С Новым годом! Happy New Year! : late delivery of the December 2017 Slavonic item of the month

The December 2017 item of the month was held up in the post, so with apologies here is a lovely festive card sent on 20 December 1967 to celebrate the incoming new year.

Postcard recto. From the Catherine Cooke postcard collection.

In the Soviet period, Christmas played a much-diminished role – new year celebrations took on much of Christmas’ character and iconography, and New Year’s Eve remains the main time for present-giving in much of the former Soviet bloc to this day.  In the card above, we have Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) being ferried by a troika of horses, with the Kremlin star shining in the background.

This lovely card was sent from Nizhnii Tagil, a town in the Sverdlovsk Region, to the small Norwegian town of Vikersund.  The fact that the Russian sender had a personalised stamp for his details (a sign that he was well established), bottom right, made me hope that he and the recipient might be traceable – and so it turned out to be the case.

Postcard verso.

Rudol’f Kopylov was an artist and Thor Skullerud was a pharmacist – what linked them appears to have been bookplates.  Kopylov specialised in the production of ex-libris and Skullerud was an avid commissioner of them.  For readers of Russian, here is more about Kopylov in connection with an exhibition of some of his works in 2014: http://www.shr-ekb.ru/exibitions.php?exid=144; for all, here is a link to some of the bookplates he produced which commemorate the poet Sergei Esenin: http://www.esenin.ru/esenin-v-izobrazitelnom-iskusstve/ekslibris/kopylov-r-v  Skullerud is harder to pin down in terms of biographical details, but here are some of the ex-libris he had made for him: http://art-exlibris.net/person/1922  It would seem that several of his bookplates are now in the Rijksmuseum, but copyright sensitivity prevents the museum from providing images: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/search?q=skullerud

Somewhere, presumably, there is a bookplate designed by Kopylov for Skullerud to be found, but I have yet to track it down.  Ex-libris are the subject of many books in the UL.  A search for the subject bookplates will provide long lists.  Among the results will be a formidable Russian publication which lists all bookplates found in the holdings of the rare books department of the Gosudarstvennaia publichnaia istoricheskaia biblioteka (the State Public Historical Library).  Listed by name of owner, the set has covered only three letters of the alphabet and already stands at four volumes.  Once complete, it will be an extraordinary resource.  It can be consulted via the West Room and stands at  874.d.70-73.

Happy New Year to all our readers.

Mel Bach

Ex Libris

Click on image to see enlarged

Not all the books we buy are new, and when we acquire antiquarian copies we can sometimes see from the bookplate who previously owned the book. This was the case with four volumes which recently crossed my desk in quick succession, all with beautiful and interesting bookplates:

The first one is the bookplate of Alexander Ostrowski (1893-1986). He was born in Kiev, studied in Germany and was then Professor of Mathematics at Basel – this fits with the provenance of the book containing this bookplate which was bought from a second-hand bookseller in Basel.  Using dividers to represent a mathematician had been done before – see William Blake’s print of Newton, inspiration for Paolozzi’s sculpture at the British Library. I don’t know who the artist of the bookplate was but I particularly like the way the worm is depicted descending from the dividers and eating its way through the volumes at the bottom. Continue reading

A Benedictine bookplate designer

The origins of the European exlibris or bookplate lie in the woodblock prints of fifteenth-century Germany, while the first known British bookplate records the gift of books by Sir Nicholas Bacon to Cambridge University Library in 1574. The Library’s collections contain many thousands of diverse examples, intended as a record of ownership but ideally also a sign of the personality and tastes of the user and the artistic abilities of the designer and printer. Sadly a very small proportion of the Library’s holdings are recorded on Newton and a few thousand only on a card index kept in the Rare Books Room. Continue reading