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Bulgarian Collections

This page provides an overview of the Bulgarian Collections, illustrated by specific examples. We acquire material across the spectrum of the humanities and social sciences


In the following text, codes which appear in brackets after references [2725.g.1675] indicate British Library shelfmarks.

The exact size of the Bulgarian holdings is not known, since, like other country/language holdings, they have no separate catalogue and are dispersed within the rest of the collections.

The Bulgarian Collections are strong in most of the fields in the humanities and social sciences. The collections comprise unique research material, primarily on the history and culture of the Bulgarian people from the late 16th century to the present.

There are several good examples of early written manuscripts in Church Slavonic script (held in the British Library Manuscript Collections), which was very close to the language used in early Bulgarian literature (Old Bulgarian). The most famous and the best preserved manuscript in the British Library's collections is Gospel of Tsar Ivan Alexander or Tetraevangelia written in 1355 [Add. Manuscripts 39627].

After the Turkish invasion (1393), literary life in Bulgaria was confined to monasteries where chronicles were written and old texts copied. Printing in Bulgaria came relatively late. In the 17th and 18th centuries, most books and newspapers were published in adjoining countries, not in Bulgaria itself.

Bulgarian history is well represented in the British Library collections, the principal categories of which are: general history of the South Slavs; the first Bulgarian Empire (681-1018); the Second Bulgarian Empire (1185-1393); Bulgaria under Ottoman rule; the National Revival; the Eastern Question; the period of liberation to the end of World War I; Bulgaria during World War II (1941-44); Bulgaria under Communism; Bulgaria after the 1980s.

In the past decades, supply relations with Bulgarian libraries have improved, facilitating the acquisition of current materials documenting contemporary culture and politics. Special attention has been devoted to the problems of democratic changes in Bulgaria from 1989 onwards, and to the acquisition of previously forbidden books, newspapers, journals and other publications on, among other things, the new political parties, ethnic conflict and economic reform. The Library aims to collect all important works in Bulgarian which deal with foreign relations with the neighbouring states of Macedonia, Turkey, Greece and the countries of the former Yugoslavia.

Catalogues, printed guides and other resources

Bulgarian material is listed in the printed volumes of the British Library General Catalogue of Printed Books to 1975 (for material acquired before 1975 only) and searchable on Explore the British Library. Material acquired and catalogued prior to 1975 is in Cyrillic (with headings in transliteration); post-1975 material, however, is displayed in transliterated form, according to Library of Congress rules. For information on searching and transliteration, please see Searching for Cyrillic items in the catalogues of the British Library: guidelines and transliteration tables.

Catalogues and printed guides

  • Church Slavonic entries from the British Library General Catalogue [prepared by Brad Sabin Hill] (London: The British Library, 1992) [2725.g.1675]
  • Dimitrova, Ekaterina. The Gospels of Tsar Ivan Alexander (London: The British Library, 1994) [YC.1995.b.3420]

Other resources

Bulgarian material available elsewhere in the British Library


Milan Grba, Lead Curator, South-East European Studies
European Studies
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7590