 2020 has brought new challenges, and publishing is currently in a precarious position. Until April it seemed that the pandemic would not affect the book trade in the country or internationally, but all that has now changed. In Croatia printing of new titles has been reduced by almost 80%, bookstores have been closed, and international partners have stopped ordering.
In addition to this, in March a powerful earthquake hit Zagreb, paralysing the economy and causing damage. Among other historic buildings, the Croatian Music Institute, which houses one of the oldest and most important music collections, was affected.
Povijest hrvatskoga jezika (Zagreb, 2009-2015) ZF.9.b.1424.
The British Library has been carefully selecting Croatian books for years, building a collection which grows by about 300 titles a year, mostly in the fields of social sciences, arts, humanities and literature. A fine example of this diligent collecting is the major multi-volume Povijest hrvatskoga jezika (‘History of the Croatian Language’).
Clouds over the bridges and cranes in Belgrade reflect the mood in the city during the pandemic. Photo credit: Bojan Vukmirica.
Publishing in Serbia since 1992 has seen drastic changes caused by political upheavals. With the disintegration of Yugoslavia, the big state publishing houses collapsed. Soon a large number of private publishing houses resumed their role in the market.
In addition to new private publishers, a distribution centre was established in Belgrade in 2002 to offer publishers a single point from which books could be delivered quickly and safely. The distribution of Serbian and Montenegrin books has been growing ever since, reaching bookstores, university and national libraries and international partners.
For many years the British Library has been acquiring books from Serbia and Montenegro in the fields of history, art, linguistics, literary theory, primary sources, literature and books and serials relevant for research. A good example is the series ‘Koreni’ (‘Roots’) a 35-volume anthropological and geographical study of the settlements, population and customs of Serbian lands (Belgrade, 2010-2017; separate shelfmarks starting with YF.2019.a.15009 for volume 1).
After a two-month break caused by the global infection, publishing in Serbia seems to be returning to normal.
A selection from the Opere fundamentale collection. Photo credit: Ileana Dumitrache.
In Romania publishing and the book trade exploded in 1990 as public demand was huge – everybody wanted to read as much as possible, to buy books and journals, to make up for the void felt in communist times. The growth of this industry has been constant even if the rate is now lower than in the first decade.
The pandemic put a stop to growth in this sector for about three months. Books were still being published, but the book trade suffered tremendously. Fortunately, things now seem to be returning to normal. Our Romanian supplier has continued to collect books for the British Library during this time, so there will be no effect on the quality or quantity of Romanian books supplied once the British Library resumes its activity.
The series supplied to the British Library, which stand out for its research and editorial work are Manuscrisele Mihai Eminescu, a facsimile edition in 24 volumes of Mihail Eminescu’s manuscripts (ZF.9.d.239), Biblia 1688, a facsimile edition in 24 volumes of the Romanian 1688 Bible (ZF.9.d.265), and Opere fundamentale, an ongoing multi-volume collection of the ‘fundamental works’ of the most important Romanian writers (separate shelfmarks for different publishers, starting with ZF.9.a.10739).
Milan Grba, Lead Curator South-East European Collections
01 November 2018
Academy and Society in the Balkans
Academy and Society in the Balkans is an unique 12-month research librarianship project based at the British Library. The aim of the project is to survey and bibliographically describe the arts, humanities and sciences publications of Balkan academies held in the British Library. These are stored physically together with the Library’s collections from other academies, usually identified by the characteristic pressmark which is a number preceded by the abbreviation Ac.
Serbskij letopis (Serbian Chronicle). Vol. 56 (1842) Ac.8984.
According to F. J. Hill, a former British Library curator, the pressmark Ac was designed for a new shelving scheme in the library between 1860 and 1870. Academies publications accessioned before 1860 were classified differently and dispersed in the British Library collection. Only a small proportion of these pre-1860 publications was subsequently transferred to the Ac pressmark. The pressmark was discontinued in 1965. After this year new titles were assigned to various pressmarks and only serial continuations are still added to the existing Ac pressmarks to date.
