THE BRITISH LIBRARY

European studies blog

10 posts from January 2017

31 January 2017

PhD placement opportunity on ‘Karl Marx and the British Library’

Marx Slip

Index slip recording the issue of a reader ticket to Marx, British Library Add. MS 54579, f. 1

2018 will mark the bicentenary of Karl Marx’s birth, an event that will be commemorated with public events and exhibitions across the world. The relationship between the British Library and Karl Marx is significant. Marx lived in London for most of his adult life and spent much time studying in the reading room of the British Museum, one of the main predecessors of the British Library.

RoundReadingRoom

The Round Reading Room of the British Museum

 The British Library’s collections hold unique material relating to Marx’s life and work, including a first edition of Das Kapital that Marx himself donated to the Library. The Library is also home to millions of items relating to the context and legacy of Marx’s work, including the various and conflicting versions of ‘Marxism’ that have proliferated in the centuries after his death.

Given this intimate connection to Marx’s life and work, the Library is interested in developing ideas for events or other activities and outputs that will engage the public and research communities with the importance of Karl Marx’s life and his wider legacy. Ideas currently under discussion include an exhibition in the Library’s Treasures Gallery, a series of public events, learning activities or the production of new interactive online resources. The PhD placement student will assist with this project by researching creative ways in which the Library can mark Karl Marx’s 200th birthday.

The main requirement for this placement is a good understanding of, as well as genuine interest in, Karl Marx’s work and both its historical and contemporary significance. The placement student should also be enthusiastic about public engagement. View a detailed placement profile here

Application guidelines
For full application guidelines and profiles of the other placements offered under this scheme, visit the Library’s Research Collaboration webpages

The application deadline is 20 February 2017.

For any queries about this placement opportunity, please contact Research.Development@bl.uk 

A note to interested applicants
This is an unpaid professional development opportunity, which is open to current (or very recent) PhD researchers only. To apply, you need to have the approval of your PhD supervisor and your department’s Graduate Tutor (or equivalent senior academic manager).
Our PhD placement scheme has been developed in consultation with Higher Education partners and stakeholders to provide opportunities for PhD students to develop and apply their research skills outside the university sector. Please note that the Library itself is not able to provide payment to placement students, nor can it provide costs for daily commuting or relocation to the site of the placement. Anyone applying for a placement at the Library is expected to consult their university or Doctoral Training Partnership/Doctoral Training Centre to ascertain what funding is available to support them. The Library strongly recommends to universities that a PhD student given approval to undertake a placement is in receipt of a stipend for the duration of the placement.

 

27 January 2017

Lidia Zamenhof, a cosmopolitan woman and victim of the Holocaust

Lidia_Zamenhof_(1904-1942)Photo

Lidia Zamenhof  (photo above from Wikimedia Commons) was a teacher, writer and translator and the youngest daughter of Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof, the creator of the international auxiliary language Esperanto. She was born on 29 January 1904 in Warsaw, then in partitioned Poland, and later became an active promoter of both the Esperanto language and the Bahá’í Faith.

Her story is told in Wendy Heller’s biography Lidia: the Life of Lidia Zamenhof Daughter of Esperanto.

[LidiaWendyHeller

Cover of Lidia : the Life of Lidia Zamenhof, Daughter of Esperanto. (Oxford, 1985) X.950/44270

After completing her university studies in law in 1925, Lidia Zamenhof dedicated herself totally to working for Esperanto and the humanitarian ideals connected with it. In the same year, during the 17th World Esperanto Congress in Geneva in 1925, she became acquainted with the Bahá’í Faith  of which she was soon to become an ardent promoter. Bahá’í is a relatively recent religion, founded in 19th-century Persia, which emphasizes the spiritual unity of the entire human race. Its founder, Bahá’u’lláh, taught that all religions come from the same divine source, and that the crucial need facing humanity is to find a unifying vision of the future of society, and of the nature and purpose of life.

As a professional Esperanto instructor Lidia Zamenhof made many promotional trips and taught over 50 Esperanto courses in various European countries using progressive, immersive teaching methods. In addition, she was a contributor to major Esperanto periodicals such as Literatura Mondo (ZF.9.b.266 ) and others. Her topics ranged from the teaching and promotion of Esperanto and the development of the Esperanto movement to studies on Polish literature and the teachings of the Bahá’í Faith. Her Esperanto translation of Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz was published in 1933. She also translated several volumes of Bahá’í writings, in particular John Ebenezer Esslemont’s Baha’u’llah and the New Era (London, 1923; 04504.g.27. ), considered the foremost introductory textbook to the religion, as Bahá’u’lláh kaj la Nova Epoko.

LidiaZamenhofQuoVadis     Title-page of Quo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz, translated by Lidia Zamenhof (Amsterdam, [1934]) 12593.d.5.

In 1937 Lidia travelled to the USA for a teaching tour jointly sponsored by the Esperanto Association of North America and the American Assembly of the Bahá’í Faith. She was forced to leave when her visa expired at the end of 1938, and ignoring the pleas of her friends she returned to Poland shortly before the start of the Second World War. Less than a month after the German invasion, the Zamenhof home in Warsaw was bombed; Lidia was arrested together with her brother Adam, his wife Wanda, and her sister Zofia. Adam Zamenhof was shot in January 1940 as one of 50 prisoners killed in retaliation for a Resistance assault on a Nazi officer, while Lidia, Zofia and Wanda were released from prison after five months and sent to live in the Warsaw Ghetto. There Lidia endeavoured to help others receive medicine and food. She was offered the chance to escape by Polish Esperantists as well as by a German Bahá’í soldier, but not wanting to endanger others she refused.

