Film resources trial


Four film resources are currently on trial until 31 March 2016:

Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive

An archival research resource containing the essential primary sources for studying the history of the film and entertainment industries, from the era of vaudeville and silent movies through to 2000. The core US and UK trade magazines covering film, music, broadcasting and theater are included, together with film fan magazines and music press titles. Magazines have been scanned cover-to-cover in high-resolution color, with granular indexing of all articles, covers, ads and reviews.

FIAF International Index to Film Periodicals

The International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) brings together institutions dedicated to rescuing and preserving films. FIAF’s editorial staff, along with its Affiliates, produces the International Index to Film Periodicals which offers in-depth coverage of the world’s foremost academic and popular film journals. This database contains FIAF’s “Treasures from Film Archives”; a detailed index of the silent-era…

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100 years without Rubén Darío

Covers illustrated by Enrique Ochoa.

Covers illustrated by Enrique Ochoa.

Several Hispanic literary anniversaries will be celebrated in 2016 and these will give us a chance to talk about some very important writers and how they feature in our collections. The first in this series is Rubén Darío, the Nicaraguan writer, who died on February 6th 1916 aged 49 years old, after much pain due to illness related to his alcohol addiction. He was greatly honoured right after his death, his funeral lasting several days and he even had his brain removed to investigate the mystery of his artistic genius and to be kept as some kind of object of veneration.

The University Library has a few first editions of Rubén Darío’s work. La caravana pasa (744:75.d.90.64) is the earliest among them. The book was published in 1902 in Paris by Garnier Hermanos and is one of his least known works. It contains articles about Paris and his travels around Europe which he wrote for the Argentine newspaper La Nación, arranged thematically rather than chronologically with dates and titles removed. It gives valuable and interesting views on the Parisian Belle Epoque. The author also visited London, of which he says: “¡Capital fuerte y misteriosa! Cuantas veces la visitéis, siempre os dominará bajo el influjo de su severa fuerza.” (Strong and mysterious capital! Every time you visit it, it will always dominate you with the influx of its severe strength). Continue reading

Italian literary prizewinners for 2015

We try, each year, to draw your attention to the literary prizewinners of various European countries. We have written in the past of the five major Italian prizes and in July last year we posted the results of the 2015 Strega prize after Nicola Lagioia had won with his novel La ferocia (C208.c.9478).

The Strega is undoubtedly the most prestigious of the Italian literary prizes, but there are 4 others we have highlighted in recent years and below are the winners for 2015: Continue reading

Lettrism in the UL

Library holdings related to Lettrisme have been growing recently. Like Dadaism, this avant-garde movement was created by one of these Romanian francophone émigrés that had a decisive influence on 20th century art and writing, Isidore Isou (1925-2007). Isou arrived in Paris in 1945 and immediately persuaded Raymond Queneau and then Gaston Gallimard to publish his Introduction à une nouvelle poésie et à une nouvelle musique (1947) as well as a 450 pages autobiographical novel, L’Agrégation d’un nom et d’un messie. His conception of poetry, which anticipated what was to become “concrete poetry”, and in a way systematised and expanded dadaist poetry was soon noticed and in 1955 Orson Welles documented it in a famous interview at Librairie Fischbacher. Isou and his followers also produced an astonishing array of visual works, using the plasticity of invented alphabets to produce ‘hypergraphic’ works, half-way between figuration and abstraction (see: Lettrisme : vue d’ensemble sur quelques dépassements précis / commissaire de l’exposition, Roland SabatierS950.c.201.106, and Lemaître : une vie lettriste / par Frédéric Acquaviva2014.10.1191).

Continue reading

The Serov exhibition catalogue : the January 2016 Slavonic item of the month


Popular demand for the Valentin Serov exhibition at the State Tret’iakov Gallery in Moscow saw its original closing date extended to 24 January.   When visitor numbers even in its re-scheduled final week were so high that 4-hour queues formed outside in sub-zero temperatures,  the gallery extended the opening again, to this Sunday, the 31st.

