The SSEES archive online

Rejoice and prepare for some serious amounts of time wasting: SSEES – the University of London college where Bucharest Life once learnt Romanian – has placed much of its documentary archive online.

You can access it here.

The official blurb:

UCL SSEES Library is very pleased to announce that almost all the library’s content digitised under the EU-funded project EuropeanaTravel is now available for users in the UCL Digital Collections service. Just follow the link at to find nearly 400 digitised books, 200 digitised maps and numerous images from the archives and special collections.

There are tools available on the service to zoom in to the maps so they can be viewed in great detail, and there are three different methods for viewing the books including a page turner. Some of the images are also available in a new virtual exhibtion hosted by the European Library under the title Travelling Through History. This can be found at We hope you will experiment with the service and let us have any comments, and that the images will be useful for both teaching and research.

And time wasting, we might add.

Our pick so far – besides the maps, many of which are works of art – is this 1820 book called An Account of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia by William Wilkinson. Chapter V deals with Bucharest, and opens:

BUKOREST, the present capital of Wallachia, is an extensive dirty town, situated on a low and marshy ground, and containing eighty thousand inhabitants, three hundred and sixty-six churches, twenty monasteries, and thirty large hanns or caravanserays.

Most of the books and documents can be downloaded as PDFs to be printed off and read in the old fashioned way. We have as a result had to stock up on paper.

We could, as they say, be some time.

  • Mr Rearguard

    This summer I have found an alternative venue for comedy…and it’s for free. Simply get yourselves over to Herastrau Park and watch the locals try and ride those cheap rental bicycles. I’m not talking about children, I refer to anyone over 18. I’ve seen ’em ride into one another, I’ve seen ’em hit trees, I’ve seen ’em get tangled up in bushes, I’ve seen ’em fall flat on their sides because they don’t put their foot down when coming to a stop and I’ve even seen one ride into the lake whilst talking into his phone! It’s the best fun I’ve had in ages.

    • Parmalat


      There, you see?! Romanians should stick to their cars =))

      • Good point about this being over-18s, for while it is clear that a large minority of Romanian adults do not know how to ride a bike, a report I saw recently stated that amongst under-12s it was Britain who trailed Europe at this particular skill. One in six kids in the UK does not know how to ride a bike. Romania did much better (only one in ten does not know how to ride a bike). If I can find the damn link to the report I will post it.

        • Parmalat

          I remember that when I was 14-15 and riding a bike – all kids who knew how to ride a bike already had one at home. So kids wouldn’t go out to Herastrau to rent a bike, they would go out with their own bike, with or without their parents.

          Now the participants to this incognito comedy HAVE to be adults, who either knew how to ride a bike 20 years ago but they forgot to put their foot down when stopping, or didn’t know at all and thought it was easy to learn from their first try =))

          • Mr Rearguard

            I’ve just come back from that park again! Some very funny moments from the “rent a bike crew” were to be seen here! Now what do I do tomorrow…football in the pub or locals on the bikes? Tough one!

    • anon

      They are a hazard if you’re trying to skate too:( Almost got run over last week:( More amusing are those Indian Taxi style bikes over by the fairground side of H.

      • Parmalat

        Found skates in Buchrest, anon? 😀

  • Parmalat

    So it was an extensive dirty town back then too…

    • Ayce

      Yeah, just a lot worse. The Boyars were also worse then the nouveau-riches of today by the descriptions.

      • Parmalat

        There was a study which I read a few months ago: a boyar of old times would own wealth that – if sold at today’s prices – would value billions of $

        Those were indeed wealty: they had gold, they had land, they had vast properties and mansions; the nouveau-riche of today are just a bunch of peasants who managed to split the vast properties of the boyars as a combined effect of nationalization (communism) and then corruption (capitalism).

  • Ayce

    You can also check out the Romanian National Library collection of old manuscripts and books here (hosted on digitool too) here:

    • Excellent, thanks for posting the link.