The Republican Calendar

The clocks have changed, the nights are growing longer, and the cold wintry days of Frimaire are now upon us. The French Republican calendar is not used anymore, but it was in use for a significant period of time following the French Revolution, and approximately up to the coronation of Napoleon. The UL and a number of college libraries hold numerous books published during this period, many of which have publication dates that are incomprehensible to the modern eye.

The Republican calendar was intended to remove influences of religion and monarchy, and as such the names of the months were derived from seasonal conditions or events such as fog or the harvest, and every day of the year was named to reflect some aspect of the rural calendar. November 27 this year, based on the most popular method of translating to the Gregorian calendar, is 7 Frimaire: the day of the cauliflower.

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Helmut Schmidt, 1918-2015

The eminent politician and statesman Helmut Schmidt died on November 10 at the age of 96 and a state funeral took place in Hamburg on November 23. Many obituaries and tributes have been written outlining his career and achievements. The high point of his career was undoubtedly his years as chancellor of West Germany from 1974 to 1982. But when he lost the chancellorship to Helmut Kohl and left parliament he continued to be in the public eye as he became an editor of the weekly Die Zeit in which he regularly wrote columns. He offered his advice and analysis in interviews, appeared on radio and television, gave speeches and much more. All this activity resulted in numerous publications many of which are held by the University Library. Our catalogue lists over 40 entries for Helmut Schmidt as author, editor or contributor.Helmut Schmidt 001edsmall

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Our window onto 19th and early 20th century Italy opens wider

I wrote in January of a very generous donation of items that had belonged to Denis Mack Smith and had been passed on to us by the Bodleian. A couple of weeks ago we took delivery of a further nine boxes of material, the third instalment of what is proving to be a truly fascinating addition to our collections. The boxes keep arriving, and it is a real joy to browse through the items and to make them available to readers as swiftly as I can (these donated items can be found in Library search using the search terms Denis Mack Smith and former owner). Continue reading

The Liberation Collection – images (III)

This is the third in a series of posts that will focus on individual books in the Liberation Collection, and their illustrations. The first post is here, the second here.

Hors-saison à Vichy, 15 septembre 1940-15 mars 1941 / Henri Sjöberg.


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Germany’s First Ladies

Considering the vast amount of topics covered by the holdings of the University Library, it is probably not that surprising that we own our fair share of literature on the chancellors of Germany. Possibly less obvious, though, are the UL’s holdings of books about their partners, or about “Germany’s first ladies”. Having often been  perceived as merely the chancellor’s wife, these women have been largely overlooked, even though their stories are equally as fascinating. With Angela Merkel being the first female chancellor, or chancellor with a husband, there is unfortunately still a lack of publications on Germany’s “first gentleman”, Joachim Sauer (and this is likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future as he is not someone who relishes publicity).

Hannelore and Helmut Kohl at the election in 1983

Hannelore and Helmut Kohl at the election in 1983 (Bundesarchiv on Wiki Commons)

Hannelore Kohl, wife of German chancellor Helmut Kohl, is probably the most tragic of Germany’s first ladies. She was raped by Soviet troops towards the end of the Second World War, leading to a spine injury that caused her lifelong problems.  In 2001, at the age of 68, she committed suicide. Interestingly enough, she was not overly fond of politics but supported her husband’s ambitions. She was also allegedly involved in the development of the “ten point programme” (Zehn-Punkte-Programm) for the reunification of Germany. Probably because of her own injury, she was inspired to establish the Kuratorium ZNS, a foundation devoted to help those with damages to their central nervous system, which was later renamed as ZNS – Hannelore Kohl Stiftung. She developed photo dermatitis, a condition which meant that exposure to sunlight would cause her pain and effectively confine her to a darkened home day in, day out. It is this condition that is said to have eventually driven her to commit suicide. However, her death was surrounded by some dubious circumstances and thus remains controversial. Hannelore Kohl was a very private woman and did not talk much about her personal life. However, Heribert Schwan, a journalist who knew Hannelore during the 1980s while writing a biography about her husband, claims that she opened up to him during the last years of her life. In 2011, Schwan eventually published a biography of Hannelore Kohl entitled Die Frau an seiner Seite : Leben und Leiden der Hannelore Kohl (C206.c.3945). Claiming that she confided several ‘secrets’ to him during the last few months of her life, his book tries to look beyond Hannelore’s public persona and to explore what other reasons beyond her condition might have driven her to commit suicide. Continue reading

NEW ACQUISITION: The Spanish Biographical Dictionary from the Real Academia de la Historia

Four of the fifty volumes

Four of the fifty volumes

Cambridge University Library has acquired the long-awaited Diccionario biográfico español.  First published in 2009 by the Real Academia de la Historia (RAH), the dictionary is a major reference work with over 40,000 biographies of major figures in the Hispanic world. The fifty-volume work is an essential resource for anyone interested in the history of Spain, the Americas and the territories that were part of the Spanish Crown. It features entries for contemporary figures as well as those from the past, spanning from the fourth century B.C. up to the twentieth century.  This dictionary is the culmination of work which began in the eighteenth century, when the Real Academia de la Historia started work on the Diccionario histórico-crítico de España, of which only two volumes were published in 1802. Continue reading

Ebooks in French

Textures : processus et événements dans la création poétique moderne et contemporaine

Textures : processus et événements dans la création poétique moderne et contemporaine

Two PhD students at Trinity College have just published a book which has arrived at the University Library. Jeff Barda and Daniel A. Finch-Race edited the volume Textures : processus et événements dans la création poétique moderne et contemporaine (736:47.c.201.102, and at the MML library at classmark F5A.G.10), which presents papers from the 17th French Graduate Research Seminar held at Trinity in May 2014. Published by Peter Lang, this is the 120th volume in the series ‘Modern French Identities’, of which the University Library holds 99.

This is patently an important book for us to have in the Library, both because of its subject and its Cambridge connections. It was not a difficult decision to purchase the book. However, it is increasingly becoming a difficult decision about how to purchase books. Continue reading