New Russian and Ukrainian historic and rare newspaper archives online: Niva digital archive, Vestnik Evropy archive; and, Donetsk and Luhansk collection

ejournals@cambridge

The University Library is delighted to introduce to Cambridge three new digital archives comprising historic and rare newspapers from nineteenth century Russia and from the recent period of insurgency in the Ukraine.

Together these archives encompass the political and cultural life of the pre-Soviet era Russia and the voices of the separatist movements fighting for the establishment of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Lugansk People’s Republic, in the reporting of 10 newspaper titles through 2013 to 2015.

Niva digital archive

Niva, an illustrated weekly journal of literature, politics and modern life was the most popular magazine of the late-nineteenth-century Russia. It was published from 1870 to 1918 in St.Petersburg. The journal was widely read by an audience that extended from primary schoolteachers, rural parish priests, and the urban middle class to the gentry. It contained large colored prints of art by famous Russian artists. The journal had a…

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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