Remembrance in print : recent European publications on World War One


Elsie en Mairi : Engelen van Flanders Fields (C201.b.5854). A Dutch graphic novel.

Due to the centenary of the start of World War I, commemorations have been planned in a wide variety of disciplines. Anybody who saw the Tour de France pass through Cambridge at the beginning of July will have seen the two vehicles that made up part of the Caravane publicitaire from l’office de tourisme d’Arras, which were commemorating the centenary. Other memorials abound this year, from the large national and international events, to small and local ones. Publishers throughout Europe are not immune to this, and much has been published this year to tie in with the centenary. In the UL, we have been trying to buy a selection of these books, and in this post we highlight a few, which helps demonstrate how our collections across European languages complement each other.

Already in 1915 the University Librarian aimed to collect as detailed a documentary record as possible of the conflict, and the Cambridge War Reserve Collection is one of the most extensive of its kind, particularly notable for its fugitive material. As early as 1916 the Librarian wrote that “German propaganda literature has been accumulated chiefly from Italy, Spain, the United States, and some of the South American Republics. Much of this is printed in Germany; but some is produced by partisans at Genoa, Barcelona, Castellón, New York, Chicago, Shanghai, Bogotá, Medellín …” The new additions described below are a clear example of the Library’s attempts to build on existing strength, and indicate the continuing importance of international coverage.

Dutch: Elsie en Mairi : Engelen van Flanders Fields / scenario, tekeningen en kleur door Ivan Petrus Adriaenssens gebaseerd op een waargebeurd verhaal (C201.b.5854)

This is one of the first graphic novels the Library has acquired in Dutch. Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm were two English volunteers, who for almost four years ran a first-aid post in the village of Pervyse, near Ypres. The drawings of Adriaenssens show the war from the perspective of the ‘Angels of Pervyse’ and illustrate the difficult conditions under which they worked. The artist’s palate is very dark, a sombreness emphasised on some pages by the printing of the drawings on a black background, evoking old photographs of the period.

French: Among a number of publications this year have been a catalogue of an exhibition held at the Galerie des bibliothèques de la Ville de Paris, from January 15 to June 15, 2014: Paris 14-18 : la guerre au quotidien / photographies de Charles Lansiaux (S950.c.201.457). A little-known photographer, Lansiaux’s photos show a Paris at war, but also one that’s recognisable today. He focuses on contemporaries of the war, rather than those engaged in the war itself; along with photos of aeroplanes being shipped through Paris on horse-drawn wagons are images of Parisians at work and leisure, smoking, playing chess, and reading newspaper reports of the latest news from the front.


Otto Dix: der Krieg – das Dresdner Triptychon (2014.11.555)

German: Numerous exhibitions have been held recently with accompanying catalogues. We are trying to collect these comprehensively. This is in addition to our acquisition of academic material. From a huge number of publications we highlight here four of particular interest:

  • Otto Dix: der Krieg – das Dresdner Triptychon / Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (2014.11.555) – exhibition catalogue concentrating on one work by Otto Dix, a vivid depiction of the war which is a key work of German realism
  • 1914, die Avantgarden im Kampf : Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, 8. November 2013 bis 23. Februar 2014 (S950.b.201.1441) – catalogue of a more general exhibition focusing on the work of many artists of the European avant-garde
  • Die Büchse der Pandora : Geschichte des Ersten Weltkriegs / Jörn Leonhard. (537.c.201.27) – a monumental work offering a global perspective, described by the late eminent Hans-Ulrich Wehler as beginning a new era of World War I historiography
  • Der Grosse Krieg : die Welt 1914 bis 1918 / Herfried Münkler. (537.c.201.29) – an equally exhaustive study which concentrates on events in Germany and which has been well received

Italian: There has been a significant increase in publications on WW1. The Library actively acquires, for example, a series published by Mursia entitled: Testimonianze fra cronaca e storia; Prima guerra mondiale, of which so far there are 22 items in the catalogue. These are often diaries, biographies or letters, or about specific battles or campaigns, or on varied and particular aspects of the war such as the war use of animals in Italy, popular songs sung at the time or even guidebooks of the paths tracked by soldiers in the Dolomites. Of this year’s publications we have so far catalogued: Diario di guerra: i taccuini del soldato-ministro, 1915-1918 (C203.d.6677).

