Un ouvrage exceptionnel, tout simplement

This month, we were delighted to welcome our new French specialist, Dr Irène Fabry-Tehranchi. Irène will focus on current Francophone collection development but will also work with French special collections, chief among them the Chadwyck-Healey Liberation Collection. This post looks at the latest Liberation addition: a book signed by Tristan Tzara and Henri Matisse.  Le signe de vie, which featured in Sir Charles Chadwyck Healey’s talk ‘The power of the image in liberated France, 1944-46’ earlier this year, was printed in Paris in 1946 and contains poems by Tzara with illustrations by Matisse.

Matisse’s signature; Tzara’s signature below the tirage description; dedication to Rita Kernn-Larsen by Tzara

Continue reading

Paul Claudel and Audrey Parr : exhibition in the UL Entrance Hall

Originally posted on the Library’s Special Collection blog:

Paul Claudel in 1927

To mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of the poet and playwright Paul Claudel (1868–1955), a new exhibition in the Library’s Entrance Hall displays highlights from a collection of letters, postcards, verses and books sent or presented by Claudel to his friend and collaborator Audrey Parr (1892–1940), and donated to the University Library in 2001 by Parr’s granddaughter, Mrs L. M. Jack.

Claudel, who served in the French diplomatic corps, met Audrey, who was married to the British diplomat Raymond Parr, in Rome in 1915–16. The friendship deepened when both Raymond Parr and Claudel were appointed to Rio de Janeiro shortly afterwards. She and Claudel met intermittently thereafter, but pursued their relationship by letter. After the Parrs’ separation in 1930 Audrey settled in London, and remarried in 1938. She died in a road accident in May 1940.

Claudel’s letters and poems to Parr frequently show a whimsical, almost flirtatious, side to his character; he often signed with his pet name ‘Cacique’, and hoped that she might follow him around the globe. But beneath the light-hearted banter, the correspondence demonstrates the strength of an enduring friendship based on mutual passion for literature and the arts. The exhibition opens with the earliest surviving letter from Claudel to Parr, MS Add.9591/1, written during a mission to Washington in January 1919 (where, aptly for a French diplomat, he stayed at the Hotel LaFayette, whose letterhead he used). He told of his protracted journey to the United States via Martinique and Puerto Rico, and gave his impressions of New York. Claudel concluded the letter by recalling a walk he had taken with Parr by the Atlantic in Brazil, ‘while the big waves were breaking on the rocks’, during which she had confided ‘all her troubles’.

The two main printed items in on display both show the influence on Claudel of his diplomatic postings to the Far East, firstly to China in the 1890s and later to Japan in the 1920s. The prose poems in Connaissance de l’est were written in China and first published by Mercure de France in Paris in 1900. An enlarged edition appeared in 1907, and the work was reissued in China in 1914 as part of the ‘Collection Coréenne’ under the direction of the ethnographer, archaeologist and writer Victor Segalen (1878–1919). This edition was printed and sewn in oriental fashion, and its two volumes were housed in a fabric-covered wrapper. The Library’s copy, CCA.45.1, presented to Audrey Parr, is number 585 of 630 numbered copies.

In 1926–7, towards the end of a posting to Tokyo, Claudel wrote a number of short poems inspired by haiku, published as Hyakusencho = Cent phrases pour éventails (Tokyo: Koshiba, 1927). This edition of a hundred ‘phrases for fans’ was lithographed from versions which Claudel produced using a brush; the calligraphy of the accompanying Japanese characters, chosen as titles for their decorative and suggestive qualities, was the work of Ikuma Arishima (1882–1974). Three orihons, each consisting of numerous sheets of paper pasted together into a single length and folded in the style of a concertina, were housed in a chitsu, or wrap-around covering—a format already antiquated by the 1920s. The copy shown in the exhibition, CCA.45.3, was inscribed by Claudel for Parr in Washington in 1930, ‘in memory of the beautiful fans of Brazil’.

