Jujutsu for the Swiss

Working on a donated collection of books can sometimes be a repetitive task – as collectors usually focus on one theme in particular, donations may consist of hundreds of books studying the same subject from slightly different angles. Occasionally though, we come across something entirely unexpected and sometimes amusing. I had such a moment a few days ago when I discovered, among the collection of art books donated by Professor Jean Michel Massing, a 1906 illustrated Swiss manual of jujutsu. The Japanese martial art is here shown performed by two portly, mustachioed, middle-aged European men who have somehow decided that a three-piece suit with bow tie was the best outfit for this kind of activity. It makes for some amazing pictures :

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Responding to the death of Kleist, then and now

1801 portrait of Kleist by Peter Friedel via Wikimedia Commons

On 21 November 1811 the celebrated German writer Heinrich von Kleist killed himself and his close friend Henriette Vogel in a double suicide pact. Not eligible for church burial, they were buried at or close to the place where they died, by the Kleiner Wannsee lake between Berlin and Potsdam. I stayed near here in the summer, and as my daily walk to the S-Bahn station took me past a sign to the grave I was moved to visit it.

By autumn 1811 Kleist had reached a crisis point of desperation, feeling mentally exhausted with financial worries and aggrieved that his work was not appreciated by his contemporaries. Since autumn 1810 he had been editing a short daily (except Sundays) newspaper, the Berliner Abendblätter (facsimile edition can be viewed at archive.org). Readers had particularly lapped up the police reports published in it which Kleist received from his friend Justus von Gruner, police chief of Berlin. But when von Gruner was dismissed, this source dried up and Kleist was forced to fill his paper with news stories reprinted from other papers. Interest soon dwindled and this, combined with a tightening of censorship regulations, led to the publication being discontinued in spring 1811. Kleist’s crisis was intensified by his friendship with Henriette Vogel. The pair had met two years earlier and she had subsequently fallen into a depressed state and craved death after being given a cancer diagnosis.
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The fall of the Berlin Wall and Stefan Heym

The day the Berlin Wall fell

Last Saturday Germany marked the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall with numerous events. It was in the night of November 9, 1989 that the Berlin Wall was opened and East German citizens could freely visit the western part of Berlin. In the coming days, the whole border between East and West Germany would be opened. The fall of the Berlin Wall was the culmination of the dramatic events of autumn 1989 when the citizens of East Germany took to the streets to demand freedom of speech and the press and the freedom to travel. In October 1989 when the communist leadership wanted to celebrate 40 years of East Germany the citizens found their voice and made their demands heard. Within a year East Germany was unified with West Germany in a process of rapid democratization.

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Fontane – 200

200 years ago, on December 30, 1819, Theodor Fontane, one of the best-known 19th century German authors, was born. He grew up in Neuruppin, a small town in the Mark Brandenburg north of Berlin. He trained and worked as a pharmacist before embarking on a literary career, starting as a journalist before becoming one of the most prolific novelists of the 19th century.

The 200th anniversary of his birth is being celebrated throughout this year with numerous exhibitions and events in the Brandenburg region (more details here). The main exhibition is being held in Neuruppin from March 30 to December 30 and aims to give an insight into Fontane’s authorial practice. This exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue which the library has acquired (C202.b.3557). Continue reading

Art books from across Europe donated by Professor Nigel Morgan

The generosity of Professor Nigel Morgan to the University Library has been written about before in our blog, in an April 2015 post.  Since then, Professor Morgan’s donations have continued to come in, and the collection only yesterday of the latest batch of treasures provides a good reason for giving an update.

Each book donated by Professor Morgan, Emeritus Honorary Professor of the History of Art in the University of Cambridge and Sandars Reader in 2013-2014, contains a heading in the catalogue record for him as the donor.  An advanced search in iDiscover which combines his authorised form (Morgan, Nigel J.) with the formula former owner and specifying the UL as the holding library brings up at the time of writing well over 900 results.  The latest donation contains nearly 100 volumes, so before long the results will number over 1,000. Continue reading