This page provides an overview of the Esperanto collections, illustrated by specific examples. It is not intended to be complete, but as a guide to the collection's highlights. We acquire material from across the spectrum of the humanities and social sciences.
The exact size of the Esperanto holdings is not known since, like any other language holdings, they have no separate catalogue and are dispersed within the rest of the collections. There are approximately 1,000 titles in Esperanto in the current catalogue, which covers items acquired since 1975.
Image reproduced from the April 1923 edition of Literatura Mondo (Budapest, 1923) © The British Library Board
Until 2005, items in Esperanto have generally reached the Library through one of three main routes:
- Legal deposit
- For three decades from 1960, the British Library took part in a very fruitful exchange of items with various libraries in Central and Eastern Europe. This included a significant number of titles in Esperanto
- Donations. We are grateful for the many donations received, which have made the collection significantly richer.
For the early years of the language, between its initial publication in 1887 and the dawn of the 20th century, the library holds approximately 25 books, many of which are extremely rare.
Image reproduced from Internationale Sprache (Warsaw, 1887), Zamenhof's first book about Esperanto, published initially in Russian with subsequent editions in French, German, Polish, English and Hebrew © The British Library Board
These include two of the original books in which Zamenhof describes his new language, the Langue Internationale, Préface et manuel complet, Por francoj [12902.aa.45] and Internationale Sprache, Vorrede und vollständiges Lehrbuch [12902.aa.46], both from 1887. These arrived in 1888 and are believed to be the first books in Esperanto to enter the Library's collections.
Many other early works held by the Library are teaching aids and dictionaries in various languages. Of particular interest is the first textbook published for British students of Esperanto, Joseph Rhodes's First Lessons in Esperanto (a translation of Théophile Cart's earlier work) [012902.eee.13] (London, 1903). Other notable holdings are An Attempt Towards an International Language (New York, 1889) [12902.cc.36], Dr Esperanto's International Tongue (Warsaw, 1888) [12902.aa.55], Svensk-esperantisk ordbok and Det Internationale Språket Esperanto [12901.aa.24] (Uppsala, 1893) as well as the Grosses Deutsch-Esperantisches Wörterbuch (Odessa, 1894) [YA.2001.a.39445].
There is also a small number of early translations by such pioneers of the language as Grabowski's translations of Goethe's Geschwister (La Gefratoj) [12903.bbb.28], Bolesław Prus's La Nova Jaro (Nürnberg, 1891) [YA.2001.a.39406] and Kofman's translation of Byron's Cain (Kain) (Nürnberg, 1896) [11778.a.1]. These early translators would frequently send their manuscripts to Zamenhof for proof reading and correction of stylistic and grammatical mistakes, making these early translations of particular importance to students of the history of Esperanto.
One seminal publisher, for whom the library's collection is strong and growing, is Juan Régulo's Stafeto, which between 1952 and 1975 published most of the major authors in Esperanto. Important volumes include Kalocsay and Waringhien's translation of Baudelaire's La Floroj de l'Malbono (Les Fleurs du Mal), Auld's early collection of poetry Unufingraj Melodioj [YF.2007.a.1222] and Boulton's Okuloj [YF.2004.a.25018].
This publishing tradition has been continued by TK/Stafeto based in Antwerp and Chapecó (Brazil), and more recently by Flandra Esperanto-Ligo. Relevant works by British authors held by the Library include Paul Gubbins's drama Konto de l'Vivo [YF.2008.a.11381] and Timothy Brian Carr's volume of poetry Sur Parnaso [YA.2003.a.35015].
Esperanto books and periodicals, both fiction and non-fiction, are published in many countries around the world. Examples are:
- China. During the rule of Mao Tse-Tung publications in Esperanto focussed on national political issues, a preoccupation particularly evident from, for example, the content of the magazine El Popola Ĉinio throughout the 1960's.
Reproduced from the July-August 1969 cover of El Popola Ĉinio (Peking, 1969) © The British Library Board
In more recent years this focus has altered to include literary works such as the Ĉina Antologio, as well as non-fiction works like the Konciza historio de la Ĉina Esperanto Movado (Concise History of the Chinese Esperanto Movement) [YF.2006.a.34204];
- Japan. El Japana Literaturo (From Japanese Literature) [YF.2006.a.14693] and La Kaŝita Vivo de Zamenhof (The Hidden Life of Zamenhof) [YF.2007.a.19318] are two important works. Additionally, an active publishing house is the Japana Esperanta Librokooperativo, who have published the entire works of the important Ukrainian Esperantist V. Eroshenko.
- Brazil has become an increasingly important publisher of Esperanto books over the last quarter century, mainly from the Fonto publishing house in Chapecó. This publishing house previously took on the role of continuing Juan Régulo's work at Stafeto, and publishes a range of original and translated literature in Esperanto. The Library includes in its Esperanto collection translations of Durante/Dante Alighieri's La Floro (Il Fiore) and Camões' La Luzidoj (Os Lusiades) [6291.235800], and original literature such as Piron's Ili Kaptis Elzan! (Elzan has been caught!) [YF.2006.a.29514], or Meva Maron's Urno kun Runoj (Urn with Runes), a collection of original poetry [YA.1996.a.21671];
- France. The most important French publisher of Esperanto works is undoubtedly SAT (Sennacieca Asocio Tutmonda), who have been active for many decades. Recent publications of note held by the Library are the latest edition of the authoritative dictionary Plena Ilustrita Vortaro 2005 [YF.2008.a.9429] and the translation of Suad's Vivbruligita (Honorkrimo) [YF.2008.a.11204]. Older publications held include Karlo Ŝtajner's 7000 Tagoj en Siberio [YF.2006.a.19003] and all the works of Eŭgeno Lanti.
