Royal tombs, wall paper and neo-nazism

In the 1970s and 1980s books in the Scandinavian languages were strongly represented in the collections of the University Library, but since the University discontinued the teaching of these languages there has been less justification for acquiring material on the previous scale, with the notable exception of works to support teaching and research in the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic. The volume of material acquired by the Library in the 21st century has been relatively small.  Nevertheless our users do show a marked interest in Scandinavian titles, and in recent years there has been a noticeable increase in the number of recommendations covering archaeology, the fine arts, history and politics.

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Gorbachev’s collected works : the August 2016 Slavonic item of the month


The portraits from v. 1 and 26 of the newly acquired set

This month, we look at a recent political addition to the collections – the works of Mikhail Gorbachev – and examine the publications of his Soviet leader predecessors.

The University Library already holds dozens of titles by Gorbachev, chiefly from his 1985-1991 time in office.  The earliest is the 383-page ‘Izbrannye rechi i stat’i’ (Selected speeches and articles; 231.c.98.626) which is followed by a mixture of very short printings of speeches and much longer books.  The majority of our Gorbachev material is in English.  Russian comes a fairly distant second, and Chinese, German, and Belarusian account for the remainder.  Among our stock are biographies (Russian at 586:95.c.95.297-298; English at 586:95.c.95.315) as well as Soviet and post-Soviet political writings.

By the time Gorbachev’s works started to be published as a collected corpus, Politizdat (short for Izdatel’stvo politicheskoi literatury) – the official Soviet political publishing house – had long ceased to exist.  The set is instead being published by the private Ves’ Mir publishers in Moscow in conjunction with the Gorbachev Foundation.  Between 2008 and 2015, 26 volumes were published, covering the period of November 1961 (starting with a speech by the 22-year-old Gorbachev to the Stavropol’ Komsomol committee) to July 1991, with the Foundation’s preface to volume 1 stating clearly the intention for the set to cover the post-1991 period too.  The Library has managed to pick up 24 of the 26 volumes this summer, with volumes 22 and 25 lacking at the time of writing.  We intend to fill these gaps and order future volumes as and when they are published.  The volumes we have already can be ordered through the Reading Room from C211.c.5890- .

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Infographics during the war – charting victory with cute statistics

By early 1945, the tide of the Second World War had turned. The allies were winning the war of armaments, raw materials, and battles; victory was now a question of when, rather than if.

It was within this context that Libération-Soir, the newspaper, printed a special entitled Vers la défaite totale de l’Allemagne. Very much in common with modern infographics, which aim to convey a great deal of information (primarily statistics) in easy-to-digest charts and images, the aim of this 18 page publication was to show the inevitability of defeat for Germany. It did this by comparing a variety of statistics from 1939, 1942 and 1944, but also included some information (primarily in map form) from 1945.


A chart of German coal production: 1939, 1942, 1944

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Collections and Academic Liaison (CAL): the new face of European Collections and Cataloguing

At the beginning of July the European Collections and Cataloguing Department, the team responsible for the European languages across borders blog since its inception in November 2013, joined with the English Collections Department to create a new department called Collections and Academic Liaison (CAL).  It is pure coincidence, but slightly unfortunate timing, that the removal of the word European from our name coincided with the Brexit referendum.  Our commitment to developing the Library’s collections of European-language material and, through this blog, celebrating these and similar collections throughout the University of Cambridge remains as strong as ever.

Images from various posts published on this blog

In the very first post on the European languages across borders blog, I wrote about the work of European Collections and Cataloguing Department, covering the ambiguity of the word “European” in our title (we deal with languages of a European origin, buying from five continents and not one) and also about the division of responsibility here for the acquisition of European-language and English-language material.  Readers who have actively engaged in University Library acquisitions, primarily through donations and book recommendations, will most likely have found themselves dealing with one set of staff for English material and another for foreign material.

As the head of the new CAL department, it is obvious to me that the bringing together of the European and English strands offers significant opportunities to bring the two former departments out of their strict silos and into a more flexible way of working.  Uppermost in our concerns is the reader.  The internal set-up of the Library would not matter to him or her if the right books were acquired promptly, but we are confident that this new structure will help us ensure that our collections meet the needs of the University even more effectively.

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Realism and naturalism in Portugal

Portrait of Antonio Soares dos Reis by Marques de Oliveira via Wikimedia Commons

Portrait of Antonio Soares dos Reis by Marques de Oliveira, picture by Joseolgon via Wikimedia Commons

On a recent visit to Porto I spent a happy afternoon in the Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis and particularly enjoyed the work of some of the 19th century Portuguese artists, none of whom I had heard of but who deserve to be better known.  On my return to England, I discovered that the University Library had very few books dealing with these individual artists; further searching on COPAC and the Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal revealed that, in fact, very little has been published so far on them but we will be keeping an eye out in the future for any new publications dealing with them.

The museum is named after the sculptor António Soares dos Reis (1847-1889) and it contains a good collection of his works in a dedicated room. Continue reading