LidiaPORKELATAGOJ

Title-page and frontispiece of the collected works of Lidia Zamenhof Por ke la tagoj de la homaro estu pli lumaj (Antwerp, 2008). YF.2010.a.2370

Her last known letter states: “Do not think of putting yourself in danger; I know that I must die but I feel it is my duty to stay with my people. God grant that out of our sufferings a better world may emerge. I believe in God. I am a Bahá’í and will die a Bahá’í. Everything is in His hands.” However, she died as a Jew, an Esperantist, and a member of the Zamenhof family. Hitler had made his opinion clear in Mein Kampf that Jews intended to use Esperanto to rule the world, and the head of the Gestapo in Warsaw received orders directly from Berlin that the Zamenhof family should be arrested.

The last that is known of Lidia is described by Esther Schor in her book Bridge of Words: Esperanto and the Dream of a Universal Language (New York, 2015; awaiting shelfmark).

Toward the end of September 1942, at the age of thirty-eight, she was among the 300,000 Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto who were packed into cattle cars and sent to Treblinka. (Zofia had gone voluntarily, perhaps thinking she could be of service as a medic.) Eva Toren, then a fourteen-year-old girl who had met and befriended Lidia that spring at a Ghetto seder, would survive to remember Lidia’s final hours in Warsaw. In 1993 Toren recalled the Nazis whipping, shouting, and pushing Jews into the Umschlagplatz, where they stood without water from early morning until evening. In the afternoon, the Germans and their Polish minions arranged the Jews in lines five deep for the selection. Lidia was several rows behind Eva, and they exchanged a pregnant glance. When she was selected for deportation, Lidia “walked regally, upright, with pride, unlike most of the other victims, who were understandably panicked.” On the fifth of September, Lidia Zamenhof boarded the train to Treblinka, where, upon arriving, she was killed in the gas chamber.

LidiaZamenhofKONGRESO

Lidia Zamehof (second from the left) at the 22nd World Esperanto Congress in Oxford, 1930 (photo from: http://www.tolkiendil.com/langues/hors_legendaire/langues_primaires/valeur_educative_esperanto)

Renato Corsetti, Professor Emeritus of Psycholinguistics at La Sapienza University in Rome, former president of the World Esperanto Association, General Secretary of the Academy of Esperanto


Further reading/References:


Hugh C. Adamson and Philip Hainsworth. Historical dictionary of the Bahāʾā Faith. (London , 1998). HLR 297.93

Zofia Banet-Fornalowa. La Familio Zamenhof. (La Chaux-de-Fonds, 2000). YF.2008.a.17135

 

25 January 2017

Unsuccessful Persuasion: Jane Austen in 19th-century Germany

Jane Austen’s huge popularity today makes it easy to forget that for the first few decades after their publication her novels were comparatively little read even in the English-speaking world. In continental Europe, this lack of interest was even more pronounced. Although translations of Austen’s novels were published in a number of countries during the 19th century, they generally failed to make much impact.

This was particularly true of Germany. Prior to 1948 only three Austen translations appeared in German. The first of these was her last completed novel, Persuasion, translated by Wilhelm Adolf Lindau.

Unlike some early translations, which adapted or abridged Austen to suit local tastes, Lindau’s is an extremely faithful one. The main change that he made was to germanise the characters’ forenames (although their surnames remain resolutely English): Anne Elliot becomes Anna, Frederick Wentworth is Friedrich, the Musgrove sisters are Henriette and Luise, and so on. Even the author becomes ‘Johanna Austen’ on the title-page and in Lindau's summary of the ‘Biographical Notice’  from the first English edition of Persuasion. Lindau also adds a few footnotes to the text, explaining, for example, that Lyme is ‘a coastal town in Dorsetshire’ and that Mr Elliot’s travelling on a Sunday counts against him with Anna because it breaks the observance of the Sabbath, ‘which is very much respected in England.’

Jane Austen Anna RB.23.a.21555
Title page of Lindau's translation of Persuasion (Leipzig, 1822). British Library RB.23.a.21555.

Lindau did change the book’s title, calling it Anna, ein Familiengemählde (‘Anna, a family portrait’). Perhaps he thought Austen’s own title too oblique or not sufficiently appealing – and it is worth noting that this alone of Austen’s novels still appears under different titles in the German-speaking world, most commonly as Anne Elliot or Überredung (a literal translation of Persuasion) or some combination of these, but at least once under the unlikely title Verführung (‘Seduction’). But Lindau may also have deliberately chosen to emphasise the family ties and interrelationships among the Elliots, Musgroves and Wentworths/Crofts.

A review in the Morgenblatt für gebildete Stände (PP.4735) of 21 December 1822 certainly picked up on this aspect, describing the novel as ‘a family portrait in every respect’, with well-drawn everyday domestic situations and conversations, and with a lead character who will win readers’ hearts. The translation is praised, but the novel is criticised overall for being too slow and drawn-out for German tastes. The Wegweiser im Gebiete der Kunst und Wissenschaft of 4 September 1822 also praised Lindau for capturing Austen’s ‘simple but cultivated style.’ The reviewer here, while admitting that the novel will ‘gently arouse’ rather than ‘actively grip’ the reader’s mind, was clearly less bored and states that the work ‘fully deserved to be translated.’

