Judging books of the Liberation of France by their cover: a new feature of Cambridge University Library catalogue

Book covers, originally designed to protect the pages of a book, now serve a commercial purpose: they attract the gaze, aiming at inducing the purchase and reading of a book. Their design and appearance are determined by national or sectorial rules and traditions: academic versus popular publishing, paperbacks versus hardbacks. In this blog, I will explore some of the characteristics of current French book covers’ design, the growing importance of book covers images in social media and digital collections, and a specific project designed at Cambridge University Library: adding pictures of book covers to catalogue records of the Liberation collection, 1944-46. Continue reading

From Russia (with love): medieval glass treasures returned

I have previously written about Dutch misericords and bronze fonts of mainland Europe so my interest was inevitably piqued when I came across the fascinating story of the stained glass windows of the Marienkirche in Frankfurt an der Oder in the far east of Germany. We have several colourful books in our collections devoted to them.

Construction of the redbrick church began in about 1253, the year the town was founded. There was enough wealth in the town (it grew to be the largest trading centre on the river Oder) to enable the original church to be extended. The first extension in the 1350s and 1360s added a choir with ambulatory, and it is presumed that the three 12m high windows at the east end date from that time (they were not written about until 1523). For the large numbers of worshippers who could not read or write the windows represented a kind of picture Bible, depicting stories from the Old and New Testament. Continue reading

Education and publishing: the legacy of Pierre Larousse (1817-1875)


GDU’s frontispiece (Z900.a.86.1)

Last week was the Semaine de la langue française et de la francophonie, so it is a good occasion to consider the famous French lexicographer and publisher Pierre Larousse (1817-1875).

The son of a blacksmith and an innkeeper, Pierre Athanase Larousse was born in Toucy (Burgundy) in 1817. He was a very good student and, not surprisingly, an avid reader at a time when books were distributed by peddlers. To some extent he was a free spirit, out of the conventions of his time. He cohabited for many years with Suzanne Pauline Caubel, before marrying her in 1872.

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Completing the set : the March 2019 Slavonic items of the month

As I write and you read the 72nd Slavonic item of the month piece, it can seem that some things will never end.  This post, however, looks at the satisfying task of bibliographic closure, with several Slavonic book sets recently completed following the receipt of their final volumes.

Letopisʹ zhizni i tvorchestva N.V. Gogoli︠a︡ (Chronicle of the life and work of N.V. Gogol’) came out over the course of 2017-2018 in 7 volumes.  Detailed life chronicles of major figures have always been quite major business in East European publishing, and this lengthy record is a good addition to our literary collections.  It is also an eye-catching addition, as the photos show; the cover colour of each volume is even reflected internally in the ink.

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