“Soyez réalistes, demandez l’impossible” May 1968 France



“Be realistic, ask the impossible” was one of the many slogans of the French unrest in May-June 1968. May last year was the 50th anniversary of the upheaval, which arouses mixed feelings in French society, depending on the political ideas of each individual. There was a debate in 2017 about Emmanuel Macron’s idea of celebrating May 68, when it had been an anti-governmental, non-institutionalised movement; it certainly led to many cultural events in 2018, including the BnF exhibition: The spirit(s) of May 68. Cambridge University Library purchased many of the publications on May 68 which came out around the time of the anniversary, including 1968 : de grands soirs en petits matins (C214.c.7787) and L’esprit de mai 68 (C205.d.9998). Here we highlight some of the books we have received in the past year or so. Continue reading

Louis XIV: The king is dead… but not in our collections

le-roi-est-mort-catalogueJust in time for the final episodes of Versailles on the BBC, the University Library has received Le roi est mort : Louis XIV, 1715 (S950.a.201.4340). Including imagery from the funerals of French figures from Henri IV to Charles de Gaulle, this book (the catalogue of an exhibition held at the Châteaux de Versailles marking the 300th anniversary of his death) discusses both the ceremony and legal proceedings resulting from the death of the king.

Documents such as Louis XIV’s will (available in part online through the Archives nationales), the seating plan in St Denis for his funeral service, and orations from his funeral are reproduced along with essays on the death and funerals of kings of France, specific aspects of Louis XIV’s funeral, and analysis of the music and ceremony of royal funerals. Continue reading

The Republican Calendar

The clocks have changed, the nights are growing longer, and the cold wintry days of Frimaire are now upon us. The French Republican calendar is not used anymore, but it was in use for a significant period of time following the French Revolution, and approximately up to the coronation of Napoleon. The UL and a number of college libraries hold numerous books published during this period, many of which have publication dates that are incomprehensible to the modern eye.

The Republican calendar was intended to remove influences of religion and monarchy, and as such the names of the months were derived from seasonal conditions or events such as fog or the harvest, and every day of the year was named to reflect some aspect of the rural calendar. November 27 this year, based on the most popular method of translating to the Gregorian calendar, is 7 Frimaire: the day of the cauliflower.

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La grâce d’une cathédrale


Book cover and title page of the Cathedral of Nantes (S950.a.201.2470)

Last week’s fire at the Basilique Saint-Donatien in Nantes (excellent photo gallery) provides a good opportunity to talk about the series La grâce d’une cathédrale, and the associated La grâce d’une basilique. Published by La nuée bleue in Strasbourg, these are large format works focused on individual cathedrals and basilicas in France. The full list of published and forthcoming works is available on the series website—each of the extant volumes is available in the UL, and we will purchase the volumes once they are published.

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Imperial Russia in hot pursuit : the April 2015 Slavonic item of the month

A University Library exhibition commemorating the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo opens to the public this Friday.  Among the exhibits is a Russian book reporting the Imperial Army’s offensives against the French in 1813.  One of its contributors, Field Marshal Kutuzov, was the subject of the first Slavonic item of the month, exactly two years ago.


The opening which will be on display in the exhibition.  It shows the list of casualties, in French (right) and Russian translation (left), of the French 5th regiment of Tirailleurs after withdrawal from Smolensk.

The book in question is Izviestiia o voennykh” dieistviiakh” Rossiiskoi Armii protiv frantsuzov”, pervoi poloviny 1813 goda [Reports on the military operations of the Russian Army against the French in the first half of 1813; 8586.d.84].  This 155-page volume, the second of two published, contains sources from the Russian pursuit of the Grande Armée far into Prussia in the months that followed the catastrophic close of Napoleon’s 1812 invasion of Russia.
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