Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-1768)

Portrait of Winckelmann by Angelica Kauffmann via Wikimedia Commons

This December marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of Johann Joachim Winckelmann, one of the most important scholars of his age. He was the founder of modern art history and archaeology and a pioneer of German classicism.

Winckelmann, who was born into humble origins as the son of a shoemaker, spent the first three decades of his life in the German provinces before coming to Dresden. At the age of 38, he moved to Rome where he became one of the most sought-after city guides and associated with noblemen from all over Europe. He established a wide network of correspondents from Italy, France, England and other countries. It is unlikely that the international reception of Winckelmann’s work would have been so far-reaching without this European network. Winckelmann is unquestionably one of the most prominent, and perhaps even one of the first German-speaking, writers of the modern period, who was read and received with great attention throughout Europe. Continue reading

Cantab Abolitionists and the Low Countries

This guest post by Dr Jaap Harskamp (formerly Curator of Dutch & Flemish collections at the British Library) shows how the efforts of two men with links to Cambridgeshire (Thomas Clarkson, born in Wisbech, and Olaudah Equiano who lived in Soham) had an impact on the slave debate in the Low Countries.

The Atlantic slave trade began in the mid-1400s and lasted into the 19th century. Initially, Portuguese traders purchased small numbers of slaves on the western coast of Africa and transported them for sale in the Iberian Peninsula. The trade expanded when European nations began colonizing the Americas. By the 1600s the Dutch were contesting the English and French for control of the trade, but England emerged as the dominant slave-dealing nation. As the Empire expanded, slaves were sent across the seas to work on plantations in the Caribbean or the Americas. Others, in much smaller numbers, were ferried into the ports of London, Liverpool and Bristol on ships carrying lucrative commodities. To engage an African servant became a status symbol: Samuel Pepys employed a ‘blackmore’ cook, Dr Johnson left his Jamaican-born manservant Francis Barber a £70 annuity, and Royal Academy sculptor Joseph Nollekens hired a female servant nicknamed ‘Miss Bronze’. Continue reading

The feat of the Real Academia Española’s first dictionary (part 2)

The dictionary lacked a general method and workflows were divided among the authors by combinations of letters. They took for granted that every academic was equally qualified, worked at the same speed, and was following the same criteria as the rest of the team – criteria which, incidentally, were not precisely established from the start. For instance, not all authors were using the same edition of a given work to find the quotes from authorities, so knowing the folio or page number is not particularly useful. The original intentions were too ambitious and some cuts in the plan were required. There was no room for adding the vocabulary of the arts and sciences. This task was postponed, with plans for an eventual separate dictionary dedicated to that vocabulary; a project never undertaken. Continue reading

The feat of the Real Academia Española’s first dictionary (part 1)

The Diccionario de la lengua castellana (1726-1739), later known as Diccionario de autoridades, was the first modern Spanish lexicographical work. The Real Academia Española (RAE) was founded in 1713 under the royal auspices and the first generation of academics decided to record the Spanish vocabulary following the example of the language academies in Paris and Florence. They considered that the Spanish language had achieved its zenith in the 17th century, so it was time to preserve it for future generations. This was a huge challenge, considering that the only Spanish precedent, the Tesoro de la lengua castellana, o española (1611) by Sebastián de Covarrubias, one of the first monolingual dictionaries in a vernacular language, was around one hundred years old. They did their job altruistically, “for the honour of serving the Nation”. The founder and first director, Juan Manuel Fernández Pacheco, Marquis of Villena and Duke of Escalona was an inspiring figure and played a major role in the institution. The purpose of the academy was reflected in its motto “Limpia, fija y da esplendor” ([It] cleans, [it] fixes, and [it] gives splendour). Continue reading

Frantsysk Skaryna and 500 years of Belarusian printing : the September 2017 Slavonic item(s) of the month

Earlier this month, the National Library of Belarus (NLB) held a conference to celebrate the history of Belarusian printing, marking the 500th anniversary of Frantsysk Skaryna’s publication of the Psalter – one of many Belarusian initiatives to celebrate Skaryna’s legacy.  Both the UL and Trinity College have contributed to another of NLB’s projects, to draw together as comprehensive as possible a database of scanned copies of all original Skaryna material.  Cambridge has provided digital copies of:

  • a fragment of Skaryna’s 1518 First Book of Kings (1 Samuel); exactly the same fragment is held by both Trinity and the UL (the latter at F151.c.7.10)
  • Skaryna’s 1522 Malaia podorozhnaia knizhitsa (Small travel book) Psalter (UL: F152.e.14.1)

Continue reading