The Fortunes of the Orlando Furioso, 1516-2016

This guest post by Helena Sanson (Clare College, Cambridge) and Francesco Lucioli (University College Dublin) has been written to accompany the book display in the North Front corridor of the University Library, organised by them in collaboration with Anna-Luise Wagner (Selwyn College, Cambridge)

orlando-furioso-blog-fig-12016 marks the 500th anniversary of the publication of the first edition of one of the masterpieces of Italian Renaissance literature, and world literature more broadly: the Orlando furioso by Ludovico Ariosto (Reggio Emilia 1474 – Ferrara 1533). As a contribution towards the celebrations of this anniversary that has seen conferences and events taking place all over the world, a book display of Orlando furioso editions held in Cambridge University Library will be held between 7 November and 3 December. On Friday 18 November, there will also be an event in Clare College entitled The Fortunes of the Orlando furioso, 1516-2016, which is free and open to the general public. The event includes public lectures by Renaissance specialists on the fortunes of the poem in literature, art and music (Clare College, Latimer room, 3-5 pm), followed by a concert of arias inspired across the centuries by this magnificent poem (Clare College Chapel, 6 pm). More details on the event and on how to register can be found here: Continue reading

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:

Mel Bach

‘Crime and Punishment’ at 150 : exhibition opens today

montageIn 1866, the journal ‘Russkii vestnik’ (Russian Messenger) published Fyodor Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’ for the first time.  The University Library is taking part in a transatlantic series of events coordinated by Dr Katherine Bowers (University of British Columbia) and Dr Kate Holland (Toronto)  to mark the anniversary of the novel’s publication.

Strictly speaking, two exhibitions open today and not one – a large virtual exhibition of 22 objects and a smaller physical exhibition in the Library’s entrance hall, with two cases displaying a total of 9 of these same pieces.  Over the course of the year, captions for the exhibitions have been written by Dr Bowers’ undergraduate students in collaboration with us both, and with input from Kristina McGuirk and Barnabas Kirk, research associates at UBC and Toronto.

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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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Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, 1547-1616


Attributed to Juan de Jáuregui y Aguilar (circa 1583 – 1641) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Although we are not sure this is actually Cervantes, many subsequent portraits were based on this one.

Four hundred years ago on this day Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, the most influential writer in the Spanish language, died in Madrid. This blogpost gives a taste of the future online exhibition that will feature the rich variety of material held at the Library by, and related to, Cervantes. We hold multiple versions and interpretations of everything that he wrote, but of course most of it relates to his masterpiece, El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha.

Little is known about the birth of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, but he was baptised in Alcalá de Henares on October 9, 1547. The first part of his life was adventurous, marked by travels around the Mediterranean and 5 years of captivity in the hands of Ottoman pirates before his return to Spain in 1580. There, he remained unsuccessful in his attempts at supporting himself through his writing (although he won first prize – three silver spoons – in a poetry competition in 1595). All would change with the publication of El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha. Continue reading