Annalile Societatei Academice Române (Annals of the Romanian Academic Society). Vol. 1 ( 1869). Ac.743.
Initially the project will be looking into Balkan academies publications arranged according to the Ac shelving scheme between 1860 and 1965. In the next stage the aim will be to identify relevant pre-1860 publications and post-1965 publications that are not included in the Ac pressmark range. These publications are held in the collection under various pressmarks and therefore not identified as publications of academies.
Glas Srpske kraljevske akademije (Voice of the Royal Serbian Academy). Vol. 1 (1887). Ac.1131/3.
There are two distinct series in the Ac pressmarking and shelving scheme: the first series is a series of general academies arranged topographically by countries followed by towns in alphabetical order in the pressmark range Ac. 1-1997. The second series has the pressmark range Ac. 1998-9999, and is arranged by subject, which used to be a traditional classification and shelving scheme in the Library since its inception in the 1750s.
Glasnik Zemaljskog muzeja u Bosni i Hercegovini (Herald of the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina). Vol. 10 ( 1898). Ac.8833.
The majority of publications, examined in the project, were published by academies and their institutes, by universities and colleges and other cultural, research and educational organisations in the second half of the 19th century. These early publishing activities occurred during the period of national revival in the Balkans. After long periods of foreign dominance and cultural imposition, newly formed Balkan academies initially focused on publishing sources for national history, language and literature. These societies supported early scholarship and research into national culture and identity. They were promoters of sciences and modernisation of Balkan society. The scholarly content of these academies’ publications is of great research value as is the significance of the period in which these publications were produced. Both aspects will be explored as the project will try to assess relationship and significance of Balkan academies publications in the library collection.
Građa za povijest književnosti Hrvatske (Sources for the History of Croatian Literature). Vol. 2 (1899). Ac.741/19.
The publishing efforts of Balkan academies coincided with the period of increased acquisition and rapid growth of the collections in the then British Museum Library, which began acquiring publications from the Balkans by purchase and gift in the mid-19th century.
The bibliographical side of the Academy and Society in the Balkans project will mainly deal with intricate academies series and subseries, editions and serial parts in their most elaborate forms. The research part of the project will trace the provenance of Balkan academies publications by recording and examining ownership stamps in the collection items. This research should provide an insight and better understanding of the British Library Balkan collections as a whole, their acquisition and development over time.
Spisanie na Bulgarskata akademiia na naukite (Journal of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences). Vol.1 (1911). Ac.1136/5.
Publications from academies in nine Balkan countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia) will be consulted, in six languages (Albanian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Romanian, Serbo-Croatian and Slovenian), and in both Cyrillic and Roman scripts.
Geografski vestnik (Geographical Journal). Vol. 4 (1928). Ac.6143.
A desirable outcome of the project would be an online collection guide and a survey of complementary holdings in other institutions in the UK and in country of origin. On a more practical level the project should gather information for conservation and preservation of these valuable collections. Equally it will allow us to identify gaps in the collections as it would inform possible acquisition of new titles and provide ideas for further collection development in this area.
Dacoromania. Buletinul Muzeului Limbei Române (Bulletin of the Romanian Language Museum). Vol. 6 (1931). Ac.9854.c.
Finally we should be able to explore and present the content of these collections by creating analytical records or by upgrading the existing historic catalogue records to include subject, language and other useful information for research and discovery.
An Aromanian lady from Moskopole (Voskopojë, Albania). From Th. Capidan, ‘Fărşeroţii. Studiu lingvistic asupra Românilor din Albania’, in Sextil Puşcariu (ed.), Dacoromania. Buletinul Muzeului Limbei Române (Bucharest, 1931), pp. 1-204.
This project is generously supported by the Chevening British Library Fellowship, a collaboration between the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the British Library.
Makedonski jazik (Macedonian Language). Inscription in red lettering on cover: “An issue dedicated to the fifth anniversary of the creation of the Macedonian alphabet and orthography”. Issue 5 (1950). Ac.1133.h.
Studime historike (Historical Studies). Vol. 1 (1964). Ac.129/7.
