Performance reviews, pictures and advertisement: La scène (Paris, 1877-1888)

Cambridge University Library recently acquired the French periodical La scène: revue des succès dramatiques, décorations complètes, costumes coloriés, directed and illustrated by Jules Gaildrau and written by his colleague E. Grand, ranging from October 1877 to January 1888 (Rare books, 8000.a.95). The publication (43 issues in total) was intended to appear twice a month; in reality, though, it was more irregular, with fewer reviews in 1880-1882 and 1885-1888 (and no review at all in 1887). It is a very rare set, as far as we know, only held at the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris.

T. 1 no 1, 1877: Review of the opéra-comique Les cloches de Corneville (Robert Planquette), p. 1

La scène is a wonderful source recording the Parisian theatrical life of the second part of the 19th century, telling us of its “dramatic successes”, and including information such as the date and place of the first performance, the names of music directors, costume designers, dressmakers, set designers, as well as those of the actors. Each issue is made up of four pages of text summarising the plot and reviewing the performance of the actors or singers and the staging, with black and white illustrations of the different sets; four pages of advertisements; and a coloured plate divided into four levels featuring the actors in their costumes. The periodical was available for purchase (for 1 franc, and later 1 franc 50) at the head office as well as in bookshops, and customers could pay for subscriptions of three months, six months, or a year. In the later period, advertisements encouraged the retrospective purchase of a whole set of the publication. Continue reading

Splitting the world in two: the 525th anniversary of the Treaty of Tordesillas

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P. 1 of the Spanish version held at BNP (click to see enlarged)

The 7th June marks the 525th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Tordesillas. The treaty was named for the Castilian town near Valladolid where it was signed by the Catholic Kings (Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon) and John II, King of Portugal. The signing of this treaty divided those parts of the world newly “discovered” by Spain and Portugal between the empires of the two kingdoms along an imaginary meridian 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde islands. The lands to the east of this line corresponded to Portugal and those to the west to Spain.

The Treaty of Tordesillas had a precedent, the Treaty of Alcáçovas (1479), that followed the War of Castillan Succession, and already marked the division of the Atlantic into two spheres of influence, one for Spain and the other for Portugal, with the exception of the Canary islands (Spanish, but in the Portuguese sphere). This was confirmed by the papal bull Aeterni regis (Sixtus IV, 1481) which recognised as Portuguese some disputed territories in the Atlantic (Guinea, Madeira, Azores and Cape Verde). More importantly, the treaty recognised Portugal exclusive right of navigation south of the Canary islands. Continue reading

Russia abroad : the May 2019 Slavonic items of the month

Earlier this week, Vera Tsareva-Brauner gave a talk at the University Library about Ivan Bunin and other Russian émigré literary figures, and this blog post looks at a couple of recent arrivals to the UL about the émigré Russian world.

The Russian Revolutions of 1917 and the ensuing Civil War saw the departure from Russia of many hundreds of thousands of people, many significant intellectual figures among them.  The Revolution-related exodus is commonly named the First (or White) Wave.  The Second Wave followed World War 2 and the Third Wave took place in the later decades of the Soviet period.

In 1995, the Dom russkogo zarubezhʹia imeni Aleksandra Solzhenitsyna (the Alexander Solzhenitsyn House of Russia Abroad) opened in Moscow.  One of the House’s activities is the publication of various research titles and source material about the various Soviet emigration waves.  An advanced search in iDiscover for the keywords Dom russkogo zarubezhʹia Solzhenitsyna in the publisher field brings up, at the time of writing, 14 results.  Among these, the newest arrival is 1917 god v istorii i sudʹbe rossiĭskogo zarubezhʹi︠a︡ (1917 in the history and fate of Russian émigrés; C215.c.2825), a set of papers from a conference held in 2017.  The book’s cover, featuring a detail from Konstantin Iuon’s stunning Novaia planeta painting (which also provided the cover image for the Royal Academy’s Revolution exhibition catalogue), is shown here.  The conference papers are divided into three sections:

  • 1916 and Russian émigrés : politics, ideology, culture : historical significance and everyday practices
  • The intellectual contribution of Russian émigrés to cultural progress (“развитие цивилизационного процесса”)
  • The genealogy of memory : family histories, museums, archives, cemeteries of Russian émigrés

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“Soyez réalistes, demandez l’impossible” May 1968 France

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“Be realistic, ask the impossible” was one of the many slogans of the French unrest in May-June 1968. May last year was the 50th anniversary of the upheaval, which arouses mixed feelings in French society, depending on the political ideas of each individual. There was a debate in 2017 about Emmanuel Macron’s idea of celebrating May 68, when it had been an anti-governmental, non-institutionalised movement; it certainly led to many cultural events in 2018, including the BnF exhibition: The spirit(s) of May 68. Cambridge University Library purchased many of the publications on May 68 which came out around the time of the anniversary, including 1968 : de grands soirs en petits matins (C214.c.7787) and L’esprit de mai 68 (C205.d.9998). Here we highlight some of the books we have received in the past year or so. Continue reading

Out of the shadows : a talk on the UL’s Bunin book dedications (5pm, 28 May : all welcome)

Last autumn, the University Library exhibited several books signed by major Russian authors such as Ivan Bunin.  Vera Tsareva-Brauner, of the University’s Slavonic Section, who found the autographs, will talk about her extraordinary discoveries on 28 May at 5pm in the Library.  The talk is open to all.

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