Wrangel in ink : the October 2018 Slavonic item of the month

The Revolution exhibits

The final items have recently been added to the Revolution : The First Bolshevik Year online exhibition.  I am extremely grateful to the students and librarians who provided many of the captions.  Amongst the latest additions is a book which contains a written dedication by the White commander Petr Vrangel’ (commonly Wrangel) – a fascinating re-discovery.

from ‘Russkie v Gallipoli’

Глубокоуважаемому Николаю Николаевичу Шебеко – повесть о крестном пути тех, кто вынес на чужбину и верно хранит национальное русское знамя. Ген. Врангель

To the esteemed Nikolai Nikolaevich Shebeko – a tale about the via dolorosa of those who brought out to a foreign land and faithfully preserve the national Russian flag. Gen. Wrangel

Shebeko had served as a diplomat under the tsar and fought with the Whites.  By the time this book, on the Russians in Gallipoli, had been published in Berlin in 1923, Shebeko had settled in France.  Wrangel had led the southern White forces and remained a hugely significant figure in emigration.  He eventually moved to Belgium, via Yugoslavia where he founded ROVS, the Russian All-Military Union which served to unite émigré officers and soldiers and which attracted a great deal of Soviet state interest.  Soviet involvement was certainly suspected in Wrangel’s death in Belgium in 1928 at the age of 49.

Wrangel’s writing proved quite a challenge to decipher, certainly for me.  Sincere thanks go to Richard Davies of the Leeds Russian Archive who provided a transcription with little apparent effort and much-appreciated speed.

A higher-resolution image of the dedication can be found here: https://exhibitions.lib.cam.ac.uk/revolutionthefirstbolshevikyear/artifacts/a-trace-of-wrangel/

Mel Bach

Un ouvrage exceptionnel, tout simplement

This month, we were delighted to welcome our new French specialist, Dr Irène Fabry-Tehranchi. Irène will focus on current Francophone collection development but will also work with French special collections, chief among them the Chadwyck-Healey Liberation Collection. This post looks at the latest Liberation addition: a book signed by Tristan Tzara and Henri Matisse.  Le signe de vie, which featured in Sir Charles Chadwyck Healey’s talk ‘The power of the image in liberated France, 1944-46’ earlier this year, was printed in Paris in 1946 and contains poems by Tzara with illustrations by Matisse (Liberation.b.343).

Matisse’s signature; Tzara’s signature below the tirage description; dedication to Rita Kernn-Larsen by Tzara (Liberation.b.343)

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The book as a precious object

Bell, Book and Candle are symbolic objects in the term that describes an archaic form of excommunication, as well as being the title of a 1950s Broadway comedy, the book representing faith and learning. But I suggest that another term ‘precious object’ can be applied to individual copies of books which memorialize important relationships usually through inscription. Newton’s own annotated copy of his Principia in Cambridge University Library is an example of a precious object because of the intimate relation that particular copy has with the author through his annotations. But the precious object is the physical book itself not its printed text. Three examples of books that are ‘precious objects’ are in the Liberation Collection 1944-1946 in Cambridge University Library, a collection of books, still being added to, published mainly in France after the Liberation of Paris and before the end of 1946 on the subjects of the war, the occupation and the liberation. Two books are by collaborators and one is by a member of the resistance. The two collaborators, who were actively sympathetic to the Nazi cause and all that it stood for, were both killed before the war had ended for what they believed in while the resistance fighter survived the war and lived on into old age.

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Adam Müller’s Afterlives

This guest post is written by Jonathan Green (PhD student, Trinity Hall), and describes his discovery of a copy of Adam Müller’s Schriften zur Staatsphilosophie. This copy has had an interesting ownership history before coming to the Cambridge University Library.

In the course of my doctoral research into the German reception of Edmund Burke (1731-1797), I’ve become particularly interested in the Roman Catholic political economist and social critic Adam Müller (1779-1829). One of Burke’s closest readers in the early 1800s, Müller is often credited with outlining a uniquely ‘Romantic’ critique of the French Revolution. He warned that the Revolution had unleashed a radical form of individualism into European political discourse, which was corroding customary mores, undermining religious belief, and subverting the political autonomy of local communities – dissolving all that was solid into air. In the wake of this liberalizing process, he feared that post-revolutionary Europe would splinter into an anarchic, atomized world of superficially ‘liberated’ individuals who were in practice deeply confused, disoriented, and lonely. Without shared values to bind men together, political community would be impossible, and alienation would supplant an earlier era of Christian moral consensus. The aim of his ‘Romantic’ politics was to ward off this dystopian scenario by reconciling the liberty of modern, commercial society with the moral foundations provided by Roman Catholicism. The Church, Müller believed, was in a position to provide a moral ‘glue’ that could hold society together.

The cover of Adam Müller’s Schriften zur Staatsphilosophie (9007.c.3837)

The cover of Adam Müller’s Schriften zur Staatsphilosophie (9007.c.3837)

Müller’s arguments were largely ignored in his own day. In the early-twentieth century, however, in the wake of Germany’s defeat in WWI and especially in the aftermath of the economic crash of 1929, Müller enjoyed something of a revival among German-language political theorists, as they began to share his doubts about the moral and political viability of liberalism, and began casting about for alternatives. Especially in southern Germany and Austria, he became an important inspiration for a generation of right-leaning corporatist and communitarian thinkers such as Othmar Spann, Jakob Baxa, and Georg Quabbe. In the same years, he became the bête noir of more Machiavellian theorists such as Carl Schmitt, who saw Müller’s Catholicism as an insufficient foundation for a more robust, authoritarian conservatism. Continue reading

Deciphering inscriptions

Details of provenance, and other information on what makes the Library’s copies of a publication distinctive, form an increasingly important part of processing activity for the European Collections and Cataloguing team. Thirty years ago the Rare Book Department used to maintain a card catalogue of provenance information, albeit on a very selective basis. Nowadays we incorporate such detail into our cataloguing records, often trying to reproduce inscriptions in full, and providing access points for former owners, dedicatees and inscribers. This can, of course, be challenging, since none of us are handwriting specialists. Anyone familiar with early 20th century German handwriting, for example, as represented in the Library’s Schnitzler Archive, can have no doubt on that score. Schnitzler’s handwriting is hugely difficult. Continue reading