This page provides an overview of the British Library's Ukrainian Collections, illustrated by specific examples. We acquire material across the spectrum of the humanities and social sciences.
Reproduced from Pateryk. (Kyievopecherska lavra, 1678) [490.i.24]. Copyright © The British Library Board
In the following text, codes which appear in square brackets after references (e.g. [C.109.t.4]) indicate British Library shelfmarks.
The exact size of the Ukrainian holdings is not known, since, like other country/language holdings, they have no separate catalogue and are dispersed within the rest of the collections.
Within the collection of Sir Joseph Banks, bequeathed to the British Museum in 1810, is a book containing one of the earliest descriptions of Ukraine: Description d'Ukrainie, qui sont plusieurs Prouinces du Royaume de Pologne, contenues depuis les confins de la Moscouie, iusques aux limites de la Transilvanie by la Sieur de Beauplan (Rouen, Chez Iacques Cailloue, 1660) [980.f.6 and also on microfilm: PBMICC 16511].
For the 16th and 17th centuries, the Library holds about a dozen books printed in Ukraine, 6 printed in Kiev, 2 in Ostrog and 5 in Lviv. They are mostly orthodox liturgical works and include two copies of Ivan Fedorov's Ostrog/Ostrih Bible of 1581, one of which, it is claimed by its donor Jerome Horsey, came from the library of Ivan IV of Russia [G.12203]. Three of the Lviv imprints were printed for the Assumption Brotherhood (later the Stavropihiiske (Stauropigiana) Brotherhood). These include a very fine Liturgical Gospels and Epistles printed in 1644 by Mikhailo Sliozka [C.109.t.4] and the Adelfotes of 1591 [G.7469(2)], a manual of the "Greek-Slavonic" language compiled by Arsenius, the first rector of the school of the Assumption Brotherhood. Another educational work with Ukrainian connections is the Leksikon Slavenorosky, printed in Kuteinsk Monastery (Belarus) [628.d.2] in 1653, which was compiled by Pamvo Berinda (Berynda) who also studied at the Brotherhood School.
One of the most treasured works in the Ukrainian collections, acquired in 1982, is Ivan Fedorov's Azbuka [C.104.dd.11(1)], which was printed in Lviv in 1574. This was the first printed and dated East Slavonic primer. Although it is a primer of the Church Slavonic language, its imprint leaves no doubt as to the influence of the Ukrainian language. The words used for "printed" and "year" of publication are "vydrukovano" and "roku". This is an extremely rare work - there is only one other recorded copy in the world which is at Harvard University Library.
For the 18th century, the Library holds 20 works printed in Ukraine, all liturgical, mainly from the Kievo-Pecherskaia Lavra. These are all listed in professor Drage's catalogue Russian and Church Slavonic books 1701-1800 in United Kingdom Libraries.
The Ukrainian Collections are strong in literary and linguistic works by Ukrainian writers of the second half of the 19th century including items such as the first edition of Kobzar by Taras Shevchenko (St. Petersburg, 1840) [C.121.a.20]. Important material on the history of Ukraine and Crimea is covered by a number of significant 19th-century works, including Arkhiv IUgo-Zapadnoi Rossii [Ac.7870/3], published by the Vremennaia Komissia dlia Razbora Drevnikh Aktov (1859-1911). The collections contain good runs of 19th-century periodicals, notably Kievskaia starina (1882-1906) [Cup.900.m.20] and Hromada (published by Mykhailo Drahomanov in Geneva from 1878) [P.P.3554.eia].
The collection is particularly rich in Ukrainian books published at the turn of the century and in the first three decades of the 20th century, both inside and outside Ukraine.The British Library holds complete runs of periodical publications from the Naukove tovarystvo im. T. Shevchenka (Societas Scientarum Sevcenkiana); Zapysky from 1892 onwards [Ac.762/11], Pamiatky ukrains'ko-rus'koi movy i literatury from 1898-1930 (Ac.762), and Literaturno-naukovyi vistnyk from 1898-1932 [Ac.762/4].
A noteworthy item held by the Library is the first Ukrainian edition of George Orwell's Animal farm (with a preface written specially for the Ukrainian edition by the author): George Orwell, Kolhosp tvaryn, (translated by Ivan Cherniatyns'kyi), ([Germany, American zone]: Prometei, ) [12593.f.40].
Ukrainian émigré literature and political works have been acquired wherever possible. Items such as Arka, an émigré literary and art periodical published in Munich were acquired by the Library (all issues for 1947-48) [P.P.4842.dnr]. Ukrainian material published in the United Kingdom has been received on legal deposit under the Copyright Act.
In the last three decades Ukrainian books, periodicals and newspapers have been acquired systematically. The Library's intake has increased steadily since the 1960s, when exchanges were established with Ukrainian libraries.
Ukrainian material is listed in the printed volumes of the British Library Retrospective Catalogue (for material acquired and catalogued before 1975) and is searchable online via Explore the British Library). Pre-1975 material is in Cyrillic (with headings in transliteration), however entries for post-1975 acquisitions are transliterated (for detailed information on searching and transliteration, please see our page Searching for Cyrillic items in the catalogues of the British Library: guidelines and transliteration tables).
Please note the following: in the British Library Retrospective Catalogue, material published in Lviv is listed under the heading Leopol; material from the important Ukrainian institution of Stavropihiiske Bratstvo is listed under the heading Confraternitas Stauropigiana; material from the Naukove tovarystvo im. T. Shevchenka is listed under Societas Scientarum Sevcenkiana.
- A printed Guide to Ukrainian reference sources in the British Library is available on request from the Curator of Ukrainian Collections
- Olga Kerziouk, Ucrainica in the British Library: a preliminary study (in: IV Mizhnarodnyi Konhres Ukraïnistiv, Literaturoznavstvo, kn.2, Kyïv: Oberehy, 2000)
- Church Slavonic entries from the British Library General Catalogue, [prepared by Brad Sabin Hill] (London: The British Library, 1992) [2725.g.1675]
- C.L. Drage, Russian and Church Slavonic books 1701-1800 in United Kingdom libraries (London, 1984) [RAR094.30947] and [2725.g.307] - Lists all 18th century holdings, except for recent acquisitions
- Cyrillic books printed before 1701 in British and Irish collections: a union catalogue. Compiled by R. Cleminson, C. Thomas, D. Radoslavova, A. Voznesenskii (London: The British Library, 2000) [HLR011.440947]
- Bibliotechnyi visnyk, issue 4/2001 - special issue dedicated to the history and activities of the British Library (Kyiv: Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine) [2719.k.1994]
- Explore the British Library
- Ukrainian periodicals in the British Library
- Ukrainian internet resources
- Jews in Ukraine: a select bibliography of works in the British Library
- EastView: Russian/NIS Universal Databases: Ukrainian periodicals (searchable database of newspapers and magazines. Includes the Ukrainian Book Chamber's editions, which list everything published in Ukraine with detailed bibliographic description. Subscription service; access is available for registered readers using British Library computers in our Reading Rooms)
- Manuscripts are held by the Manuscript Collections
- Newspaper holdings are held at British Library Newspaper Collections
- Official publications, social science and scientific serials and conference proceedings are available from the Document Supply service, under Russian and East European material
- Scientific monographs are held by the Science, Technology and Medicine Collections
- Audio materials are held by the Sound Archive
- Other Slavonic material is held in the Map Collections, the Music Collections and the Philatelic Collections.
Olga Kerziouk, Curator, Ukrainian Studies
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7589