Although the very few reviews of Anna were mainly positive, the book does not seem to have been a great success and no further Austen translations appeared until Stolz und Vorurteil, Louise Marezoll’s version of Pride and Prejudice, in 1830. This was a freer translation than Lindau’s and sacrificed many nuances of Austen’s original, possibly to avoid the criticisms levelled against the slow pace of Anna, but again the novel enjoyed little success. 

Jane Austen Stolz und Vorurteil
Title-page and opening of Louise Marezoll’s Stolz und Vorurteil, reproduced in Detlef Münch, Illustrierte und kommentierte Bibliographie der deutschen Buchausgaben von Jane Austen 1822-2011 (Dortmund, 2011) YF.2013.a.1280

Germany, it seemed, was just not interested in Jane Austen. Although both Lindau and Marezoll were prolific translators of Anglophone literature, neither produced any further German translations of Austen’s work. Nor indeed did anyone else until 1939 when Karin von Schab published a new Pride and Prejudice translation under the title Elisabeth und Darcy.

After the Second World War, more of Austen’s work gradually began to appear in German, but it only in the last couple of decades that she has begun to reach a wider German-speaking audience, due in part (as indeed is Austen’s current phenomenal popularity in Britain and America) to the film and television adaptations of the 1990s and 2000s. Although some of these may be more in the manner of Marezoll’s free adaptation of Austen than Lindau’s more faithful rendition, let us hope that Lindau would nonetheless be gratified to see an author he first tried to introduce to the Germans finally receiving their attention.

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Studies

References

The Reception of Jane Austen in Europe, edited by Brian Southam and A.A. Mandel (London, 2014) YC.2016.a.4133

Beiträge zur Rezeption der britischen und irischen Literatur des 19. Jahrhunderts im deutschsprachigen Raum, herausgegeben von Norbert Bachleitner (Amsterdam, 2000) ZA.9.a.5563(45)

 

23 January 2017

Scratching the Surface: the Runic Imaginary

A picture is worth a thousand words but a word, too, might conjure up a thousand images. One-to-one correspondences between words and objects are exceedingly rare, if not non-existent. Beyond that, however, the power of alphabets, syllabaries and ideographs is well-documented; such was the motivation for orthographic reform during the 20th century from Norway to North Korea. The Latin alphabet can provide a sense of false familiarity, making it seem as if Somali is easier for an English learner to pick up than would be Persian, despite the fact that the latter shares far more structural similarities to English than the former. However, it is not just Latin characters that are imbued with a magical power to draw close and imbue a sense of solidarity. The systems colloquially referred to as runes, too, have often been instrumentalised with much the same goal in mind.

Technically, the word rune is applied exclusively to the writing systems of Germanic languages prior to the adoption of the Latin alphabet. There are various different versions of Germanic runes. While there are various different types of runes, all are derived from the Old Italic scripts. They were largely replaced by the Latin alphabet after Christianisation in 700CE, but their usage persisted in highly specialised contexts until the 19th century. The study of runes, known as runology, began in Scandinavia as early as the 16th century, albeit more within the realm of theology, the occult and mysticism than what we would conceive of as linguistics. The study took a more scientific turn throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, as a number of collection items at the British Library demonstrate. These include Johan Göransson’s Bautil (143.g.19) or his Is Atlinga (4408.g.6) which seek to locate runes within the history of writing systems, including the Hebrew, Greek and Latin alphabets.

As with so many other terms, runes have undergone a popular semantic widening. The word is also applied to other writing systems that bear a visual similarity to Germanic runes. One such system is Old Turkic writing, employed by communities in Siberia and eastern Eurasia in the first millennium CE. Also known as the Orkhon Script (after the Orkhon Valley  where Old Turkic stelae were found near the Yenisei River by Nikolai Yadrintsev in 1889), it has been claimed to be a descendent of Aramaic, Tamgas and Chinese ideographs. The oldest inscriptions in old Turkic script date from the 8th century CE. It was later used by Uighur scribes, prior to its replacement by the Old Uighur script (which is directly related to Sogdian and Aramaic).

OIF909049 Runic Turkic Alphabet

Runic Turkic alphabet from Hüseyin Namık Orkun, Eski Türk Yazıtları (Ankara, 1986) OIF 909.049

Old Turkic is unique for the manner in which some letters have various sounds, determined according to the rule of vowel harmony, a feature of Turkic, Mongolic and Finno-Ugric languages. In Turkey, the old Turkic alphabet found particular resonance with secularist nationalists interested in emphasizing the pre-Islamic culture of the Turks. Examples abound from the writer Hüseyin Namık Orkun, who wrote a number of nationalist-tinted histories of the Turks. His Eski Türk Yazıtları  provides extensive information on the origin and study of the inscriptions, as well as their transcription and contents. Not only does he call the alphabet in which these texts are written the Rünik Türk Alfabesi, the “Runic Turkish Alphabet”, but he also connected these to the “Pecheneg” inscriptions of Nagy Szent Miklos, establishing a pre-historic link between the Hungarians and the Turks.


OIF909049 Runic Kül Tegin Transcription

Runic Kül Tegin transcription from Eski Türk Yazıtları

Indeed, Hungarian studies of runes have proven to be the most durable and profitable. Commonly referred to as rovásírás in Hungarian, they are occasionally linked to the Szekler  communities in Transylvania, an ethnic sub-group of Hungarians. In recent years, rovásírás has experienced a resurgence, both popular and scholarly. On the one hand, academics have taken a new interest in the old Hungarian script, occasionally called runes as well. It is sometimes linked to the late Khazars, a Caucasian Turkic group of the 8th to 11th centuries, as explored in Gábor Hosszú’s Heritage of Scribes: The Relation of Rovas Scripts to Eurasian Writing Systems (Budapest, 2012; YD.2015.a.2560).

