Lost and found : two September 2018 Slavonic items of the month

Last week, two 19th-century Russian books were brought to me by a Rare Books colleague who had found by chance that they had no record in the online catalogue. An invisible title is a librarian’s (and reader’s) nightmare – without catalogue records, we may as well be without books.  Now that these two volumes, lost to readers (except those still dipping into the old physical guard book catalogues) for decades, have been found, I thought it would be appropriate to celebrate them in a blog post.

Nekrasov poems

This little book of over 70 poems by Nikolai Nekrasov (1821-1878) was published in Leipzig in 1869.  While it is not the earliest book by Nekrasov held in Cambridge, it certainly counts among the earliest few, and it is always nice to have books printed in the author’s lifetime.  The University Library’s 19th-century Russian holdings chiefly came to us through donations, and this volume was donated by one of the most generous donors – Dame Professor Elizabeth Hill, the University’s first Professor of Slavonic Studies.  Hill, in turn, had received the book from the literary translator Sidney Jerrold, as the inscriptions here show.  Provenance notes have been added to the holdings record (for painful reasons, these do not currently appear on the catalogue), and entries for Hill and Jerrold provided in the main catalogue record (these do).

Stikhotvoreniia N. Nekrasova (S756.d.86.1)

Pushkin in Southern Russia

This book, published in Moscow in 1862, reached the Library not as a donation but through the Soviet-era book exchange programme.  This can be discerned from the UL’s stamp on the title page: below the date line, the letter “E” stands out.  (“E” means exchange, “B” means bought, and “D” means donation.)  Another library stamp on the page also tells us where our copy came from – the Lenin Library in Moscow, now the Russian State Library.  Quite how the exchange system worked is not clear to me, but the Leninka, as it is known, assures me through its online catalogue that it still has several other copies (link to Russian catalogue entry).

Stamp “Iz knig K.M. Solov’eva, No 4409”

Their website also helped me find information about the person whose book stamp appears on a preliminary page: K.M. Solov’ev.  I first tracked him down on one of several major Russian book auction websites, including an entry for the impressive 1914 catalogue of Solov’ev’s library by the bibliographer Iurii Bitovt (here, in Russian).  There we learn that Konstantin Makarovich Solov’ev (1867-1935) was a merchant and a major book collector, amassing a library of over 60,000 titles (ours is book 4409).  I hoped against hope that we might have a copy of the catalogue here in Cambridge, but we do not, although I see with unseemly envy that the British Library does (record here).  The Leninka maintains an excellent list of named collections, and K.M. Solov’ev is among their list under “S” (here, again in Russian).  So far, they have identified over 80 items still in their collections which came from Solov’ev’s library.

Pushkin v iuzhnoi Rossii (S756.d.86.2)

This kind of work is vital in order to ensure that our books can be found but also incredibly enjoyable.  We know that there are some sequences of books in the UL which lack online records (much Official Publications material, for example, and a number of books in the pre-1978 Supplementary Catalogue (for details about both card catalogues, see here)).  What was worrying about the two books above was that they come from a sequence which should have been fully catalogued online – which meant that they were caught only by chance.  It is a relief to know that they are active parts of our collections again.

Mel Bach

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