Thursday, December 27, 2012

New books at the library

One of my on-going projects at the library is to continually research books that are of interest to the library and contact the author and/or publisher to request a donation of their book for our collection. As a result of these efforts, we recently received two important editions to our collection:

Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present by Indiana University professor Christopher Beckwith is the first complete history of Central Eurasia from ancient times to the present day. Empires of the Silk Road “represents a fundamental rethinking of the origins, history, and significance of this major world region…and demonstrates why the region is central to understanding the history of civilization.” (From the jacket cover.) Empires of the Silk Road was published in April 2011 by Princeton University Press ( I look forward to reading it!

Though most of the books we receive through my requests are in English, our second recent acquisition is in Russian. One of the library staff had come across the announcement of the Russian translation of Northern and Eastern Tartary: The Travel Diary of Nicolaas Witsen, and asked me to pursue acquiring a copy for the library. Knowing nothing of the book, I was pleasantly surprised to find out what a rare and unusual book it is. Nicolaas Witsen was a 17th century Dutch traveler, cartographer, shipbuilder, ambassador, and the mayor of Amsterdam thirteen (!) times. He traveled extensively in Siberia, Mongolia and Central Asia as well as Persia, Crimea, and the Caucasus.
In 1691 he created the first large size map of the “Northern and Eastern part of Europe and Asia.” Eight years later he produced 'Noord en Oost Tartarye' (North and East Tartary), a book of 660 pages which served as a companion to the map. A revised edition with a total of thousand pages was printed in 1705.

The Northern and Eastern Tartary has long been considered one of the most important early sources for information about this vast region, but access to it has been limited because of its 17th century Dutch language. For a number of years a group of Russian and Dutch historians collaborated to produce a Russian edition. The book was published in three deluxe volumes in Amsterdam in 2010 and with the help of the Netherlands Embassy in Moscow, distributed free of charge to 107 libraries and scholarly institutions in the Russian Federation. (Information from

Here I am, proudly displaying the new books.
Armed with this knowledge, I decided to write the Netherlands Embassy in Ukraine to see if they could help the Gasprinskiy Library acquire a copy of the book.  An officer from the Embassy quickly responded in the affirmative, contacted their Embassy in Moscow, and soon a copy of the Northern and Eastern Tartary was on its way to our library. Because of the inclusion of Crimea at the time of the Crimean Khanate in Witsen’s travel writings, the book will be a great asset to scholars and researchers who come to our library.

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