Nadar: the story of a photography pioneer

Last year the Bibliothèque nationale de France organised Les Nadar, un légende photographique, an exhibition on this family of photographers (accompanying catalogue: S950.b.201.5289 featuring Paul Nadar’s portrait of Sarah Bernhardt on the cover). The most important of these was Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, photography pioneer, freelance writer and caricaturist, known by his pseudonym, Nadar. In addition, his son Paul and his half-brother Adrien Tournachon were gifted photographers.

Caricature of F. Nadar in La lune, 1867, 2015.8.2833

Félix Nadar was born in 1820 into a family of printers and booksellers in Lyon. From a young age he was an admirer of Dumas, Hugo and Balzac. He started to study medicine in Lyon but once his father died in 1837, he had to quit and moved to Paris. There he started his career as writer and caricaturist, collaborating in some journals. He frequented the Parisian bohemian scene in the Latin Quarter; where he met important writers, such as Dumas (father), Balzac, Gérard de Nerval, Théophile Gautier, Charles Baudelaire, George Sand, Alfred de Vigny, the Goncourt brothers… Nadar was part of “the water drinkers”, the bohemian circle of Henry Murguer. Félix was well connected and maintained his links with these friends later on. Continue reading

Parisian exhibition catalogues, May 2015

One of the advantages of working in European Collections and Cataloguing is the opportunity to see new exhibition catalogues shortly after publication, which can be very useful when planning a visit to a European capital. When the workflow is at its most efficient, the catalogue’s acquisition can coincide with the opening of the exhibition, often the case when the volume is supplied under the terms of one of the Library’s approval plans.

Fondation Louis Vuitton by Flickr user Howard Stanbury

Fondation Louis Vuitton by Flickr user Howard Stanbury

In the middle of May I spent a long weekend in Paris, and before departure had the chance to look through two catalogues of exhibitions I was visiting – Poussin et Dieu (S950.a.201.3164) at the Louvre, and Velázquez at the Grand Palais (S950.a.201.3127). It was particularly interesting in the latter case to be able to compare the range of paintings exhibited with those presented at the National Gallery exhibition in 2006. Both the Paris catalogues are very substantial publications, presenting the latest research on the artists in question, but it is hard to imagine anyone actually carrying the books round and consulting them whilst in the exhibition.

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Literature of the Liberation: the French experience in print 1944-1946

This exhibition in the Milstein Exhibition Centre at Cambridge University Library celebrates the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Paris and shows some of the books that were published mainly in France, after August 1944 and before the end of 1946, on the subjects of the Second World War, the German occupation of France starting in 1940, and the country’s liberation by the Allies in 1944-1945. The books are from the Chadwyck-Healey Liberation Collection, donated to Cambridge University Library and still being added to, which is the definitive collection of French books from this period on these subjects. The exhibition opens on May 7 and runs until October 11, 2014.

 I. Blanchot, Libération de Paris: aquarelles de Pierre Albert Leroux

I. Blanchot, Libération de Paris: aquarelles de Pierre Albert Leroux

Beautiful books began to be published immediately after the liberation of Paris in August 1944 even though the war was still being fought in France. Once Paris was free and the Vichy government had collapsed there was no longer censorship, and it is the immediacy of this response and the quality of the books themselves that makes this period so interesting for the history of the book. The wide availability of fine, handmade papers at the end of the war is one of the discoveries of this collection.

Many of the volumes are association copies with important dedications, but it is the books themselves that are evidence of the importance that the French people attached to publishing accounts of their experiences during the crisis that had befallen France.

Guest author: Charles Chadwyck-Healey

At the time of writing some 320 items have been catalogued, and can be accessed by conducting a keyword search on Newton on the phraseChadwyck-Healey Liberation Collection”. An alternative means of access is to conduct a classmark search on Newton or Library Search (the provisional classmark for the sequence begins In process.1-). Another hundred or more titles still await processing, and new material is regularly being added to the collection.