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Bulgarian Collections in the Library of Congress

Bulgarian Visual Resources at the Library of Congress (2010)

This article was originally published in Slavic & East European Information Resources 11:2/3 (2010), pp. 91–109. The article, written by Angela Cannon, Reference Specialist for Russian and South Slavic, is a work of the U.S. Government and is not subject to copyright protection in the United States. It is reproduced here in its entirety.

Nautical charts, theater posters, limited edition graphic art, and an original of the first modern Bulgarian book and its lovely engravings, are just a sampling of the kinds of Bulgarian visual materials that the Library of Congress holds in its vast collections. Although the Library has not made a concerted effort to collect visual materials from Bulgaria per se, pockets of undiscovered and underutilized treasures do exist in the various special collections, and in the general collections. This article provides an overview of the visual resources from or concerning Bulgaria in the Library of Congress and some tips on how to locate them.

Overview of the Bulgarian Collection

The Library of Congress (LC) has long valued the cultures of other nations. In fact, it is part of the Library's mission to collect and preserve materials for a universal collection. The collection of Bulgarian materials is one of largest outside of Bulgaria with over forty-five thousand volumes, including extensive holdings of newspapers and journals. LC's relationship with Bulgarian libraries and scholarly institutions began early in the twentieth century, soon after the establishment of official diplomatic relations between the two countries. LC instituted official exchanges of valuable government publications such as important legal materials, records of parliament, censuses, and other statistical information. After World War II, relations developed between LC and Bulgarian libraries and cultural institutions into comprehensive exchange and acquisitions programs, with particular strengths in the fields of history, literature, law, and the political and cultural life of the Bulgarian people. The so-called "Smithsonian Deposit" from the Smithsonian Institution Library, which occurred over many years beginning in 1867, was another source of scientific and scholarly publications from Bulgaria. Today, LC continues to acquire Bulgarian materials via purchase, exchange, and gift at the rate of approximately three thousand items per annum.

Geography and Map Division

A rich collection of visual resources for Bulgaria is found in the Geography & Map Division (G&M), which has hundreds of single and set maps, as well as atlases showing Bulgaria. 1 A single map is one printed piece showing a place, topic, or other specific locales. Set maps are uniform site maps of a uniform geographic area produced at such a scale that multiple sheets are needed to cover the area. All of the set maps and atlases for Bulgaria, and about half of the Bulgarian single maps, are cataloged and can be identified in the LC online catalog. Approximately three hundred Bulgarian single maps are uncataloged. In addition, Bulgaria is represented in single maps showing the Balkan Peninsula, of which there are over four hundred in the G&M collection, half of which are cataloged and half of which are uncataloged. To identify the cataloged maps, do a call number browse in the LC online catalog for the number G6890 to get general maps of the whole country of Bulgaria and for the numbers G6891–G6894 to get thematic maps or maps of a specific locale in Bulgaria. For cataloged maps of the Balkan Peninsula the call numbers for general and thematic maps are G6800 and G6801, respectively.

Other methods for identifying maps in the LC collections are to do subject heading searches such as "Bulgaria — Maps" or use subject keywords such as "Bulgaria" or "Bulgarian" and "maps" or "atlases." Using these methods one can find Bulgarian visual materials including general atlases, dialect maps, and historical maps. And do not forget to ask the trained staff in G&M for help. They know their collections and the arrangement of the uncataloged materials, and may have unexpected ideas of how to find potentially useful information.

Users of the Library cannot browse the map collection by themselves. Items are brought out and served on very large, flat tables in the G&M reading room by staff. In general, single maps in G&M are kept in map cases arranged by geographic area, themes, counties, regions, and cities. Themes include agriculture, airports, boundaries, economics, ethnology, geology, history, international relations, railroads, and war, among others. Some interesting examples of thematic single maps for Bulgaria include an economic map produced in 1943 by the Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA, showing by region the locations of canneries, distilleries, slaughterhouses, and other food processing facilities. From 1837 there is a British Admiralty nautical chart with head views entitled "Gulf of Bourghaz." From 1936 there is an ethnographic map depicting by color the distribution of various ethnic groups such as Muslims, Roma, Vlachs, Jews, and Germans in Bulgaria before the Liberation of 1878. Under the heading of International Relations is a 1962 map showing travel restrictions placed on foreign diplomats by the Bulgarian government. The restricted areas are depicted in yellow and consist of practically the entire periphery of the country except the north and a small section of the Black Sea coast to the east. The map states in English that it is "For official use" and bears an ink stamp explaining its origins: "This map is reproduced from a printed copy obtained from foreign sources." The United States government copied a 1958 Bulgarian map and issued it for government use.

Besides the single maps for Bulgaria and the Balkan Peninsula, other areas with Bulgarian coverage are housed separately from the single maps. These include single maps for Eastern Europe, nautical charts by the British Admiralty, U.S. Navy, and Russian/Soviet Glavnoe Upravlenie Navigatsii i Okeanografii (GUNiO) (all of which chart the entire world), and set maps. Fascinating Bulgarian examples from the set map collection include maps of oil and gas leases, captured Nazi maps, and U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF) target charts for bombing Bulgaria. The sheets from a 1942 set of target charts show a main target in a bull's eye with concentric circles and mileage marks radiating outward. The maps often target bridges, tunnels and factories, and also show elevations and secondary targets.

