Incunabula Fund of Lyuben Karavelov Regional Library

The term “incunabula” refers to all Revival books published between 1806 and 1878.

            The Incunabula Fund of the Lyuben Karavelov Regional Library was established in 1957. Until then, incunable books were kept in the general fund of the library. The main nucleus of this special fund became the invaluable donation in 1977 of the late prominent Ruse bookseller – Nikola Dakov, including 257 books and periodicals. Besides him, M. Halvadzhiev, D. Todorova and Dr. Maslinkov should be mentioned as donors. The incunable books were also acquired by means of book exchange with the library of the Rila Monastery, the library of the Ruse Bishopric, etc. in the country. The Fund has more than 1,000 books and periodicals and represents one third of all registered incunable editions in Bulgaria.

            Many of the books have national significance. One of them is the first Bulgarian book, printed in the new Bulgarian language – “Kyriakodromion”, or “Nedelnik” by Sofroniy Vrachanski, published in 1806 in Rimnik – Romania. It contains a collection of edifying words intended for Sunday church services, hence its name. The Library holds a total of 6 copies issued in different years, but the most valuable is the copy with a stamp of the Ruschuk School and a preserved pre-title sheet with the names of its 26 contributors, who helped for the publication of the first Bulgarian book with two thousand pennies.

The first edition of the infamous “Riben Bukvar” of Dr. P. Beron from 1824, issued in Brasov, is very valuable.  Its original name is “Primer with various teachings (fish)”, and in the second and third editions of 1841 and 1847, printed in Bucharest, its title was “Primer Bulgarian (fish)”, also part of the collection.

One of the brightest figures in the era of the Bulgarian Enlightenment, Neofit Bozveli, published in 1835 in Kragujevac the compilation (compiled with the help of his Svishtov colleague and prominent Revival educator Emanuil Vaskidovich) “Slavenobolgarskoe detevodstvo” – the most remarkable teaching aid during the Revival after the “Fish Primer”. This is a vast encyclopedia in six parts, containing all the necessary knowledge for the Bulgarian school of that time – primer, grammar, arithmetic, geography, letter template book.

With his active presence in the literary and enlightenment life during the Revival, Sava Radulov ranks among the brightest activists of Bulgarian education. Incunabula Fund comprises “Random lessons in earth description” and “Bulgarian Primer. Rationed in a new and easy way by S. Radulova”, issued in 1859.

Very rare and unique are the books “A Brief Study of Bulgarian Antiquity" from G. Krastevich, published in 1858 in Tsarigrad, as well as the “Dream of the Most Holy Virgin Mary” from 1859, printed also in Tsarigrad in the printing house of Dimitar Panichkov. According to national bibliographical sources, the book is not owned by any other library. Another unique book that even the National Library “Cyril and Methodius” does not own is the comedy “Dvoryanski Vibori”, a translation from Russian, published in 1843 in Chisinau. Here are also the books “Tsarstvenik or Istoriya Bolgarskaya” by Hristaki Pavlovich,one of the most famous transcripts of “Istoriya Slavyanobolgarskaya” of P. Hilendarski, “The Covenant of Vasil Aprilov” from 1849, a copy of the first Bulgarian novel “Unhappy Family” by Vasil Drumev from 1873. Also of interest are “Veda Slovena” – a collection of Bulgarian folk songs by Stefan Verkovich, released in 1874 in Belgrade, as well as the known collection of all Bulgarian folk songs by Bratya Miladinovi.

A worthy place in the incunable collection is also occupied by books such as the first Bulgarian textbook on chemistry by Dimitar Enchev, compiled for the needs of the Ruschuk School, issued in 1871, the first Bulgarian textbook on agriculture. Another bright personality of Bulgarian Enlightenment, with a huge contribution to the establishment of academic literature, is Nayden Gerov. In 1849, on the basis of French and Russian models, he created the first textbook on physics – “Conclusion of Physics”. He introduced forty physics terms into Bulgarian, thus marking the beginning of our physics terminology. Some of the terms proposed by him are still used today. Parteniy Zografski also occupies a worthy place in the development of “school” literature with “Brief Slavonic Grammar”, published in 1859 in Tsarigrad, as well as Filip Velev with “Grammar Greek-Bulgarian. Drawn up and first issued for the benefit of Bulgarian schools”, also printed in Tsarigrad in 1860.

In the extremely rich literary heritage of Petko R. Slaveykov, his “Small Primer” should be mentioned, issued in 1860 in Tsarigrad. There is a curious fact related to him in Ruse’s history. When the Ruse Ecclesiastical People’s Municipality was established in 1865, its chairman Nil Izvorov wrote a letter to Slaveykov asking for 1,000 copies be sent to him for the Ruse schools. Lyuben Karavelov Library holds two copies, thanks to the donations of Nikola Dakov and Dr. L. Maslinkov.

The name of Hristo G. Danov, besides with being a publisher, the founder of the organised book publishing in Bulgaria, is also associated with his extensive activity as an original author. In 1862, in Plovdiv, “Primer or Mutual Teaching Tables” was issued, which had five subsequent editions.

Undoubtedly, the Library prides itself with the possession of the phototype edition of one of the first printed geographical maps of Bulgaria, entitled “Map of present Bulgaria, Thrace and Macedonia and adjacent lands” in four sheets and approximate scale of 1: 1,000,000 with the dedication “In favour of the newly assembled in Ruschuk Slavic Bulgarian school”, printed by the patriotic Ruse merchant Alexander H. Russet in 1843 in Strasbourg, with the financial assistance of his father Dimitar H. Russet. Until 1860, the map was the only aid of its kind in the schools in Bulgarian lands.

Incunabula Fund also keeps original issues of the first Bulgarian magazine “Lyuboslovie”, published in 1844 in Smyrna, as well as issues of the first Bulgarian newspaper “Bulgarian Eagle”, published in 1846, original and phototype editions of Botev’s and Karavelov's newspapers, editions of “Periodical Magazine”, issued by the Bulgarian Literary Society in Braila.

The collection of books in foreign languages, published until 1900, marked as “Rare and valuable” is also unique. The oldest one owned by us is “Evangelion” of 1690. It has an interesting fate – it was given as a present by the granddaughter of Gen. Kutuzov and wife of Count Ignatiev to the temple in the Ruse village of Mechka, in memory of the Russian soldiers who died in battle during the Russian-Turkish war. There are also books in Greek, Turkish, French and German.