YF2016a4452 Cover Page
A Hungarian New Testament printed in runic script (Szolnok, 2012) YF.2016.a.4452

The old Hungarian script has also captured the imagination of many Hungarian nationalists, and has given rise to new publishing and typography ventures, such as the New Testament pictured above or of Géza Gárdonyi’s Egri Csillágok (Szolnok, 2011; YF.2015.a.25655), pictured below, a fictional account of Hungarian resistance to Ottoman rule.

YF2015a25655 Cover Page                     

The term rune has proven to be highly versatile in both popular and scholarly imaginations. From the study of northern Europe’s intellectual history, the term has been adopted and adapted to a myriad of other contexts and needs. Today, it fills a political as well as academic role, adding yet another building block to the construction of a Eurasian identity that refocuses the mythical origins of various modern nations in the heart of the Eurasian landmass.

Wreath

Above: A wreath at Szeged University in the colours of the Hungarian flag with a banner in rovásírás; below: A handmade sign above an entrance in Miskolc, Hungary, with an inscription against the Treaty of Trianon (1919) in Hungarian in both Latin characters and rovásírás (Photos by Michael Erdman). 

Runic sign

Michael Erdman, Curator of Turkish and Turkic Collections

19 January 2017

The art of ruining a friendship: Zola, Cézanne and L’Œuvre

Once again Christmas is over, and many of us will have been fortunate enough to receive a book among our presents. Some may be a delight, others a disappointment, as in the case of the gift which Stephen Leacock’s young Hoodoo McFiggin found in his Christmas stocking:

‘It’s a book,’ he said, as he unwrapped it. ‘I wonder if it is fairy stories or adventures. Oh, I hope it’s adventures! I’ll read it all morning.' No, Hoodoo, it was not precisely adventures. It was a small family Bible. […] After that he took his book and read some adventures called ‘Genesis’ till breakfast-time. (Literary Lapses: Montreal, 1910; British Library 012331.e.44)

Unlike Hoodoo, most of us have the option of returning and exchanging a book which might not have been quite what we had hoped for. Although this may require tact, it is rare for an unwelcome gift to produce such drastic consequences as the one which Paul Cézanne received from his friend Émile Zola in 1886.

As part of his Rougon-Macquart cycle, a series of twenty novels chronicling the ‘natural and social history of a family under the Second Empire’, Zola had begun work earlier that year on a story entitled L’Œuvre (translated into English as His Masterpiece: London, 1902; 1094.k.8). Although he was initially inspired by Balzac’s cycle La Comédie humaine, Zola planned not merely to depict contemporary society but the workings of environment and heredity among the many members of a single family.

Zola Oeuvre 12517.e.33
Émile Zola, L’Œuvre (Paris, 1886) 12517.e.33.

In earlier books Zola had portrayed life in Paris and the provinces and the fortunes of market traders, miners, prostitutes, absinthe addicts and the staff of a department store. Here, though, he turned his attention to the world of art, with which he was well acquainted through his friendship with Cézanne. The two had known each other since their boyhood in Aix-en-Provence, the model for Zola’s Plassans, home to Adélaïde Fouque, founder of the three branches of the Rougon-Macquart dynasty and great-grandmother of Claude Lantier, the protagonist of L’Œuvre.

Zola Cézanne letter
An illustrated letter from Cézanne to Zola written in 1866. Reproduced in John Rewald, Cézanne: sa vie - son œuvre - son amitié pour Zola (Paris, 1939) 010655.i.24.

Unlike other members of the Macquart family who become labourers, soldiers or farmers, Claude Lantier shows artistic talent and settles in Paris to pursue his career as a painter. He has less in common with his murderous engine-driver brother Jacques (La Bête humaine) and half-sister, the notorious prostitute Nana, than with his second brother, the activist miner Étienne (Germinal); however, Claude’s revolutionary spirit manifests itself not in the struggle against corrupt industrialists but against another kind of conservatism – the stifling influence of academicism on art.

Zola suggested titles 1
A list of titles which Zola considered for L’Œuvre. Reproduced in Émile Zola and the Arts, ed. Jean-Max Guieu and Alison Hilton (Washington D.C, 1988)

We are given a glimpse of Claude’s revolt against convention when, in the novel’s opening pages, he takes in a young woman, Christine Hallegrain, stranded late at night in Paris on her way to a post in Passy:

What especially frightened her were some sketches in oils that hung frameless from the walls, a serried array of sketches reaching to the floor […] She had never seen such terrible painting, so coarse, so glaring, showing a violence of colour that jarred upon her nerves like a carter’s oath heard on the doorstep of an inn.

Clearly this is something very different from the staid historical, mythological and Biblical subjects favoured by the establishment, and it is not surprising that Claude’s work fails to find acceptance into the annual Salon of the Académie des Beaux-Arts. When a group of rejected artists sets up a Salon des Refusés to display their paintings, his Plein Air creates a sensation, recalling Manet’s Déjeuner sur l’herbe in its juxtaposition of clothed male and nude female figures, the latter modelled on Christine, who becomes his mistress, the mother of his son Jacques, and finally his wife. They move to the country in an attempt to draw inspiration from the rural surroundings, but this proves a failure, and at Christine’s instigation he returns to Paris. After repeated rejections he embarks on a gigantic painting of the Île de la Cité which becomes an obsession as he constantly revises and repaints it even as his neglected young son lies dying. It is not this painting but a study of the dead boy, ‘a masterpiece of limpidity and power to which was added a note of boundless melancholy’, which is accepted for the Salon, though arousing such controversy that Claude is driven back to his ‘masterpiece’, the huge landscape which is never completed and ultimately costs him his marriage, his friendships and his life as he hangs himself in his studio.

