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Bibliokhronika: History of Books and their Surroundings

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Bibliokhronika: History of Books and their Surroundings

14.10.2015

In late September the Berlin State Library (Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin) hosted a most interesting event related to the Russian culture in Germany—a presentation of three volumes published as part of the Mezhdu nami… Entre nous series in the scientific publishing project Bibliokhronika.

With the blessing of Sergey Vengerov, project co-creator, and Sergey Maguta, Cultural Attaché of the Russian Embassy in Germany, the books found a new home.



Olaf Hamann, Head of the Eastern-European Branch of the Berlin State Library

Olaf Hamann, Head of the Eastern-European Branch of the Berlin State Library, gave an opening speech at the event. Ute Obernolte and Elizaveta Rogg, who translated the books into German, revised and edited them and worked with the German sources, shared how difficult yet exciting the work process was.

The project was initiated by two Russian book collectorsfather and son Alexei and Sergei Vengerov, founders of the innovative and acclaimed Russian project Bibliokhronika.

Bibliokhronika is not only an account of a book’s history, its editions, design and overall condition, but also an overview of its surroundings. A book is approached like an individual with a personal history in the form of labels, bookplates, dedications, readers handwriting and so on. Every single book is a reflection of world history with its dynamics, drama and sometimes tragic landmarks.



Sergey Vengerov, one of the projects co-creators

The books chosen for Bibliokhronika form part of book lovers collections. Arranged chronologically, they have some connection to Russiathey could be printed in Russian or published in this country, be illustrated by Russian artists or dedicated to Russia, or they could have belonged to Russian readers for some time.

The first volume of the Mezhdu nami... Entre nous... series is written in Russian and French. It contains 61 essays on the relations between Russia and France from 1700 to 1985.
The second volume is in Russian and German. It also contains 61 articles, this time spanning the period from 1550 to 1977.
The third volume is in Russian and English, and it has 69 tales about books dating from 1647 to 1980.



Books in the Mezhdu nami... Entre nous... series

The bilingual nature of the books makes them richer, as the original and the translation are perceived as a whole.

Another aspect worth mentioning with regard to the Bibliokhronika series is its outstanding design and typography, including such features as large paper size (A4), excellent chalk overlay paper, book jackets (same for every volume), silk ribbons, exquisitely reproduced illustrations and photographs of rare books marked with the stamp of time and soaked in the flavor of past epochs.

One cant help but congratulate the Berliners and guests of the city who will have access to the volumes of Bibliokhronika, each of them one of the 300 copies in the rare book series. From now on, one can visit the reading room of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin and go back in time. For instance, read a passage from Panegyric in Praise of Trajan by Pliny the Younger published in France in 1772Paul I of Russia, the emperor-to-be, carried this book with him during his travels around Europe; or witness the havoc in Moscow of 1812 through the eyes of a Westphalian, Anton Wilhelm Nordhof; alternatively, look at the works of Boris Grigoriev, the illustrator of a collection of Russian childrens verse published by Sasha Chorny in Germany; or read an excerpt from the fascinating Sketches of Russia by Pavel Svinyin published in London in 1814: “One who never crossed the barriers between his country and the outside world created by nature or political institutions can only know other countries from books, oftentimes eulogies or satire. It is especially so for Russia. Looking at a country from the perspective of most travellers can only engender false judgment. Alas, those who read books on Russia are largely deceived by writers who, taking advantage of its remoteness and wishing to make their travelogues more intriguing, invent nonsensical tales and preposterous lies.”




German translators Elizaveta Rogg and Ute Obernolte

Professor Alexei Vengerov, head of the project, writes in his address to the readers: The collection of texts and illustrations presented in these volumes has one goal: To give the Reader a palpable feeling of convergence between fates and cultures, life events and academic research, literary tastes and movements, territorial aspects and ethnic sensibilities, parenting traditions and rituals of various nationsthe past and present population of different states that continue to communicate. The list of these information slices has no limits. We hope that our vision proves to be educational and appealing to a wide audience.

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