Preface: Journeying between East and West: Studies of Manuscripts and Early Printed Books with Focus on St.  Petersburg

Leena Kahlas-Tarkka, Research Unit for Variation, Contacts and Change in English (VARIENG), University of Helsinki
Matti Kilpiö, Research Unit for Variation, Contacts and Change in English (VARIENG), University of Helsinki

Varying as the articles in this e-volume are in their subject matter and the period they deal with, they have one common denominator: they reflect the cooperation between the universities and libraries of St. Petersburg and Helsinki from the 1980s onwards. Further, a large majority of the manuscripts and books discussed here share one feature: they illustrate the wayward travels of volumes from West to East and from East to West. Indeed, habent suas vias libelli, to use a twisted version of the old Latin dictum.

With one exception, the articles of this volume are linked up with a project called Early English Text and Corpus Studies (EETACS). This project had its inception in the spring of 1995 when Professors Ludmila Chakhoyan and Tatyana Tretyakova from the Department of English and Translation of the State University of St. Petersburg visited the Department of English at the University of Helsinki. In discussions with Professor Matti Rissanen, the visitors expressed their interest in profiting from the expertise and experience of the Helsinki Department in the field of historical corpus linguistics and offered to help Finnish scholars in their search in the libraries and archives of St. Petersburg for interesting manuscripts and early printed books connected with England.

The first visit of representatives of the Helsinki English Department to St. Petersburg took place in August 1995. The project immediately began to take shape. A statement of shared objectives was signed by representatives of four institutions:

  • The Department of English and Translation at the State University of St. Petersburg
  • The Department of English at the University of Helsinki
  • The St. Petersburg Department of Foreign Languages of the Russian Academy of Sciences
  • The Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

In addition to these institutions, the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg has been an important partner; this is also reflected in the list of contributors to this volume.

Within the framework of the EETACS project, there have been numerous visits between St. Petersburg and Helsinki. These visits have involved work in libraries, lectures and hands-on courses at both undergraduate and post-graduate level, symposia, and supervision of postgraduate studies. EETACS scholars were also active in mounting the double exhibition called  Ex Insula Lux in the National Libraries of Finland and Russia in August 2001 in connection with the 10th meeting of the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists in Helsinki and a post-conference symposium in St. Petersburg after the Helsinki meeting.

Victor I. Shadrin and Ludmila Chakhoyan (who died in 2006) from the Russian side and Matti Rissanen and Matti Kilpiö from the Finnish side have been leaders of the EETACS project. The scholar now responsible for leading the project at the Helsinki end is Leena Kahlas-Tarkka.

In St. Petersburg, the collections of the National Library of Russia and the Library of the Academy of Sciences together form a rich quarry into which Russian and Finnish scholars have been able to delve. Both libraries have extensive holdings of early Western books connected with England. The National Library, in addition, has a large number of early Western manuscripts, largely thanks to the efforts of Peter Dubrovsky, who in the early 19th century donated his magnificent manuscript collection to the library.

Of the nine articles in this volume, five deal with manuscripts ranging from the Middle Ages (Bleskina, Elagina, Kilpiö and Kilpiö & Tsvinaria) to the Early Modern period (Kahlas-Tarkka & Kilpiö). Four articles (Frolova, Havu, McConchie and Pitulko) discuss books from the Early Modern and Modern periods. The article by Sirkka Havu is the only one not directly connected with EETACS, even though it strongly illustrates the connection between Helsinki and St. Petersburg. It reflects a project which was started by Sirkka Havu and Dr Irina Lebedeva in the mid-1980s and which in 1997 resulted in the publication of a massive catalogue listing and describing the books donated by the Russian Academy of Sciences to the University of Helsinki in 1829. [1] Havu also discusses the early 20th-century donation of the Monrepos library in Vyborg to the Helsinki University Library.

We wish to thank the International Exchange Services of the University of Helsinki, the VARIENG Research Unit, the Department of Modern Languages at the University of Helsinki, the Centre for International Mobility (CIMO) and the Nordic Council for economic support.

Our thanks are due to the Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the National Library of Russia (St. Petersburg), The Bodleian Library (Oxford) and the National Library of Finland for permission to reproduce illustrations. We wish to point out that these illustrations are subject to copyright. Thus further reproduction is prohibited without permission given by the library in question. We are grateful to Olga Timofeeva for translating into English the articles originally written in Russian as well as for translating the English abstracts into Russian.

Especial thanks are due to Tuuli Tahko, Henri Kauhanen, Jukka Tyrkkö and Joe McVeigh at VARIENG for their expert and innovative assistance in the editorial work throughout the long process of preparing the articles for electronic publication.

Helsinki, May 2012                     Leena Kahlas-Tarkka                   Matti Kilpiö


[1] Havu, Sirkka and Irina Lebedeva (comps.). 1997. Collections donated by the Academy of Sciences of St. Petersburg to the Alexander University of Finland in 1829. An annotated catalogue. Helsinki: Helsinki University Library.