Zola Ouevre KTC.35.b.5.
Cartoon of Zola, representing L’Œuvre, from: H. Lebourgeois, L'Œuvre de Zola : 16 simili aquarelles (Paris, 1898) KTC.35.b.5.

The one friend who attends his funeral is Pierre Sandoz, a novelist who, like Zola, is engaged on a cycle of Naturalist novels charting the fortunes of an extended family. Zola himself had written many articles on painting as a young journalist and had promoted the work of Manet in particular, and when Cézanne received his copy of L’Œuvre it was not difficult for him to interpret Sandoz as a self-portrait of the author and Lantier as a study of Cézanne himself. Another Claude, Monet, felt impelled to write an open letter shortly after the novel’s publication declaring that he did not recognize himself or any of his fellow Impressionists in it. However, the damage was done; with impeccable politeness Cézanne penned a thank-you letter to Zola, parcelled up the book, returned it to the author, and broke off all contact with him.

As she sits for the nude in the ill-fated ‘masterpiece’, Christine reflects bitterly on Claude’s first painting of her which had been the source of all her misfortunes: ‘It had come to life again, it rose from the dead, endowed with greater vitality than herself, to finish killing her…’ It may not be fanciful to see here a foreshadowing of another ominous portrait in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, which appeared four years later (London, 1890; Eccles 395). Sadly, in human terms L’Œuvre possessed a far greater destructive power than Zola had ever imagined.

Susan Halstead,Content Specialist (Humanities & Social Sciences) Research Services

13 January 2017

Science, Art and Insects: Maria Sibylla Merian

Maria Sibylla Merian, who died 300 years ago today is justly remembered both as a pioneering naturalist and an entomological and botanical artist, and as a woman who made her mark in both art and science at a time when these fields were dominated by men.

Maria was born in Frankfurt am Main in 1647 into an artistic family. Her father was the engraver and publisher Matthäus Merian, but his death when Maria was just three years old meant that her own talent was mainly fostered by her stepfather Jacob Marrel. As well as being encouraged to draw and paint, the young Maria developed a fascination with insects and began collecting, studying and drawing them.

In 1675 Maria published a book of botanical illustrations, the Neues Blumenbuch. Four years later, the first part of a new work appeared. Der Raupen wunderbarer Verwandlung und sonderbare Blumennahrung (‘The Wonderful Transformation and Strange Floral Food of Caterpillars’ – a second part followed in 1683) drew on Maria’s interest in and close observation of caterpillars and butterflies, illustrating and describing the stages of the different species’ lives and also the specific plants that they fed on.

Maria Sibylla Raupen tp
Title-page of Der Raupen wunderbarer Verwandlung... (Nuremberg, 1679) Britsh Library 445.c.15. 

It was not until 1705 that Maria published another book, but for lovers of both science and art it was worth the wait. In 1699 she had travelled  from her home in Amsterdam to Suriname with her daughter Dorothea to record the insect life of the country, then a Dutch colony. The resulting work Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium appeared in 1705 and combines careful observation and detailed recording of the insects’ habitats, lives and behaviour with aesthetic skill in depicting the different stages of the life-cycles and their favoured plants. The British Library holds a splendidly hand-coloured copy of the 1726 edition (649.c.20) from which the pictures below are taken.

In Suriname, as in Frankfurt, Maria’s primary interest was in butterflies:

Maria Sibylla 2
Plate 2 from Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium

Maria Sibylla 15Plate 15 (The rather plump larva about to feast on a watermelon here might remind the modern reader somewhat of Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar)

 Details of individual butterflies show Maria’s talents:

Maria Sibylla 20 detail  Maria Sibylla 44 detail

Maria Sibylla 34 detail
Details (clockwise from top left) from plates 20, 44 and 34

But as well as butterflies, Maria also depicted and described other insects as in these images.

Maria Sibylla 24
Plate 24

Maria Sibylla 50
Plate 50. The painter here has used gold to capture the iridescence of the fly in the bottom right-hand corner

She also portrayed spiders (for the sake of sensitive arachnophobes I merely add a link), snakes and lizards:

Maria Sibylla 14
Plate 14

Maria Sibylla 69
Plate 69, the famous image of a caiman attacking a snake which is trying to steal its eggs as the young hatch

In one image she even shows a mammal, a tree-rat carrying its young on its back, although her hand seems a little less sure here than with the insects: 

  Maria Sybilla 66
Plate 66

Like many fine-printed books of its day, our 1626 edition of Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium has a fine engraved frontispiece which has also been hand coloured. It shows a woman instructing an eager group of botanising putti, with a Surinamese landscape in the background.

Maria Sibylla frontis

The artist of the frontispiece clearly knew the work he was illustrating. The open book in the bottom left-hand corner of the picture shows one of Maria’s plates, in a nice tribute to the original creator of the work. 

Maria Sibylla frontis detail

Detail from the frontispiece (above) and plate 29 (below)

Maria Sibylla 29

I hope the gallery above will likewise act as a tribute to a woman who is justly celebrated  today for her achievements as both artist and natural historian.

