S3-figures and the January 2020 Slavonic items of the month

The introduction to the 1945 ‘Select classes classification’

The University Library’s classification schemes can sometimes seem designed to hinder rather than aid the reader.  This post looks at some recent and lovely East European additions to the S3-figure class and briefly explains its history and current use.

In the past, the Library produced publications about specific classification schemes, chiefly for staff but apparently also for sale (many have prices printed on them!).  From my predecessor as head of department, David Lowe, I inherited a third edition of Select books classification, published in 1945 in a print run of 100 copies following a first edition in 1925 and a second very shortly thereafter in 1926.

The S3-figure class was designed for ‘select books’ which didn’t already fall into one of the other ‘select classes’ covered by the pamphlet.  Most commonly, a ‘select book’ was, and still is, something extensively illustrated or very heavy (archaeology books and art catalogues often tick both boxes) which the Library would want to provide access to only in a supervised reading room.  The class traditionally held only hardbacks but we now add sturdy paperbacks to the sequence too.  The S3-figure class was originally applied in combination with a simplified version of the open-shelf 3-figure scheme, so a book about Russian history which would count as ‘select’ would have been given a classmark starting with S586 (since 586 is the main Russian history class).  About 15 years ago, the decision was made to stop the subject classification of S3-figure books, and now the classmark is standardly S950 and otherwise reflects only size and date of publications with a running number (eg S950.c.201.1).  As is the case with many classes in the UL, then, readers need to use the subject headings in catalogue records to trace subjects for titles added to the S3-figure class since that time.  This post looks at three new additions to the class which relate to East European art.

The three volumes of the set

We recently received as a donation a fine 3-volume set called Idei, smysly, interpretatsii obrazotvorchoho mystetstva : ukrains’ka teoretychna dumka XX stolittia (which gives as it English title: Ideas, senses, and interpretations of fine art : Ukrainian theoretical thought of the 20th century).  Its first two volumes were published in 2012 and its final volume came out just last year.  The volumes have grown significantly, from 231 pages in the first, 829 in the second, to 957 in the third.  The set provides an anthology of theoretical texts by major figures in Ukrainian culture and academia about fine art.  The texts are in Ukrainian but each volume’s table of contents is provided in English.  These are:

  • Volume 1
    • Sources, psychology and experiences of Ukrainian modernism
    • Ukrainian postmoderism: ideology in the mirror of artistic freedom
  • Volume 2
    • Historical, cultural, and conceptual resources of the Ukrainian history of art
    • The resettings in the cultural and artistic process: some aesthetic confrontations of the second half of the 20th century
    • The formal ideological spectrum of Ukrainian postmodernism: the author, semantic links, ways of comprehension
  • Volume 3
    • Historical, socio-cultural studies, ideological and polemical texts
    • Artistic experience of the 20th century in analytics and researches of the 21st century
    • Geographic and psychoemotic coordinates of Ukrainian creative ‘ego’
    • Depository of creative experiences : biographies, memories, fiction

The set is nicely illustrated, if in black and white, with a brief biography of each author given before their text and with good indexes overall.  I am very grateful to the set’s editor, Roman Iatsiv, who gave Cambridge our copy (S950.b.201.6254-6256).

Book cover, showing underdrawing/painting

This week, we received another interesting art-related donation from Eastern Europe, this time O sztuce kopiowania : studia inspirowane badaniami powtarzalności przedstawień Hodegetrii Krakowskich 1400-1550 (whose English title is given as: On the art of copying : studies inspired by research on the repeatability of Cracovian Hodegetria 1400-1550) by Małgorzata Nowalińska.  This is a fascinating examination, in parallel Polish and English texts, of the practice of copying and reproducing existing works of religious art.  Work undertaken only as recently as the 1980s revealed through examination of ‘underdrawings’ that the Kraków Hodegetria paintings were produced with the use of templates.

Excerpt from the Hodegetria list

Hodegetria pictures show the Virgin holding the Christ child and pointing to him (the original Greek means ‘who points the way’).  Nowalińska provides an illustrated list of the 79 Cracovian Hodegetria icons, held chiefly in Poland, providing details of location, date, size, details revealed by any infra-red scans, and details of the workshop which produced the icon where known.  After a section on the Hodegetria, Nowalińska moves on to examine other examples of copying in medieval and Renaissance Europe and ends with a study of the actual techniques of copying and transferring drawings.  463 pages long and well illustrated, this is a lovely addition to our art history collection, and was donated to us by the Library of the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków.  Its classmark is S950.a.201.7356.

Finally, this week also saw the arrival of a beautiful and huge (39 cm high, 30 cm wide)  catalogue of Russian imperial regalia from the Moscow Kremlin.  The catalogue was a relatively expensive purchase for a Russian book, but the decision to buy it was gratifyingly endorsed not long after our order went off by a request from an academic to buy the selfsame title.  The book provides high-quality photographs of various pieces, from the famous Monomakh fur-edged crown to orbs and sceptres, from thrones and crosses to clothing.  There is little editorial commentary, but the primary strength of the book is the amazing access it provides to these exquisite treasures through close-up images.

Gosudarstvennye regalii Moskovskogo t︠s︡arstva : sokrovishcha Oruzheĭnoĭ palaty (State regalia of the Moscow tsardom : treasures of the State Armoury) is large but still fits within the confines of the standard ‘a’ size, and its classmark is S950.a.201.7357.  Had it been one centimetre wider, it would have gone into the ‘bb’ size.

The 1945 classification pamphlet is a rather lovely UL artefact, if somewhat, let us say, of its time, and more of its contents will feature in future posts about the staggering world of UL classification and possibilities for its overhaul.

Mel Bach

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