A Remarkable Collection of Books: The Yudin Collection at the Library of Congress

This is a guest post written by Leslie Long, a General Collections Conservation Specialist for the Conservation Division in collaboration with Rare Book Cataloger, Barbara Dash.

The Yudin Collection is one of the treasures of the Library of Congress. Originally the personal library of Siberian businessman and book collector Gennadii Vasil’evich Yudin (1840-1912), the collection is the foundation of the Library’s Russian language collection including important holdings in Russian history, geography, bibliography, and Russian literature.

In 1903, Yudin offered to sell his library, and Librarian of Congress Herbert Putnam asked Alexis Vassilyevich Babine, the Slavic Literature Specialist for the Library at the time, to go inspect it for possible purchase. Yudin’s library was one of the best personal libraries in Russia, housed in a building especially constructed for it in Tarakanovo near Krasnoiarsk in south central Siberia. Vladimir Lenin consulted Yudin’s library during his exile in Siberia in 1897-1898 and described it as “a remarkable collection of books,” noting particularly its complete sets of periodicals dating from the 18th century.

Alexis Babine had been hired by the Library of Congress in 1902. For three years, he worked to acquire the Yudin Collection, which was purchased by the Library in November 1906 after his resignation. He described Yudin’s library as a “two-story log building” nearly twice as big as the Yudin family house nearby with books on shelves, on tables and on the floor and 3,000 miles away from St. Petersburg, a journey of two months in those years before the Siberian railway was completed. Although no longer a Library employee, Babine oversaw the packing and shipping of the collection of 80,000 Yudin items in Siberia. The collection arrived at the Library of Congress in April of 1907 at the end of a long rail journey across Siberia and an ocean voyage.

Barbara Dash, a senior cataloger and recommending officer for Rare Russian materials, Rare Materials Section, has written about the fascinating circumstances surrounding the Library’s acquisition of the collection by Babine and about his report on the collection’s strengths comprising “virtually all areas of Russian history and geography, including much local history, especially of Siberia; bibliography; Russian literature; full runs of important or rare Russian serials; and an impressive selection of rare books and manuscripts. The arts and sciences, including archeology, and books in foreign languages are touched on as well. Babine cites and provides photographs of pages from a number of intriguing selections from the Yudin Library. He ends his discussion with mention of publications that Yudin himself produced or sponsored, including the first three volumes of Russkiia knigi [Russian books], which was intended as a comprehensive Russian bibliography but was discontinued for lack of funding.”

Yudin’s own handwritten inventory of his collection is in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division. A second copy of Yudin’s handwritten card catalog, arranged in alphabetical order by “main entry” years ago by an unknown person, is kept in the European Division. The European Division copy of Yudin’s catalog is available to Library staff and researchers and will be digitized in the next few years.

It is not clear if all of Yudin’s books are represented in his catalog, or if all the cards in the catalog represent books that Yudin sold to the Library. Because of the large number of serial titles and multi-volume sets in the Yudin Collection, the 80,000 Yudin volumes at the Library represent about 40,000 titles.  Only about 6,000 of those titles have been identified so far in the Library’s online catalog as having come from Yudin’s library. Around 4,000 Yudin Collection titles are in the custody of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division, the rest are scattered among the library’s general collections. Yudin items can be found in the Law Library, the Music Division, and the Prints and Photographs Division.

Among the riches that Yudin contributed to the Library’s General Collections, Dash includes a variety of souvenir albums and guidebooks to cities and towns in all parts of Russia, mostly from the nineteenth century and the turn of the twentieth century. There are also many official (government) and unofficial accounts, often in multiple volumes, of expeditions for purposes of trade, industry, or other exploration. These often are accompanied by maps, plans, and landscapes, and sometimes by portraits of local inhabitants.

With the help of interns, volunteers, and colleagues, Dash has been working to account for the whereabouts of all the items in the Yudin Collection at the Library. In the words of former Junior Fellow Bethany Wages, who is now a cataloger in the Russia Section of Acquisitions and Bibliographic Access, “The project strives to identify Yudin’s books within the Library’s catalog and thus virtually to reconstruct Yudin’s library.”  Since it was Yudin’s wish that his library be kept together, the virtual gathering of his collection fulfills that wish, even though the books are not physically together. Yudin designed a bookplate to be attached to the inside front covers of books he sold to the Library of Congress. Besides his own image on the left, St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow in the center, and Yudin’s own library building in Tarakanovo on the right, the bookplate includes Russian text which translated means, “The Home Library of G. V. Yudin.”

Yudin’s bookplate was reprinted by the Government Printing Office at some point. That is why some Yudin bookplates have “Printed by the Government Printing Office” printed on them. Yudin’s books arrived at the Library of Congress during the years 1907-1908, but Library staff continued putting Yudin bookplates in newly acquired Russian books that were not Yudin’s for a while after that for reasons that are not now clearly understood. Therefore, if the publication date is later than 1908, the book can’t have belonged to Yudin himself even if it has a Yudin bookplate.

The Library began processing Yudin’s books into the Library’s collections when they arrived in 1907, and that process continues today. Many of Yudin’s books have no markings that indicate their source, but some do. Among the types of evidence associated with Yudin’s library that Dash has taught our staff to look for are the St. Petersburg bookseller Vasilii Ivanovich Klochkov’s printed, lithographed, or embossed labels and tickets. Klochkov sold many books to Yudin, who had no formal education, for his library.

Yudin’s own shelf labels can be found in some of his books.  Also, Yudin blind stamped some of his books. Especially in Russian books, Yudin’s blind stamp appears on page 13 in the upper corner of the page.  If there are preliminary pages numbered in Roman numerals, he skipped to the page numbered 13 in Arabic numerals.  In French books, usually the blind stamp appears on the lower corner of page 13. The blind stamp can appear more in the center of the upper or lower margin of page 13. Less often, the blind stamp appears on page 15 or nearby. It seems as though Yudin might have reserved the blind stamp for books to which he assigned more importance in one way or another.

Another clue to identifying a Yudin at the Library of Congress is an accession number written in pencil on the verso of the title page of some of his books. That number is 104837 followed by the last two digits of the year the book was accessioned from 1906 (even though the collection did not arrive at the Library until 1907) through 1908. The Yudin accession number is sometimes stamped in ink on the verso of the title page, and sometimes the word YUDIN is stamped there in purple or black ink.

If a book appears to be a real Yudin to General Collections Conservation staff, we check the book’s bibliographic record to see if it has an access point for the Yudin Collection in the 710 field.  If it does, we treat or house it as usual. If it does not, we give it to Dash to review. This process helps her to complete her survey of the collection and to note in the bibliographic record of each Yudin Collection item that its location and condition have been verified.  She then returns it to Conservation staff for treatment or housing or recommends that the item be moved to special collections. This collaboration between Rare Materials Section and Conservation Division staff is only one example of successful partnership among library divisions to care for the Library’s collections.

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2 Comments

  1. Clare Imholtz
    April 22, 2022 at 11:41 am

    What a brilliant and fascinating article. The Library’s work is so impressive.

  2. Ed Lanfranco
    April 23, 2022 at 9:12 pm

    I concur with Imholtz’s comment. My question for the LoC is what is the equivalent for its acquired holdings on and from China? Hu Shih is my best guess, but he was an intellectual and made a donation, not a businessman whose books were bought for the benefit of American knowledge.

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