The University Library does not have a subscription to Charlie hebdo, although we do have a history of the magazine from 1969-1982 which stands at 735:45.c.200.287. We also have a few items with cartoons by Wolinski and/or Cabu, who both lost their lives in the terrorist attack on January 7th (2007.8.5590, 2011.10.645, 2013.9.2346). We were of course keen to get hold of a copy of the so-called “survivors” edition published on Wednesday January 14th. A former member of the European Collections and Cataloguing team, now resident in Paris, volunteered straightaway to get hold of a copy for me, but then discovered that this was by no means straightforward. On Wednesday morning she could find no copies in central Paris. She then phoned her local newsagent in the Paris suburbs, hoping she might have more success. He laughed and told her that he had had 100 people waiting outside at 6.30 am that morning, and that he had only managed to secure 40 copies.
Her personal experience was confirmed by the article in Thursday’s Guardian, under the headline “France clamours to be Charlie as news kiosks sell out of magazine”-
Three million copies came off the presses, a massive and unprecedented print run. It was still not enough … Shortly after the newsagents opened on Wednesday morning – and after a matter of minutes in some cases – there was not a single copy of Charlie Hebdo to be had across the country … Copies hidden under the counter were surreptitiously handed over and quickly stashed into shopping bags and briefcases like bottle of liquor in prohibition America
I read the Guardian article whilst travelling into London on Thursday, but before I got back to Cambridge that night I had received an excited email from Paris headed “Success!!!”. My ex-colleague had managed to secure a copy for the Library, which was being sent to me directly by UPS. Within an hour of its arrival today (Monday) this had been classified, catalogued and was available for consultation. If you are interested in taking a look, please go along to Rare Books and request Arc.a.201.4.
I cannot remember when previously the acquisition of a modern print item was quite such a dramatic event. When I started my career in the Library it would have taken at least a week to catalogue any new item, and publicising a new acquisition would have been a very laborious process. Now we can do it all in just a few minutes.