Wifredo Lam and Aimé Césaire

An exhibition in Trinity College’s Wren Library which runs until 12 June 2018 celebrates the work of the Cuban artist Wifredo Lam, using items from the Wren’s extraordinary Kessler Collection of Artists’ Books.  In this blog post, we look at the University Library’s own holdings of Lam books and related material.

Fata morgana / André Breton ; illustrated by Wifredo Lam

The exhibition focuses on Wifredo Lam’s many collaborations with a wide variety of international artists and writers such as Aimé Césaire, Gherasim Luca, and René Char. The UL’s earliest holding of his work reflects this aspect of his career: a 1969 English translation of André Breton’s poem Fata morgana illustrated by Lam (1990.9.1800). This collaboration dates from the Cuban artist’s time in France from 1938 to 1941, when he met and worked with many of the Surrealists and other leading European writers and artists of the period. However, the artistic exchange between Wifredo Lam and contemporary European art and literature had already begun years before, when he first went to study in Madrid in 1923. We hold a number of titles in French, Spanish and English dealing completely or in part with this side of Lam’s life and work:

  • André Masson : de Marseille à l’exil américain (2016.9.657)
  • Lam et les poètes (S950.b.200.559)
  • Más allá de lo real maravilloso : el surrealismo y el Caribe (400:8.c.200.186)
  • Diálogo de las artes en las vanguardias hispánicas (C213.c.6463)
  • Wifredo Lam and the international avant-garde, 1923-1982 (405:6.b.200.8)
  • The colour of my dreams : the Surrealist revolution in art (S950.b.201.911)

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A Fickle Friend

Soon Parliament will reconvene. Brexit is bound to dominate the agenda and many Anglo-European friendships will come under severe strain. But there have been tensions before. In this guest post, Jaap Harskamp gives a (biased) explanation.

The so-called album amicorum is a book of ‘autographs’ collected by wandering scholars from the Low Countries or Germany as they moved from one city or university to another. The craze started in the middle of the sixteenth century. A typical album page contains a poem or prose text in Latin or Greek (sometimes in Hebrew) and a formal greeting to the owner of the book. As part of the salutation there may be a heraldic shield or an emblematic picture. Possibly the best known example is the album of the Flemish cartographer Abraham Ortelius, held in the collections of Pembroke College, Cambridge.1 The contributions to his album were gathered over a long period of time and more than 130 of his contemporaries are represented (Ortelius started his collection in 1574 and continued doing so until his death in 1598).  The cosmopolitan list of friends includes William Camden, Gerhard Mercator, Christopher Plantin, Philip Galle, Justus Lipsius, John Dee, Jean Bodin, and many others. The album represents a European community of learned friends.

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The Ling Collection

Trinity College Library, Cambridge

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The Ling collection consists of 208 books chiefly in the area of linguistics from the library of Vivien Law, Fellow of Trinity College who died in 2002, at the age of 47. The books came to the library shortly after her death.

Dr Law held the only lectureship in the world dedicated to the history of linguistic thought. After her death the Henry Sweet Society for the History of Linguistic Ideas established a prize in her name for the best essay submitted on any topic within the history of linguistics. The collection of books which came to the library comprises books in English, Welsh, Swedish, Danish, French, Italian, Latin, German, Arabic, Dutch, Slovenian, Syriac, Hungarian, Ukrainian , Russian and the Indo-Aryan and Trinity College F.A VIII.34Dravidian group of languages.

Dr Law was a specialist in the area of medieval grammar (her book Grammar and Grammarians in the Early Middle Ages was published in…

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Love is all around

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A page from L’art d’aimer de la séduction à la volupté (S950.a.201.1093)

Saint Valentine’s Day, or the feast of Valentine, has its origins in the celebration of the life of Saint Valentine (Valentinius), a third century Roman saint. The feast day (February 14) is now, of course, related to the tradition of courtly love which has its origins in the middle ages. The history of Saint Valentine is uncertain, among the UL’s earliest works including a history of Saint Valentine is: Opus eruditissimum diui Irenaei episcopi lugdunensis in quinque libros digestum, in quibus mire retegit & confutat ueterum haereseon impias ac portentosas opiniones, ex uetustissimorum codicum collatione quantum licuit emendatum opera Des. Erasmi Roterodami, ac nunc eiusdem opera denuo recognitum, correctis ijs quae prius suffugerant (3.10.29).

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The French Revolution and Pembroke : the Hadley collection

The Hadley collection on Napoleon and the French Revolution held in Pembroke College Library is a good example of the sort of little-used resource which the European Collections blog is trying to make better known. William Sheldon Hadley (1859-1927) spent his entire career at Cambridge. He came up to Pembroke to read classics, and became Master of the College thirty-four years later, holding the post until his death in 1927. 

The Hadley collection, in Pembroke College Library

The Hadley collection, in Pembroke College Library

Cultural historian Tom Stammers, a lecturer in the Department of History at Durham, describes in the following paragraphs why the Hadley material is of such interest.

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The Hadley collection is a precious snapshot of how the French Revolution was understood in the opening decades of the twentieth century, with strength in four key areas. Continue reading