Ex libris


We have already written that Lwów still faithfully preserves the memory of those days when in the panoramic Friendship Bookstore the books of all the friendly countries were available. But once Lwów also was the capital of the Polish book. At the times of the Monarchy and between the two world wars national book exhibitions and bibliophile conferences were regularly held here.

Exhibition of 16 to 19th century books in the Black House [in the main square] on the occasion
of the 3rd Meeting of the Association of Polish Bibliophiles and Librarians,
May-June 1928. Poster by Rudolf Mękicki (1887-1942)

Exhibition of Hebrew books and works of art, Lwów, June 1928.
Poster by Piotr Henryk Mund (1902-1960)

Exhibition of the Polish book in the Palace of Art, May-June 1928.
Poster by Anna Harland-Zajączkowska (1883-1930)

The former magnificent libraries of Lwów, about which Witold Szolginia writes in an awe in the eight volumes of Tamten Lwów – “That Lwów” –, his monumental memoirs of the history of the city composed in the 90s, have long disappeared. A part of the large collections were successfully saved over to Poland in due time, and whatever was left, that, if preserved at all, has received a harsh treatment, as it was just recently reported in the Ukrainian press. But as to what the new dwellers of the apartments left behind by the deported Jews and displaced Poles did with the books found there, whose language they did not understand, we have no illusions. It is meaningful that the city has not a single second-hand bookshop. You can buy old books and other prints only in the small square behind the Museum of Atheism (nowadays Museum of Religion), that is the former Dominican monastery, on every Saturday and Sunday morning. Ivan Fyodorov, the father of Eastern Slavic book printing, who in 1572 set up his press in the Basilian monastery of St. Onuphrius located outside the northern city walls, presses to himself with anxiety the Ostrog Bible published in 1581, and with the other hand he shows over the market with resignation: “this is all that’s left”.







The bulk of the books are Ukrainian publications from the fifties and sixties. Here even Russian books are an exoticism.





Whatever is older than that, is sold under glass panel or plastic cover on the antiquarian desks, where the posters of the great patriotic war and the temperance campaign of 1954 lay comfortably side by side with the portraits of Stepan Bandera and Michael Jackson.




But you cannot leave a book market without buying. First of all, I acquire a few postcards to set the business in motion.




If you were really happy for them, I’d be happy to give them away. They have spent enough time with me.



Когда ты будешь жить в разлуке и ты не будешь знать меня, тогда возьми открытку в руки и вспомнишь кто любил тебя. – Черепановой Вере от Алцыбеевой НаташиWhen you will live alone and will not know about me, then take this postcard in the hand, and remember of her who really loved you. – To Vera Cherepanova from Natasha Altsybeyeva



This postcard is very reminiscent of the Siberian photos by William Henry Jackson, especially of those we have not yet published (but we plan to do so).



Falkenberg (Mark) along the Odera was terribly lucky: it was only a question of a few miles that it was not transferred to Poland. However incredible, the Carlsburg Luftkurort, although somewhat rebuilt, still exists. Only the six hundred years old oak tree dried up some years ago.


But the most interesting pieces of the supply are the Ukrainian tales and legends illustrated in the manner of old woodcuts in the 1970s and 80s. We have purchased a couple of them, and we will publish them one by one.


We begin their publication right now with the one which is really fitting to this post: a catalog of Lwów ex librises, collected in 1969 from the books of the town library. It shows the same lively and spirited woodcut style, which combines German Expressionism and Russian Constructivism with Ukrainian folk motifs, although somewhat soaked with the mannerisms of the 60s.


Books are the mirror of life, and so is also the ex libris. Although according to the introduction in Lwów they have used ex libris since the 18th century, this catalog does not show any prior to 1944, nor any Polish, German, Armenian or Jewish one. Only from the 1960s, and only Ukrainians.