Twentieth century German woodcuts

Heilige Nacht (15th c.), click on image to enlarge

I recently catalogued a book from 1927, Der Niederrhein im Schrifttum alter und neuer Zeit (S950.b.9.1244), an anthology of writing about the Lower Rhine region of Northern Germany, illustrated with the most striking woodcuts. Some of these date from pre-1500 as the example to the right (or above if viewed on mobile phone) illustrates, but the majority are contemporary Expressionist works created by either Artur Buschmann or Anton Wendling, both artists I had not heard of before.  The woodcut as a medium was particularly used by Expressionist artists in Germany.

Buschmann (1895-1971) was a local artist, best known for his paintings. He also worked as a draughtsman throughout his career. He had served in World War One but spent some time recuperating from a gas attack. By the 1920s he was part of the art scene in Düsseldorf. Here is a small selection of his woodcuts from the book (click on each image to see enlarged version): Continue reading

Radio broadcasting and the war

“La chanson des V”. Beethoven’s famous 5th symphonie start was the signature tune for the BBC programme “Les Français parlent aux français”. The rythm of its first four notes equals the letter “V” (for Victory) in morse code. Liberation.b.34

The powerful role of radio propaganda during World War II cannot be overestimated. Information was transmitted quickly to vast populations across borders, overpassing enemy lines. In the UK, the BBC would broadcast in several languages, including French of course, and would even send secret messages to the French Resistance in the form of apparently senseless phrases. The Chadwyck-Healey Liberation Collection has several publications related to this topic, some of them particularly fascinating.

Maurice Van Moppès was an illustrator, Free France member and broadcaster who worked for “Les Français parlent aux français”, one of the BBC radio programmes that transmitted news from the Front (for more on this check the 5 volumes of Ici Londres, 1940-1944: les voix de la liberté, 539:1.b.820.2-6). The programme was also supposed to boost the French people’s morale and send code messages to the Résistance. Continue reading

Ex Libris

Click on image to see enlarged

Not all the books we buy are new, and when we acquire antiquarian copies we can sometimes see from the bookplate who previously owned the book. This was the case with four volumes which recently crossed my desk in quick succession, all with beautiful and interesting bookplates:

The first one is the bookplate of Alexander Ostrowski (1893-1986). He was born in Kiev, studied in Germany and was then Professor of Mathematics at Basel – this fits with the provenance of the book containing this bookplate which was bought from a second-hand bookseller in Basel.  Using dividers to represent a mathematician had been done before – see William Blake’s print of Newton, inspiration for Paolozzi’s sculpture at the British Library. I don’t know who the artist of the bookplate was but I particularly like the way the worm is depicted descending from the dividers and eating its way through the volumes at the bottom. Continue reading

Arte: the European television channel (?)

Arte_Logo_2017.svgIf you asked me what the best channel on French television is, I would probably reply without much hesitation: Arte. But if you asked a German person what the best channel on German television is, it is quite plausible that they would also reply: Arte. “How is this possible?” you, the Briton, may well ask. Well, it all comes down to France’s and Germany’s approach to the European Union – an approach quite different from the rather radical one favoured by the United Kingdom.

At the end of the 1980s, the Eastern Bloc was breaking into a multitude of independent countries, a reunification between East and West Germany seemed more and more likely, and France and Germany were trying to show strong unity in the construction of the European Union to counter Margaret Thatcher’s opposition. It was in this context that, in 1988, German chancellor Helmut Kohl and French president François Mitterrand, both ardent believers in the European project, met at the 52nd Franco-German summit where they decided to create a television channel funded in equal proportion by the two states, and with the ambition of becoming a proper European project. Continue reading

Polish in the University and in the UL : the July 2017 Slavonic items of the month

This week has seen the very welcome news that the pilot Polish Studies Programme, launched in 2014, has succeeded in attracting funding which will ensure that Polish will remain in the University academic programme in perpetuity.  To celebrate this wonderful development, the July 2017 Slavonic blog post looks at Polish holdings in the University Library.

The UL holds over 25,000 volumes in Polish.  The period covered by the Polish-language collections stretches over a span of more than 450 years from the mid-16th century to the current day.  Books printed before 1800 are the smallest component, but they include some extremely important and rare items.  The earliest book in Polish in the University Library is the first printed translation of the Bible into Polish, which was produced in 1561 in Kraków.  The second translation, printed in 1563, is rarer than the first; all but 20 or so copies were destroyed.  The University Library is fortunate enough to have two copies each of these first two editions (Young.55 and BSS.232.B61; Young.56 and BSS.232.B63).

Images from the Young.55 copy of the 1561 Polish Bible.

Continue reading