The newly donated Bibliotheca Hermetica series: Alchemical Texts in the University Library

As part of a large donation from emeritus Art History Professor Jean Michel Massing, Cambridge University Library now possesses 13 works from the collection Bibliotheca Hermetica, an illustrated, encyclopedic collection of works on alchemy, astrology, and magic, dating across the Medieval to the late Renaissance period. Directed by René Alleau, with translations into Modern French, this collection, published in the 1970s, hoped to contribute to a greater understanding of traditional hermetic teachings.

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French-speaking literary prizewinners 2020-2021

The importance of literary prizes in the French cultural landscape can be measured by  the sheer number of them. There are many mainland prizes, which tend to concentrate on books written by French authors, but also many prizes issued in French overseas regions; these often widen the field by considering French-speaking writers of different nationalities. We acquire a wide selection of these prizes every year. Beyond France, mainland and overseas, we also keep up-to-date with the latest winners of the Tunisian prize Comar d’Or and of the international Prix des 5 continents de la Francophonie.

Below is a list of the prizewinning books we acquired in the past two years. For a presentation of some of the prizes, see this blog post.   

Comar d’Or: 2020: Merminus infinitif : roman by Samir Makhlouf C216.c.9081; 2021: Le chat et le scalpel by Soufiane Ben Farhat (on order)

Grand prix du roman de l’Académie française: 2020: La grande épreuve : roman by Étienne de Montety C216.c.8723; 2021: Mon maître et mon vainqueur : roman by François-Henri Désérable C206.d.9685

Grand Prix du Roman Métis: 2020: Un monstre est là, derrière la porte : roman by Gaëlle Bélem C206.d.5375; 2021: D’amour et de guerre by Akli Tadjer C218.c.3277

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Japanese history, arts and literature: cultural encounters in Cambridge University Library’s Francophone collections

Cambridge University Library is holding until the end of May Samurai, History & Legend, a fascinating and beautiful exhibition of Japanese manuscripts and (illustrated) printed texts and images. Cambridge UL holds one of the most important historic Japanese book collections in the UK. Although Japan is not at the core of the University Library French language collections, and we are constrained by budget limitations, over the years we have collected many Francophone publications on different aspects of Japanese history and culture. Here is a glimpse of some of the titles we have acquired.

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‘Allons enfants de la patrie’: Children and the Wars of 1870-71

As part of the Cambridge Festival 2022 programme, you can now book a place to attend a talk exploring the representations of French children during the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune. It will take place on Thursday 31 March from 5 to 6 pm in the Milstein room. We will be using literary and visual material from a historical collection of caricatures that will be on display at Cambridge University Library from 10 March to 7 May 2022.

Cambridge UL, KF.3.10

From September 1870 to May 1871, the siege of Paris by the Prussians was followed by a civil war which opposed the radical left-wing members of the Paris Commune to the more moderate Republicans leading the French government. The French military defeat, the hardships of life under prolonged sieges, and the political experiments of the Paris Commune –which ended in a massacre–, had a profound impact on the daily lives of Parisian people and especially children.

Cambridge UL, KF.3.10

Their perspective is reflected in the works of writers such as Alphonse Daudet and Guy de Maupassant. In Paris, this fuelled the production of a flurry of caricatures which circulated widely, often disseminated by the illustrated press. They portray children as victims of the war as well as privileged witnesses of the historical events unfolding around them. If children are often used as beacons of hope, torchbearers for the progressive aims of the Commune, they are also invested with the ideology of revenge against the Germans…

Cambridge UL, KF.3.12

This special event is hosted by Cambridge University Library, in partnership with the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics, and the Cambridge Alliance Française.

We are also delighted that a long awaited display of the Franco-Prussian caricatures, featuring, among others, Emperors Napoleon III and Wilhelm I, and Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, will take place from 10 March to 7 May 2022 in one of the Royal enclosures on the first floor of the University Library. Members of the University need to bring their blue card. External visitors can sign in and get a lanyard from the Reader Services Desk in the entrance hall, in order to come and see the small exhibition. If you cannot make it in person, here is a link to the virtual exhibition!

Irene Fabry-Tehranchi

#MeToo in France and French literary and academic publications

The #MeToo movement exposes and confronts sexual abuse and harassment. Its hashtag spread virally on social media in the context of accusations of sexual assault held against the American film producer Harvey Weinstein in the autumn of 2017. The movement has had huge international social and political repercussions, and has inspired or shaped academic works in a variety of fields, including history, philosophy and literature.

In the field of library classifications, the Library of Congress subject heading “MeToo movement” was created in 2020, and uses sources defining it as a movement “launched in 2006 in the United States to assist survivors of sexual violence, especially females of colour” (Encyclopedia Britannica online), which “burgeoned across social media, moving beyond Twitter and into living rooms and courtrooms” (Routledge handbook of the politics of the #MeToo movement, 2021), “revealed sexual abuse in every sphere of society” (Ruth Everhart, The #metoo reckoning, 2020), and intends “to create solidarity among survivors of sexual harassment” (Center for American Progress website). As social media played such an important role in the spread of the #MeToo movement, the Library of Congress also contributed to recording it through the compilation of a Web archive. We can also mention the #metoo Digital Media Collection built by the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, at Harvard University.

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