The exhibition pays particular attention to Parr’s role as a collaborator on Claudel’s creative projects. In Rio, she collaborated with Claudel and his secretary, the composer Darius Milhaud, in a ballet, ‘L’Homme et son désir’, for which she provided set designs. Milhaud later described how they cut fifteen-centimetre figures from coloured paper to work out the movements of the ballet. Claudel inscribed Parr’s copy of his play L’annonce faite à Marie, CCA.45.12, with a dedication to ‘my kind collaborator’.

Following ‘L’Homme et son désir’, Parr next collaborated with Claudel by producing illustrations for his poem Sainte Geneviève, published in Tokyo in 1923. Two years later, Claudel wrote Le vieillard sur le mont Omi, a set of prose poems, and asked Parr to illustrate the sequence; sheets from Claudel’s manuscript of the text, sent to Parr, with a page bearing a dedication, are included in the exhibition (MS Add.9591/188, ff. 1 and 3–4). It was decided that the artwork should take the form of paintings of butterflies. Several times in letters written between 1925 and 1927 Claudel expressed anxiety over delays to the printing of Le vieillard sur le mont Omi, and with increasing concern he asked after progress with Parr’s illustrations. In a letter from Tokyo of 6 January 1927 included in the exhibition, MS Add.9591/55, he underlined the question ‘And our butterflies, Margotine?’: Claudel feared they had flown away, taking the book with them.

In due course, however, the de luxe edition of Le vieillard sur le mont Omi was produced in Paris by Le Livre, illustrated with 30 gouaches by the illuminator and printmaker Jean Saudé after designs by Parr. Her original butterfly paintings, two of which are on display (MS Add.9591/188), were executed on a semi-transparent hot-pressed paper which allowed pigment on either side of the page to be visible: the edition had the subtitle ‘Papillons et ombres de papillons’ (‘Butterflies and shadows of butterflies’). Mrs Jack’s donation included a set of proofs, MS Add.9591/155, some folded as quires or bifolia, some with printed slips pasted on, and some with manuscript emendations. The butterflies were to be Parr’s last collaboration with Claudel, but their correspondence continued until just a few months before her death.

‘Paul Claudel and Audrey Parr: a friendship in books and letters’ runs in the Entrance Hall until 22 August, and can be visited during normal Library opening hours.

John Wells
Department of Archives and Modern Manuscripts

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Mid-century Ukrainian book covers : the June 2018 Slavonic item(s) of the month

In the past few years, the University Library has been very fortunate in receiving the private libraries of two late British Ukrainians – Peter Yakimiuk and Teodor Kolassa.  Together, these donations have added hundreds of chiefly diaspora publications to the Library’s 20th-century Ukrainian collection.  This blog post celebrates a few of the many eye-catching book covers to be found amongst them.  All but the last of the six items detailed here were produced in Europe within a few years of the end of World War 2.  Please click on each image to see a larger version.

Continue reading

“Not bad” : 100-year-old comments on an exhibition in Petrograd : the April 2018 Slavonic item of the month

Front cover of the catalogue (CCB.54.143)

100 years ago, the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts held an exhibition of works by members of the famous Peredvizhniki (or Wanderers, Oxford Art Online‘s preferred translation).  In the Catherine Cooke collection, the UL has a programme from the exhibition.  What makes our copy such a delight is that it contains pencilled comments by a visitor to the exhibition.

The catalogue, a slight and entirely unillustrated 14-page publication, lists the members of the Peredvizhniki followed by the names of their paintings exhibited, and then lists eksponenty – exhibitors – and their paintings.  The relationship between the first group and the second is not entirely clear to me.  In G.B. Romanov’s 735-page Peredvizhniki encyclopedia (S950.b.200.4794), the entry for the exhibition – which opened in March 1918 – provides a list of artists and exhibits that contains some but not all of the artists and paintings from both lists, undifferentiated, in the catalogue.

Continue reading