MMLL Faculty Library’s oldest Ukrainian book

This week, I thought it would be nice to look outside the main University Library for Ukrainian printed books, and the Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics Faculty Library was the obvious first place to look at.

The title page of the book, with a photograph of its late author.

The MMLL Ukrainian collection has expanded hugely, as has the UL’s, since Cambridge Ukrainian Studies launched in the late 2000s, but its earliest book dates to 1922.  The book doesn’t give that date explicitly, but we’ve inferred it from the date of the book’s introduction.

Vsesylʹnyĭ doli︠a︡r by the Galician author Artym Khomyk came out a year after the author’s death.  Khomyk is not very commonly known, so the 2020 article (in Ukrainian, available here) on his life and work by Olesi︠a︡ Drozdovsʹka is very welcome.  In it, Drozdovsʹka specifies Khomyk’s death date as 10 March 1921 but explains that the birth date of the author is much less certain, with possible dates given by different sources varying from 1878 to 1881.  While Khomyk might not be so well known nowadays, this book attracted an introduction (described as an excerpt from his memoirs) from Mykyta Shapoval, whose name is fairly well known as a political and cultural figure.  Shapoval described Khomyk has having “barely survived 40 years” indicating an 1880 or 1881 birth.

Shapoval’s introduction is dated 18 March 1922 and gives his location as Prague.  The book itself was published by Chaika with Kyïv, Videnʹ (Vienna), and Lʹviv given as the joint places of publication, Vsesylʹnyĭ doli︠a︡r contains stories from the cycle of the same name (which means All-powerful dollar) plus Na boi︠e︡vyshchi z︠h︡ytti︠a︡ (On the battlefield of life) and Raison d’état.

The book’s contents pages

The MMLL Faculty Library seems to be the only UK library to have a copy of this book, and this is a timely reminder that the MMLL Ukrainian collection is a great boon for researchers as well as students.  The MMLL’s is a busy but very welcoming library, and here are details about using it:

Many thanks to MMLL’s Catherine Wardle for looking the book out and providing images.  Cathy and others will be joined later this month by a new Slavonic and Linguistics lead for their library (working 1 day a week also with us in CAL), and they’ve been very lucky to have had Olha Sherstiak covering Slavonic matters there for the time being, including preparations for a forthcoming display at MMLL to mark the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  We’ll publicise Olha’s work through this blog in due course.

Mel Bach

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