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Romanian Collections

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

Coat of arms of Wallachia from Gospels in Slavonic

Coat of arms of Wallachia. from Gospels in Slavonic, printed in Trigoviste by Macarie in 1512 [C.25.l.1]. Copyright © The British Library Board


Romanian Collections

The British Library's holdings of Romanian books built up over the last 150 years, are among the most extensive outside Romania. The exact size of the Romanian holdings is not known, since, like other country/language holdings, they have no separate catalogue and are dispersed within the rest of the collections.

Although early-printed Romanian books are poorly represented in the collections, a small number of them were acquired by the Library in the 19th century. These include the third oldest Romanian imprint: Gospels in Church Slavonic (1512), printed in Tirgoviste by the Serbian monk Macarie, and Sbornik (Minei, Brasov, 1568), a rare hagiography, in Old Church Slavonic, printed by the Transylvanian deacon Coresi. A number of 17th- and 18th-century first editions are also worth mentioning: the first Wallachian code of laws, Indreptarea legii (Tirgoviste 1652); three works by Dimitrie Cantemir, Prince of Moldavia: Divanul sau gilceava inteleptului cu lumea sau giudetul sufletului cu trupul. (Iasi, 1698), the first Romanian philosophical writing published in Iasi; [Historia incrementarum atque decrementarum Aulae Othomanicae] The History of the Growth and Decay of the Othman Empire, printed first in London in 1734, translated into English by N. Tindal from the author's own manuscript; [Descriptio Moldaviae] Beschreibung der Moldau (Frankfurt, Leipzig, 1771), with the first Romanian map of Moldavia.

Two notable works of the early 19th century bear Buda imprints: The first printed grammar of the Romanian language by George Sincai: Elementa linguae Daco-Romanae sive Valachicae (1805), followed in 1812 by Petru Maior's Istoria pentru inceputul romanilor in Dachia, an influential historical study of the origins of the Romanian people.

There is a fair coverage of most of the fields in which the library collects, and good runs of the publications of the Romanian Academy of Sciences. These include first editions of 19th-century Romanian writers, chiefly under the editorship of Prof. Ion Bianu. In the middle of the 19th century, Vasile Alecsandri personally presented the British Museum with several of his poetic and dramatic works.

Many scholarly periodicals of this period are missing, but the collection does include three important publications:

Dacia Literara (Iasi, 1840) - [Edited by M. Kogalniceanu].
Convorbiri Literare (Iasi, 1867) - [Edited by Iacob Negruzzi].
Pruncul Roman (Bucuresti) no. 1-39 - [Edited by C.A. Rosetti and E. Winterhalder, published during the 1848 revolution].

Official publications still show gaps despite efforts to fill them, often by microfilms of the originals.

While exporting restrictions imposed by the Romanian authorities after 1945 considerably reduced our antiquarian intake, some post war material received by exchange has been gradually filling in the gaps in the Library's early 20th century holdings. Major Romanian authors are represented by collected editions of their single works. From the beginning of the 1960s priority has been given to acquiring current material of Romanian interest in the humanities and social sciences, published in Romanian or in languages of ethnic minorities: Hungarian, German, Serbian, etc. Romanian publications are now regularly received by exchange with the National Library, Bucharest University Library, the Library of the Academy of Sciences and a number of provincial university libraries.

Over 800 serials are taken and ca. 700 monographs are acquired annually.

In the light of the political changes of the late 1980s the collections now include previously forbidden, unpublished works, printed ephemera (election literature) and a number of independent newspapers.

Moldovan (Moldavian) Collections

Books from the historical province of Moldavia have been acquired by the British Museum Library before and since the annexation of Bessarabia and the formation in 1944 of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic. The collections include early 19th-century official publications as well as works reflecting changes in the history of the province. Works of the Moldavian born Romanian chroniclers Grigore Ureche, Miron Costin, Ion Neculce or the writers and poets Vasile Alecsandri, Mihai Eminescu, Ion Creanga, published in the official Cyrillic script as classics of the Moldavian SSR, are also available in the collections. Of course the original Romanian editions of these works historically form part of the Library's Romanian Collections. There is an extensive coverage of Russian and Moldavian scholarly works published by the Academy of Sciences of the Moldavian SSR.

The larger part of printed material from the Moldavian SSR is in Russian. Since the proclamation on 3 September 1990 of the Republic of Moldova, however, the Romanian (Moldavian) language has regained its official primacy in the Roman alphabet, used in education, the legal system and in cultural publications. Moldovan books, periodicals and newspapers of research value in the humanities and social sciences continue to be received on exchange, offering an independent spirited reappraisal of events of the past 50 years.

Catalogues, printed guides and other resources

Romanian material 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


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