Operation Valkyrie 1944

The most famous assassination attempt on the life of Adolf Hitler took place on July 20th 1944 at the Wolfsschanze or Wolf’s Lair headquarters near Rastenburg, East Prussia. The plot was codenamed Operation Valkyrie and was led by the German aristocrat and army officer Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg in conjunction with General Friedrich Olbricht and General Ludwig Beck of the German general staff. The plot was the culmination of a more widespread anti-Nazi German resistance movement to overthrow Hitler and the Third Reich. This feature will commemorate the 70th anniversary of Operation Valkyrie and explore how the story of Stauffenberg and the July assassination plot is represented in the UL’s German collections.

Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg (source)

Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg (source)

Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg was born in 1907 into the German aristocracy and began his military career in the 1920s before Hitler and the Nazis came to power in 1933. Although he was never a member of the Nazi party, he did support Hitler’s invasion of Poland at the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 and was severely wounded in action in Africa in 1942. It was not until 1942-43 that Stauffenberg became one of the central figures of the German resistance movement within the Wehrmacht and by July 1944 he was the main driving force behind the plot to assassinate Hitler.

Continue reading


World War 2 propaganda (4)

The fourth and final post in our series on World War 2 propaganda features wartime humour in two variants of the parody “Last will and testament of Adolf Hitler”.

The first dates from mid-September 1939, two weeks after the start of the war.

Last will and testament of Adolf Hitler, version one.

Continue reading

First editions of Eça de Queirós at Cambridge University Library

A portrait by Antonio Carneiro, from Alves & Cia. (F192.d.12.2)

The University Library has recently acquired twelve original first editions of Eça de Queirós, one of the greatest novelists in Portuguese and a leading figure of the “Generation of 1870.”

Most of these first editions were published by Livraria Chardron, Léllo & Irmão, one of the oldest and most beautiful bookstores in Portugal, dating back to 1906 and still standing at 144, Rua das Carmelitas, in Porto. Eight out of the twelve editions were published posthumously, often at the initiative of Eça’s son, Jose María Eça de Queirós. They have all been catalogued and can be consulted in the Library’s Rare Books Room.

Continue reading

Luis Buñuel: international iconoclast

Former University Library staff member Glynne Parker died in October 2011, and after his death his wonderful collection of printed matter and ephemera on film was presented to the Library. At the time of writing, about 50% of the 2800 items have been catalogued. The general collection will feature in a future blog post, but some material is particularly worthy of mention.

A young Luis Buñuel (top right) with friends, including Federico García Lorca (bottom right), Madrid, 1923. ((source))

A young Luis Buñuel (top right) with friends, including Federico García Lorca (bottom right), Madrid, 1923. (source)

The A.G. Parker Film History Collection contains several books about Luis Buñuel (1900-1983), an artist and man of great contrasts and contradictions: he was arguably the best-known and most significant Spanish filmmaker of the 20th century, but almost all of his most famous films were produced outside Spain; he achieved international fame (and infamy) with his first two features, Un chien andalou and L’âge d’or, but then took 20 years to get his filmmaking career properly underway again; he was a leader of the international Surrealist movement, but made one of cinema’s most critically acclaimed and influential realist works in Los olvidados.

Continue reading

The cyclist as hero: Harry Graf Kessler and private press books (Special Collections blog)

This guest post, written by Dr Jaap Harskamp (formerly Curator of Dutch & Flemish collections at the British Library, who is now working on the University Library’s early Dutch books) celebrates the coming of the Tour de France to Cambridge.  It concerns Harry Graf Kessler and the connections between cycling and private press books.

The Eclogues of Vergil, in the original Latin. Edition limited to 264 copies [Weimar: Cranach Press, 1927], classmark Broxbourne.a.17 (p. [1])

The Eclogues of Vergil, in the original Latin. Edition limited to 264 copies [Weimar: Cranach Press, 1927], classmark Broxbourne.a.17 (p. [1])

The Library holds a number of collections of both printed and archival material of typographical interest such as the outstanding Stanley Morrison collection of books and papers, the Broxbourne collection, and others. It also has a considerable collection of printing artefacts associated with private presses (the Golden Cockerel Press, Eragny Press, and Ashendene Press amongst them) – including the punches, matrices and bookbinders’ tools from Harry Kessler’s Cranach Press.

Continue reading

The cahiers of Marcel Proust

In 2008 Brepols began to publish the 75 notebooks used by Marcel Proust between 1908 and his death in 1922 – Marcel Proust : cahiers 1 à 75 de la Bibliothèque nationale de France. The notebooks consist of some 8,000 handwritten pages, which are of fundamental importance for any study of the genesis of À la recherche du temps perdu. Barely a quarter had been published previously.

Proust cahiers - Covers

Proust cahiers – Covers

The cahiers are not being published sequentially. First to appear was cahier 54, which dates for the most part from 1914, approximately halfway through the composition of À la recherche du temps perdu. It deals almost entirely with the disappearance of Albertine and its aftermath. Three more cahiers have been published subsequently, numbers 26, 53 and 71.

Continue reading

Slavonic item of the month : June 2014

The subject for June 2014 is Iurii Andropov, the Soviet head of state in the wake of Brezhnev’s death, who was born 100 years ago in June 1914.  When Andropov died nearly 70 years later, in February 1984, he had been in power for only 15 months. We look at two fictional works about him.

Cover of Iurii Teshkin's /Andropov i drugie/(Andropov and others; 9003.d.1849 )

Cover of Iurii Teshkin’s Andropov i drugie (Andropov and others; 9003.d.1849

Although Iurii Vladimirovich Andropov led the Soviet Union for only a short time, his was already a well-known name when he took power in late 1982.  He had been linked to the repression of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 (Andropov was the Soviet ambassador to Hungary from 1953 to 1956) and to other international military interventions such as the putting down of the Prague Spring in February 1968.  By 1968, Andropov had become the head of the KGB, a position he was to hold for 15 years.

On the basis of Andropov’s pre-leadership career, then, he was seen as a Soviet hawk – and one with a KGB background to boot.  Stories from his leadership, though, suggest a possibly more liberal side.  A search for Andropov Gorbachev on our LibrarySearch+ catalogue of electronic resources, for example, comes up with a hit for a Guardian article from 1991 which reports a revelation by a government aide that Andropov saw the progressive Gorbachev as his successor and not the conservative Chernenko.

The uncertainty of what Andropov might have achieved had he not died so quickly after coming to power might, then, explain why two of the University Library’s holdings about Andropov are works of fiction.

Continue reading