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Studies

 

11 January 2017

Father Manuel Alvares, the Portuguese Jesuit who taught the British Latin

When John Aubrey, best known for his unbuttoned biographical sketches Brief Lives, drew up the programme of studies for his ideal school, he referred no less than five times to the work of a Portuguese Jesuit:

In the first year (age 10) the boys should learn “the rules of Emmanuel Alvarus’s Grammar” (p. 64)
The library should include “Emmanuel Alvarus, Grammatica” (p. 71)
“Let them learn the XXI Praecepta de Constructione (translated into English) Institutionum Linguae Latinae, Emmanuelis Alvari” (p. 89)
“When they understand Latin pretty well, then they learn the second part of Alvarus’s Grammar. Many of the priests go no further than the first part.” (p. 93)
“Let them repeat the Latin Alvarus and Greek grammar every month or six weeks: only that memoriter, except in a week or fortnight some good short speech by way of narrare in the hall at diner time” (p. 94-95).

These references are to Father Manuel Alvares (1526-1583) SJ and his De institutione grammatica libri tres. Born in Madeira, he was ordained priest in 1538 and was persuaded to join the Society when a Jesuit stopped off on the island on the way to India. Adept in the three biblical tongues, he was a successful teacher and was commissioned to write a Latin grammar for the Jesuit schools. (A Jesuit education, you will remember, was the best schooling a Catholic boy could get at this period.)

Alvarus tp

Title page of Alvares’s Grammar (Evora, 1599). British Library 1509/4497. Note the device of the Society of Jesus. 

He was Rector of the Colégio das Artes in Coimbra from 1561 to 1566. The Colégio had been founded by John III in 1548 in a spirit of liberal openness to Europe: top scholars were recruited from France and Scotland. But this golden age was not to last: in 1550 the teachers were persecuted for heresy and in 1555 the College handed over to those Cerberuses of orthodoxy, the Jesuits, one of whom was Alvares.

The ESTC lists 26 British editions of his various grammatical works, in Latin or in translation, from 1671 to 1794. A Japanese translation was produced for Jesuit schools in the East.

Alvarus English tp

 An early 18th-Century English edition of Alvares’s Grammar (London, 1707) 1568/3623.

But Alvares thrived into much more recent times. James Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus  learned “what little he knew of the laws of Latin verse from a ragged book written by a Portuguese priest” (cited Schork, p. 21).

What this shows is the international quality of Latin in the modern period. Nobody seemed to care that Alvares was a Jesuit: knowledge is knowledge regardless of the vessel which contains it. (I hope that doesn’t sound too sententious.)

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance collections.

References:

R. J. Schork, Latin and Roman Culture in Joyce (Gainesville’, 1997) YC.2001.a.5813

J. E. Stephens, Aubrey on Education (London, 1972) X.529/13983

B. Taylor, ‘Recent Acquisitions: a Rare Work by Jacobus Tevius’, eBLJ, 2003, Article 5

09 January 2017

European Literature Network Salon: Three Wise Women

On 23 November 2016 I had the honour of chairing a conversation with two Polish writers: Julia Fiedorczuk and Magdalena Tulli, and the British author Deborah Levy, at Waterstones Piccadilly. I was invited to do so by Rosie Goldsmith and Anna Błasiak of European Literature Network, who masterminded this Salon to highlight the Polish Market Focus at the 2017 London Book Fair. The event was also supported by the British Council.

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Julia Fiedorczuk (photo by Radek Kobierski)

Julia Fiedorczuk has published five volumes of poetry, three collections of short stories and many critical and academic texts. A fragment of her debut novel, Nieważkość (‘Weightless’) – read by the author in Polish and by the translator Anna Zaranko in English – emphasised Fiedorczuk’s tender, yet unsentimental attention to all living creatures. There is a child, an ugly dog, some carefully observed plants; but also a charged mother/daughter relationship, sour small-town observations about a neighbour, and unsettling intimations of the adult world from a child’s perspective.

A question about Fiedorczuk’s ecological worries and interests, and the interconnectedness of characters and tropes in her writing, made her think of the metaphor of mycelium – a mass of ideas manifesting above the ground of consciousness as images, characters and so on.

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Two books by Julia Fiedorczuk from the British Library's collections

As for Magdalena Tulli (author of seven novels), we read a fragment of Flaw in the original and in Bill Johnston’s beautiful translation: a meditation on a refugee family arriving to an imaginary town and being perceived as essentially alien in every way. Tulli’s clear-eyed description of the process of displacement is informed by wartime chaos, but her description of people finding themselves at the mercy of indifferent events strikes an awfully modern note in the times of Calais and Aleppo.

 

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Magdalena Tulli (photo by A.Błachut)

Tulli pointed out that the world has always been full of refugees, but societies ignored them – and now it is impossible not to see them. She also said that although she does not like history, it cannot be forgotten, especially in Eastern Europe.

DziuroszTulliBooks  Some books by Magdalena Tulli from the British Library's Collections 

Deborah Levy read Placing a Call from her short story collection, Black Vodka (High Wycombe, 2013; YKL.2015.a.5196): a lyrical account of a difficult encounter, which – in its obsessive concentration on detail that may serve, paradoxically, as an evasion of reality – seems to weave in and out of focus and leads to a moving finale.

Levy discussed her European and Polish inspirations – Black Vodka, Swimming Home (High Wycombe, 2011; H.2013/.8738) and Hot Milk (New York, 2016, ELD.DS.71605) share vivid continental landscapes and settings, and Polish accents throughout (as it turns out, she travelled widely in Poland and is a devotee of Tadeusz Kantor’s theatre). She mentioned that she finds hybrid identities interesting because she herself identifies as a hybrid, and her personal story and artistic lineage are complex, indelibly entwined with the history of Europe.

