Cyrillic became the chief alphabet of the Mongolian language in Mongolia in the 1940s and has remained so to this day. “Mongolia” here refers to the independent country, an area also known as Outer Mongolia. Inner Mongolia, within Chinese borders, still uses the classic Mongolian alphabet – which, rather mind-bendingly, derives from a Semitic script. The transition to Cyrillic in Soviet Mongolia from the traditional alphabet took in Latin on the way, in the 1930s. In 1932, the famous linguist Nikolai Poppe published a text book on the Mongolian language in which he employed both the classic (here shown horizontally but normally written vertically) and Latin alphabets:
Earlier this month, the National Library of Belarus (NLB) held a conference to celebrate the history of Belarusian printing, marking the 500th anniversary of Frantsysk Skaryna’s publication of the Psalter – one of many Belarusian initiatives to celebrate Skaryna’s legacy. Both the UL and Trinity College have contributed to another of NLB’s projects, to draw together as comprehensive as possible a database of scanned copies of all original Skaryna material. Cambridge has provided digital copies of:
- a fragment of Skaryna’s 1518 First Book of Kings (1 Samuel); exactly the same fragment is held by both Trinity and the UL (the latter at F151.c.7.10)
- Skaryna’s 1522 Malaia podorozhnaia knizhitsa (Small travel book) Psalter (UL: F152.e.14.1)
The University Library’s Ukrainian-language holdings have nearly doubled in recent years, from 2,500 or so titles when I first arrived in 2010 to about 4,500 now. We buy books mainly on history and culture, with literature and philology among our main accession areas. Selecting new literary titles, however, is often rather a challenge.
Selecting books on literature is one thing. It is easy enough to spot, where offered, good academic titles produced by respectable presses. A recent (and ongoing) stand-out example is the Istoriia ukrains’koi literatury (History of Ukrainian literature; 758:65.c.201.5(1-4)) set produced by the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, of whose 12 projected volumes we have the four already published. These – shown in the photo – cover the 10th century to 1830 (v. 1-3) and the work of Taras Shevchenko (v. 4).
Selecting literary titles of past authors is usually also straightforward because the value of their literary contribution is normally known. Similarly, buying new titles by established current writers (Zabuzhko, Zhadan, Matios, Andrukhovych, to name a few) is also easy. Determining which books to buy by modern writers less firmly established, however, is something I always find rather tricky.
This week has seen the very welcome news that the pilot Polish Studies Programme, launched in 2014, has succeeded in attracting funding which will ensure that Polish will remain in the University academic programme in perpetuity. To celebrate this wonderful development, the July 2017 Slavonic blog post looks at Polish holdings in the University Library.
The UL holds over 25,000 volumes in Polish. The period covered by the Polish-language collections stretches over a span of more than 450 years from the mid-16th century to the current day. Books printed before 1800 are the smallest component, but they include some extremely important and rare items. The earliest book in Polish in the University Library is the first printed translation of the Bible into Polish, which was produced in 1561 in Kraków. The second translation, printed in 1563, is rarer than the first; all but 20 or so copies were destroyed. The University Library is fortunate enough to have two copies each of these first two editions (Young.55 and BSS.232.B61; Young.56 and BSS.232.B63).
Images from the Young.55 copy of the 1561 Polish Bible.
Among recent arrivals from Russia is a lovely book called Gruzinskii avangard (The Georgian avant-garde; S950.a.201.5351), produced to accompany an exhibition held at the Pushkin Fine Arts Museum in Moscow. This Russian-language catalogue is a valuable addition to our collections, giving insight into 20th-century art from a country not exhaustively represented in the Library.
The book contains articles about the Georgian avant-garde followed by 140 or so pages of beautiful reproductions and then a full catalogue listing of the 200+ items used in the exhibition (accompanied by thumbprint reproductions). An English summary can be found at the end of the book. As the pictures above hopefully show, the volume is punctuated by smaller pages in addition to its main pagination. These provide further illustrative content.