New exhibition, in the library and online: Cambridge caricatures of the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune (1870-71)

A display of our collection of Franco-Prussian caricatures, is on until 7 May 2022 on the first floor of Cambridge University Library, for readers and visitors. The online exhibition is now also available, providing a snapshot of how 1870-71 caricaturists represented the overthrown Napoleon III and the imperial family (a favourite object of ridicule), or the Prussian enemy (Wilhelm I and his Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, featured, along with German soldiers, as comical yet relentless conquerors and plunderers).

W. Alexis, Triumphal entry in Paris of Bismarck and Wilhelm I, 1871
CUL, KF.3.10, p. 58

The virtual exhibition gives a glimpse of Paris under siege, through the role of women, who often carried the burden of dealing with penury and food shortages, and helped in the war effort, working as nurses, or even volunteering to form battalions of female soldiers. They were also blamed for their frivolity and treachery…

Morsabeau (Eugène Rosambeau), “Les Boucheries”, 1870, CUL, KF.3.11, p. 17

We look at how the cartoonists depicted the transition from the Second French Empire to the Third Republic, divided between the moderate Thiers government, based in Versailles, and the more radical and progressive members of the Paris Commune, established in the spring of 1871… Here is the link to the virtual exhibition.

Adolphe Thiers (Head of the Republican government) as a cameleon
lighting the fire of the Paris Commune… Le Lampion, March 1871, CUL, KF.3.10, p. 168

Finally, don’t forget the talk ‘Allons enfants de la patrie’: Children and the Wars of 1870-71, Thursday 31 March, 5-6 pm in the Milstein room. We have a couple of spaces left for a tour of the library’s Historical printing room led by its curator Colin Clarkson before the event: if you are interested please get in touch (french@lib.cam.ac.uk)!

Irene Fabry-Tehranchi

Bon voyage! New French-language travel history books in the University Library

As many of us resign ourselves to a 2021 ‘staycation’, how about taking the opportunity to travel through the UL’s French-language collections instead? A number of recent acquisitions conveniently explore travel history and narratives!

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New French ebooks resource!

The past year, with its challenges of library closures and restriction of movement, has highlighted for us all the importance of remote accessibility to library collections and the benefits of e-resources. Traditionally, French-language ebooks have been harder for institutions like the UL to procure, as our established ebook suppliers primarily focus on English-language material. Most French publishers individually provide their own online resources without institutional access, and where ebooks are made available they are often unfeasibly more expensive to purchase than the print equivalent. As a result, the UL’s French-language acquisitions, up to now, have had to rely heavily on printed editions.

In the last month, however, French book supplier ‘Amalivre’ has launched its own ebooks platform, offering a wide selection of material from over 70 publishers, such as L’Harmattan, Honoré Champion and CNRS! All of the available publications currently permit unlimited readers to access them at once and from anywhere in the world, provided the user is logged into iDiscover.

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New French books at the UL to celebrate Women’s History Month

At the UL, we continually research and select newly published foreign language books to build and develop the Library’s excellent study resources. Since March is Women’s History Month, it presents the perfect opportunity to highlight some interesting recent acquisitions to the French-language history and history of art collections.

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History and memory: French comic books and graphic novels at Cambridge University Library

Comic books (bandes dessinées or BDs) and graphic novels (romans graphiques) are a very important and successful part of French and Francophone publications. A report on the Bande Dessinée was commissioned by the French Ministry of Culture and published in January 2019, ahead of BD 2020, l’année de la bande dessinée. It contained several proposals for better symbolic and institutional recognition for the “9th art”: a stronger local, national and international dissemination and promotion, and an ambitious education policy. 2020 is thus officially « L’année de la bande-dessinée à la BnF »: the French national Library has engaged in a series of printed and online publications as well as events on the topic (prolonged up to 31st June 2021 because of the coronavirus crisis) and has even developed an app, “BDnF, la Fabrique à BD“, for you to try and create your own comic book. The app is accompanied by tutorials, and examples of creations in different sub-genres (including comic strip, manga, webtoon…), based on a selection of digital images from archival BnF documents. You can also read entire comic books online: during the lockdown, publishers such as La Boite à Bulles or Dargaud opened up some of their collections; every month, you can access a free volume on the website of Les Humanoïdes Associés. You can also read online comic books on the Institut Français digital library Culturethèque (sign up for free with your email address), or browse the digitised collections of the Cité internationale de la bande dessinée et de l’image, based in Angoulème, where takes place a major annual International Comics Festival.

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