We welcome this opportunity in the British Library and we are looking forward to working with the Chevening Fellow on this exciting project.
Milan Grba, Lead Curator South-East European Collections
F.J. Hill, ‘The Shelving and Classification of Printed Books’, in P.R. Harris (ed.), The Library of the British Museum (London, 1991), pp. 1–74.
28 September 2018
1918: A New Europe on Film
On Saturday 27 October, the British Library will be hosting a study day, 1918: A New Europe on Film, that will look at 1918 and the end of the First World War from the perspective of those nations that were founded as a consequence.
Still from the Latvian film Lāčplēsis (1931) courtesy of the LAC Riga Film Museum collection.
Borders were redrawn and nations once part of larger entities were given a chance to determine their own course. Those borders were not necessarily natural, however, and the new geographies inspired new sets of problems. For some nations, this independence was short-lived and that precarity lives on today for many of these same nations.
1918: A New Europe on Film brings to light the many cinematic representations of this formative period and will show how film, documentary and television constructed and were constructed by an ever-shifting concept of national identity over a turbulent century. 1918 features as a key subject in every period and genre of film-making. It resurfaces as a paradigm for the now, a figure for great transformation, for endings, revolutions and new beginnings, and it often serves to express and comment on contemporary situations that could not bear direct representation.
An exciting programme includes expert speakers discussing Turkey, Latvia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Ukraine and Finland, covering archival footage, documentary, feature film and television across the century. Each presentation will be illustrated by film extracts, some of this material being shown for the first time, following very recent research. Film critic, programmer and expert in Czech and Eastern European Cinema, Peter Hames will introduce the study day.
The day has been organised in collaboration with Professor Dina Iordanova, University of St Andrews, and Professor Ewa Mazierska, University of Central Lancashire, with the cooperation of Yunus Emre Enstitüsü, The Finnish Institute in London, The British Croatian Society, The Romanian Cultural Institute in London and The Embassy of Latvia. For details of how to book see: https://www.bl.uk/events/1918-a-new-europe-on-film
The study day forms part of a wider programme of events, entitled 1918: A New World?, aimed at approaching the 1918 centenary from alternative perspectives. Do join us in rethinking the century!
14 May 2018
An Eyewitness Account of Life in the Early 19th-Century Habsburg Empire
John Bax (1793-1863) was an administrator in the Bombay Civil Service. Throughout his working life he kept a meticulous record of his travels between England and India, as well as around Great Britain, and across continental Europe and the Middle East. Two volumes of Bax’s journals have been digitised for the Qatar Foundation Partnership Programme, thanks to Bax’s descriptions of Arabia and Persia. However, these volumes also offer us an insight into life in early 19th-century Europe.
Header for diary entries describing Bax’s journey from England to Persia during 1824/25. Mss Eur F377/1.
Bax’s overland journey from England to India during 1824 and 1825 is particularly illuminating, not least because it offers fascinating vignettes of life in the Habsburg Empire. Bax’s journey through the Empire’s dominions covered in excess of 1,000 kilometres. It took him from Salzburg to Vienna, where he stayed for several weeks over Christmas 1824, and then onwards to Buda and Pest, through Transylvania, stopping at the towns of Temeswar [Timisoara] and Hermanstadt [Sibiu], before passing into the Turkish province of Wallachia.
A map showing ‘Austrian Dominions’ in the early 19th Century (London, 1809) Maps K.Top.90.2.TAB.END.
Bax’s diary entries reveal something of the internal contradictions and tensions of the Habsburg Empire; of the contrasts between its centre and far-flung frontiers, of strict religious codes versus cosmopolitanism, and the stark contrasts that existed between courtly opulence and provincial poverty.
Between Munich and Salzburg Bax noted that the ‘road is protected by whole troops of saints, several of whom were comfortably housed in a kind of sentry box.’ Of Salzburg itself Bax wrote that ‘the bigotry of [the town’s] inhabitants is of ancient date and no Protestant is permitted to domicile there.’ Bax added that ‘We were required to specify our religion immediately upon arrival’ (f 209).
