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

Cyrillic Mongolian : the October 2017 “Slavonic” item(s) of the month

Cyrillic became the chief alphabet of the Mongolian language in Mongolia in the 1940s and has remained so to this day.  “Mongolia” here refers to the independent country, an area also known as Outer Mongolia.  Inner Mongolia, within Chinese borders, still uses the classic Mongolian alphabet – which, rather mind-bendingly, derives from a Semitic script.  The transition to Cyrillic in Soviet Mongolia from the traditional alphabet took in Latin on the way, in the 1930s.  In 1932, the famous linguist Nikolai Poppe published a text book on the Mongolian language in which he employed both the classic (here shown horizontally but normally written vertically) and Latin alphabets:

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Celebrating 100 years of De Stijl

Composition en rouge, jaune, bleu et noir by Mondrian via Wikimedia Commons

It is exactly 100 years since the first issue of De Stijl magazine was published in October 1917. This is commonly regarded as the starting point for the influential artistic movement of the same name, chiefly associated with the artist Piet Mondrian and abstract geometric paintings using primary colours. The anniversary has been marked throughout the year by exhibitions in several locations around the Netherlands (see here for more details) along with the publication of new books on the movement and related artists. This is a good time for us to consider relevant books that we have and to highlight recent new acquisitions. 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)

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Maria Sibylla Merian – 300

Portrait of Merian by Jacob Houbraken after Georg Gsell

It is 300 years since the renowned artist and naturalist Maria Sybilla Merian died on January 13, 1717 in Amsterdam. She was born in Frankfurt am Main in 1647 into a family of publishers and artists, and was educated and trained by the artist Jacob Marrel. She established her reputation as the foremost natural history illustrator with her Neues Blumenbuch, published in three parts from 1675. She lived with her daughters in Amsterdam from 1691, and in 1699 she travelled to the Dutch territory of Suriname in South America and spent two years studying and painting its flora and fauna. The work produced in Suriname was the basis for her masterwork published as Metamorphosis insectorum surinamensium in 1705. This magnificent publication is a milestone in the history of natural history illustration. Continue reading