The tragic death of Veniamin Khudolei of St. Petersburg deprives the world of bookplates at the international level of a major figure who will not be replaced and Russian medical research of an individual who was approaching academician stature.

          As a bookplate specialist Veniamin was the leading personality of his generation in Russia whose energies, expertise, and enthusiasm were driving Russian bookplate life to exceed accomplishments not witnessed since the 1920s. As a collector he brought a high standard of connoisseurship to this branch of the auxiliary historical sciences and formed perhaps the finest collection of twentieth-century Russian material in existence, augmented by astute acquisitions of earlier collections which became available. His organizing skills and vision brought St. Petersburg artists to the forefront in Russia; more than any other individual he is responsible for the emergence of the so-called “St. Petersburg School” of bookplate design that has dominated the former Soviet Union and Post-Soviet era by reason of its excellence, originality, and creative imagination. When his predecessor, Viktor Shapiel, emigrated to Austria and deprived Leningrad of his organizing genius, Veniamin stepped into his shoes and expanded the horizons of the artistic community beyond all expectations.

          Khudolei was among the elite group of individuals who have made a genuine academic contribution to bookplate studies. A full bibliography of his labors remains to be compiled (and should be), but he authored countless monographs and catalogues, arranged countless exhibitions, produced the definitive monograph of Russian imperial bookplates, was not merely the editor, but a major moving force, behind the emergence of the Russian Ex-Libris Journal, and had several works in process intended to advance bookplate scholarship. He served on the Editorial Board of Bookplate International from its inception, contributing numerous articles and notes.

          Although Russian bookplates formed the core of his collection, Khudolei was an internationalist at heart. He sought and achieved world recognition for his stable of St. Petersburg artists. He and his team organized one of the most memorable FISAE congresses (1998) at St. Petersburg, with a stunning series of attendant exhibitions and a series of receptions at The Hermitage and in St. Petersburg palaces that left participants stupefied in awe. His term as President of FISAE (1996-98) was followed by two terms as First and Second Vice President respectively (1998-2002), and he continued to assist with much appreciated advice when called upon.

          In 2003 he was awarded the Gianni Mantero Certificate by FISAE for his exceptional service in the “propagation of the bookplate” and in 2004 the Udo Ivask Certificate for his magnificent catalogue of Russian royal bookplates as an outstanding contribution to bookplate scholarship.

          To be sure, bookplates were merely one dimension of Veniamin’s rich and productive life. His contributions to cancer research require a specialist other than I to recount and evaluate them; suffice it to observe that he was elected to the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences at an unusually young age and was widely regarded as a serious candidacy for election to the senior Academy.

          We mourn Veniamin as friend and colleague, but in full recognition that he is irreplaceable in bookplate circles. Our loss is immense.


W. E. Butler

Executive Secretary, FISAE