Botev’s notebook in the digital archive

The Cherepishka sword is in the right hand of the legendary rebel leader Hristo Botev until his last breath
16 March 2021

Part of Bulgaria’s literary heritage is now accessible to the general public through the power of modern technologies. The modest diary with black covers, which is stored in the vaults of the Bulgarian National Bank, is now issued in a boutique version – in a luxury box with a mini book and flash memory. The electronic medium contains 20 poems by Hristo Botev, as “Hadji Dimitar”, “Fight” and “My Prayer” are also published in English. The digitized copy is accompanied by a bilingual book with biographical data, documents related to Botev’s life, as well as his poems. The luxury edition of Hristo Botev’s pocket diary is a joint project of the National Library “St. St. Cyril and Methodius ”and the Regional Library in Vratsa. The occasion is 170 years since the birth of the revolutionary poet. It can easily be said that his personal notebook is one of the most valuable documents related to the life of Hristo Botev. It measures 9 by 13.5 cm and has 87 pages. It is interesting that Hristo Botev took notes in his personal diary from the middle of 1875 to May 1876. This is the most dramatic year of his life, which in a way is reflected in this notebook.

In the diary we can find a variety of information – the names of various Bulgarian Revival and revolutionary figures of the nineteenth century and a draft or a manuscript version of the poem “The Hanging of Vasil Levski.” It differs significantly from the widely-known version of the work. This is one of the few, and probably the only documentary evidence, about how Hristo Botev edited his texts to perfection. In it, we can also find the names of rebels and candidate rebels, i.e. people who have expressed a desire to participate in his detachment and those who have actually taken. Between pages 29 to 86 are written about 200 names of his associates. There are also notes related to his personal expenses. On one of the pages, you can see a recording of an Arabic proverb, which made a strong impression on him: “Love those that sincerely love you, even if they stand on the lowest step. Do not love those that do not love you, even if he is the sultan of Egypt. The page contains only this proverb, which expands our idea of ​​the personality of Hristo Botev – what impressed him, what occupies his mind, and somehow is recorded and stored in the personal notebook.

The fate of the document itself is also interesting. It remains in Botev’s possession the whole time, even on the ship “Radetski”. The last record is on May 17, 1876, the day the detachment captured the ship. Hristo Botev knew very well what information was in the notebook and what trouble it would bring not only to him but also to the detachment in case it was found. So he handed it over, along with several other personal documents, to his associate Dimitar Gorov, who traveled with him, but got off one stop earlier – at the port of Bechet. It probably then handed over to Todor Peev, a Revival revolutionary activist and scientist. He kept it in his personal archive until his death in 1904. Until 1940, no one suspected the existence of the notebook, until the great Bulgarian writer Nikola Danchov found it in his personal archive, as reported in an article in the newspaper “Dawn” from 1940 “Some unknown relics of Botev.” For decades, this document remained unknown to researchers and the general public. In 1948 it was part of the Bulgarian Historical Archive of the National Library in Sofia and is stored in the vault of the Bulgarian National Bank.

The digitized notebook is available on the official websites of the National Library “St. St. Cyril and Methodius ”and Regional Library “Hristo Botev”- Vratsa.