European studies blog

Exploring Europe at the British Library

13 posts categorized "Romania"

10 May 2024

European prose in transformation (Part 1). The European Writers’ Festival returns to the British Library

30 established and emerging authors from across Europe gather under one roof to delve into the theme of ‘Transformation’ at the second European Writers’ Festival taking place over the weekend of 18-19 May 2024 at the British Library. Two days of performances and panels will discuss how storytelling, its creators, its original language as well as its translation, are changing as the continent itself is transforming. While writing about personal experience embedded in history remains central to European literature, the Festival’s guests attempt to break literary traditions and established boundaries, setting off for transformative new journeys – and carrying us with them. In this and a second blog post, our curators and one guest contributor highlight some of the themes of the festival.

Photograph of Laurent de Sutter and the cover of his book 'After Law' with the book title in a red stop sign design

Laurent de Sutter and the cover of his book After Law (Cambridge, 2020) (Author photograph from the website of the Law Art Politics podcast)

Laurent de Sutter, After Law – Saturday 18 May, Panel 2, ‘Changing Gears’

On Saturday 19 May 2024, Belgian philosopher Laurent de Sutter will take part in the panel ‘Changing Gears’, alongside other authors who switch jobs and genres.

A real 21st century polymath, Laurent de Sutter wrote his law thesis on the politics of representation while working as a freelance writer for pop-rock magazine Rif-Raf. He then wrote about pornography and porn-stars, pop-culture, aesthetics, drugs and capitalism, and cinema, while becoming an editor directing a collection for the Presses Universitaires de France.

Laurent de Sutter is today Professor of Legal Theory at Vrije Universiteit Brussel, the author of more than 20 works translated into a dozen languages, and an essential thinker on the concept of law and of the ways we categorise and describe reality. Unexpectedly, his recent philosophical essay on modernity and anti-modernity, Superfaible! Penser au XXIe siècle (Paris, 2023) was also the recipient of the Grand prix de Poésie de l’Académie royale de langue et de littérature françaises de Belgique, 2023. Maybe this is not that surprising for a provocative and limitless writer who is also a self-confessed ‘pop-philosopher’ (a term invented by the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze in the 1970s, for a genre that explores the intersections between philosophy and pop culture).

You can find his books, in French, on the life and death of superheroes (Vies et morts des super-héros; Paris, 2016; YF.2020.a.6105) or his history of law through the architecture of one contemporary building (Post-tribunal: Renzo Piano Building Workshop et l'île de la Cité judiciaire; Paris, 2018; YF.2018.a.15252) in our collections. Recent titles in English include Narcocapitalism: Life in the Age of Anaesthesia (Cambridge, 2018; YC.2018.a.13255) and After Law. The latter won the French Voices Award and the Leopold Rosy Prize of the Belgian Royal Academy and is the featured book at this year’s European Writers’ Festival.

Sophie Defrance, Curator, Romance Collections

Photograph of Ioana Pârvulescu reading a book, and the cover of 'Jonah and his Daughter' with an illustration of Jonah and the whale

Cover of Jonah and his Daughter and photograph of Ioana Pârvulescu (pictures from the Romanian Cultural Institute)

Ioana Pârvulescu, Jonah and his Daughter – Saturday 18 May 2024, Panel 3, ‘Transformation through Translation’

While I was preparing Ioana Pârvulescu’s rather mystical new novel for print, I made a trip to Rome, and more specifically to the ancient Christian burial grounds of that city, known to us as the catacombs. To my surprise, I came upon an array of depictions of the prophet Jonah – being thrown overboard on this sea journey undertaken in an attempt to outrun the will of God; languishing inside the whale or being regurgitated from the sea monster. My guide explained that the early Christians saw Jonah as a precursor to Jesus, with his internment in the belly of the great fish for three days pre-echoing those three days in the tomb before resurrection; his rebirth thereafter being the new life in faith.