Rare maps are housed in the G&M vault and there are a few for Bulgaria. The oldest map in the collection showing Bulgaria is a Ptolemaic map of the Balkan Peninsula, from the 1541 Vienna edition of Tabula noua Graeciae, Sclauoniae, et Bulgariae. Geographia [New Map of the Greeks, Slavs, and Bulgarians. Geography]. Claudius Ptolemaeus was a 2nd century Greek cartographer from Alexandria. His Geographia consists of fifty woodcut maps, one of which is the map of the Balkans. Ptolemy's maps were not well known in Europe until the 1300s when Byzantine scholars began to produce copies. It is likely that the printers in the 16th century updated certain information and added titles to the maps. This would explain the presence of the word "Bulgariae" on a map originally drafted in the 2nd century, even though the Bulgarians did not arrive in the Balkans until around the 7th century. In fact, in the 1525 and 1535 editions of Geographia, this map of the Balkans had no title. Although no copies of the maps from Ptolemy's time are extant, they were able to be reproduced centuries later from the details he provided in the text, including latitudes and longitudes for major cities and landmarks.

The most fascinating vault item with reference to Bulgaria is the Cedid atlas tercümesi [New Atlas] from 1803. 2 This item is exceedingly rare, published in Istanbul by the Ottoman Military Engineering School Press. Of the fifty copies produced, only seven are known today, with six in Turkey and one in the Library of Congress. Derived from William Faden's General Atlas, it is the first global atlas published in the Muslim world based on European geographic methods and knowledge, and consists of twenty-four maps, one of which is a map of the Balkans showing the boundaries of where the Ottoman, Austrian, and Russian Empires met. The Balkan map is entitled "Map of the Provinces of the Ottoman Empire in Europe" and shows the divided territory of modern Bulgaria. The Bulgarian cities of Varna and Vidin are clearly discernable, but the others are marked with Ottoman names.

Another beautiful vault map is the rare eighteenth-century Austrian map by François Joseph Maire, Geographische General Karte der Gränzen zwischen denen dreyen Kaiserthümern und ihren nach und nach geschehenen Veränderungen vom Jahr 1718 bis he¨tiger Tags [General Geographic Map of the Borders Between the Three Empires and the Changes Occurring from 1718 to the Present Day], again showing the territorial junction of the Ottoman, Austrian, and Russian empires. On this map, present-day Bulgaria is carved into the Ottoman provinces of Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Romania (Rumelia). This map is very large, colorful and so well executed that it is stunning to view.

G&M continues actively to build its collections. By law, LC receives via special cartographic deposit all maps produced by any United States government agency, including maps of limited distribution produced by intelligence agencies, which may not be declassified and available to researchers for fifty years. Besides the government map deposits, the Library obtains maps from the State Department Foreign Map Procurement Program, and further supplements its collections by purchases from vendors. Although there is no specific program for the acquisition of Bulgarian maps, many arrive at the Library from one of the above sources, so the Bulgarian collection will continue to grow.

Prints and Photographs Division

The Prints & Photographs Division (P&P) is the primary repository for visual arts in the Library of Congress. It houses approximately fourteen million visual items, and is a Library leader in using technology to make its collections more accessible to the general public. P&P has its own online catalog called PPOC 3 which gives access to about 50% of their holdings via group-level or individual cataloging records, or with actual digital images. Besides PPOC, P&P has contributed electronic copies of thousands of items from its collections to many of LC's digital libraries and begun loading its images into Flickr for public use and comment.

Compared to their holdings for other countries, P&P has very little material for the study of Bulgaria, and most of what they have is from non-Bulgarian sources such as photographic collections or albums of visitors to Bulgaria, American news service collections, or the stereograph card collection. When you search PPOC for terms such as "Bulgaria," "Bulgarian" or for various city names, only about 150 records are displayed. Searching the various card catalogs on site reveals only a handful of additional items, but there are a few special collections and items of note.

The first formal presentation of contemporary Bulgarian graphic art in the United States took place at the Library of Congress from November 12, 1987 through May 1, 1988. 4 The exhibit, entitled "From Bulgaria: Contemporary Bulgarian Printmakers," was co-sponsored by the Library of Congress, the Union of Bulgarian Artists, and the Committee for Culture of the People's Republic of Bulgaria, with help from the United States Information Agency. Works of twenty-seven printmakers active in the late 1980s were displayed. At the close of the exhibit, sixty-two of the ninety-four items on view were acquired by the Library and today are housed in P&P. 5

The works held by P&P of these Bulgarian printmakers are representational in nature and suffused with humanistic, universal, mythological, or national themes. The printing processes used include etching, lithography, and aquatint. They were issued in very limited editions, which reflects the hand craftsmanship of the work and the lack of a Bulgarian commercial art market on which the artists could sell their prints. Two excellent examples are, Semeistvo [Family], an etching by Nikola Nikolov from 1982, which shows a male and a female standing on what seems to be a garden box in a swirl of weather. The fine details show that Nikolov is truly a master of his craft. Todor Tachev's Khipoteza za otseliavane (Poslanie ot minaloto I) [Hypothesis of Survival (Message from the Past I)], is a color etching and aquatint from 1985 which depicts two battling soldiers from ancient times, divided by what appears to be both a black whirlwind and at the same time a rip drawn into the paper. A chain of joined hands decorates the top of the piece.

