Romanian in the University Library


The title page of a 1787 Romanian publication in Cyrillic (7760.d.101; record soon to be upgraded)

Romanian publications held by the Library number only a few thousand, but active acquisition of Romanian books has recently been re-introduced thanks to two strands of work in the Modern and Medieval Languages Faculty: an international project on the Romanian avant-garde led by Dr Jean Khalfa and the linguistics work led by Professor Adam Ledgeway.

A Romance language in Eastern Europe, Romanian is largely accessible to those with a knowledge of Latin or modern Romance languages but has assimilated a significant amount of Slavonic loan words from its immediate neighbours.  Romanian even used the Cyrillic alphabet until the late 19th century (the Library of Congress provides a specific transliteration sheet for early Cyrillic Romanian).  Added to the picture is Moldovan, earlier known as Moldavian.  During the Soviet period, Moldovan was treated as a separate language, but was formally recognised by the government of Moldova in 2013 as Romanian, and all catalogue records now record the language of Moldova past and present as that.  It too is now written in the Latin alphabet, although Cyrillic was also used in Soviet times – covered in another Library of Congress transliteration guide.  The Cyrillic alphabet is still used in the disputed area of Transdniestria (whose authorised name for cataloguers is the Dniester Moldovan Republic).

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Personal recollections of the end of apartheid in South Africa


Colour, confusion and concessions (654:27.b.95.16)

As a South African immigrant from China at a young age, I do not recall the huge political impact on my life during the negotiations to end apartheid between 1990 and 1993. Many people in South Africa did not know what was happening in their own backyard and did not even know there was a man called Nelson Mandela fighting for freedom, because the news and politics were suppressed by the government. But the vague memories of some daily lives stay with me no matter how far I have come away from the apartheid time in South Africa. I remember the excitement among many of the South Africans and probably the rest of the world, but also some concerns among some of the Afrikaners. Afrikaner Afrikaan : anekdotes en analise by Frederik van Zyl Slabbert (2001.8.9441) could be a good read in order to understand the worries and uncertainties among the Afrikaners at the time. On April 26-29 1994 South Africa held two days of peaceful elections for the first time in history that allowed an all-race vote. There are more than a thousand books at the UL about 1994 in South Africa in different languages, such as Die Bedeutung der Presse im Transitionsprozess Südafrikas by Petra Märlender (C200.d.2422), and L’Afrique du Sud dix ans après : transition accomplie? (654:36.c.200.27).

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“Do you have a copy of the Bible?”: critical editions in the UL

By Institut für Zeitgeschichte [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Institut für Zeitgeschichte [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Often, students come to the library looking for a copy of a text – a religious or classical text, for instance – without regard to the edition. Equally, however, it is common for those using the library to search for a specific edition of a text (editions in the Loeb Classical Library, for instance, are in the Reading Room – R707.5 for Greek and R712.5 for Latin – and also available online as ebooks).  A critical edition of a text with notes and/or commentary is valued by the research community for the analysis it provides. One newly published critical edition, much talked about in the press, which the UL acquired earlier this year is Hitler’s Mein Kampf, published by the Institut für Zeitgeschichte in Munich. It contains historical notes and textual analysis, and is structured much like more traditional biblical exegesis. Continue reading

Old Glory flying over France

We’ve previously featured a variety of illustrations from the Liberation Collection; this post will focus on just one book from the collection which is striking, both due to its subject matter and its highly illustrated nature.

Les drapeaux des États-Unis = The american flags (Old Glory) / Alfred Rigny ; dessins de Pierre Noury (Liberation.c.362)

A relatively small book, this contains a ‘Petit histoire du drapeau américain et des drapeaux qui figuèrent dans l’histoire des Etats-Unis d’Amérique (Old Glory)’, which is followed by 40 coloured plates of illustrations of the flags of the United States, and various related offices and organisations (the flags of the president and of various branches of the American military are included, for instance).

Interesting both as a brief testament to why it was published, and the exceedingly ornate fashion in which the book is illustrated, the 4-page introductory history of the flag (printed in both French and English) justifies the publication: Continue reading

Photography in the GDR


Geschlossene Gesellschaft (S950.b.201.2929)

One of the probably less known areas which we collect is photography in the GDR. Cambridge University Library thus has a substantial collection on the topic. One publisher is particularly active in that field, called Lehmstedt Verlag, and we have a substantial number of their publications on the topic. However, there is of course a variety of publishers from which we acquire such material. Our collections include various academic books about the topic that can be borrowed, although a lot of the material we acquire is heavily illustrated and/or an exhibition catalogue and therefore cannot be taken out of the building. A few of those books recently caught my attention as they crossed my desk:

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Ceux du maquis and a new thesis from 1978

Thanks to the Liberation Collection, the level of modern material that we collect about French history from 1944-1946 has significantly expanded. A recent acquisition drew my attention:

Histoire de l’Occupation et de la Résistance dans la Nièvre 1940-1944 / Jean-Claude Martinet ; édition présentée par Jean Vigreux.(C210.c.7324)

This book is a re-edited version of a history thesis presented at the University of Bourgogne in 1978. Cambridge University Library did not buy the original 1978 edition, though there are several copies in the UK (at the British Library, Oxford, and the Universities of Sussex and Leeds). The UL and Oxford are thus far the only UK libraries on COPAC to have the 2015 edition published by Editions universitaires de Dijon. Continue reading

The lives behind the names: two Russian emigrés and one refugee from Nazi Germany

One important aspect of the cataloguing we do in European Collections is authority work.  For every book that we catalogue, we check against the United States Library of Congress Name Authority File to make sure that the names of authors or subjects are “authorised”.  This is a way to ensure that different people who share the same name can be uniquely identified, and often results in dates of birth and/or death, middle names or initials, titles such as Dr. or words describing their occupation e.g. “historian” being added to a name in our catalogue to help us identify the correct person.  Having people uniquely identified in our indexes allows us to group together books by or about the same person. Continue reading