Talk on the Liberation Collection, 22nd February

Originally posted on the Special Collections blog:

On Thursday 22nd February Sir Charles Chadwyck-Healey will give a talk to the Cambridge Bibliographical Society on ‘The power of the image in liberated France, 1944-46’.

His talk is inspired by imagery from the collection he has put together (recently presented to the University Library) on the German occupation of France during the war and its liberation by the allied forces. Beautiful books began to be published immediately after the liberation of Paris in August 1944 even though the war was still being fought in France. Once Paris was free and the Vichy government had collapsed, censorship came to an end, and it is the immediacy of this response and the quality of the books themselves that makes this period so interesting for the history of the book.

Talk starts at 17.00. Tea from 16.30 before the talk.

Free event, no booking required. Members and non-members of Cambridge Bibliographical Society welcome.

Milstein Seminar Rooms, Cambridge University Library
Thursday, 22 February, 2018

All welcome; booking not required

Victoire, numéro special (Paris, 1945)

Carnival in Uruguay


From Montevideo, Capital Iberoamericana del Carnaval (classmark: 2010.11.1880)

Carnival traditions in Latin America are immensely rich. For millions of people, February is linked to heat, music, water fights and a feast of colours. From Oruro’s celebrations in Bolivia to the most internationally renowned parades of Rio de Janeiro, their counterpart in Montevideo (Uruguay) is just as compelling and certainly more enduring, lasting for 40 days. Montevideo’s carnival not only traditionally allows for a general reversal of everyday norms, but also brings together the very diverse pot of cultures that shape Uruguayan society (see: El carnaval de Montevideo: folklore, historia, sociología, classmark: UR.18, at the Seeley Library’s Latin American studies collection; and at the University Library: Identidad y globalización en el carnaval, at 676:85.c.200.83). Continue reading

France and female authors


Britain celebrated Jane Austen’s bicentenary last year; but who could be her French counterpart?

A few months ago, a colleague, tongue-in-cheek, slammed a newspaper article on my desk with these words: “This doesn’t surprise me about the French at all: so misogynist!”. The article was about the French baccalauréat exam and revealed that 2017 was the very first year in which a text by a female author had been included in the official syllabus.

This doesn’t surprise me either. The French female authors I studied at school and university were indeed very thin on the ground. But I’ve always been uneasy at dismissing it as pure sexism. Could it not be that women have simply been less likely to embrace a literary career in France? When I compare with Britain, I am struck by how many female authors seem to have been around in the 18th and 19th centuries: Ann Radcliffe, Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Anne, Charlotte and Emily Brontë… You can barely find one or two women writers for the same period on the other side on the Channel. Have they all been forgotten? Or did they simply never exist in the first place? And why would that be? My theory is that religion played a part in this. Protestants, more prevalent in England, were encouraged to study the Bible for themselves and taught to read and interpret the text, whether male or female – whereas Catholics, more prevalent in France, were not. Indeed, five of the British authors I’ve just named were clergymen’s daughters. Maybe having a history with a few ruling queens in it wasn’t harmful either, something that could never have happened in France because of the French interpretation of the Salic law. Or maybe there really were as many female authors in France and we just don’t know about them. Continue reading

New additions to the Revolution exhibition : the January 2017 Slavonic items of the month

In late 2017, we announced on this blog the start of Revolution : the First Bolshevik Year, a new online exhibition at the University Library tracking the dramatic events unfolding one hundred years ago.  Since then, two new batches of items have been added.  Most recently, six pieces have gone up which link to developments in December 1917 and January 1918 (this doubling up will cease with the next month’s batch, since the Soviet adoption of the Gregorian calendar took place in February 1918).  Stamps, books, music, and a satirical cartoon, the new items relate to the formation of the Red Army and the increasing activity of the White movement, revolution and the arts, and the short-lived Constituent Assembly.

The preceding batch looked at the December 1917 armistice for the Eastern Front, the rapidly unravelling situation in Ukraine, and the introduction of revolutionary economy.

Full captions for all the items featured in this post can be found on the exhibition site.

Before long, the most exciting stage of work on the exhibition – the involvement of undergraduates as co-curators – is due to begin.  A further report on progress will appear on this blog before long.

Mel Bach

Alphonse Mucha, master of Art Nouveau

Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939) was one of the most relevant Art Nouveau artists. He created the “Mucha style” that had a great influence in decorative arts and advertising illustration. Several exhibitions on this artist have taken place recently, both in the UK and other European countries; all have been promoted by the Mucha Foundation. There is also a permanent collection at the Mucha Museum in Prague, opened by the foundation in 1998.


Self-portrait with Gismonda‘s poster in the background. Ca. 1896. S950.a.201.2411

Mucha was born in Ivančice (near Brno) in 1860, when it was part of the Austrian Empire (now Czech Republic). He lived his youth in Brno in a growing atmosphere of Czech nationalism. Despite having artistic talents from a very young age, he was not able to gain a place at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. Mucha worked for a major theatrical company in Vienna, but the theatre burnt down. Then he ran out of money, but he was lucky enough that his portraits were appreciated by the Count Khuen Belasi in Moravia. Thus, the Count Khuen and his brother, Count Egon, decided to commission him to paint some murals. The latter was so fascinated by his works that decided to become his patron. Thanks to his benefactor Mucha received two years of training at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts before moving to Paris in 1887. There he continued his formal art training and worked for a magazine creating advertising illustrations. He met Paul Gauguin in 1891; they become friends and Mucha offered Gauguin his studio, which they shared for some time. Continue reading