The exhibits include lifetime publications of Shevchenko’s work from Mezhenko’s collection: Chyhyrynsky Kobzar i Haidamaky (The Chyhyryn Kobzar and Haidamaky, 1844), Novyie stikhotvoreniya Pushkina i Shevchenko (New Poems by Pushkin and Shevchenko, 1859), Kobzar (1860), Bukvar yuzhnorusski (The South-Russian ABC, 1861), the magazine Narodnoye chteniye (Popular Reading), where Shevchenko’s autobiography was published in 1860, two first issues of the first Ukrainian magazine Osnova (Foundation, January-February 1861), and 150 editions of Kobzar (from the first posthumous edition of 1867 to the one published in 1969).
According to Maria KORNIICHUK, unit director at the Museum of Books and Printing, Mezhenko was a deep and diverse figure. He was the first director of the Book Chamber of Ukraine, an enthusiast of librarianship, and an inveterate cultural and spiritual activist. His collection of Shevchenko’s heritage is worth special mentioning: it was gathered for nearly 60 years, and comprises almost 15,000 units! The collection includes various printed monuments, letters, pieces of fine arts, posters, postcards, and other artifacts which have something to do with the poet’s life. For instance, the Geneva edition of 1881 has survived in mere two copies (one is in Mezhenko’s collection, the other in the Library of the British Museum). Another tome of Kobzar is the only survivor of a hundred copies, hectographed in 1899 by the students of St. Volodymyr University of Kyiv. No less special is the Kobzar, edited and printed by Mezhenko in Kyiv. There are other peculiar editions of Kobzar, illustrated by famous artists, for instance, Vasyl Kasiyan, Sofia Karafa-Korbut, Ivan Yizhakevych, Anton Sereda, Vasyl Krychevsky and others.
Among the rare editions of the 1930s-1940s is the forbidden and persecuted Kobzar of 1931, illustrated by Vasyl Sedliar. There is also a Kobzar, published in 1940 by Yevhen-Yuli Pelensky on occasion of the collection’s first centennial, two Prague editions of 1941, with forewords and comments by Dmytro Doroshenko and Leonid Biletsky. And this is but a tiny part of Mezhenko’s huge collection, which is now preserved at the Shevchenko Institute of Literature at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.
The unique exhibits are on display through April 6.