An Austrian road with a wayside shrine, from Das pittoreske Oesterreich, oder Album der österreichischen Monarchie ... (Vienna, 1840-1846) 10205.f.10.
Bax was ambivalent about Vienna. He described the ‘want of energy and activity of the inhabitants’ and the ‘changeless monotony of society’ as not befitting the capital of a large Empire. However, Bax did note that ‘all the finery and clothes of the city’ were on display at the Prater on New Year’s Day, and that the music of the carnival seasons was ‘universally of the superior order’. Bax appears to have thought the most ‘imposing spectacle’ of his stay was the funeral procession of an Austrian Field Marshal (ff 210-211).
When Bax arrived at Buda the town was still a distinctly separate entity from Pest, its modern neighbour, on the opposite bank of the Danube. 24 years elapsed after Bax’s visit before the Széchenyi Chain Bridge linked the two towns. In Buda, Bax wrote that during ‘the summer months, there is a bridge of forty-seven boats’ across the river, which were opened up for one hour each morning to allow the passage of other vessels up and down river (f 213).
View of Buda and Pest joined by the boat bridge, from József Göóz, Budapest története ... (Budapest, 1890). 10201.e.5.
In 1825, large parts of the Habsburg Empire had been liberated from Ottoman rule only a century previously. In Transylvania, Bax saw for himself past and present attempts to protect the region’s towns from the Turks. His journal indicates the contrast between the ‘strong fortified’ Timisoara and the ‘dilapidated’ red brick walls of Sibiu. On the road between Timisoara and Sibiu, Bax wrote of villages ‘built of wood and mud’, in which ‘poverty seemed to reign on every side in pale and wan squalidity’ (f 215).
Plan of the fortress of Timisoara in the early 1850s, from Johann N. Preyer, Monographie der königlichen Freistadt Temesvár ... (Timisoara, 1853). 10215.g.13.
When Bax arrived in Sibiu the carnival season was in full swing. He described dancing crowds of ‘Germans, Hungarians, Greeks, Saxons and Transilvanians [who] were nightly exhibiting a succession of the most intricate figures.’ On his departure from the town he witnessed a marriage procession, led by a man ‘bearing aloft a long pole to which streamers of various colours were attached’, followed by a fiddler, the bride and groom, and a ‘mob of men and women and children’ (ff 216-217).
Dancing at a Transylvanian wedding, from Robert Brown, The Peoples of the World… (London, 1900). 10006.ff.10
You can read more of John Bax’s travels throughout Europe and elsewhere, in the first of his two volumes of travel journals, now available online on the Qatar Digital Library.
Mark Hobbs, Content Specialist, Gulf History, Qatar Project
10 July 2017
The British Library’s Romanian collections.
Without a specific Romanian acquisitions policy or a qualified Romanian Curator until the mid 1980s, the British Library historically acquired books selectively as they were offered to the Slavonic and East European department by Romanian and other European libraries. Since then we have endeavoured systematically to enrich our collections in the field of the humanities and social sciences with works in Romanian or of Romanian interest in any other language.
Although early printed Romanian books are poorly represented in the collections, a small number of them were acquired in the 19th century. These include the third oldest Romanian imprint: the Gospels in Church Slavonic printed in Târgoviște in 1512 by the Serbian monk Macarie, and Sbornik (Brașov, 1569; RB.23.c.388), a service book in Old Church Slavonic, printed by the Transylvanian deacon Coresi.
Gospels in Church Slavonic, Chetvoroblagověstie (Târgoviște, 1512). C.25.l.1
Notable acquisitions of the 17th and 18th centuries were Indreptarea legii (Targoviste, 1652; C.112.g.5.), the first Wallachian code of laws, in a national language; and three works by Dimitrie Cantemir , Prince of Moldavia: Divanul, sau gîlceava ințeleptului cu lumea sau giudețul suffletului cu trupul (Iași, 1698; C.118.g.2.), the first Romanian philosophical writing; The History of the Growth and Decay of the Othoman Empire, first printed in London in 1734 (148.g.3.), translated into English from the author’s orginal Latin manuscript Historia incrementarum atque decrementarum Aulae Othomanicae; and Beschreibung der Moldau, also translated from Cantemir’s Latin manuscript and with the first Romanian map of Moldavia.