Also worthy of note is the recent : 1914-1918 : la Grande Guerra nelle prime pagine del Corriere della sera (C200.a.3687) published by Rizzoli.

Portuguese: Portugal, although neutral at first, did end up taking part in the First World War, due to tensions with Germany. Lots of translations from English on World War I have been published recently, but not so much originally in Portuguese on Portugal’s role in the War. We can mention:

  • Isabel Pestana Marques. Das trincheiras, com saudade : a vida quotidiana dos militares portugueses durante a Primeira Guerra Mundial. Lisboa : A Esfera dos Livros, 2014. (C208.c.7125)
  • Pires, Ana Paula. Portugal e a I Guerra Mundial : a República e a economia de Guerra. Casal de Cambra : Caleidoscópio, 2011. (585:4.c.201.32)
  • Afonso, Aniceto & Gomes, Carlos de Matos. Portugal e a Grande Guerra : 1914-1918. Matosinhos : QuidNovi, 2010. (539.b.201.631)
  • Afonso, Aniceto. Grande guerra : Angola, Moçambique e Flandres : 1914-1918. Matosinhos : Quidnovi, 2008. (2008.7.944)
Russian WW1 image

The covers of Lubochnaia kartinka i plakat perioda Pervoi mirovoi voiny, 1914-1918 (S950.b.200.4669-4670)

Slavonic: The item chosen to represent the Slavonic side is new only to the Library; its two volumes were in fact published in 2004 and 2005.  Visually, however, they absolutely stand out from the crowd of more recent Russian publications printed in connection with the 1914 centenary.  Lubochnaia kartinka i plakat perioda Pervoi mirovoi voiny, 1914-1918 (Lubok pictures and posters from the period of the First World War, 1914-1918; S950.b.200.4669-4670) contains examples of lubki, Russian prints which, as the introduction explains, stem from traditional coloured engravings which first appeared in the 17th century.  The two volumes contain reproductions of over 500 WWI-related lubki, all held by the State Central Museum of Russian Modern History.  It would appear that funding for the second volume was rather higher, with that volume’s pages rather deeper in colour and glossier in texture.

The illustration shows the covers of the two volumes.  On the left is Voina na vozdukhie (War in the air), the 132nd image in the collection.  A 1915 print, it is accompanied by text at its end (volume 1, page 83) which starts ‘Our century is the century of conquest in the sky’. It shows an airship lit by search lights and surrounded by fighter planes, with figures of men on its wings struggling and falling to the earth below.  The image on the right is more light-hearted and is from the satirical section of volume 2. The 411st image in the collection, it dates from 1914 and is entitled Gorodki (Russian skittles).  It shows a bogatyr’, a traditional Russian hero figure, knocking over skittles which bear the names of cities.  L’viv and Przemyśl lie defeated already, and the hero smiles as he takes aim at Krakow, Vienna, and Berlin.

Spanish: A considerable amount of material on the First World War has been recently published in Spain. However, not much of it is of relevance to Spain itself, as the country remained neutral during the War. Spain became a battleground for espionage, sabotage and propaganda, as illustrated by Nidos de espias: España, Francia y la Primera Guerra Mundial, 1914-1919, by Eduardo Gonzalez Calleja & Paul Aubert (Madrid : Alianza, 2014) (C208.c.7126)

If you wish to find details of more books on World War I, you may find the bibliography produced cooperatively by the members of the International Society for First World War Studies useful ( It is very up-to-date and well organized.

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