The Library also owns works on paper by perhaps the most famous contemporary Bulgarian artist, Christo (1935–), of the artistic team Christo and Jeanne-Claude (1935–2009). In fact, when people think of modern Bulgarian artists, Christo, born Christo Vladimirov Javacheff in Gabrovo, Bulgaria, is often the only one they can name. 6 The works Christo and Jeanne-Claude are perhaps most famously known for are their "wrapped" installation pieces. Their most recently completed project was "The Gates in 2005," in which they hung orange flags from 7,503 gates in New York City's Central Park. Christo and Jeanne-Claude consider their projects gifts to the people, and therefore they never charge admission, and underwrite the work by selling plans and sketches of the projects such as the three works in the P&P collections. The pieces were published by Landfall Press and received in the Library via Copyright deposit.

The first of the three Christo objects in P&P is The Museum of Modern Art Wrapped (Project for the MoMA, NY – June 1968), a color offset lithograph from 1974, signed in pencil and annotated. This work is a plan for a project that was never realized. Christo and Jeanne-Claude conceived it as a glorious finale to an exhibition of Dada and Surrealist art being held at MoMA, but the museum decided against wrapping the building due to potential civil unrest. Martin Luther King had just been assassinated and there was rioting and protesting throughout the country. City authorities did not want to give people even the slightest excuse for public disturbance. Instead of wrapping MoMA or other parts of it, Christo and Jeanne-Claude were given a Project Room exhibition to show scale-models, drawings, and photomontages. The catalog of the exhibition was entitled "Christo Wraps the Museum . . . a Non-Event." The piece is a photo of the street in front of MoMA with a blurry, speeding car and the building wrapped in a brown cloth with ropes to keep the cloth in place.

The second Christo print in the P&P collection is a signed color lithograph from 1974 entitled Allied Chemical Tower Packed (Project for 1 Times Square, New York). Once again, this print reflects an unrealized project that was ultimately refused by the owners of the skyscraper due to insurance complications. The work shows the tower wrapped in brown cloth and tied with ropes. The rest of the picture is in black and white.

The third work is a signed photoengraving, collage and mixed media object called Wrapped Venus – Villa Borghese, 1963, printed in 1975. It is a somewhat blurry photograph of the statue on its pedestal, with a drawing of a wrapped figure, reminiscent of a mummy tied in rope, taped over the photo to show what the project would resemble. Annotations explain that the rope should be manila and the wrapping should be plastic woven polypropylene. The Villa Borghese, built in the 17th century, is renowned in Rome, not only for its lovely architecture, but also for the public gardens and statues. Christo actually wrapped the Villa Borghese Venus statue in 1963, but because he was a young, unknown artist, it did not receive much publicity. In fact, most people who saw the wrapped statue assumed it was undergoing renovation.

Most of the stereograph collection in P&P was acquired by the Library via copyright deposit. 7 Stereographs are two photographs of one picture, which when viewed through a stereoscope, produce a three-dimensional image. The Bulgarian images in the collection number forty-three, are from the early part of the twentieth century, and show interesting rural and street scenes. Some of the images include peasant women spinning flax, buffalo teams in Sofia, and a market in Berkovitsa. The cards and two stereoscopes are readily accessible in file cabinets in the P&P reading room.

Two other P&P collections of note are the George Grantham Bain Collection 8 and the Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection. 9 Both are American in origin, but happen to have some interesting Bulgarian content. Bain (1865–1944) was a photojournalist and his collection consists of over fifty-thousand photographs from the first United States syndicated photographic news service. Most items in the collection are negatives from the 1900s to the 1930s. The Bulgarian content primarily is related to the various Balkan Wars in the early part of the twentieth century. Frank G. Carpenter (1855–1924) was an American photographer, journalist, and author of books on geography, including geography textbooks for American schools. Frances (1890–1972), his daughter, accompanied him on his world travels and became an author herself. Their collection consists of over fifteen thousand photographs and seven thousand negatives from around the world. Of interest to Bulgarian specialists is their photo album of a 1923 trip to Europe and the Balkans. 10

Many of the images in the Carpenter albums have their original annotations, which today are at times condescending. For instance, under a picture of women in peasant dress, Carpenter writes, "Peasant women are not beauties in this hardworking country free from modern frills and furbelows." To explain a picture of two men in the marketplace he states, "Homespun and lambskin are the chief articles of clothing for the men of Bulgaria. Here is a sack of sheep's wool changing hands in a big business deal in Sofia." Carpenter seemed to enjoy pictures of women in traditional costume, for there are many such images, some with sarcastic comments such as "Will these styles come to America? They have been the mode in Bulgaria since Noah sailed the Ark!" Other views include Mr. Carpenter with then Bulgarian Prime Minister, Aleksandur Tsankov, the mosque in Sofia, advertising in the streets of Sofia, pottery sellers, lemonade vendors, shoeshiners, and soldiers and peasants in the marketplace. There are also a number of photos of Russian "Bolsheviks" being deported for propagandizing in Bulgaria.

Finally, there are two uncataloged poster collections in P&P. The first is a collection of forty-eight posters from the late 1960s. Half of them are advertisements for Bulgarian showings of mostly Eastern bloc films and a few French films. Some of the films include the Russian Sergei Bondarchuk's Voina i mir [War and Peace], the Czech Jirí Hanibal's Malé letní blues [Little Summer Blues], and the French Un homme et une femme [A Man and a Woman] from Claude Lelouch. The other posters in this collection are advertisements for the 1968 youth festival held in Sofia and a few propaganda items.

