Today is Taras Shevchenko’s 209th birthday. In his fairly short life (he died one day after his 47th birthday), Shevchenko revolutionised Ukrainian literature and language and art. Our oldest Shevchenko holding is the 4-volume set of his works, published in L’viv between 1893 and 1898.
As Dr Rory Finnin of Cambridge Ukrainian Studies described in his Liberation lecture in November (full recording here), Shevchenko’s importance to Ukrainians domestically and further afield cannot and could never be overstated. Thanks to donations made to the UL over the last 12 years, we have a rich collection of émigré Ukrainian books dating in particular from post-WW2 migrant communities. Here are the earliest 1945- Ukrainophone Shevchenko editions from South America, North America, and Western Europe:
- Argentina: Kobzar : povne vydanni︠a︡ ili︠u︡strovane mali︠u︡nkamy Tarasa Shevchenka / Taras Shevchenko. (Buenos Aires, 1950; 472 pages)
- Canada: Kobzar / Taras Shevchenko ; [red., statti ĭ poi︠a︡snenni︠a︡ Leonida Bilet︠s︡ʹkoho]. (Winnipeg, 1952-1955; 4 volumes)
- France: Vybranyǐ Kobzar / redakt︠s︡ii︠a︡, peredmova i prymitky I. Borshchaka. (Montreuil-sous-Bois, 1947; 495 pages)
All of these contain “the” Kobzar or versions of it or mixed compilations of Shevchenko’s work. As I wrote in the caption for the 19th-century set for the Liberation lecture exhibition, the “beautifully designed 4-volume set’s title refers to arguably the most important work of Ukrainian literature by the country’s most important writer. The term Kobzar (the word for a player of the kobza, a traditional Ukrainian instrument) was the title of a collection of eight poems which Taras Shevchenko published in 1840. Over time, the word came to be used as a collective term for Shevchenko’s entire poetic output. This set contains his poems and also other works” (as would the three émigré copies).
For those who haven’t yet got enough Ukrainian to read the original, here are a couple of fairly recent translation options:
- Kobzar : poetry of Taras Shevchenko in Ukrainian, English and French / introduction by Andrew Gregorovich. (2014)
- The complete Kobzar : the poetry of Taras Shevchenko / Taras Shevchenko ; translated from the Ukrainian by Peter Fedynsky. (2013)
I should mention that we also have a Ukrainian edition available electronically on the EBSCO platform (albeit with a pretty terrible catalogue record, as is sadly standard with many large ebook packages): https://idiscover.lib.cam.ac.uk/permalink/f/t9gok8/44CAM_ALMA51668408050003606