Fighting windmills – new virtual exhibition on Don Quixote at the University Library

The virtual exhibition ‘Fighting windmills: the many interpretations of Don Quixote’ was launched yesterday to commemorate Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s 400th death anniversary. It features some rarely seen and beautifully illustrated material from a wide number of collections within the University Library, and its main aim is to highlight some of the ways in which Don Quixote has been appropriated by readers, artists and other writers throughout the centuries.

Illustration by Walter Crane from ‘Don Quixote of the Mancha’; London: Blackie&Son, 1900 (Waddleton.c.9.615)

Continue reading

Louis XIV: The king is dead… but not in our collections

le-roi-est-mort-catalogueJust in time for the final episodes of Versailles on the BBC, the University Library has received Le roi est mort : Louis XIV, 1715 (S950.a.201.4340). Including imagery from the funerals of French figures from Henri IV to Charles de Gaulle, this book (the catalogue of an exhibition held at the Châteaux de Versailles marking the 300th anniversary of his death) discusses both the ceremony and legal proceedings resulting from the death of the king.

Documents such as Louis XIV’s will (available in part online through the Archives nationales), the seating plan in St Denis for his funeral service, and orations from his funeral are reproduced along with essays on the death and funerals of kings of France, specific aspects of Louis XIV’s funeral, and analysis of the music and ceremony of royal funerals. Continue reading

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, 1547-1616


Attributed to Juan de Jáuregui y Aguilar (circa 1583 – 1641) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Although we are not sure this is actually Cervantes, many subsequent portraits were based on this one.

Four hundred years ago on this day Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, the most influential writer in the Spanish language, died in Madrid. This blogpost gives a taste of the future online exhibition that will feature the rich variety of material held at the Library by, and related to, Cervantes. We hold multiple versions and interpretations of everything that he wrote, but of course most of it relates to his masterpiece, El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha.

Little is known about the birth of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, but he was baptised in Alcalá de Henares on October 9, 1547. The first part of his life was adventurous, marked by travels around the Mediterranean and 5 years of captivity in the hands of Ottoman pirates before his return to Spain in 1580. There, he remained unsuccessful in his attempts at supporting himself through his writing (although he won first prize – three silver spoons – in a poetry competition in 1595). All would change with the publication of El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha. Continue reading

Austen in Austria and Persuasion in Parma : the imperial collection of Marie-Louise, second wife of Napoleon

The crowned monogram of Marie-Louise

The crowned monogram of Marie-Louise

Marie-Louise of Austria (according to French and German Wikipedias), Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma (according to English Wikipedia), Marie Louise,‏ Empress, consort of Napoleon I, Emperor of the French,‏ 1791-1847‏ (according to the Library of Congress), or simply Marie-Louise, in the new book of selections from her journal in the UL, Adieu à l’empereur : journal de voyage de Marie-Louise / édition, introduction et commenatire par Charles-Éloi Vial (C204.d.1687). Her marriage to Napoleon from 1810-1814 was a politically inspired one, and followed his marriage to Josephine. Their marriage ended upon his exile, when she became duchess of Parma, Piacenza and Guastella. Marie-Louise remarried upon Napoleon’s death, and eventually lived until 1847.

Adieu à l’empereur contains some of Marie-Louise’s journal entries and a selection of letters between her and Napoleon. By all accounts a very well educated woman, Marie-Louise is primarily represented in the University Library as the subject of popular histories (for example: The women Napoleon loved by Tighe Hopkins, 1910, 454.c.91.5), diaries and letters (The private diaries of the Empress Marie-Louise, wife of Napoleon I with introduction and commentary by Frédéric Masson, 1922, 568.d.92.4; and Correspondance de Marie Louise, 1799-1847 : lettres intimes et inédites à la comtesse de Colloredo et à Mlle de Poutet, depuis 1810 comtesse de Crenneville, 1887, RB.26.38), and as the recipient of letters (Lettres inédites à Marie-Louise : écrites de 1810 à 1814 by Napoleon, in a volume of 1935, at 456.c.93.590). To a certain extent, her education is attributable to improving her marriageability: for instance, she was fluent in German (her native language), French, Italian, Latin, and Spanish. Continue reading

Cambridge catalogues and librarians get a critical reception

The adventures of Baron Münchhausen, the German nobleman who had the habit of grossly exaggerating his experiences, have been reprinted many times and translated into a wide range of languages. Stories such as that of the stag which the Baron shot with a cherry-stone, and which he afterwards found with a cherry-tree growing out of its forehead, although originally written for adults, have found lasting popularity in revised versions for children.

Rudolf Erich Raspe (Image taken from Wikimedia Commons)

Rudolf Erich Raspe (Image taken from Wikimedia Commons)

Less well known is the collection’s original compiler, Rudolf Erich Raspe. Raspe had been librarian at Kassel from 1767 to 1775, where he had been in charge of the Landgrave’s collection of antique gems and medals. He had to leave Hesse in great haste when he was detected removing and selling valuable items from the collection, and he spent the last nineteen years of his life in England. Continue reading