Performance reviews, pictures and advertisement: La scène (Paris, 1877-1888)

Cambridge University Library recently acquired the French periodical La scène: revue des succès dramatiques, décorations complètes, costumes coloriés, directed and illustrated by Jules Gaildrau and written by his colleague E. Grand, ranging from October 1877 to January 1888 (Rare books, 8000.a.95). The publication (43 issues in total) was intended to appear twice a month; in reality, though, it was more irregular, with fewer reviews in 1880-1882 and 1885-1888 (and no review at all in 1887). It is a very rare set, as far as we know, only held at the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris.

T. 1 no 1, 1877: Review of the opéra-comique Les cloches de Corneville (Robert Planquette), p. 1

La scène is a wonderful source recording the Parisian theatrical life of the second part of the 19th century, telling us of its “dramatic successes”, and including information such as the date and place of the first performance, the names of music directors, costume designers, dressmakers, set designers, as well as those of the actors. Each issue is made up of four pages of text summarising the plot and reviewing the performance of the actors or singers and the staging, with black and white illustrations of the different sets; four pages of advertisements; and a coloured plate divided into four levels featuring the actors in their costumes. The periodical was available for purchase (for 1 franc, and later 1 franc 50) at the head office as well as in bookshops, and customers could pay for subscriptions of three months, six months, or a year. In the later period, advertisements encouraged the retrospective purchase of a whole set of the publication. Continue reading

The Martin Stone collection of French illustrated poetry, 19th-20th centuries at Cambridge

Cambridge University Library has just acquired a collection of about 230 French illustrated poetry books ranging from 1841 to 1970 and beyond. They were collected by Martin Stone, an English guitarist as well as rare books dealer and collector who passed away in 2016. The collection consists mainly of outstanding first editions, many of which printed on special paper and containing signatures and dedications by and to prominent figures of the Parisian art world (Cocteau, Apollinaire, Marie Laurencin etc.). It is very strong from a literary perspective, with major or lesser-known French and Belgian poets, ranging from Symbolist and Decadent writing to the 20th century Modernist avant-gardes, which reverberated across the globe.

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Poèmes de Jean Lorrain. Paris: Léon Grus, 1896. Sheet music. Composer Gabriel Pierné. Cover by Lucien Métivet.

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Judging books of the Liberation of France by their cover: a new feature of Cambridge University Library catalogue

Book covers, originally designed to protect the pages of a book, now serve a commercial purpose: they attract the gaze, aiming at inducing the purchase and reading of a book. Their design and appearance are determined by national or sectorial rules and traditions: academic versus popular publishing, paperbacks versus hardbacks. In this blog, I will explore some of the characteristics of current French book covers’ design, the growing importance of book covers images in social media and digital collections, and a specific project designed at Cambridge University Library: adding pictures of book covers to catalogue records of the Liberation collection, 1944-46. Continue reading

“Les alliés”: Belgian children’s literature in the Liberation collection, 1944-1946

As the cataloguing of the remainder of the Chadwyck-Healey collection is progressing, we want to shed light on some of the items which have been recently catalogued. In February, Anne-Laure Lacour and Clara Panozzo completed the full cataloguing of a series of booklets of juvenile literature, the Collection “Les alliés”, published in Brussels between 1944 and 1947. With about 400 items, consisting of individual publications as well as series, children’s literature represents a significant portion of the Liberation collection.

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