Visitor sentiment peaked on 22 January, when a door was broken in to gain entrance.  Runet (the unofficial name for the Russian-language internet) promptly filled up with related humour, with the contrast of such high demand at the close of the exhibition’s run with the low visitor numbers seen when it first opened in the autumn a particular target for humour.  A spin on one of Serov’s most famous portraits, ‘Girl with peaches’, for example, had the girl now lifting her hand to her head and wearily saying “that feeling when you’ve been sitting here with peaches since October, and they break the doors down in January” (here).

The exhibition catalogue – which gives the originally planned closing date of 17 January – is a lovely volume.  Its main body is over 230 pages of reproductions, with captions, of the exhibits on display in the Moscow show and other works.  Valentin Aleksandrovich Serov (1865-1911) was known first and foremost as a painter, particularly a portraitist.  The exhibition, however, and catalogue also celebrate Serov’s achievements in the many other artistic strands he pursued.  He designed stage scenery, for example, for operas and ballets, including a production of ‘Judith’, an opera by his own father, the composer Aleksandr Nikolaevich Serov.  Wowed by Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes, Serov designed the main backdrop for their production of Rimskii-Korsakov’s ‘Scheherazade’.  While the Tret’iakov itself is a major holder of Serov’s works, the catalogue contains reproductions of artworks from 25 galleries and many private collections.


A selection of images from the exhibition catalogue

At the time of writing, the University Library and the Tate Library are the only holders of the catalogue.  Library readers can consult our copy (S950.a.201.3788) in the West Room.

A list of other UL-held books about Serov or containing his works can be seen here.  The earliest date from 1914, three years after Serov’s death.  One is by his mother, a book about her husband and son, both of whom she sadly survived.  Also a musician, Valentina Semenovna Serova focuses mainly on Serov senior, and her book is held by the Music Department, at M529.b.90.6.  The other 1914 book is dedicated to Serov junior, and was written by the artist Nikolai Radlov.  Sierov (S405:45.d.9.24; note the pre-reform spelling of Serov’s name) was produced within the series ‘Modern art’.  Our copy, donated by Dame Elizabeth Hill, the first Professor of Slavonic Studies, contains a flyer for the series.  The series, it announces, contains illustrated monographs “about modern artists but also about past artists who have a direct influence on the art of our time”.

Mel Bach


An influential polymath: Alexander von Humboldt


Bronze sculpture of Humboldt by Ana Lilia Martin at Mirador Humboldt, northeast slope of Orotava valley, Tenerife where he stopped on his way to Latin America. Photo by Koppchen via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday 26th January sees the announcement of the 2015 Costa Book of the Year winner. One of the books in the running for this prize is The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s new world by Andrea Wulf (382:2.c.201.21) which has already won the Costa Biography award for 2015 and would be a good starting point for finding out more about the life of Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859).

Humboldt Penguin (Spheniscus humboldti)

Humboldt penguin. Photo by Gregory Moine via Wikimedia Commons

A renowned figure in Germany and across Latin America, he is less well-known in this country – we may have heard of the Humboldt penguin, named after him (along with countless other species, world geographical features and place names) but most people know very little about the life of this extraordinary naturalist, explorer and geographer. Continue reading

The seven deadly sins in art

Todsuenden 002With Christmas behind us and the daily temptations to eat too many mince pies, cookies or other Christmassy sweets (largely) overcome, what better time to reflect upon the seven deadly sins? The topic has been prominent in the arts for centuries and it is therefore worthwhile taking a look at a very interesting exhibion catalogue in the UL to explore the topic.

The concept of the seven deadly sins originates with the desert fathers and was brought to Europe by John Cassian with his book The Institute. A translated and annotated version of The Institute can be found in the UL at 44:1.c.6.58, edited by Boniface Ramsey and published in 2000. To discover more about the early concept of the deadly sins, it is worthwhile browsing our subject headings for Vices and its subdivisions. These vices were then revised by Pope Gregory I in 590 AD and became known as the seven deadly sins, which were then also used and defended by Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica. Continue reading