Portrait of Dimitrie Cantemir from his Beschreibung der Moldau, (Frankfurt & Leipzig, 1771). 572.d.29.
Two seminal works of the early 19th century bear Buda imprints: George Șincai’s Elementa linguae Daco-Romanae sive Valachicae (Buda, 1805; 12962.dd.10.(1.)), followed in 1812 by Petru Maior’s Istoria pentru începutul românilor in Dachiia, an influential historical study of the origins of the Romanian people.
Istoria pentru începutul românilor in Dachiia (Buda, 1812). 804.d.3.
In the middle of the 19th century Vasile Alecsandri, the Moldavian poet, playwright, politician and diplomat personally presented the British Museum Library with several of his poetic and dramatic works. The collections include significant runs of scholarly periodicals of this period such as Mihai Kogălniceanu’s Dacia Literară, (Iași, 1840; P.P.4838.ecb), Convorbiri Literare (Iași, 1867; P.P.4838.eca), edited by Iacob Negruzzi, as well as Viața Românească (Iași,1906-1939; PP.4838.ecc), a literary and scientific journal, edited by Constantin Stere and Paul Bujor.
Of the early 20th century avant-garde journals selective issues of Contimporanul and Unu (Bucharest, 1928-1932; Cup.410.c.73) have been acquired.
Title-page of Contimporanul, vol. 1 no. 4 (Bucharest, 1922) C.192.b.2.
Major Romanian chroniclers – Grigore Ureche, Miron Costin, Ion Neculce , or the writers and poets Vasile Alecsandri, Mihai Eminescu, Ion Creangă – are represented by collected editions of their works originally published in Cyrillic script as classics of the Moldavian SSR. Their original Romanian editions historically formed part of the Library’s Romanian Collections. Latterly, regularly purchased material of Romanian interest, also published in the languages of the country’s ethnic minorities (Hungarian, German, Serbian, Romani, Ukrainian etc.) continues to enrich the collections, offering an independent-spirited reappraisal of events of the past decades.
Bridget Guzner, Formerly Curator Hungarian and Romanian Collections.
01 August 2016
To the British Museum Library with the Author’s compliments: Dragoș Protopopescu’s Shakespeare translations
The British Library holds a collection of ten Shakespeare plays in Romanian translation by Dragoș Protopopescu (1892-1948), a Romanian academic, writer and translator. This collection has the distinction of having been donated by Protopopescu to the British Museum Library in 1947. One title (King Lear) was presented to the Library in two editions (1942 and 1944); the other nine titles in the collection were published between 1940 and 1944 by various Romanian publishers. On the front cover of each book the donor inscribed: “To the British Museum Library with the Author’s compliments”.
Title page of William Shakespeare, Henric V. Traducere din limba engleză de Dragoș Protopopescu. (Bucharest, 1940). 11768.aaa.2.
The British Library’s collection of Protopopescu’s published Shakespeare translations is the most complete in any known public collection in Britain or Romania. The National Library of Romania holds five of Protopopescu’s translations of Shakespeare plays, and the Romanian Academy Library holds seven.
Front cover of William Shakespeare, Tragica poveste a lui Hamlet Prințul Danemarcei. Din și în forma originală de Dragoș Protopopescu. (Bucharest, 1942). 11768.d.26.
Between 1940 and 1945 Protopopescu published 12 translations of Shakespeare plays: Hamlet, The Tempest, Henry V, Coriolanus, The Winter’s Tale, King Lear, Othello, The Taming of the Shrew, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Two of Protopopescu’s published translations are not in the British Library: Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night’s Dream both published in 1945. The former is held by the Romanian Academy Library and the latter is not currently listed in any publicly available online catalogue.
Front cover of William Shakespeare, Tragedia lui Othello. Din englezește de Dragoș Protopopescu. (Bucharest, 1943). 11768.aaa.1.