The second uncataloged poster collection for Bulgaria contains thirty-nine items: ten dramatic theater posters, seven music posters, and five art exhibition posters, among others. 11 This collection was acquired by a former LC employee who traveled to Bulgaria in 1986 to make arrangements for the above-mentioned prints exhibit. The work of two illustrators dominate the collection, with fourteen works by Ventsislav Antonov and nine works by Dimitur Traichev (whose recent work includes portraits of jazz artists). One of the striking Traichev posters is for a 1983/1984 production of the satirist Stanislav Stratiev's play Maksimalistut [The Extremist] by the Dramatic Theater of Stoian Buchvarov in Varna. Buchvarov, for whom the theater was named, was a famous Bulgarian actor who died in 1946. Stratiev, a recipient of the Dimitrovski Prize for literature, often writes about the negative phenomena of modern life such as bureaucracy, careerism, and materialism. The poster depicts a pile of empty drawers on an orange background with grid lines.

Many of the posters in both collections have red, green, and white motifs for the colors of the Bulgarian flag. One poster with a bold design and this color scheme is from 1985, for the Third Congress of the Union of Bulgarian Composers. Founded in 1933, the Union today is a non-profit group which encourages the creation of new Bulgarian musical works. The poster has a bar of music with the words "Mi-la Ro-di-no" [Dear Motherland]. The graphic artist is Bozhidar Ikonomov and the Library holds two more of his works in the collection of Bulgarian foreign film posters mentioned above.

Rare Book and Special Collections Division

The Todor D. Plochev Early Bulgarian Imprints Collection, the crown jewel of the LC Bulgarian collection, is housed in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division (RBSCD). Purchased in 1949, the collection consists of approximately 650 works published in Bulgarian from 1806–1877, the so-called National Revival period of Bulgarian history, when Bulgarians strove for greater cultural and political autonomy under the Ottoman Empire. For much of this time, due to Ottoman restrictions, the Bulgarians were not allowed to publish in their native language on Bulgarian territory, and in turn, they had to print books and periodicals outside of Bulgaria. Many of the books from this era were published in Romania, Vienna, Serbia, and even Constantinople. The books are considered bibliographic rarities since they were the first to be published in the modern Bulgarian language, they were issued in small print runs, and not many of them survived to this day. The Plochev collection provides incredible insight into this culture, as it singlehandedly represents about forty percent of the total publishing output from this era. LC holds the largest such collection in North America and possibly outside of Bulgaria itself. 12

Only about one hundred of the 650 items in the Plochev collection have been cataloged and are findable via the online catalog, thus a user will need to contact staff from RB/SC or the European Division for help regarding LC's holdings. 13 For an introduction to these materials, a user can read a survey of the collection written by the noted Balkanist, Charles Jelavich. 14 The two main published sources for discovery of early Bulgarian printed material from the National Revival era are the bibliographies by Pogorelov and Stoianov. 15 Although the arrangement of the former is chronological by date of publication and there is an author index, there is no way to ascertain which items have illustrations except by scanning the bibliographic entries themselves for a mention of an engraving or page of illustrations. Likewise, with the Stoianov work, the only way to identify illustrations is by entry scanning, for the arrangement is by author and the indexes do not include illustrators or topics for illustration. There are index entries for "geografski atlasi" [atlases], "geografski karti" [maps], and "karikaturi" [caricatures], and even though there is a topic for "zhivopis" [painting/art], it is not a guarantee of finding any illustrated materials. Additionally, all four topic listings together do not even begin to include all works from this time period that have illustrations. Below are descriptions of several items from the Plochev collection with interesting visual components.

The first example of a visually interesting item from the Plochev collection happens to be the first book ever published in modern Bulgarian, the Kyriakodromion [Sunday Book] from 1806 by Bishop Sofronii of Vratsa, or, Sofronii Vrachanski (1739–1813). 16 At the beginning of the revival period, there were no books published in the modern Bulgarian language and the Bible was available only in an archaic church language. Bishop Sofronii intended his book of sermons to be a religious guide understandable both to the priests and their flocks.

The book has several engravings and many border decorations around the text, all in black and white. The central engraving is a depiction of St. John the Theologian, holding a book, one of his traditional symbols, and with an eagle at his feet, another traditional symbol of John. Why should there be an engraving of John in this book? Firstly, it is due to his relation to the sermons of Jesus in the Gospel of John. Also, it is probably not coincidental considering the historical significance of this publication for Bulgarians: John is the patron saint of all professions associated with the book trade, writers, bookbinders, booksellers, and publishers. There is no information in the book itself or in the bibliographies of revival-period publishing about the engraver.

Figure 1. Textual ornamentation using the name and title of the author "Episkop Sofronii Vrachanski." Kyriakodromion (1806), page 358. Library of Congress Rare Book and Special Collections Division.

