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.

Continue reading

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

Oktoberfest in the UL

Typical Oktoberfest revellers, S570.b.91.1

Typical Oktoberfest revellers, S570.b.91.1

Oktoberfest (also known as Wiesn), is the world’s biggest festival and is celebrated for sixteen days from late September to the first week of October in Munich. This year, the festival’s 181st, ran from September 20-October 5. It was first celebrated when Bavarian King Ludwig I married Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810.

There are a number of books relating to Oktoberfest and related subjects at the University Library, both modern books explaining the history of the festival and its place in German culture, and books from throughout the festival’s history. These include Das Münchener Oktoberfest (Zentral-Landwirtschafts-Fest) 1810-1910 (S570.b.91.1) which describes the history of the first one hundred years of the Oktoberfest, featuring sections on how traditions have been maintained and how they’ve evolved during that time period, and also how the festival is planned. The book includes contributions of writings about the festival (some of which are in Pfälzisch, a German dialect that is spoken in Rheinland-Pfalz Germany). Das Münchner Oktoberfest : Brauchformen des Volksfestes zwischen Aufklärung und Gegenwart / Gerda Möhler (573:01.c.47.100) explains how Oktoberfest’s traditions and practices have developed over the course of its history. Continue reading

Literary prizes and immortality – update!

We have previously written about whether winning a literary prize (even a major one) guarantees an author’s literary legacy. In that post we looked at two authors who won major prizes in France in 1913, and evaluated their legacy in terms of the University Library’s holdings.

We have since purchased two new books that tackle this same question, although the books don’t approach the subject from the point of view of a library’s collection development policy. These books ask about the importance of literary prizes as well as the importance of those who have won them: are they historically important? Is there cultural or literary value to studying those who won major prizes many years ago? Continue reading

Slavonic item of the month : September 2014

Front cover of Al'bum politv'iaznia by Paladii Osynka (CCC.62.121).

Front cover of Al’bum politv’iaznia by Paladii Osynka (CCC.62.121).

The University Library is currently running a small exhibition of Ukrainian diaspora material from the Peter Yakimiuk Collection in the main entrance hall.  The September item of the month is also from this collection – a book of drawings and wry caricatures of the horrors of Auschwitz seen through the eyes of a Ukrainian political prisoner.

Petro Balei was a Ukrainian writer and nationalist who emigrated to North America after World War II, a very common background among authors whose work is represented in the Yakimiuk Collection.  The majority of books by such authors in the collection usually cover Ukrainian history and politics, including personal narratives of active engagement in fighting during the war.  Balei’s work, however, is rather different – under the pseudonym Paladii Osynka, he produced a book of caricatures of life in Auschwitz, where he spent several years as a political prisoner. 

Continue reading

A German protégé of Catherine the Great

Pallas - Vol. 1, Title page

Pallas – Vol. 1, Title page

A splendid two volume work on Mongol ethnic groups, by Peter Simon Pallas, Sammlungen historischer Nachrichten über die mongolischen Völkerschaften, has just been added to the University Library’s collections (CCB.57.21). It was published in quarto format in St. Petersburg in 1776 (1. Theil) and 1801 (2. Theil). A smaller octavo edition, but only of the first volume, was published in Frankfurt and Leipzig by Johann Georg Fleischer in 1779, and stands at Acton.d.23.1479. The first edition makes no reference on the title-page to the splendid engravings by D.R. Nitschmann which form an integral part of the publication, but in 1779 Fleischer gave them greater prominence, the title-page emphasising the “Erster Theil, mit vielen Kupfern”. Each engraving is accompanied by a paragraph of description.

The author, Peter Simon Pallas, was the subject of a substantial academic monograph in 2 volumes by Folkwart Wendland, published in 1992 (570:01.c.66.83-84). Pallas was a German zoologist and botanist, a protégé of Catherine the Great, who in 1767 became a professor at the St Petersburg Academy of Sciences, and between 1768 and 1774 travelled extensively throughout the Russian Empire collecting natural history specimens. His reports were collected and published as Reise durch verschiedene Provinzen des Russischen Reichs (Mm.48.49, MA.7.101-105, CCA.28.15-18 and Mm.29.77-) between 1771 and 1776, and covered a variety of topics, including geology, accounts of new plants and animals, and descriptions of native peoples and their religions. Pallas gave his name to a variety of animals and birds, including Pallas’s cat, Pallas’s tube-nosed fruit bat, Pallas’s cormorant and Pallas’s grasshopper warbler. Continue reading