Translations of Shakespeare have a long tradition in Romania dating back to the mid-19th century. Julius Caesar was the first to be translated (from the French) and printed in Romania in 1844. From then until 1940 at least 27 Romanian authors translated Shakespeare plays into the Romanian language. Notable among them were Petre P. Carp, Adolph Stern, Scarlat Ion Ghica, Dimitrie N. Ghika, Victor Anestin, Margărita Miller, Verghi and Ludovic Dauș, among others. The National Theatre in Bucharest produced 18 Shakespeare plays and staged about 850 performances between 1884 and 1931.
The ongoing project of the Contemporary Literature Press of the University of Bucharest in cooperation with the British Council, the Romanian Cultural Institute, and the Embassy of Ireland aims to publish Shakespeare’s plays in the original and in parallel Romanian translations, which were published in Romania between 1840 and 1920.
Protopopescu was one of the most prolific Romanian translators of Shakespeare. Apart from his 12 published translations, he prepared an additional 25 Romanian translations of Shakespeare plays by 1948. Unfortunately only five manuscripts of these translations are known to be in existence today. Four are held at the National Library of Romania: A Midsummer Night's Dream (1945), Macbeth (1945), Julius Caesar (1945), Much Ado About Nothing (1948). The manuscript translation of Richard II is held at the National Museum of Romanian Literature in Bucharest.
Half-title page with Protopopescu’s autograph dedication. From William Shakespeare, Doi domni din Verona. Din și în forma originală de Dragoș Protopopescu. (Bucharest, 1944). 11768.cc.11.
Protopopescu had a life-long association with the English language and Britain, from his early translations of contemporary Irish and British playwrights in 1913 to his doctoral studies in Paris and London in 1920-1923 and his professional work. His doctoral studies focused on the English dramatist William Congreve. Protopopescu was the first professor of English studies at the University of Cernăuți in 1925 and held the Chair of English language and literature at the University of Bucharest from 1940. He served as a press attaché at the Romanian Legation in London from 1928 to 1930.
While researching at the British Museum Library, Protopopescu discovered in the Sloane Manuscripts a previously unknown Congreve poem entitled “A Satyr against Love” (Sloane MS 3996). He presented this discovery to the British public in a letter to the Times Literary Supplement of 8 November 1923, which received scholarly appreciation and praise. Protopopescu’s first translation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet was also researched at the British Museum Library in 1928.
On the evidence of his 18 book donations, Protopopescu had a working relationship with the British Museum Library spanning almost 30 years. These donations range from his first collection of poems Poemele restriştei (Bucharest, 1920; 11586.bb.49.) , presented in March 1921, to his English grammar Gramatica vie a limbei engleze (Bucharest, 1947; 12974.aa.70), which was donated together with his Shakespeare translations between June and October 1947.
Front cover of William Shakespeare, Regele Lear. Din și în forma originală de Dragoș Protopopescu. (Bucharest, 1944). 11768.d.27.
In Romania and Britain Protopopescu was not only known as a professor of English studies, a vice-president of the Anglo-Romanian Society in Cernăuți, and a translator of Shakespeare into Romanian, but also as a member of the Legionary Movement, a Romanian fascist organisation active between 1930 and 1941. Protopopescu was editor of the Movement’s newspaper Bunavestire in 1937-38, in which he also published pro-British articles. Although Protopopescu later distanced himself from the politics of the Legionary Movement, his controversial social and political engagement on the Romanian far right ultimately led to his arrest by the communist authorities and suicide in 1948.
Milan Grba, Lead Curator South-Eastern European Collections
Dragoș Protopopescu, Un Classique moderne. William Congreve. (Paris, 1924). 010856.i.32.
ibid., Caracterul de rasă al literaturei engleze. (Cernăuţi, 1925). 011840.d.17.
ibid., Pagini engleze. (Bucharest, 1925). 11854.s.31.
ibid., Teatru englez. Traduceri. I. Bernard Shaw, Eugen O'Neill, John M. Synge. (Bucharest, 1943). 11783.e.14.
