Further to the previous post – the writing on the postcards

Having charitably taken our retired head of department for a walk yesterday, I was rather taken aback when he showed his gratitude by saying that the saddest part of his 2020 Christmas had been the brevity of my blog post about the Russian Christmas cards. He then suggested that I hadn’t transcribed the writing not because I lacked the time but because I couldn’t read it.  Well, hats off to him for pressing the right buttons. Continue reading

S Rozhdestvom Khristovym! : the December 2020 Slavonic item(s) of the month

Items from the postcard collection put together by the late Catherine Cooke have featured in previous posts, including a Soviet-era New Year card.  This time, a little group of pre-revolutionary Christmas cards forms the December Slavonic item(s) of the month.

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Curious indeed : Slavonic material in the new Library exhibition

The second major exhibition celebrating the University Library’s 600th anniversary opens to the public today.  Curious Objects presents “a cabinet of curiosities that opens a window onto the nature of collecting, private and institutional”.  The most modern collection featured is that of Russian and Soviet items left to us by Dr Catherine Cooke, with one of the larger cases in the exhibitions given over to an eye-catching selection of material from the extraordinary collection.


Some of the Cooke items in ‘Curious Objects’.

One of the items used in the exhibition, a St Petersburg postcard, has already been described in detail in an earlier blog post.  This is displayed next to the wall text introducing the Cooke case, alongside a reproduction of a box of Sputnik cigarettes from the collection.  The case itself contains a total of 45 late imperial and Soviet items.  Among these are 19 postcards (including a pop-up postcard of St Basil’s Cathedral), 5 bookmarks, 4 badges, 2 packets of tea, and 1 paper bag.  Together, the exhibits give some idea of the rich variety of the Cooke collection.  Dr Cooke built up a wonderful research library of books and journals on Soviet architecture and design and also collected postcards, posters, and mixed ephemera.

The exhibition will run until 21 March 2017.  Online images of the Cooke exhibition material, accompanied by extended captions, are available here: https://exhibitions.lib.cam.ac.uk/curiousobjects/case/cooke/

Mel Bach

10 views for the price of 1 : the September 2016 Slavonic item of the month

201609_full-postcardThe current Library exhibition, ‘Lines of Thought’, closes on Saturday.  The next exhibition will be ‘Curious Objects’, and the September Slavonic item of the month is a Russian postcard that will be among a section of items in the exhibition from the Catherine Cooke collection.

This charming card shows a postman whose satchel is full of a cascade of tiny postcards showing the sights of St. Petersburg.  Above the postman are the words “Hello from”, the greeting completed by the name of the city stamped on the front of the satchel.  From top to bottom are: the People’s House, the Warsaw Station, the statue of Peter the Great, the Malyi Theatre, the arch of the General Staff Building, the Mariinskii Theatre, the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ, Bol’shaia Morskaia Street, the Winter Palace with the Alexander I column in front of it, and finally St Isaac’s Cathedral and Konnogvardeiskii Boulevard.

Such postcards were not uncommon in the Russian Empire.  A Google image search in Russian for the terms pre-revolutionary postcard postman greetings from supplies several variations on the theme.  The keen-eyed reader will spot that the last on the right is our own postman again, now moonlighting in Kislovodsk.


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Modeling Moscow : life, architecture, and the composite shot in Soviet films of the 1930s

Professor Anne Nesbet opened the new academic year’s CamCREES seminar series with a wonderful talk on Moscow architecture and Soviet films.  In these bibliographical notes for the talk, we take the opportunity to look at books about the legendary Palace of the Soviets, the megalithic giant planned for central Moscow but never completed.

Frame diagram of the Lenin statue to stand at the top of the Palace of the Soviet (Atarov, Dvorets Sovetov; CCC.54.383)

Frame diagram of the Lenin statue to stand at the top of the Palace of the Soviets (Atarov, Dvorets Sovetov; CCC.54.383)

The 2014/15 set of CamCREES seminars started on 14 October with a fascinating talk by Professor Nesbet, in which she demonstrated that close readings of the “complicated composite shots” some 1930s Soviet films contained of Moscow’s architectural future could tell us “not only about the techniques used to construct such visions of the future, but also about cinema’s relationship to architectural history and architecture’s reciprocal interest in animation” (text taken from the talk’s abstract).  Professor Nesbet works in the Department of Film & Media at UC Berkeley.  Her 2007 book Savage junctures : Sergei Eisenstein and the shape of thinking is in the University Library’s South Front (415:3.c.200.1917).

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