It is understandable that nothing is known of the artist since both Bulgarian book publishing and modern techniques of book illustration were nascent forms of expression in this early period. However, one scholar suggests that Sofronii himself may have created the ornamentation, as several of the decorative segments that fill space at the end of various sermons are comprised of Sofronii's name and initials. 17 See Figure 1. This item has been digitized by LC and may be viewed both in the LC online catalog and in the World Digital Library. 18

One of the most famous book illustrations in the history of Bulgaria is found at the end of a simple primer. In 1824 in Brasov, Romania, Petur Beron (1800–1871), a teacher and scholar, published the first primer of the modern Bulgarian language, Bukvar s razlichny poucheniia [Primer with Various Instructions]. 19 Beron believed that students would benefit from a primer written in the spoken language of the people.

His book enjoyed a number of editions and was used to teach several generations of Bulgarian children. Besides grammar, it contained general information about nature, short prayers, aphorisms, proverbs, and simple arithmetic. To accompany his descriptions of the natural world and animals, there are illustrations at the end of the primer depicting animals, among them a famous rendering of a whale, which became the basis for its moniker, Riben bukvar [Fish Primer]. The primer and the whale picture are so significant to Bulgarian culture that they are both commemorated on present-day Bulgarian currency, specifically on the ten lev note. This item has been digitized by LC and may be viewed both in the LC online catalog and in the World Digital Library. However, since in the published original the whale is printed across the gutter on two facing pages, the whale picture is split into two digital images, one for each page. Once again there is no identification of the illustrator in the work itself or in the literature.

Another book in the Plochev collection with attractive lithographs is Zavieshtaniia za uchebny-tie zavedeniia v Gabrovo [Wills of the School in Gabrovo] published in Tsarigrad (Constantinople) in 1867. 20 The Gabrovo School was the first secular school in Bulgaria. Founded in 1835, it trained Bulgarian teachers and employed such notable Bulgarian scholars as Neofit Rilski. This work, which is bound together with two other works on the history of the Gabrovo School, contains the wills of several men associated with the School. The wills appear in Bulgarian with the corresponding Greek translation on opposite pages. Printed at the end of the book are illustrations of the grave monuments of the two founders of the school, Vasil Evstatievich Aprilov (1789–1847) and Nikolai Stefanov Palauzov (c.1776–1853). There is nothing in the book itself or in the bibliographies providing the name of the engraver. Like the two items described above, this one also is available in electronic format.

Nikolai Pavlovich (1835–1894) is the most famous Bulgarian graphic artist from the revival period. In fact, from 1951–1995 the Natsionalna khudozhestvena akademiia [National Academy of Art] in Sofia was called the Vissh institut za izobrazitelno izkustvo "Nikolai Pavlovich" [Higher Institute of Art "Nikolai Pavlovich"] in his honor. He created portraits in oil and lithographs of Bulgarian historical figures and events. He even knew Petur Beron, author of the Fish Primer, illustrated books for him, and painted the famous rendering of him sitting at his desk in his office. Pavlovich also produced book illustrations for other authors and LC holds two of his early efforts in this realm for Georgi Rakovski, the noted Bulgarian writer and revolutionary figure.

Figure 2. Portrait of Aesop, on the preface page, Esopa frigiiskago basnotvortsa basni ili prikazki (1854). Library of Congress Rare Book and Special Collections Division.

In 1860 Rakovski published in Belgrade his history of Tsar Asen I, Niekolko riechi o Asieniu purvomu, velikomu tsariu bulgarskomu i sinu mu Asieniu vtoromu [A Few Words about Asen I, Great Bulgarian Tsar and His Son Asen II]. 21Pavlovich supposedly produced four black and white illustrations for this book. The first is a lithograph of Tsar Asen I in his regalia holding a cross in one hand and a staff in the other. The lithograph is signed by Pavlovich and the caption is printed in gold. The second lithograph depicts Tsar Ivan Asen II taking the Greek leader Theodoros Comnenus captive in the year 1230. This image is also signed by Pavlovich, but the caption is printed in black. The third image is a page of coins in use during the reigns of the two tsars. Although this image is unsigned, the Stoianov bibliography attributes it to Pavlovich. It is unclear which illustration is the fourth by Pavlovich in the book: on the title page there is a small, unsigned engraving of an insect writing history on paper and in the middle of the book there is an unsigned illustration of Bulgarian writing.

A final example of Bulgarian book illustration from the Plochev collection is a Bulgarian edition of Aesop's fables, Esopa frigiiskago basnotvortsa basni ili prikazki [Fables and Tales of Aesop, the Fabulist from Phrygia], published in Belgrade in 1854 and translated by Raino Popovich. 22 This work is part of the Bulgarian national revival era tradition of translating Aesop's fables. The Fish Primer included eighteen illustrations of the fables, and the great Bulgarian writer, Petko Slaveikov, published a book of his Aesopian translations in 1852, albeit without illustrations.

The text of Popovich's volume is accompanied by fourteen black and white illustrations, the first of which is a rather unflattering portrait of a squat Aesop. See Figure 2. The other thirteen illustrations reflect the content of selected fables. For example, there is one for "The Eagle and the Fox," with the eagle sitting in a tree, and another for "The Raven and the Snake" in which the coiled snake resembles a snail and the raven is sitting on his head. The illustrations resemble folk art woodcuts with bold black outlines and simple images. Many of them have the animals in the forefront with buildings in the background. "The Dog and the Wolf" illustration reflects a clever use of black and white to make the dog appear skeletal as if in an X-ray. See Figure 3. There is no information about the illustrator in the work itself or in the bibliographies.

