Untangling a record for a Ukrainian book

It crossed my mind today to look up in our staff cataloguing system books published in Ukraine and coded as being in Russian, to see whether any of them had been incorrectly coded.  The fifth result was exactly that – a Ukrainian title mangled in transliteration performed in keeping with the rules for Russian:

  • Мистецтво стародавнього Києва [by]  Ю.С. Асєєв –>
  • Mystet︠s︡tvo starodavnʹoho Kyi︠e︡va [by]  I︠U︡.S. Asi︠e︡i︠e︡v (correct)
  • Mistet︡s︠tvo starodavnʹogo Kieva [by] I︠U︡.S. Aseev (very incorrect)

Every single word is misspelt as a result of the mistake.  So when did the error appear?  The book – which is about the art of early Kyïv – arrived via exchange in 1970.  It was entered in the green ‘guard book’ catalogue with the author’s surname transliterated according to the practice of the day (Асєєв became Asyeyev, which would now be Asi︠e︡i︠e︡v, as above) and the title was kept in Cyrillic, again per standard practice then.  Note that the typed slip here itself is also imperfect, with Е and Є muddled – Мистецтво стародавнього Киева [by]  Ю.С. Асеев instead of Мистецтво стародавнього Києва [by]  Ю.С. Асєєв.

The same approach (title in the original script) was applied in the class catalogue, where the book was entered by hand to be given a classmark.

Until the first online catalogue appeared, then, in the late 1970s, the book’s metadata was on paper and largely still in Cyrillic.  The major problem came in when the project to put the guard books’ contents into the online catalogue – an unbelievably enormous piece of work lasting many years.  At that point, someone who didn’t understand quite what they were dealing with thought that they were looking at Russian Cyrillic (a misapprehension compounded by the Е/Є mistakes in the guard book) and transliterated it accordingly.

Sadly this kind of error from the period is not wholly uncommon.  What DID surprise me was that a reader had at some point managed to find the book nonetheless, errors in every word (and lack of subject headings) notwithstanding.  The stamp below the cancel one reads 1999 DEC 21.

The author’s standardised entry point was at least correct, so presumably that was how the reader found it.  Here is the old record:

And here is its new and approved record, which will appear in iDiscover later tomorrow morning:

The book and its lovely illustrations (sample at the top of the blog post) will hopefully now find new readers more easily.  https://idiscover.lib.cam.ac.uk/permalink/f/t9gok8/44CAM_ALMA21334716330003606

Mel Bach

1 thought on “Untangling a record for a Ukrainian book

  1. Hmm. Interesting. I don’t know of a way of identifying these records myself (I have neither Russian nor Ukrainian) but I’m looking at a similar list in my library and comparing the records with OCLC. Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of Microfiche and Microfilm on this list, and many of the records in my system don’t have the Cyrillic– only the original cataloging transliteration. Considering that I’ve heard that catalogers may eventually stop transliterating some titles entirely (and rely solely on the vernacular script) it seems as though these records are poorly represented in my system!

    Thanks for the impetus to improve them.

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