Roman wall-paintings showing the prophet Jonah being thrown from a ship and being vomited out by a dragon-like whale

Paintings of the biblical story of Jonah from the Catacomb of Saints Marcellinus and Peter in Rome

While Pârvulescu’s novel is far more subtle and complicated than a mythologised story of prophecy from the Old Testament, her writing is never finer than when describing that extraordinary scene of ingestion and eventual discharge :

...Jonah grew very dizzy and felt he was falling back-ward into emptiness, looking through eyes in which there was no wide-eyed seeing. And all of a sudden, the seeing returned to his eyes and his sight filled with stars, some so close that you could catch them in your hand, stars that were in motion, others so high above that they were but specks of silver dust...

Yet this is not a novel of obscure stories and characters far removed from us in time and mentality: Jonah is a living, breathing man with a speech impediment and a prodigious sexual appetite, who befriends waifs and strays with characters that steal our hearts and make us want to sit down with these people, around a campfire perhaps, and learn their ways. Just as in her previous novel, Life Begins on Friday, the author draws us into historical periods through the quirks of her characters, their insecurities and their passions, and the empathy she evokes for them through her expert storytelling. As in all the best dramatisations of the past – be it in films, theatre plays or novels – historical figures are given height and depth because we have sat with them for a while and heard their voices.

We learn in the introduction to the book that Ioana felt compelled to write it because the vagaries of spellcheck often rendered her name to that of the ‘minor prophet’ in Romanian and that from this whimsical coincidence she was led to re-evaluate and become enamoured of a narrative different from the one she expected:

The reason his story is so beautiful and so human is because it is about deadly monsters that play a double part and which in the end are life savers, about the need for darkness, about fear and running away, about passion, about getting involved or standing aloof, about being human or separate from humanity...

Jonah’s daughter learns the story of her father, and passes it on her to her daughter, and so on down through the ages. In this way our author becomes a daughter of Jonah too, bringing the story of the recalcitrant prophet up to date with our times. In the end all the very best stories reveal aspects of our human - and mystical - experience in this realm, and I for one have been greatly enriched by this one.

Susan Curtis, Editor, Istros Books

02 October 2023

Forgotten stories still to be uncovered

What do you think links audio recordings of Italian traditional theatre from Florence, card diaries written in 1932 by archaeologists in Soviet Ukraine, a typescript of a play on the life of Romani people in Bulgarian, a photo album that belonged to a Roma family from Moldova, a page from a Muslim religious text originated in Bulgaria, and a journal published by Serbs in exile?

Image of handwritten card diaries, August 1935

Card diaries by T.M. Movchanoskiy, 1932 (EAP220/1/3) - Archival records from Saving archival documents of archaeological researches conducted during the 1920s and 1930s in Ukraine

Catalogue record of the digital audio collection

Catalogue record of the digital audio collection

All these image and many more were digitised through the Endangered Archives Programme. The physical archives that were under a threat of disappearance remain where they were, but digital images are available freely to anyone who would like to do research or learn. In the words of the Programme’s co-founder, Lisbet Rausing, and much echoed by the Head of the EAP Sam van Schaik , “the Endangered Archives Programme captures forgotten and still not written histories, often suppressed or marginalised. It gives voice to the voiceless: it opens a dialogue with global humanity’s multiple pasts. It is a library of history still waiting to be written”.

Handwritten title page of Ismail Osmanov. “Gypsy on the new way. A play in two parts, 1953”

Ismail Osmanov. “Gypsy on the new way. A play in two parts, 1953” (EAP067/4/1) –
Archival records from Preservation of Gypsy/Roma historical and cultural heritage in Bulgaria

Pictures from a Roma family album

Roma family album No 1 (EAP699/23/2) – Archival records from Safeguarding of the intangible Romani heritage in the Republic of Moldova threatened by the volatilisation of the individual unexplored collections (EAP699)

Here in the British Library, we research the collections and try to tell more people about them. Here is the most recent report from Anna Maslenova, a PhD student who came to work with us for three months on placement: ‘Contextualising a digital photographic archive of Siberian Indigenous peoples: PhD placement report’ . A Chevening fellow from Ukraine Nadiia Strishenets helped us to improve metadata for image related to the project Saving the original lifetime archive of the well-known Ukrainian poet, artist and thinker, T.H. Shevchenko (EAP657). If you have used any of the EAP collections in your research, we would be extremely grateful if you could tell us about your research and experience.