Besides the materials in the Todor Plochev collection, the Rare Book and Special Collections Division has only a few scattered visual items for Bulgaria findable either via their onsite card catalog or via the Library of Congress online catalog. They include items such as maps of Bulgaria's ethnographic and political borders presented to Adolf Hitler by then Ambassador of Bulgaria, Purvan Draganov, and several presentation items in the broadsides collection.

Figure 3. Illustration of the Aesopian fable "The Dog and the Wolf" from page 21 of Esopa frigiiskago basnotvortsa basni ili prikazki (1854). Library of Congress Rare Book and Special Collections Division.

General Collections

The general collections of the Library of Congress are the richest source of visual materials for Bulgaria, for the collection has forty five thousand pieces and many books, journals, and newspapers include images of some sort. One can search the online catalog for practically any subject and find materials in Bulgarian, and some of them may have illustrations. This can be determined by examining the description line in the bibliographic record for the abbreviations "ill." or "illus.", for illustrations, "pl." for plates, or the word "maps". Titles cataloged with the subject heading phrase "pictorial works" will have a significant number of illustrations. For example, the headings "Bulgaria — Pictorial works" or "Bulgaria — History — 1990- — Pictorial works" are likely to be albums of photographs. For books on Bulgarian art and book illustration in particular, the following subject headings are helpful: Illustration of books — Bulgaria; Book covers — Bulgaria; Nationalism and art — Bulgaria; Illustrated books — Bulgaria; Illumination of books and manuscripts, Bulgarian; Illumination of books and manuscripts, Medieval — Bulgaria; Book ornamentation — Bulgaria; Engraving, Bulgarian; Art, Bulgarian; Icons, Bulgarian; Mural painting and decoration, Bulgarian; Sculpture -- Bulgaria; Painting — Bulgaria; Architecture — Bulgaria. Although images are not covered in the Bulgarian national bibliography, there are a handful of art reference books and bibliographies to begin a search, but only of limited time periods and only for the most well-known artists. Bibliographic coverage of visual materials from Bulgaria for the most part is extremely poor.

Newspapers are often a very useful source for images and LC has quite a large collection of Bulgarian newspapers, predominantly from the post-World War II era. Unfortunately for image-seekers, most of the holdings have been microfilmed, rendering the images less clear, however there are a few titles retained in bound volumes which may have interesting historical photographs. 23 For example, Ustrem. Vestnik za chinovete ot I. Bulgarski korpus [Zeal. Newspaper for the Ranks of the First Bulgarian Corps], the Bulgarian Nazi newspaper published in Belgrade from 1943 to 1944 when Bulgaria was occupying parts of Yugoslavia, has many fascinating war-time images. On the front page of the very first issue dated May 24, 1943 is a photograph of Tsar Boris III shaking hands with Hitler. The newspaper has many pictures of soldiers and high-ranking officials, as well as cultural images that appear on the culture pages. Although it is a bit strange to see a woodcut depicting Saints Cyril and Methodius by artist Boris Angelushev in a Nazi newspaper, the culture pages clearly were a way to amuse and educate the soldiers, for this section also printed feuilletons by the noted Bulgarian humorist Chudomir, as well as articles about literature and art. Also found in this paper are political cartoons and maps of the front.

Another newspaper with many images is Narodna kultura [People's Culture], the major cultural newspaper in Bulgaria published from 1957 to 1990. Its continuing title, Kultura [Culture], is still published today. This publication reproduced many artistic images such as paintings, graphics, architectural views, portraits of writers, artists, and historical cultural figures. Sturshel [Hornet], the humor newspaper published in Sofia from 1946 to the present day, is the place to find cartoons of both a political and social nature. The newspaper has many cartoons and humorous graphics on every page. All of these newspapers are printed in black and white, but Sturshel adds one additional color to each issue.

Figure 4. Fire in the town of Kotel in 1894, by Iozef Oberbauer. Iliustratsiia svietlina, Volume 4, Kn. IX i X, p. 140 (1894). Library of Congress General Collections.

Like newspapers, journals too can be a good source for visual materials. LC has a large collection of Bulgarian journals starting from 1846. 24 Many are scholarly journals with few illustrations. However, there are titles devoted to illustrative or cultural materials such as Iliustratsiia svietlina [Illustration Light], active from 1891 to 1934, the first Bulgarian periodical known for fine illustrations.

Iliustratsiia svietlina published articles on literature and history and other topics. Works by the most famous Bulgarian literary figures and scholars appeared in this journal including such luminaries as Ivan Vazov, Stoian Mikhailovski, Konstantin Velichkov, and Marin Drinov. Many of the illustrations are attractive, well-rendered prints of portraits, paintings, and scenes depicting historical events. On the back cover there is a section entitled "Smiekhorii" [Jokes] that contains political cartoons. LC holds 1891–1900, 1904–1909, 1916, and a few issues from the 1930s.

