Identities and identification in the Liberation Collection

Earlier this year, Sir Charles Chadwyck-Healey spoke about the visual side of the peerless Liberation Collection he has donated to the University Library.  This post, however, focuses on an unillustrated book whose interest, certainly for me as a librarian, lies in the identity of the author.

An important part of cataloguing work in the Library is what we call authority work – adding or editing records for people for the master authority file hosted by the Library of Congress.  Each record provides a unique main heading for an individual (eg Hugo, Victor, 1802-1885) and cites books where this and other forms of names appear.  By using this unique heading in a catalogue record, all works by or about someone will file together in a library index even if the person’s name might appear differently in each separate book (eg V. Hugo).

Many of the books in the Liberation Collection need this authority work.  More often than not, a new authority needs to be created.  Sometimes the author has a record already but we need to update it to note a different form of the name.  On the odd occasion, the book we are looking at is on such a different topic to those cited in the writer’s authority record that without further investigation we might assume that our author is someone different.

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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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French and German prizewinners 2017

Following on from the recent post on Italian prizewinners, we now turn our attentions to the latest winners of major French (last covered in May 2017) and German (last covered in March 2017) prizes.

The Prix Goncourt was awarded to L’ordre du jour by Éric Vuillard (C205.d.4186).

The Prix Interallié went to Jean-René Van der Plaetsen for Nostalgie de l’honneur       (C205.d.4224).

Daniel Rondeau won the Grand prix du roman de l’Académie française for Mécaniques du chaos (C205.d.4223).

The Prix Médicis was awarded to Yannick Hanenel’s Tiens ferme ta couronne (C205.d.4222). Continue reading

Pierre Boucher and New France

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Portrait and signature of P. Boucher (from 662:3.c.95.10).

Pierre Boucher was born in Mortagne-au-Perche, France in 1622. When he was twelve, his family left to settle in New France (Canada). His father, Gaspard, worked for the Jesuits in Notre-Dame-des-Anges (Quebec) and they took care of the education of the children, especially Pierre. He was interested in the life of the native peoples and he became interpreter of Iroquoian languages, particularly Huron. He was a missionary assistant to the Jesuits in Huronia from 1637 to 1641.

Pierre Boucher, like New France pioneers Samuel de Champlain and Jean Talon, believed in miscegenation with the native peoples. Pierre married Marie-Madeleine Chrestienne (or Marie Ouebadinskoue) a Huron girl educated by the Ursulines, who later died in childbirth (1649) along with their child. In 1652 he married Jeanne Crevier, with whom he had fifteen children. From 1645 to 1667, he lived in the little settlement of Trois-Rivières (see View 1 below), founded in 1634 and second permanent settlement in New France after Quebec City. Boucher was twice-governor of Trois-Rivières (1653-58, 1662-67). Continue reading

France and female authors

800px-Jane_Austen,_from_A_Memoir_of_Jane_Austen_(1870)

Britain celebrated Jane Austen’s bicentenary last year; but who could be her French counterpart?

A few months ago, a colleague, tongue-in-cheek, slammed a newspaper article on my desk with these words: “This doesn’t surprise me about the French at all: so misogynist!”. The article was about the French baccalauréat exam and revealed that 2017 was the very first year in which a text by a female author had been included in the official syllabus.

This doesn’t surprise me either. The French female authors I studied at school and university were indeed very thin on the ground. But I’ve always been uneasy at dismissing it as pure sexism. Could it not be that women have simply been less likely to embrace a literary career in France? When I compare with Britain, I am struck by how many female authors seem to have been around in the 18th and 19th centuries: Ann Radcliffe, Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Anne, Charlotte and Emily Brontë… You can barely find one or two women writers for the same period on the other side on the Channel. Have they all been forgotten? Or did they simply never exist in the first place? And why would that be? My theory is that religion played a part in this. Protestants, more prevalent in England, were encouraged to study the Bible for themselves and taught to read and interpret the text, whether male or female – whereas Catholics, more prevalent in France, were not. Indeed, five of the British authors I’ve just named were clergymen’s daughters. Maybe having a history with a few ruling queens in it wasn’t harmful either, something that could never have happened in France because of the French interpretation of the Salic law. Or maybe there really were as many female authors in France and we just don’t know about them. Continue reading