History, geography and Library shelfmarks

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Claudia Ricci offers an update from the Bibliographic Services team, demonstrating how geopolitics have a direct bearing on where books in our collections are shelved…

“Kingdoms rise and fall, nations come and go”, according to the Confucian precept, but in the stacks of The London Library, and particularly in the History section, shelfmarks have traditionally been immune to change. Actually, this may have been the case for many decades, but lately things have started to change, as even we have had to accept that some “new” countries are here to stay. Therefore you will notice that a handful of new shelfmarks have appeared in the History stacks: we have created new sub-sections for H. BelarusH. KazakhstanH. Moldova and H. Ukraine.

Thanks to its policy of “preserving the original name of countries” the library had never adopted the heading “Soviet Union”, (after all this country only existed for a mere 70 years!), which makes our job easier today. Under  H. Russia you will still find many works that cover the past history of Ukraine or Belarus, as in the old medieval Chronicles, when the histories of the three countries were closely intertwined, or as in Soviet times, when all the socialist republics were treated as one country. But at least we no longer have to shelf Kuchma’s book “Ukraine is not Russia” in the section H. Russia…

Note: Eagle-eyed Library members will see a reference to the Library’s lack of an H. Ukraine shelfmark in the forthcoming issue of The London Library Magazine. This error should have been corrected before it went to print — our H. Ukraine shelfmark is alive and well! We hope you enjoy the books to be found there, along with the Magazine’s Hidden Corners piece on our Russian collections.


The new H. Belarus shelfmark sits proudly in our History stacks