Figure 4 is an illustration by Iozef Oberbauer (1854–1926), an Austrian artist who lived and worked in Sofia, and who was best known for being one of the three illustrators of the first edition of Ivan Vazov's great novel, Pod igoto [Under the Yoke]. Many of Oberbauer's works appeared in Iliustratsiia svietlina. Obzor: A Bulgarian Quarterly Review of Literature and Arts is another illustrated journal devoted to Bulgarian culture. Published by the Committee for Culture, The Union of Bulgarian Writers, and the National Commission for UNESCO in the People's Republic of Bulgaria from 1967 to 1990, it is an excellent source for learning about Bulgarian art and artists, for every issue has reproductions of art, reviews of books about the fine arts, articles about art or interviews with artists. Each issue also has a color reproduction of an abstract work of art by a Bulgarian artist. Like many cultural propagandistic organs, Obzor was published in multiple languages such as English, Spanish, and French. LC holds almost a complete run of the English edition.

An example of a more unusual journal with fascinating visual elements is Tsentralen biuletin za izdirvane [Central Bulletin for Investigation], a serial put out by the Directorate of Police in Sofia from 1924 through 1947. This publication was produced for limited distribution among administrative, police, judicial, and local authorities, and it contains information and mug shots about people the police are investigating or seeking. The mug shots sometimes show both profiles and frontal views of the suspects. Some of the pictures are for people who have just disappeared rather than for known or suspected criminals. Still, Balkan thieves, murderers, rapists, deserters, bigamists, counterfeiters, they are all here in this journal. There are even pictures of corpses of John Does with information about where the bodies were found and what they were wearing, and for which the police are seeking identification. Wartime historians will find this journal interesting for the information on army deserters, and ethnographers will find it of interest for the scattered photos of Roma men and women. LC holds seven years of this title, from 1933 to 1939.

LC collects Bulgarian magazines on many subjects ranging from theater and film to science and nature. News magazines in particular are rife with visual images, and LC has the major ones from the past and the present such as Paraleli [Parallels], published by the Bulgarska telegrafna agentsiia [Bulgarian Telegraph Agency] beginning in 1965, Otechestvo [Fatherland] from 1975–1990, Tema [Theme] from 2001, and Lider [Leader] from 2005. Magazines geared for women are another source of pictorial material. LC currently subscribes to two women's magazines and one newspaper for women, Zhenata dnes [Woman Today] (1945–present), Za zhenata [For the Woman] (1996–present), and Nie zhenite [We Women] (1990–present), all of which have images typical for women's magazines, such as fashion photography, advertisements, illustrated recipes, and of famous and beautiful women. Two bibliographies of Bulgarian newspapers and journals can help identify titles that have a significant amount of visual materials: Bulgarski periodichen pechat, 1844–1944 [Bulgarian Periodical Press, 1844–1944] has index sections for "Iliustrirovana informatsiia" [Illustrated information] and "Izkustvo" [Art], whereas Bulgarski periodichen pechat, 1944–1969 has an index section only for "Izkustvo." 25

Scattered throughout the general collections are illustrated books on history, literature, art, philately, and many other subjects. LC does not have many first editions of important literary works with noted illustrators, but there are a few. A fine example is the 1931 edition of Vladimir Rusaliev's poem "Zhutva" [Harvest]. Although better known as a children's author, Rusaliev (1899–1973) was also a poet and literary critic. The illustrator was Naum Khadzhi Mladenov (1894–1985), a graduate of the Academy of Arts in Sofia whose specialty was historical painting. The accompanying five illustrations of historical and religious imagery are black and white and resemble woodcuts. A sixth illustration is a portrait of the poet.

Figure 5. Princess Nadezhda, daughter of Tsar Ferdinand of Bulgaria and Tsarina Marie-Louise. Dvadeset godini ot tsaruvaneto na Negovo Tsarsko Visochestvo Ferdinand I Kniaz na Bulgariia (1907). The plate appears between pages 250 and 251. Library of Congress General Collections.

Balkan history is an area of strength in LC, thus many books in the DR call number range have images. The collection is particularly strong in the post-World War II era, but visual materials from the pre-Communist era also can be found. For instance, photographs of the Bulgarian royal family are an important feature of the 1907 anniversary publication Dvadeset godini ot tsaruvaneto na Negovo Tsarsko Visochestvo Ferdinand I Kniaz na Bulgariia [Twenty Years of the Reign of His Royal Excellency Ferdinand I King of Bulgaria]. This item contains speeches, proclamations and other materials highlighting his achievements as Tsar, but it is the photos of the Tsar and his family that bring the book to life.

None of the photos are identified with captions, but the figures can be identified based on their placement in the text. A photo of the mother of the Tsar appears opposite a telegram announcing her death. A photo of a little girl appears opposite an announcement of the birth of the Tsar's daughter. See FIGURE 5.

As with serials, bibliographic access to book illustrations is limited, but some coverage does exist. The major bibliography for Bulgarian books from 1878–1944 lists in the index the names of notable illustrators and leads directly to titles that include the works of the illustrator. 26 For those who do not know the names of Bulgarian illustrators, the index can be helpful since it identifies illustrators with the abbreviation "il." in parentheses. To extend bibliographic access to book illustrations another twenty-five years, from 1944–1969, there is a bibliography specifically for illustration published by the National Library in Sofia with a valuable introduction that surveys achievements in the field and even reproduces a number of images. 27 As can be seen from the various mentions throughout this article, there are few sources that give easy and accurate information for identifying visual materials. Art bibliography for Bulgaria is an area in great need of further work.

