Polish in the University and in the UL : the July 2017 Slavonic items of the month

This week has seen the very welcome news that the pilot Polish Studies Programme, launched in 2014, has succeeded in attracting funding which will ensure that Polish will remain in the University academic programme in perpetuity.  To celebrate this wonderful development, the July 2017 Slavonic blog post looks at Polish holdings in the University Library.

The UL holds over 25,000 volumes in Polish.  The period covered by the Polish-language collections stretches over a span of more than 450 years from the mid-16th century to the current day.  Books printed before 1800 are the smallest component, but they include some extremely important and rare items.  The earliest book in Polish in the University Library is the first printed translation of the Bible into Polish, which was produced in 1561 in Kraków.  The second translation, printed in 1563, is rarer than the first; all but 20 or so copies were destroyed.  The University Library is fortunate enough to have two copies each of these first two editions (Young.55 and BSS.232.B61; Young.56 and BSS.232.B63).

Images from the Young.55 copy of the 1561 Polish Bible.

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Denis Mack Smith, 1920-2017

We were saddened to hear last week of the death of Denis Mack Smith, CBE FBA FRSL, considered to be the greatest English historian of modern Italy. Born on March 3, 1920, he wrote extensively on the history of Italy from the Risorgimento onwards and is best known for his works on Garibaldi, Cavour and Mussolini. He was honoured both in this country and abroad.  An emeritus fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and an honorary fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford and of Peterhouse here in Cambridge, he was named Grand Official of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic in 1996.

Here at the UL, in addition to our extensive holdings of his works, we have numerous items that were part of his personal library and which have been very generously passed on to us by the Bodleian. It has been a pleasure and privilege to unpack, sort and catalogue these items, and I have endeavoured to highlight some of them in past blog posts. Very poignantly, I heard the news of his death, on July 11 2017, whilst unpacking the latest consignment to arrive from Oxford. I shall treasure the opportunity to add these to our collections, and remain extremely grateful both to the Bodleian and to Denis Mack Smith for passing these on.

Bettina Rex

From cabaret to the Nuremberg trials

The shortlist for this year’s Diagram Prize for the oddest book title of the year was announced last week, with the winner to be declared on 28 July. Last year’s winner of the prize was Too naked for the Nazis by Alan Stafford (C212.c.7711), a biography of the music hall dance act Wilson, Keppel and Betty. As a Germanophile, this title caught my eye but I was then pleased to find further German connections as Betty Knox, the original Betty, got to know Erika Mann, the daughter of Thomas Mann.

The explanation of the book’s title is that in the mid-1930s the trio had performed in Berlin and Joseph Goebbels, propaganda minister, had been in the audience. He found the bare legs of Wilson and Keppel (skinny and with bony knees, part of the humour of the act) to be indecent and bad for the morals of the Nazi youth. Continue reading

The Robert Howes donation on the Portuguese revolution and colonial wars

Cambridge University Library is grateful to Dr. Robert Howes for his donation of material on the Portuguese revolution of 1974 and the Portuguese colonial wars.

This donation significantly extends and complements our holdings on the history of the period, providing a good insight into the atmosphere and activism of the times.
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The Georgian avant-garde / Georgia and Georgian in the UL : the June 2017 “Slavonic” item of the month

Among recent arrivals from Russia is a lovely book called Gruzinskii avangard (The Georgian avant-garde; S950.a.201.5351), produced to accompany an exhibition held at the Pushkin Fine Arts Museum in Moscow.  This Russian-language catalogue is a valuable addition to our collections, giving insight into 20th-century art from a country not exhaustively represented in the Library.

The book contains articles about the Georgian avant-garde followed by 140 or so pages of beautiful reproductions and then a full catalogue listing of the 200+ items used in the exhibition (accompanied by thumbprint reproductions).  An English summary can be found at the end of the book.   As the pictures above hopefully show, the volume is punctuated by smaller pages in addition to its main pagination.  These provide further illustrative content.

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