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Watts, Panizzi and Asher: the development of the Russian collections 1837-1869

Christine Thomas and Bob Henderson

Abstract

"No doubt, for many readers it will come as a surprise to learn that, in terms of the completetiess and richness of the collections, few libraries in Russia can compete with the Russian Department of the British Museum. In many respects... [it] should be placed higher than any library in Russia, even the St Petersburg Public Library." These are the words of Vladimir Burtsev (i 862-1942), Russian revolutionary and historian, who came to the British Museum in the early 1890s to study English sources on his special subject. Hoping that he would not be completely deprived of Russian books, and that he might find at least some works on Russian literature there, he was amazed to discover a 'rich and well organized Russian library'. Burtsev goes on to give a lengthy and detailed description of the strengths of the collections, as well as praising the excellent service in the reading rooms. (One of his compatriots who used the reading room some ten years later - one Vladimir Il'ich Lenin - was equally complimentary.)

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