As for the LC Bulgarian collection, unfortunately, neither in the past nor today has there been an active program for acquiring visual materials from Bulgaria, with the exception of printed books and albums that come via the approval plan or on exchange, and through G&M's map acquisitions program. Donations are the main avenue for Bulgarian non-traditional format acquisitions, and this is reflected in the scattershot holdings of Bulgarian visual materials that are not books, periodicals, or maps. Yet the collection continues to grow, and many unusual and interesting visual materials are to be found with a little effort on the part of the researcher.


  1. The author would like to thank Edward Redmond, Geography & Map Division, for his gracious help in exploring the Bulgarian collections in his care. Back to text
  2. James Flatness and Christopher Murphy, "Artifacts from the 'New Order.' Library Purchases Rare Turkish Atlas," Library of Congress Information Bulletin Nov 1998: 267. Back to text
  3. The Prints & Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC) is available at // Back to text
  4. From Bulgaria. Contemporary Bulgarian Printmakers (Washington, DC: Exhibits Office, The Library of Congress, 1987). This item is an eight page exhibition catalog with a short essay on printmaking in Bulgaria, from which the discussion concerning themes and processes is derived. Back to text
  5. The collection entitled Contemporary Bulgarian Prints is unprocessed, but can be accessed in person using the number PR 13 CN 1991:171. Back to text
  6. Background information about Christo and his artistic viewpoint was gleaned from the article about him in Biography Today. Profiles of People of Interest to Young Readers (Detroit, MI: Omnigraphics, 1996): 72–82, from Burt Chernow, Christo and Jeanne-Claude: A Biography (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2002), 50, 130, 176–177, 185–186, and the website Back to text
  7. Information about the stereograph collection is available at // Back to text
  8. General information about the George Grantham Bain Collection is available at // Back to text
  9. General information about the Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection is available at // Back to text
  10. This album is cataloged under LOT 7375 (G) [P&P]. Back to text
  11. The collection is unprocessed, but can be accessed in person using the number PR 13 CN 1986:282. Back to text
  12. The Library of the Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg, Russia, holds a collection of comparable size. Back to text
  13. This author will begin work on a finding aid for the Plochev collection in 2010. Back to text
  14. Charles Jelavich spent several months at LC in the 1950s as a visiting consultant and produced the following very valuable survey of the Plochev collection and the most significant publications included in it. Charles Jelavich, "Bulgarian 'Incunabula.'" The Library of Congress Quarterly Journal of Current Acquisitions 14, no. 3 (1957): 77–94. Back to text
  15. Valerii Pogorelov, Opis na starite pechatni bulgarski knigi (1802–1877 g.) [Inventory of Old Printed Bulgarian Books] (Sofiia: Durzhavna pechatnitsa, 1923); Man'o Stoianov, Bulgarska vuzrozhdenska knizhnina. Analitichen repertoar na bulgarskite knigi i periodichni izdaniia 1806–1878 [Bulgarian Renaissance Literature. Analytic Repertoire of Bulgarian Books and Periodicals 1806–1878] (Sofiia: Nauka i izkustvo, 1957). Back to text
  16. All of the items in the Plochev collection are shelved in numerical order according to the number assigned in the Pogorelov or Stoianov bibliographies. Kyriakodromion is Pogorelov #2. Back to text
  17. Sofronii Vrachanski, Suchineniia v dva toma [Works in Two Volumes] (Sofiia: Bulgarski pisatel, 1992), tom 2:545. To view some of these decorations made of the name and title "Episkop Sofronii Vrachanski," see the digital page-turner version available via the LC online catalog, images 108, 120, and 358. Back to text
  18. The LC online catalog is available at and the World Digital Library is available at [N.B. As of 2021 most of the contents of the World Digital Library have been added to the Library of Congress online collections and the WDL website is no longer available.] Back to text
  19. Bukvar s razlichny poucheniia is Pogorelov #12. Back to text
  20. Zavieshtaniia za uchebny-tie zavedeniia v Gabrovo is Pogorelov #829. Back to text
  21. Niekolko riechi o Asieniu purvomu, velikomu tsariu bulgarskomu i sinu mu Asieniu vtoromu is Pogorelov #486. Back to text
  22. Esopa frigiiskago basnotvortsa basni ili prikazki is Pogorelov #295. Back to text
  23. A bibliography of Bulgarian newspaper titles and holdings in LC is available at // Back to text
  24. A bibliography of Bulgarian journals and holdings in LC is available at // Back to text
  25. Bulgarski periodichen pechat, 1844–1944. Anotiran bibliografski ukazatel [Bulgarian Periodical Press, 1844–1944. Annotated Bibliography] (Sofiia: Nauka i izkustvo, 1962–1969); Bulgarski periodichen pechat, 1944–1969. Bibliografski ukazatel [Bulgarian Periodical Press, 1944–1969. Bibliography] (Sofiia: Narodna biblioteka "Kiril i Metodii," 1975). Back to text
  26. Bulgarski knigi, 1878–1944. Bibliografski ukazatel [Bulgarian Books, 1878–1944. Bibliographic index] (Sofiia: Narodna biblioteka "Kiril i Metodii," 1978–2000). Back to text
  27. Petur Atanasov, 25 godini bulgarska iliustratsiia na knigata 1944–1969: bibliografiia [Twenty-Five years of Bulgarian Book Illustration, 1944–1969. A Bibliography] (Sofiia: Narodna biblioteka "Kiril i Metodii," 1970). Back to text