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  Deborah Levy (photo by Sophia Evans)

I was fascinated to hear my guests’ views on whether they perceive themselves as representatives of a certain literary heritage or if they aim for universality. Tulli’s answer, “My country is Polish language”, found an echo in Levy’s comment that continental modernism is really her language. Fiedorczuk mentioned her love-hate relationship with the Polish literary tradition.

We also discussed a theme that all three writers have explored: the relationship between mothers and daughters. It features in Tulli’s as yet untranslated Włoskie szpilki (‘Italian Pumps’; Warsaw, 2011; YF.2012.a.26877), in Fiedorczuk’s Weightless and her short stories, and in Levy’s Hot Milk and Swimming Home. Fiedorczuk talked about her view of it as reproduction of trauma, one that daughters inherits from mothers. The mother in Tulli’s (autobiographical?) book is, as she said, rendered so empty by her trauma that she has nothing left to give to her daughter. The characters of Isabel in Swimming Home and Rose in Hot Milk explore the cost of the mother/daughter relationship to both sides. Related to this is the unsentimental perspective of childhood the authors share, which we also discussed.

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From left to right: Deborah Levy, Julia Fiedorczuk, Magdalena Tulli and Marta Dziurosz  (photo by Rosie Goldsmith, via Flickr)

We finished the discussion by exploring whether there is a difference between male and female writers creating the sort of experimental, unapologetically literary writing that my three guests excel at. Fiedorczuk pointed out that the genre considered “appropriate” for female writers is middle-brow fiction, and those reaching beyond are frequently punished – however, she is not ready to betray her own style by conforming to those expectations. Tulli, on the other hand, emphasised the importance of being able to communicate her ideas; she discussed the changes she made to her style to make it possible. Levy pointed out that a reading experience is not diminished if the reader floats in and out of understanding.

The lively Q&A session proved that the topics discussed resonated with the audience – and, I hope, meant that the “wise women” found new readers for their unique writing. A full recording of the discussion can be heard on the European Literature Network Soundcloud page: https://soundcloud.com/eurolitnetwork/eurostars-three-wise-women-with-deborah-levy-magdalena-tulli-and-julia-fiedorczuk

Marta Dziurosz, literary translator and interpreter from and into Polish, Free Word Centre Associate. 

You can find all the books mentioned and much more modern Polish literature and secondary literature about it in the rich Polish collections at the British Library.

 

05 January 2017

Gysbert Japicx: founder of Frisian literature

Among the big literary figures we commemorated in 2016, Gysbert Japicx certainly deserves a mention. After all, he is credited with putting Frisian on the map as a literary language. Old Frisian was among the languages that formed the English language and was widely used in official, business and cultural contexts. By the mid-16th century Frisian was mainly used in popular songs. Anything more scholarly was written in Latin, French or Dutch.

Then, along comes Gysbert Japicx, schoolmaster, canon and poet.


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Gysbert Japicx, by his uncle Matthijs Harings (1637), from Hulde oan Gysbert Japicx (Assen, 1966) British Library Ac.966

Japicx was born into a middle-class family in the Frisian city of Bolsward in 1603 and died there in 1666. His father was Jacob Holckema, a cabinet maker, who held several public offices in town, up to burgomaster. The family name Holckema was not used very much and Gysbert only used his patronymic Japiks, or Japix, or Japicx.


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Map of Bolsward. From Tonneel van de Heerlykheit Friesland ...(1718). Maps C.9.e.3(44)

Gysbert was educated at the Latin school to become a school teacher, a profession he carried out all his life. Like his father he was active in the church, mainly as cantor. In 1602 he married Sijke Salves Rolwagen, daughter of a notary, with whom he had five children. Four of them died during epidemics of the plague, in 1656 and ten years later, during which turned out to be the last plague epidemic to occur in the Low Countries. This last outbreak took another child, his wife and himself. Only his oldest son Salves survived.

Japicx showed an interest in literature from an early age. He wrote poetry in Dutch, possibly Latin and his first work in Frisian dates from 1639. It is not certain why Gysbert started writing poetry in Frisian, but in any case this was well received. The fact that he put great emphasis on draughtsmanship must have played a part in this. He had great skill in applying the form of ‘inventio’, the art of making variations on a theme or work. Japicx’ work mainly consists of translations and (humorous) adaptations. He adapted works by classical poets, but also by contemporaries of his, Constantijn Huygens and Joost van den Vondel

He also wrote his own poetry; on topics ranging from religion, to love, to the lives of common people. Japicx concentrated on virtuosity and scholarly poetry and it is through these efforts that he turned Frisian into a scholarly and cultured language. Indeed, his virtuosity was so great, that very few Frisian poets have managed to equal him, even up to this day.

One of his most famous works is Friessche Tjerke, a humorous wedding poem. This was published by Claude Fonteyne, in Leeuwarden, in 1640 and is the only title to be published during Japicx’ lifetime.  The Library holds a facsimile of the 1640 edition, published in Germany in 1929.

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Gisbert Japicx, ‘FriesscheTjerne’ A facsimile of the edition of 1640 from Drei friesische Hochzeitsgedichte aus dem 17. Jahrhundert. Mit einer Einleitung herausgegeben von J. Haantjes und G. G. Kloeke (Hamburg, 1929)] Ac.9822/4

Friessche Tsjerne cemented Japicx’ name, both in the Netherlands as well as abroad.

