Bulgarian collections : the November 2016 Slavonic item(s) of the month


Part of the Library of Congress’ Great Hall

Earlier in November, I had the great pleasure of visiting the Library of Congress for the first time.  Angela Cannon, the library’s South Slavic specialist, had invited delegates at the huge Slavonic Studies conference taking place in DC to come and look at Bulgarian material and be given a tour – an offer too tempting to refuse.  The material Angela put on for us gave a fascinating flavour of the richness of the Library of Congress’ Bulgarian collection.  From an 1850 accounting manual to a 1990 political propaganda poster, the exhibits were much to be coveted.  The visit prompted me to have a look at the University Library’s own Bulgarian collection on my return.

The UL’s Slavonic collections are richest in the West and East Slavic languages, with Polish and Czech showing most strongly in the former and Russian and Ukrainian leading the latter.  The third branch, South Slavic, has never been particularly focused on but Bulgarian has traditionally led a small but solid field, followed closely by Serbian and Croatian.

Our books in Bulgarian currently number about 2,700.  The vast majority (nearly 2,000) date from the 20th century, with the 1960s and 1990s the most well-represented decades (approximately 395 and 430 titles respectively).  Sofia is the most common place of publication for our Bulgarian titles by a long chalk, accounting for all but a few hundred.  Some other Bulgarian cities feature (chiefly Plovdiv and Veliko Turnovo), with Tsargrad (Istanbul), New York, Vienna, and Smyrna among the other places where our Bulgarian books were produced.  In terms of publishing in Bulgaria itself, we have over 3,300 titles where this is given as the country of production.  Russian, English, and French largely account for the books which are not in the local tongue.

Among the Bulgarian books we have from earlier in our collection, a 1910 work on Bulgaria itself caught my eye. The 167-page ‘Bulgariia : geograficheski bieliezhki’ (Bulgaria : geographical notes; Ud.7.314) was written by Anastas Ishirkov (1868-1937), a major leader in Bulgaria’s new field of geography and the founder of the Bulgarian Geographical Society.   This book was written for a non-specialist audience and contains 9 chapters on various aspects of the country’s geography: Bulgaria’s position, borders, and size; orography; hydrography; climate; flora; fauna; economy; population; and human settlements.  Illustrations are provided on occasional plates, mainly reproducing black-and-white photographs but also providing the occasional colour reproduction of a painting or drawing.  The three images below show examples of the colour illustration (top right) and photograph (bottom right) next to a shot of the book’s attractive cover (left).

In recent times, our Bulgarian intake has largely narrowed to a trickle based on occasional gifts.  Donations of books on the history and culture of Bulgaria and its neighbours are always welcome.  In the last few years, we have, for example, gratefully received two books on the seminal history of Bulgaria produced in 1762 by the hieromonk Paisii Hilendarski (‘Istoriia Slavianobulgarska’).  Both volumes were published in 2012 in a specific series produced to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the original book’s publication.  One is a slim volume of modern academic essays on Paisii Hilendarski and his history (2013.9.3214), and the other focuses on and reproduces a specific manuscript of the history, transcribed in the 19th century by Vlad Gladichov (C212.c.83).  Another donation published in 2012 is Stoian Germanov’s ‘Makedonski vupros, 1944-1989’ (The Macedonian question, 1944-1989; 2012.8.5904), published under the auspices of the Macedonian Academic Institute in Sofia.  This is one of nearly 150 books in the UL which look at the Macedonian question, most of which are in English, Greek, or Bulgarian.

Mel Bach

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