Older Ukrainian material via the HathiTrust

Cambridge has standard, unlocked access to books out of copyright held in the HathiTrust digitised book collection.  Covid-era Cambridge readers may remember that we had full access to the whole collection for some months, when physical restrictions made our print copies almost inaccessible, but even the limited HathiTrust access we have in more normal times is a great bonus for those reading older material.

Screenshot of the first results of my search

Using the Advanced Search option to search solely by language (Ukrainian), and then filtering the results by Viewability: Full view provides 606 results.  The vast majority were published before 1930, but a clutch of government publications from the 1990s are there too.  Interestingly, the US is listed as the main place of publication for the 606 (at 310 results), just ahead of Ukraine itself.  The contents of HathiTrust have largely been digitised from the contents of US libraries, so that factor combined with the existence of Ukrainian émigré communities in the US dating from the 19th century can explain this.

You can also filter results by subject; the top three results are Ukraine, Ukrainian literature, and Ukrainians.  Ukrainian Americans and Ukrainians–United States also feature strongly.  I chose to filter by the last and found among the results the 1916 New Jersey publication Z rokiv viĭny : satyrychni ili︠u︡strat︠s︡iï z evropeĭsʹkoï viĭny, opovidani︠a︡ vidomosty i informat︠s︡iï pro ukraïnsʹkiĭ narid, pro staryĭ kraĭ i Ameryku, bohato ili︠u︡strovani (From the years of war : satirical illustrations from the European War, stories of knowledge and information about the Ukrainian nation, about the old country and America, richly illustrated).  In the UL’s collections, Ukrainian émigré material normally dates from after World War 2, so it is fascinating for me to see something from 30 years earlier that is so firmly positioned in the US and not “the old country”.  It does contain works from Europe, including, for example, an essay by the historian Ivan Krypiakevych in L’viv (then Polish Lwów).

The illustrations are almost entirely black and white and, while pen and ink drawings (chiefly the caricatures) come out well, others come out less well.  Compare the first two below, both showing the Russian tsar:

The left-hand one shows his crown flying off as the swords of the German and Austrian army stab him; the bags of English and French gold at his feet are no help to him now, nor is the bottle of spirit.  The last picture here is also from the satirical picture section but is very grim, showing the Statue of Liberty casting light on the hanging of Ukraine by the tsar.

The book doesn’t have a contents list, but there are about 50 pages of WW1 satire focusing on the Eastern Front before 125 pages or so about Ukraine and Ukrainians and Ukrainian culture, then about 65 pages about the USA, Canada, and updates about the war.  There is also a general humour section in this last part, not all of which translates well to modern times.

This is of course just one examples of the interesting items that can be found even in the unlocked version of HathiTrust.  Be aware that records for HT material do not currently appear in iDiscover, so do have a look in HT for yourselves, via this link: http://www.hathitrust.org/

Mel Bach

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