The English linguist Franciscus Junius came to Bolsward, in order to learn Frisian from Japicx. Junius copied several of Japicx’ texts, which are still kept in the Bodleian Library (Bodleian MS. Junius 122 (22, 30)).

Frisian scholar J.H. Halbertsma extensively researched Japicx’ most famous poem and Junius’ texts in his Letterkundige Naoogst (Deventer, 1840;  816.b.36)

In 1668, two years after Japicx’ untimely death, Samuel Haringhouk published Friesche Rymlerye, the complete works of Gysbert Japicx. Japicx and Haringhouk had started on the editing of the works, when the plague took Japicx. There are three parts: Love poems , Dialogues and occasional poetry, and Psalms and other religious works.

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Gysbert Japicx, Friesche Rymlarye (Bolsward, 1668). 11557.h.27

In 1681 the historian Simon Abbes Gabbema edited a new edition, in two volumes, containing a collection of letters and translations of three French texts. (BL 839.f.22).


The commemorations of Gysbert Japicx may have closed with the passing of 2016, but Gysbert Japicx continues to be remembered in the literary prize for the best Frisian literary work, named in his honour.

One only needs to look at this video on YouTube to realise that Gysbert Japicx continues to inspire authors, poets and songwriters.

Marja Kingma. Curator Germanic Collections, Low Countries.

References:

It wurk fan Gysbert Japix [bezorgd door] Philippus Breuker. (Ljouwert, 1989). YA.1991.a.4753

Gysbert Japicx: the Oxford text of four poems . Edited with a complete glossary by Alistair Campbell. (Bolsward, 1948). 11529.e.30.

A more detailed biography and bibliography of Japicx (in Dutch) can be found here

03 January 2017

Making Good - a Cultural Restitution Story

This story begins with a fairly routine enquiry about a not particularly unusual book. It was a copy of a German play, Die Goldenen Waffen, by Hans José Rehfisch, who enjoyed a successful career as a playwright during the Weimar Republic and after the Second World War, spending much of the Nazi period and the late 1940s in British and American exile. The enquirer was one of Rehfisch’s descendants, and was particularly intrigued by a newspaper cutting inserted in the book, a review of Rehfisch’s play Doktor Semmelweis as performed in 1934 in Vienna. He wondered if we knew anything about its former owner who might have added the cutting.

Maylaender Rehfisch
Hans José Rehfisch, Die Goldenen Waffen (Berlin,1913)  YA.1991.a.22092

The British Library’s ownership stamp showed that we had purchased Die Goldenen Waffen second-hand in July 1988, and I knew that, for a book of that period, our archives would probably reveal little more than bookseller’s name and the price we paid, with no provenance information. However, not liking to give up on an enquiry, and noticing the bookplate of a K. Mayländer pasted inside the front cover, I decided on the long shot of searching online for the name, just in case this former owner was famous in some circles.

Maylaender Bookplate
Bookplate of Dr Karl Mayländer from Die goldenen Waffen

Rather to my surprise the name brought up a number of hits about a Dr Karl Mayländer, whose bookplate was the one in our book. But my initial satisfaction in finding this information turned to concern when I realised why Dr Mayländer’s name was in the public eye. He was a Viennese art collector and a victim of the Holocaust – the exact date of his death is unknown, but he was deported to Łodz in October 1941 – whose surviving heir had been involved in a long-running and recently-settled cultural restitution claim over five drawings by Egon Schiele (an artist whom Mayländer knew and supported) in the Leopold Museum in Vienna.

Maylaender Schiele
Karl Mayländer, portrait by Egon Schiele (image from WikiArt.org)

The case of the drawings was complex, but it was clear from the documentary evidence that Mayländer’s extensive and valuable library was expropriated by the Nazi authorities before his deportation. In 2005 the Austrian National Library had returned to the heirs a book in their collections identified as having belonged to Mayländer on this basis.

With this knowledge, I approached our Head of Collections and Curation, Kristian Jensen, and another colleague who was working on a project relating to cultural restitution issues. After looking further into the case, it was speedily decided that we should approach the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde in Vienna, who had acted on behalf of the heir in the case of the drawings, and offer to return the book. They were grateful to hear from us, and confirmed that Mayländer’s heir was interested in retrieving books from his library. 

Before we could return the book, we had to deaccession it from our collections. This took several steps: for a national library to dispose of a collection item is no easy business! First of all, the British Library Board had to give formal permission. Then the book had to be flagged on the catalogue as deaccessioned and a note added to the record stating that the book was “spoliated from the library of Dr Karl Mayländer between 1938 and 1941 [and] restituted to his heirs in 2016.” Finally, a stamp stating that the book had been officially deaccessioned needed to be added next to our original acquisitions stamp, in case the book should ever reappear on the market in the future.

Finally, in late November, all these steps had been taken, and on 2 December 2016, Kristian Jensen handed the book over in person to a representative of the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde.

Perhaps this seems like an excessive amount of care over what was on the face of it a slim volume of comparatively small monetary value. When we think of cultural spoliation and restitution, we tend to think of famous, unique or valuable items. But in recent years both governments and cultural institutions like the British Library have become more aware of the issues and responsibilities relating to the spoliation and restitution of cultural artefacts, not just from the Nazi era, Second World War and Holocaust, but also from more recent conflicts. By recognising that our copy of Die goldenen Waffen was a part, however small a one, of a collection taken from its owner under duress, and by offering to make good the loss to his surviving heir, we are also recognising and demonstrating how seriously we take our responsibilities in this area.

Susan Reed. Lead Curator Germanic Studies