William Congreve, A Sheaf of Poetical Scraps. Together with A Satyr against Love, Prose Miscellanies and Letters. Edited by Dr. Dragosh Protopopesco. Second edition (Bucharest, 1925). 11633.ee.9.
Marcu Beza, Shakespeare in Roumania. (London, 1931). 011761.f.18.
Two of Protopescu’s books are freely available online from the Contemporary Literature Press of the University of Bucharest:
Gramatica vie a limbei engleze, with a chronology of the life of Dragoș Protopopescu in Romanian by Andi Bălu.
12 July 2016
Balkan Day II in Drawings by Ian Long
The south-eastern countries of the Balkans were in focus of Balkan Day II: A Rich Heritage of Stories, a public event held at the British Library on 24 June 2016.
The Balkans is home to a great number of fascinating stories and traditions, many of which remain untold in English. This event brought together some of the leading contemporary academics, writers and translators who talked about writing and creating in this fertile cultural space.
The event featured a range of authors, translators, publishers and others speaking on various topics. Artist Ian Long captured the speakers in the course of the day, and some of his portraits are reproduced below. You can also hear some of the talks from the event here.
In the first two keynote speeches, Kapka Kassabova's website (below) spoke on the theme Borderland: Notes from a Journey to Europes Last Frontier, where Bulgaria and Turkey Meet, and Robert Elsie described The Chaotic Course of Albanian Literature.
In a session chaired by poet and editor Fiona Sampson, Ioana Parvulescu and Alek Popov spoke on the theme of Authors as Cultural Ambassadors: How does the history and mythology of the homeland influence the stories we tell today?
A panel of translators - John Hodgson, Christopher Buxton, Stephen Watts and Mevlut Ceylan, with Christina Pribichevich Zoric in the chair - reflected on the question ‘Should translators of ‘small languages’ aim to be invisible or consider themselves a second author?’ in a session entitled Bringing the Balkans Westward.
The event ended with a screening of the film Balkan Spirit, followed by a discussion with its director Hermann Vaske.
Ian Long is a writer and graphic artist. He is keen to take drawing out into the world and see what it can do, in the widest possible variety of situations.
23 June 2016
Literary Translation: Whose Voice is it Anyway?
Speaking about the translator who introduced Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Chekhov to the English reading audience, Joseph Brodsky, once wrote: “The reason English-speaking readers can barely tell the difference between Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky is that they aren’t reading the prose of either one. They’re reading Constance Garnett.” On the other hand, there have been instances where a translation is said to be better than the original.
Front cover of Ismail Kadare, The Wedding. Rendered into English by Ali Cungu. (Tirana, 1968). X.908/16616.
So, whose voice is the reader hearing when reading a novel, or a poem, in translation – the author’s or the translator’s? How faithful to the original should a translation be? To what degree should the translation be “adjusted” or “improved” to facilitate its reading by the target audience?
Typescript. Front cover of William B. Bland, The ghost at the wedding. Based on the novel “The wedding” by Ismail Kadare. (Ilford, 1969). X.950/13209.
These are questions that apply to literary translation from any language, of course, but they are especially relevant when translating from so-called smaller languages, where the context, references, and even style and rhythm may be alien to the foreign reading public.
Frontispiece. Arghezi’s self-portrait. From Tudor Arghezi, Flori de Mucigai. Cu un autoportret inedit. (Bucharest, 1931). RB.23.a.20598.
On 24 June, Balkan Day at the British Library, I will be chairing a panel of literary translators who have introduced the English-speaking world to some of the best writing that Southeastern Europe has to offer. We will be discussing their approaches to literary translation and whether they think of literary translation as craft or creation. And who better to tell us than Christopher Buxton, author of two novels and translator of numerous contemporary and classical Bulgarian novelists and poets; the Turkish poet Melvut Ceylan, who lives in London and has translated both Turkish poetry into English and English poetry into Turkish; John Hodgson, who has brought us, among others, the work of Ismail Kadare and is one of only a few translators to be working directly from Albanian into English; and the poet Stephen Watts, whose many translations of poetry include the work of the surrealist Romanian poet Gellu Naum and Tudor Arghezi.