Manuscript page from Muslim religious texts in Bulgaria

Muslim religious texts (EAP1392/5/2) – Archival records from Rediscovering the cultural heritage of the Muslims in Bulgaria (1920-1950) (EAP1392)

Title page for The Serbian Fatherland: a monthly magazine for Serbian youth in exile

The Serbian Fatherland: a monthly magazine for Serbian youth in exile [1918] (EAP833/1/2/1/7) – Archival records from Safeguarding the fragile collection of the private archive of the Lazic family (EAP833)

The call for the 19th round of applications is open.

We hope that readers of this blog will help us to promote EAP, so that we could save more disappearing archives, uncover fascinating stories and capture forgotten voices from all over the world.

Katya Rogatchevskaia Lead Curator, East European Collections

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.

Photograph of a group of people in a city square c. early 1900s. Features the CEEOL logo and words 'CEEOL - Broadening Horizons'

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.

A poster in Serbian showing how to protect yourself from Covid-19

“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.

A poster showing the symptoms of Covid-19

The symptoms of a new coronavirus. Let us be responsible to ourselves and others.

A poster aimed at showing how to protect children against Covid-19

The new coronavirus - recommendations for children. How to protect yourself against infection

A poster showing 3 ways to protect against Covid-19

“One - two - three. You too protect yourself".

A poster showing how to use a mask correctly

How to use a mask properly.

Certificate of a building disinfection in Belgrade

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

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.

Pile of books with a transistor radio and sign reading 'music books'

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.

Photograph of a book launch in Sarajevo City Hall

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.

Photograph of blossoming Japanese morello cherry-trees in front of the Bulgarian National Library

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 a concert hall in the Croatian Music Institute in Zagreb showing damage from the earthquake

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.

Six volumes from Povijest hrvatskoga jezika (‘History of the Croatian Language’)

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’).

Panoramic view of Belgrade

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.

Photograph of three books from the Opere fundamentale collection and an orchid

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.

Title page of Serbskij letopis

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.

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.

III 1887 G_SKA 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.

IV 1898 GZM_BIH 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.

Title page of  Građa za povijest književnosti Hrvatske

 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.

VI 1911 BAN 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.

VII 1929 GV_LJUGeografski 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.

VIII 1931 DR_CLUJ 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.

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.

Cover of Makedonski jazik  with an Inscription in red lettering

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.

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

References:

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' showing actress Lilita Berzina as the legendary heroine Laimdota
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.

Manuscript heading of Bax's diary 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.

Map of Austrian dominions in the early 19th century 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).

Colour illustration of a country road in Austria with a wayside shrine, and a town in the distance 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).

Black and white illustration of the cities of Buda and Pest joined by a boat bridge 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 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).

Illustration of a man dancing to the accompaniment of a violin and cello 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 with a decorative header and initial

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 in armour

 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.

Title-page of  Istoria pentru începutul românilor in Dachiia

 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 with a drawing of three men holding bags and handfuls of money
 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 'Henric V'
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.

Cover of 'Hamlet' in Romanian, with the title set in a decorative border depicting a writing-desk
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.

Cover of Romanian translation of Othello, with the translator's manuscript dedication to the British Museum Library in English
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 of 'Doi Domni din Verona' with Protopopescu’s autograph dedication in Romanian
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.

Cover of 'Regele Lear' with Protopopescu's autograph dedication to the British Museum Library in English
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

References/further reading:

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.

Valoarea latină a culturii engleze 

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.

Portrait of Kapka Kassabova by Ian Long

 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?


Portrait of Ioana Parvulescu by Ian Long
Ioana Parvulescu

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. 

Portrtait of John Hodgson by Ian Long
John Hodgson 

Portrait of Christopher Buxton by Ian Long

Christopher Buxton

Portrait of Christina Pribichevich Zoric by Ian Long
Christina Pribichevich Zoric

The event ended with a screening of the film Balkan Spirit, followed by a discussion with its director Hermann Vaske.


Ian Long

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.

 

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