Painting the nightmare of Auschwitz : the February 2020 Slavonic item of the month

This year will see many 75th anniversaries relating to the Second World War, and one of the most poignant – the liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviets – has already occurred, in late January.  We recently received an important addition to Cambridge’s significant holdings about the Holocaust and Auschwitz in particular, in the form of a catalogue of works by David Olere, Ten, który ocalał z Krematorium III (The one who survived Crematorium III), based on an exhibition held at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in 2018-2019.

Olere, a French Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1943, was one of the very few Sonderkommandos to survive the war.  His artistic abilities, employed by Nazi personnel to illustrate letters home and produce other artwork, saved him from the regular killing of Sonderkommando generations.  Olere was in the death march from Auschwitz in January 1945 and was liberated only in May, in Ebensee.  He had spent nearly two years in Auschwitz, the witness of endless and appalling atrocities.  By the time he reached France and home, his “health was ruined and when he tried to recount to his wife the things he had seen, she was convinced that he had lost his mind” (from the catalogue; my emphasis).

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The Prado Museum, a 200-year story

640px-Vista_general_Museo_del_Prado

General view of the Museo del Prado, by Outisnn (via Wikipedia)

Last November 19, the museum celebrated the 200 year anniversary of its opening. The University Library regularly receives Spanish art catalogues – including the ones issued by the Prado – but this time we have also acquired a selection of recent books (listed below) commemorating this occasion. Among them we can highlight Museo del Prado, 1819-2019: un lugar de memoria (C202.b.3782), catalogue of an exhibition focused on the museum’s history, organised by the institution. Continue reading

European and “European” : Collections and Academic Liaison and the countries our books come from

What it means to be European has been in the thoughts of many recently, including many in our department.  The issue of the term “European” has long been a thought-provoking one for us on the work side too.  Our department, Collections and Academic Liaison, was formed a few years ago from two departments: English Accessions and European Collections and Cataloguing.  This blog was set up under the auspices of the latter, and the name of the blog – European languages across borders – hints at the tension felt then between the department’s name and its work.  While we collect largely in languages with roots in European countries (including English, since CAL was created), our collecting activity has always been global.  Portuguese material, for example, comes not only from Portugal but also from Brazil and Mozambique and more.

As part of an ongoing piece of work on subject-specific collection development policies, I have been gathering data from our library management system about the geographical spread of our purchases, focusing chiefly on hard copy purchases.  It is a rather fiddly but satisfying job.  In the last two years, the Collections and Academic Liaison department has collected from over 110 different countries/territories.  The top 15 countries in terms of numbers of titles collected over this period are: France, Italy, Germany, USA, Russia, Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Poland, Brazil, Argentina, the UK, Ukraine, Switzerland, and Chile. Continue reading

S3-figures and the January 2020 Slavonic items of the month

The introduction to the 1945 ‘Select classes classification’

The University Library’s classification schemes can sometimes seem designed to hinder rather than aid the reader.  This post looks at some recent and lovely East European additions to the S3-figure class and briefly explains its history and current use.

In the past, the Library produced publications about specific classification schemes, chiefly for staff but apparently also for sale (many have prices printed on them!).  From my predecessor as head of department, David Lowe, I inherited a third edition of Select books classification, published in 1945 in a print run of 100 copies following a first edition in 1925 and a second very shortly thereafter in 1926.

The S3-figure class was designed for ‘select books’ which didn’t already fall into one of the other ‘select classes’ covered by the pamphlet.  Most commonly, a ‘select book’ was, and still is, something extensively illustrated or very heavy (archaeology books and art catalogues often tick both boxes) which the Library would want to provide access to only in a supervised reading room.  The class traditionally held only hardbacks but we now add sturdy paperbacks to the sequence too.  The S3-figure class was originally applied in combination with a simplified version of the open-shelf 3-figure scheme, so a book about Russian history which would count as ‘select’ would have been given a classmark starting with S586 (since 586 is the main Russian history class).  About 15 years ago, the decision was made to stop the subject classification of S3-figure books, and now the classmark is standardly S950 and otherwise reflects only size and date of publications with a running number (eg S950.c.201.1).  As is the case with many classes in the UL, then, readers need to use the subject headings in catalogue records to trace subjects for titles added to the S3-figure class since that time.  This post looks at three new additions to the class which relate to East European art. Continue reading

Over a hundred years’ wait: the complete works of José Hernández

An illustration of Martín Fierro by Mario Zavattaro, the only artist who illustrated the whole 33 “cantos” of the work in the 1930s (S743:3.b.9.82)

José Hernández (1834-1886) is considered the founding father of Argentinian literature. His epic poem Martín Fierro is regarded as the zenith of the literatura gauchesca genre (which focuses on the figure of the gaucho) that flourished in 19th century Argentina, along with the formation of modern Argentina and the Argentinian national identity.

Doing a search of José Hernández as an author on the catalogue (for the University Library’s holdings only) brings up 24 items as a result. Fifteen of them comprise different editions of the poem in its two parts: El gaucho Martín Fierro (UL’s earliest edition is dated 1894) and La vuelta de Martin Fierro (earliest UL’s edition is from 1892). Other four items are translations of the same work: in English, translated by C. E. Ward (743:36.c.95.133), Walter Owen (743:36.c.90.1) or Frank Gaetano Carrino (S700:01.c.1.244 ), or in German, translated by Alfredo Bauer (743:36.c.95.365). Continue reading