Frontispiece. Naum’s portrait by Victor Brauner. From Gellu Naum, Culoarul somnului. Cu un desen de Victor Brauner. (Bucharest, 1944). YA.2000.a.8782.
I know this is going to be a very lively discussion. How do I know? I’m a literary translator myself.
Christina Pribichevich Zorić, Former Chief of Conference and Language Services at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia
16 June 2016
What’s in a Name? Looking forward to Balkan Day 2
The Balkans have had some bad press: from the verb ‘balkanize’, frequently used during the wars of the 1990s, which describes the process of fragmentation or division of a region to the frequent coupling with pejorative words like ‘feud’ or ‘bloodshed’. But when you look at it more objectively, why should a region as rich and varied as the Balkans be classified by violence any more than a area like Alsace-Lorraine, which has surely seen its fair share?
The Balkan Peninsula (detail) by Jovan Cvijic (London, 1920). Maps X.4391
In the end, it all comes down to PR and perception. While Alsatian wine, gastronomy and chateaux are well-known tourist attractions, the Balkan countries also have their culinary delights, their liqueurs and their share of palaces, be they Austro-Hungarian or Venetian. When Istros published Faruk Sehic’s transformational novel based on memories of his beloved river Una, the title of the book had to be changed from the original Book of the Una to Quiet Flows the Una in order to indicate the name of a river unfamiliar to English readers. The same problem would not have occurred for a book written about the Rhine. Likewise, people feel alienated by stories from Skopje and Sofia, simply because they reach our public consciousness far less often than Strasbourg.
Balkan Day 2014 was billed as ‘a celebration of culture and identity’ and featured regional writers like Dubravka Ugresic, Andrej Nikolaidis and Muharem Bazdulj, among others. This was the first step of an initiative on behalf of Istros Books and the British Library to promote and raise awareness of the region and its culture here in the UK and to raise awareness.
Balkan Day I was greatly appreciated in academic and literary circles, and it is our great hope that this year’s follow-on event will be just as popular, as we welcome Bulgarian/British writer Kapka Kassabova and the poet Fiona Sampson as well as translators Christopher Buxton, Mevlut Ceylan and Stephen Watts to Balkan Day II: A Rich Heritage of Stories. It will also be an opportunity to view the screening of Hermann Vaske’s riotous documentary film, Balkan Spirit, a film which is rarely shown in the UK but which goes a long way towards breaking down stereotypes and highlighting the positives. The director himself is coming along to this special screening and will be available for a Q&A afterwards, before an open-mike session where all participants and guests can voice their own experiences and thoughts.
In both events, we focused on local literature and translation of those stories into English, in order to highlight the links between the cultures, and the efforts being made to build cultural bridges to further understanding of a much-maligned region. At the recent UK launch of the above-mentioned Bosnian novel, Joseph Cock of Today’s Translations gave us an historical reminder of those links:
Perhaps translation in the Balkans has a far greater historical pedigree than we recognise. After all, Jerome, the patron saint of translators, hailed from Illyria, the name given to the Balkan Peninsula in Classical Antiquity.
However, he goes on to point out a fact we know too well:
Yet despite the multitude of stories waiting to be told from the recent history of this region, the literature remains woefully underrepresented to English-speaking audiences.
On 24 June the British public will have the rare opportunity to hear the only two Albanian to English literary translators working today: Robert Elsie and John Hodgson, without whom the UK reader would not have been introduced to the novels of Nobel-nominated Ismail Kadare, or heard the voice of one of Albania’s best-known political dissidents, Fatos Lubonja. There will also be the chance to hear about how the stories of their respective homelands affect the writings of Bulgarian comic author, Alek Popov, and Romania’s Ioana Parvulescu, who is also an historian at Bucharest University. Her broad knowledge of fin-de-siecle Bucharest, of the whims and charms of people of that age, make this an enchanting book and a wonderful example to life in Europe at that time. In both cases, the stories these authors have to tell open new worlds and new perceptions to readers who may have shied away from literature in translation.
Susan Curtis-Kojakovic, Istros Books
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