A new exhibition of 1870-71 caricatures at Cambridge Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics library 

A few weeks ago, we opened a new exhibition in the Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics library, relating to a collection of 1870-71 caricatures held in the University Library. This project was highly collaborative, involving librarians, academic staff and students. It followed an exhibition held at the UL last year and started with translations of the text and legends of French caricatures into English.

Poster for the MMLL caricatures exhibition

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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

A new film on the Cambridge caricatures of the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune (1870-71)!

The digitised collection of Cambridge caricatures of the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune (KF.3.9-14) is the subject of a new film featuring the University Library’s historical printing presses and produced by the Digital Content Unit.

Look out for the forthcoming exhibition on the first floor of the University Library!

It will feature satirical representations of the defeated French Emperor Napoleon III, and of the victorious German Emperor Wilhelm I and his Chancellor Otto von Bismarck.

Explore the collection

Irène Fabry-Tehranchi

Frederick Justen and L’Eclipse: the early 20th c. donation of 1870-71 Franco-Prussian caricatures and satirical magazines to Cambridge UL

Six large volumes of around 1100 caricatures of 1870-71 (KF.3.9-14), digitised by Cambridge Digital Content Unit, with funding by Cambridge Digital Humanities, have just been made available on our Digital Library. This digitisation was enabled through a research project coinciding with the 150th anniversary of the Franco-Prussian war and focusing on collections of French and German caricatures produced at the time which were brought to the UK shortly afterwards. While beginning to investigate the 1870-71 caricatures collection, I wondered about the role and evidence for the contribution of the bookseller Frederick Justen (1832-1906), who we know played a key role in assembling and bringing to the UK several collections of 1870-71 caricatures (see the articles by Daniels, 2005 and Müller, 2011-12).

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Les Murailles politiques françaises (1870-71): French and German posters from the Franco-Prussian war and the Commune

Last year I catalogued a few dusty old French books found in the University Library tower. Among them was an interesting four-flap folder containing Les affiches de la Commune : Paris – Versailles – La province, du 18 mars au 27 mai 1871, a collection of poster facsimiles published in 1874, just a few years after their production (now at 8001.b.205). I discovered that this item was the second part of a series entitled Les Murailles politiques françaises, depuis le 18 juillet 1870 jusqu’au 25 mai 1871. Affiches françaises et allemandes. Part 1, published in 1873 was La Guerre, La Commune – Paris, Province. Part 3, published in 1875, was Les Murailles d’Alsace-Lorraine: Metz, Sarreguemines, Strasbourg, Haguenau, Saverne, Nancy, etc.‎ Cambridge University Library did not have these two other volumes of the set, but did hold two closely related publications.

Les murailles politiques françaises, 8500.b.14

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