We were saddened to hear last week of the death of Denis Mack Smith, CBE FBA FRSL, considered to be the greatest English historian of modern Italy. Born on March 3, 1920, he wrote extensively on the history of Italy from the Risorgimento onwards and is best known for his works on Garibaldi, Cavour and Mussolini. He was honoured both in this country and abroad. An emeritus fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and an honorary fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford and of Peterhouse here in Cambridge, he was named Grand Official of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic in 1996.
Here at the UL, in addition to our extensive holdings of his works, we have numerous items that were part of his personal library and which have been very generously passed on to us by the Bodleian. It has been a pleasure and privilege to unpack, sort and catalogue these items, and I have endeavoured to highlight some of them in past blog posts. Very poignantly, I heard the news of his death, on July 11 2017, whilst unpacking the latest consignment to arrive from Oxford. I shall treasure the opportunity to add these to our collections, and remain extremely grateful both to the Bodleian and to Denis Mack Smith for passing these on.
The shortlist for this year’s Diagram Prize for the oddest book title of the year was announced last week, with the winner to be declared on 28 July. Last year’s winner of the prize was Too naked for the Nazis by Alan Stafford (C212.c.7711), a biography of the music hall dance act Wilson, Keppel and Betty. As a Germanophile, this title caught my eye but I was then pleased to find further German connections as Betty Knox, the original Betty, got to know Erika Mann, the daughter of Thomas Mann.
The explanation of the book’s title is that in the mid-1930s the trio had performed in Berlin and Joseph Goebbels, propaganda minister, had been in the audience. He found the bare legs of Wilson and Keppel (skinny and with bony knees, part of the humour of the act) to be indecent and bad for the morals of the Nazi youth. Continue reading →
Among recent arrivals from Russia is a lovely book called Gruzinskii avangard (The Georgian avant-garde; S950.a.201.5351), produced to accompany an exhibition held at the Pushkin Fine Arts Museum in Moscow. This Russian-language catalogue is a valuable addition to our collections, giving insight into 20th-century art from a country not exhaustively represented in the Library.
The book contains articles about the Georgian avant-garde followed by 140 or so pages of beautiful reproductions and then a full catalogue listing of the 200+ items used in the exhibition (accompanied by thumbprint reproductions). An English summary can be found at the end of the book. As the pictures above hopefully show, the volume is punctuated by smaller pages in addition to its main pagination. These provide further illustrative content.
One of the most striking aspects of the Liberation Collection is the huge number of books consisting of personal narratives, containing the memories of people involved in and affected by World War II. Through dealing with these books one becomes very intrigued by and connected with their authors, their experiences and their suffering. Instances of personal narratives in the Liberation Collection vary widely, in terms of the backgrounds to which the authors belonged, in terms of the topics they choose to address or the quality of the publications themselves. But they all share a deeply human and personal view of the tragic conflict. Here is one example. Continue reading →