Lukas Cranach the Younger 500


Portrait-medallion of M. Luther by L. Cranach d.J. on title page of P. Melanchthon’s biography of Luther (F*.12.44(F))

500 years ago, on October 4, 1515, the Renaissance artist Lukas Cranach the Younger was born. To mark this anniversary a number of major exhibitions are being put on in Germany. The main exhibition is being held in Wittenberg, the town associated with Luther and the Reformation and where Luther famously nailed his 95 theses to the church door. Wittenberg was also the location of Cranach’s workshop which he took over from his father, Lukas Cranach the Elder. Both father and son were closely linked with the Reformation as they created portraits of the main protagonists of the Reformation and painted altar pieces with images that served the cause of the Reformation.

The exhibition in Wittenberg is unique as it is the first one to be solely devoted to the work of Lukas Cranach the Younger. Until now scholars have considered his work mainly in the context of the work of his father. The exhibition and related publications aim to consider Cranach the Younger as an artist in his own right. The exhibition has been designated as “State Exhibition Saxony-Anhalt”, thus giving it further significance.

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“Darwin and Mechnikov in Tolstoy’s literary imagination”

Friday 9 October sees the start of the 2015/16 CamCREES seminars. At the previous year’s final seminar, Professor Anna Berman (McGill University) spoke on Tolstoy’s attitude towards the scientific discoveries of Charles Darwin and Il’ia Mechnikov.  These CamCREES bibliographical notes look at accounts of Tolstoy’s meeting with Mechnikov and at Russian books on the latter and Darwin.

Darwin, Mechnikov, Tolstoy

An intellectual triptych:Darwin, Mechnikov, Tolstoy.

Tolstoy’s opinion of science and scientists was, as all his opinions, very certain and firmly held.  Mechnikov in particular comes in for a scathing reception in his letters and diaries (one of his books is described as “very interesting in its scientific stupidity”).  Yet, as Professor Berman explained, despite Tolstoy’s frequent criticism of Darwin’s and Mechnikov’s theories “their ideas helped shape his fictional works. In Anna Karenina, Tolstoy used his two main characters to represent an acceptance and a rejection of Darwinian theory and, in so doing, highlighted the dangers of regarding it as scientific law. In his final novel, Resurrection, rather than making the characters’ fates provide a judgement on scientific theory as he did in Anna Karenina, Tolstoy co-opted Mechnikov’s phagocytic theory for his own ends, making it the metaphoric basis for his moral philosophy. This offered him a way of synthesizing science and religion through art.” (from the talk’s abstract)

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25th anniversary of German reunification


Book cover of “Deutschlandbilder” (9001.b.5770)

In November 2014 we described how the University Library collected material extensively about the fall of the Berlin Wall in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Similar energy was spent 25 years ago in gathering together material on German reunification, and this has remained a focus of our collection development ever since. Since on October 3rd it is the 25th anniversary of the union of East and West Germany, it seems an appropriate moment to take stock.

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Austen in Austria and Persuasion in Parma : the imperial collection of Marie-Louise, second wife of Napoleon

The crowned monogram of Marie-Louise

The crowned monogram of Marie-Louise

Marie-Louise of Austria (according to French and German Wikipedias), Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma (according to English Wikipedia), Marie Louise,‏ Empress, consort of Napoleon I, Emperor of the French,‏ 1791-1847‏ (according to the Library of Congress), or simply Marie-Louise, in the new book of selections from her journal in the UL, Adieu à l’empereur : journal de voyage de Marie-Louise / édition, introduction et commenatire par Charles-Éloi Vial (C204.d.1687). Her marriage to Napoleon from 1810-1814 was a politically inspired one, and followed his marriage to Josephine. Their marriage ended upon his exile, when she became duchess of Parma, Piacenza and Guastella. Marie-Louise remarried upon Napoleon’s death, and eventually lived until 1847.

Adieu à l’empereur contains some of Marie-Louise’s journal entries and a selection of letters between her and Napoleon. By all accounts a very well educated woman, Marie-Louise is primarily represented in the University Library as the subject of popular histories (for example: The women Napoleon loved by Tighe Hopkins, 1910, 454.c.91.5), diaries and letters (The private diaries of the Empress Marie-Louise, wife of Napoleon I with introduction and commentary by Frédéric Masson, 1922, 568.d.92.4; and Correspondance de Marie Louise, 1799-1847 : lettres intimes et inédites à la comtesse de Colloredo et à Mlle de Poutet, depuis 1810 comtesse de Crenneville, 1887, RB.26.38), and as the recipient of letters (Lettres inédites à Marie-Louise : écrites de 1810 à 1814 by Napoleon, in a volume of 1935, at 456.c.93.590). To a certain extent, her education is attributable to improving her marriageability: for instance, she was fluent in German (her native language), French, Italian, Latin, and Spanish. Continue reading

Belarus and Belarusian in the University Library : the September 2015 Slavonic item(s) of the month

Belarus has a small but steady presence in the University Library, with over 1800 items published in Belarus held here already and a dozen or so more added every year.  The primary language is Russian, with Belarusian a sizeable minority.  This post looks at the language divide in our holdings and at some recent acquisitions.


Covers of books in the library of P.F. Hlebka contained in the recently acquired bibliography of his collection (C210.c.2092)

Of the books produced in Belarus held by the University Library, fewer are in Belarusian (750) than in Russian (950).  To a certain extent, this is a reflection of the Library’s collection development policy which focuses on material in languages taught in the University.  Russian is the main Slavonic language to be taught in Cambridge, and Belarusian is not taught, although Belarus and its culture and history do feature postgraduate and post-doctoral research.  The division of languages in our Belarusian holdings is also, however, to a degree representative of language use in Belarus itself.

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Hollywood in rural Italy

When we posted about the silent film journal Griffithiana back in April 2014, about 50% of the A.G. Parker Film History Collection had been catalogued. Now about 80% has been processed. Scholars who have used the collection so far have appreciated the wide range of languages covered, and have stressed to me the scarcity and value of the many imprints from the 1920s and 1930s which are included.

Hollywood in Friuli : sul set di Addio alle armi (CCA.56.314)

Hollywood in Friuli : sul set di Addio alle armi (CCA.56.314)

The Italian component consists so far of 334 titles. Coverage of books on silent cinema is particularly strong, with a number of titles relating to the Pordenone Silent Film Festival. The earliest Italian imprint in the collection is from 1932, Introduzione a un’estetica del cinema by Alberto Consiglio (CCC.56.100). Many of these books are, of course, lavishly illustrated and of quite a large format, so they are interesting and rewarding to process. They are sometimes produced by fairly small, specialist Italian publishers, and are often not held by any other British library. One such volume which meets all these criteria is Hollywood in Friuli : sul set di Addio alle armi, published by La Cineteca del Friuli in 1991. (CCA.56.314)

Poster from 1957’s A farewell to arms

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Deciphering inscriptions

Details of provenance, and other information on what makes the Library’s copies of a publication distinctive, form an increasingly important part of processing activity for the European Collections and Cataloguing team. Thirty years ago the Rare Book Department used to maintain a card catalogue of provenance information, albeit on a very selective basis. Nowadays we incorporate such detail into our cataloguing records, often trying to reproduce inscriptions in full, and providing access points for former owners, dedicatees and inscribers. This can, of course, be challenging, since none of us are handwriting specialists. Anyone familiar with early 20th century German handwriting, for example, as represented in the Library’s Schnitzler Archive, can have no doubt on that score. Schnitzler’s handwriting is hugely difficult. Continue reading