Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-1768)

Portrait of Winckelmann by Angelica Kauffmann via Wikimedia Commons

This December marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of Johann Joachim Winckelmann, one of the most important scholars of his age. He was the founder of modern art history and archaeology and a pioneer of German classicism.

Winckelmann, who was born into humble origins as the son of a shoemaker, spent the first three decades of his life in the German provinces before coming to Dresden. At the age of 38, he moved to Rome where he became one of the most sought-after city guides and associated with noblemen from all over Europe. He established a wide network of correspondents from Italy, France, England and other countries. It is unlikely that the international reception of Winckelmann’s work would have been so far-reaching without this European network. Winckelmann is unquestionably one of the most prominent, and perhaps even one of the first German-speaking, writers of the modern period, who was read and received with great attention throughout Europe. Continue reading

Vsia vlast’ sovetam! : October Revolution and the November 2017 Slavonic item of the month

This month, we look at a little ephemeral piece from the Catherine Cooke collection – a 1977 page-per-day calendar – soon to go on display online and in the Library’s entrance hall, and its entry for the 60th anniversary of the October Revolution.

1977 calendar; CCD.54.329.

When the Bolsheviks initiated their armed overthrow of the Provisional Government, in power since the February Revolution earlier that year, the date in Russia was 25 October 1917.  Elsewhere in Europe, where the Gregorian calendar had long been in force, it was 7 November.  The name of the October Revolution, however, as mentioned also in an earlier post, stuck in both East and West, even after the Gregorian calendar was adopted by the Soviets in 1918.

While the 25 October (the “Old Style” date for the revolution) entry in the 1977 calendar does make reference to the events of 1917, the chief entry for the revolution appears here on the page for 7 November (the “New Style” or Gregorian date).

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Cantab Abolitionists and the Low Countries

This guest post by Dr Jaap Harskamp (formerly Curator of Dutch & Flemish collections at the British Library) shows how the efforts of two men with links to Cambridgeshire (Thomas Clarkson, born in Wisbech, and Olaudah Equiano who lived in Soham) had an impact on the slave debate in the Low Countries.

The Atlantic slave trade began in the mid-1400s and lasted into the 19th century. Initially, Portuguese traders purchased small numbers of slaves on the western coast of Africa and transported them for sale in the Iberian Peninsula. The trade expanded when European nations began colonizing the Americas. By the 1600s the Dutch were contesting the English and French for control of the trade, but England emerged as the dominant slave-dealing nation. As the Empire expanded, slaves were sent across the seas to work on plantations in the Caribbean or the Americas. Others, in much smaller numbers, were ferried into the ports of London, Liverpool and Bristol on ships carrying lucrative commodities. To engage an African servant became a status symbol: Samuel Pepys employed a ‘blackmore’ cook, Dr Johnson left his Jamaican-born manservant Francis Barber a £70 annuity, and Royal Academy sculptor Joseph Nollekens hired a female servant nicknamed ‘Miss Bronze’. Continue reading

Fashion in the UL (continued)

We wrote last year about Fashion in the UL but with a distinct emphasis on French and Italian. Now we can give a more Germanic perspective as we have recently completed our holdings of the eight volume set Die Mode by Max von Boehn, a standard reference work published in the 1920s (our original purchase lacked one volume on the early 19th century which we were able to acquire separately later). The set covers fashion from the Middle Ages right through to 1914 and each volume is illustrated with artwork from the relevant time period. This becomes most interesting in this more recently acquired volume dealing with 1818-1842: as well as reproductions of paintings, it also includes exquisite colour plates reproduced from the Wiener Zeitschrift für Kunst, Literatur, Theater und Mode, a publication which ran for just over 30 years in the early 19th century but which is significant for its many colourful fashion illustrations. Here are some examples (click on each image to see an enlarged version): Continue reading

Cyrillic Mongolian : the October 2017 “Slavonic” item(s) of the month

Cyrillic became the chief alphabet of the Mongolian language in Mongolia in the 1940s and has remained so to this day.  “Mongolia” here refers to the independent country, an area also known as Outer Mongolia.  Inner Mongolia, within Chinese borders, still uses the classic Mongolian alphabet – which, rather mind-bendingly, derives from a Semitic script.  The transition to Cyrillic in Soviet Mongolia from the traditional alphabet took in Latin on the way, in the 1930s.  In 1932, the famous linguist Nikolai Poppe published a text book on the Mongolian language in which he employed both the classic (here shown horizontally but normally written vertically) and Latin alphabets:

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