The illustrated Lermontov : the October 2014 Slavonic item of the month

The 200th anniversary of the great Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov’s birth falls this month, as marked by library and literary blogs the world over.  In this post, we look at books produced a hundred years ago to mark the first centenary of his birth, focusing in particular on a illustrated set of his complete works.

Illustration for Lermontov's Aul Bastundzhi by Martiros San'ian (S756.b.91.6)

Illustration for Lermontov’s Aul Bastundzhi by Martiros San’ian (S756.b.91.6)

The earliest book by Lermontov held by the University Library was published in 1842; this is the first half of a two-volume set of his poems (8757.d.7-8).  The poet had already died the year before, killed outright in a duel in the Caucasus at the age of 26.  Only one collection of his poetry was published in his lifetime, in 1840; his poems had otherwise been printed in larger, shared publications.  A great deal of Lermontov’s work came out only after his untimely death, although Geroi nashego vremeni (Hero of our time), the prose novel for which he is possibly best known to Anglophone readers, had already appeared in 1840.

One hundred years ago, the centenary of Lermontov’s death was celebrated in print by a number of special issues of and about his work.  Among them was the set which is our Slavonic item of the month.  Illiustrirovannoe polnoe sobranie sochinenii M.Iu. Lermontova (The illustrated complete works of M.Iu. Lermontov; S756.b.91.1-6).  Five of the six volumes which make up this lovely set contain works by Lermontov himself.  The last contains recollections of the poet by his acquaintances and a section of critical articles on his work.  All six are liberally illustrated with pictures by a large number of various artists, including the poet himself.  Minor illustrations are printed directly on to the page, with more significant ones printed on to individual plates.

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Private Lives of Print: The use and abuse of books 1450-1550 (Special Collections blog)

The Library’s latest exhibition Private Lives of Print: The use and abuse of books 1450-1550 is now open to the public. Over fifty incunabula are on display, selected for their copy-specific features ranging from glorious bindings to expunged texts, from elegant illuminations to crude doodles. The accompanying virtual exhibition adds several films, including curator introductions to the subject, a demonstration of the Library’s reproduction historical printing press, and rotating views of two of the most beautiful bindings. A selection of items is also available to view in full on Cambridge Digital Library. Continue reading

Modeling Moscow : Life, Architecture, and the Composite Shot in Soviet Films of the 1930s

Professor Anne Nesbet opened the new academic year’s CamCREES seminar series with a wonderful talk on Moscow architecture and Soviet films.  In these bibliographical notes for the talk, we take the opportunity to look at books about the legendary Palace of the Soviets, the megalithic giant planned for central Moscow but never completed.

Frame diagram of the Lenin statue to stand at the top of the Palace of the Soviet (Atarov, Dvorets Sovetov; CCC.54.383)

Frame diagram of the Lenin statue to stand at the top of the Palace of the Soviets (Atarov, Dvorets Sovetov; CCC.54.383)

The 2014/15 set of CamCREES seminars started on 14 October with a fascinating talk by Professor Nesbet, in which she demonstrated that close readings of the “complicated composite shots” some 1930s Soviet films contained of Moscow’s architectural future could tell us “not only about the techniques used to construct such visions of the future, but also about cinema’s relationship to architectural history and architecture’s reciprocal interest in animation” (text taken from the talk’s abstract).  Professor Nesbet works in the Department of Film & Media at UC Berkeley.  Her 2007 book Savage junctures : Sergei Eisenstein and the shape of thinking is in the University Library’s South Front (415:3.c.200.1917).

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The Queen in Québec

Québec City in 1744 -

Québec City in 1744 –

In October 1964, Queen Elizabeth went to Québec as part of a visit to Canada (which took in PEI, Québec and Ottawa). Her reception there was not entirely welcoming. Riots met much of her visit to Québec, with anti-royalists and separatists greeting her with chants such as “Elizabeth stay at home” and “Vive le Québec libre!”. Her visit coincided with the growth of a nationalist and separatist movement that dominated the politics of Québec – and Canada in general – over the next 50 years. During her visit, the FLQ’s journal La Cognée dismissed the Queen “qui n’est qu’un symbole du colonialisme” (Fournier, F.L.Q., page 95). Continue reading

The little-known Nobel laureate

A selection of older Modiano novels in the UL

A selection of Modiano novels in the UL

Since the announcement on October 9th of the 2014 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, much has been written in the media both here and across the Atlantic attempting to answer the question “Who on earth is Patrick Modiano?”. He is a well-known author in his native France, having won both the Grand Prix du roman de l’Académie française in 1972 and the Prix Goncourt in 1978, but is much less renowned in the English-speaking world, perhaps because only a few of his works have been translated into English. Continue reading

Tracking down items in Afrikaans

The languages handled by European Collections and Cataloguing fall into three categories – languages taught in the University and very actively collected, languages formerly taught, in which we sometimes have a considerable number of items but in which few new imprints are acquired (a post on our Icelandic holdings is currently in preparation), and items in languages which have never been taught and studied, where virtually all additions are as a result of donation. Afrikaans material is a good example. Afrikaans is a West Germanic language that is widely spoken in South Africa, Namibia and to a lesser extent in Botswana and Zimbabwe. Most of the Afrikaans vocabulary is of Dutch origin but it adopted words from Portuguese, the Bantu languages, Malay and the Khoisan languages too. The First Afrikaans Language Movement, established in 1875, made a concerted attempt to establish Afrikaans as a separate language from Dutch. The first Afrikaans newspaper was started in 1876, and publishing houses specialising in Afrikaans language material began publication in 1914 and 1915. But even the Afrikaner (Boer) Republics at the time of the South African War in 1899-1902 used Dutch in their publications and official documents.

Given that publications in Afrikaans are of relatively recent date, and have never been actively collected, it is slightly surprising to realise that some 1,500 titles in Afrikaans are scattered through the Library’s collections. Approximately 10 to 15 titles are added each year. Afrikaans was never thought important enough to merit a separate number in our classification scheme for language and literature. Literary texts in and about Afrikaans are clustered with Dutch literature in class 751.

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Closed or open access – how do we decide?

Overflows on North Front 4

Overflows on North Front 4

Many of you will have noticed the groaning shelves around the library, and our attempts to accommodate the continuous supply of new material. We move things around, we take away lesser consulted items, we remove the very large “a” size material, constantly revisiting and looking for ways in which to give our readers easy access to what they most need. It is not an easy task. Books keep coming, and overflows grow.

In European Collections and Cataloguing we are trying to address this, by looking carefully at what we send to the open shelves. As we catalogue an item, we decide where it should stand, going through a checklist of decisions in our minds. Firstly, should it be borrowable or non-borrowable? Wanting readers to have easy access to an item, we would prefer to make it borrowable where possible, only making it non-borrowable if it were particularly expensive or rare, if it had many plates and illustrations, or if it were either very large or conversely quite slight. Continue reading