- Eastern Europe. Kaliningrad's Sezonoj publishing house has produced a number of important works in recent years held in the collection.
These include a translation of Pushkin's (in Esperanto commonly written as Puŝkin) Eŭgeno Onegin [YF.2006.a.1265], Korĵenkov's Historio de Esperanto [YF.2006.a.3147], and the recently published collection of poetry Moskvaj Sonoriloj (Moscow bells, 2007).
Front cover of Moskvaj Sonoriloj, (Moscow, 2007) © The British Library Board
The Polish publisher KLEKS, run by Georgo Handzlik, has gained prominence in recent years. It has published, amongst other titles, its Nigra Serio (Black Series), which includes the short story collection Mondoj (Worlds) and Ryszard Kapuściński's Ebono (Heban, in English: Ebony) [YF.2008.a.8110].
Due the nature of Esperanto publishing, works by authors or translators from one country are routinely published in another country. Significant British literary figures in the Esperanto community such as William Auld, Marjorie Boulton, and Albert Goodheir have therefore been published in the Netherlands, Eastern Europe, Russia and even Brazil, meaning that legal deposit on its own has been insufficient to ensure that complete collections of works by these authors are held.
Front cover of La Du Turegoj (The Two Towers) from Mastro de l'Ringoj (Lord of the Rings) (Kaliningrad: Sezonoj, 2007) [YF.2008.a.11686] © The British Library Board
Since the 2005 appointment of a specialist curator for the collection, attention has been paid to ensuring that the works of these and other important Esperantists are held in the Library, both from the United Kingdom and internationally, such as Trevor Steele, Karolo Piĉ, Špomenka Štimec, Claude Piron and many others. This is being achieved both through purchase and through having the specialist knowledge necessary to understand the value of donations. This has ensured the acquisition of, amongst other works, noteworthy translations by Auld such as La Hobito (The Hobbit) [YF.2008.a.10159] and Mastro de l'Ringoj (Lord of the Rings) [YF.2008.a.11686] by J.R.R. Tolkien, and Shakespeare's La Sonetoj (Sonnets) [YF.2007.a.2014], published in Ekaterinburg and Pisa respectively. The Library holds the majority of existing Shakespeare translations into Esperanto, prepared by a number of translators internationally.
The collection also includes recently published major works of research such as Andreas Künzli's Universalaj Lingvoj en Svislando published by CDELI, an internationally renowned centre of research and documentation into Esperantology. Future efforts will focus on ensuring that a complete set of Auld's translations of Shakespeare are available in the collections, joining the Sonetoj as well as La Komedio de Eraroj (The Comedy of Errors) [YC.1988.a.4613] and Epifanio, aŭ kiel vi volas (As You Like It) [X.958/404].
Over 40 past and current periodicals are held in the Esperanto collections, including some very rare titles. A link to a complete list can be found at the end of this article. Pride of place amongst rare periodicals held in the Library must go to a complete run of La Esperantisto [P.P.4939], the first periodical in Esperanto, published in Nuremberg between 1889 to 1895. This collection is particularly important to students of the history of Esperanto as it clearly documents the early debates about reforms to the language.
Revuo Esperanto, februaro 2008 (Rotterdam) [P.P.4939.kak] © The British Library Board
Other noteworthy holdings include the short-lived early Russian periodical Espero [X.981/12543], published in 12 issues during 1908, and a complete run of the first period (1922-1926) of Literatura mondo, which in its time was highly respected for its mix of original and translated literature as well as attractive illustrations, one of which can be seen at the start of this article. Current periodicals received by the Library include UEA's Revuo Esperanto [P.P.4939.kak], Literatura Foiro [ZF.9.a.3331], La Brita Esperantisto (The British Esperantist) [ZK.9.a.8223], and the Scottish Esperanto Bulletin [ZK.9.a.7598].
The British Library also holds a small number of books in other constructed languages, mainly Volapük, Ido, and Interlingua (ca. 45 book titles and 5 periodicals).
- A printed guide to the most recent acquisitions in Esperanto is available from the curator, Olga Kerziouk, on request ;
- Esperanto periodicals in The British Library ;
- The National Library of Austria maintains a dedicated catalogue of works in Esperanto and other constructed languages, called TROVANTO. They have also made available digitised copies of early works in Esperanto, sometimes referred to as the language's incunabula, from their dedicated Frühdrucke des Esperanto web pages ;
- The Auld Collection at the Scottish National Library ;
- Biblioteko Butler and their catalogue ;
- Catalogue of the World Esperanto Association (UEA)
Olga Kerziouk, Curator of Esperanto Collections
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7589