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80 posts categorized "Germany"

19 April 2017

Four legs good? A Bohemian Wild Man

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The Gazeta de Lisboa reported on 29 August 1825 that a wild man had been found in the Hartzwald in Bohemia. About 30 years old, he howled like a dog, walked on all fours, climbed trees as nimbly as a monkey, and caught birds with ease. Taken to Prague, he resisted all attempts to civilize him.

This news inspired the anonymous author (or, rather, translator, as most of his information comes from the New Dictionary of Natural History printed in Paris in 1803 – that is, Nouveau dictionnaire d'histoire naturelle, appliquĂ©e aux arts, principalement Ă  l'agriculture et Ă  l'Ă©conomie rurale et domestique; BL 723.i.1-23.) to put together in 14 pages a small anthology of wild men.

Wildman tp
Noticia de hum homem selvagem, apparecido ultimamente; com a curiosa relação de outros muitos, que em varios tempos tem apparecido na Europa (Porto, 1825) RB.23.a.24200.

In 1544 a young man in Hesse had been brought up most carefully by a family of wolves, who had dug a hole in which to hide him. So used was he to walking on all fours that it was necessary to tie splints to him to make him stand upright. Having learned to speak, he told the Landgrave he would sooner live among wolves than men. His natural language consisted of “most expressive gesticulations” and “sharp cries issued from his throat”.

Wildman Lutterell Psalter  Add MS 42130
A mediaeval image of a wild man, walking on all fours, from The Lutterell Psalter, Add MS 42130

There is a remarkable consistency among these wild men: a boy of about nine found among bears in Lithuania also communicated in rough grunts and refused all attempts at education. Another Lithuanian wild boy had forgotten all about his animal life by the time he learned human language.

Tulpius, the Dutch doctor (was he the Dr Tulp of Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lesson?) describes a boy brought up by sheep in Ireland. He lived on straw and leaves, which he could sniff out without mistake.

Tulpius Observationes
Engraved title-page of Nicolaus Tulpius, Observationes Medicae (Amsterdam, 1672) 1607/108

Another recognized his foster mother at a distance, by smell alone, like a dog. Some were still wearing residual clothing, like the boy found in Breslau. Had he run away from a cruel mother or nanny? Initially fierce, he allowed himself to be partly domesticated, but all his life evinced an antipathy to women: their proximity made him shiver and tremble.

Come of these cases are described as unusually hirsute, but in general are said to be well formed. In all cases the senses were developed beyond those of a civilized person. The treatments of these cases are neither voyeuristic, sensationalist or sentimental. Although the idea of the Noble Savage had been current for over a century, these savages are neither better or worse than the people who write about them.

Wildman Peter
‘Peter the Wild Boy’, a famous 18th-century feral child, found near Hamelin in Germany in 1725, from The Manifesto of Lord Peter (London, 1726) 12316.tt.24.

Even though these men and boys in many cases came to speak normally, none of them was reconciled to the civilized life, and sadly all yearned to return to the animal families who had nurtured them.

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Studies

11 April 2017

Translator in Residence

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Today we’re delighted to announce the British Library’s inaugural Translator in Residence initiative, which is being undertaken in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s ‘Translating Cultures’ theme. In this blog, Jen Calleja, our first resident, introduces herself and writes a bit about what she hopes to achieve with the Library over the coming year:

I am overjoyed to be the first ever Translator in Residence at the British Library and it feels like both the culmination of my last seven years engaging with translation (though you could argue that it has actually been about a dozen, or maybe my whole thirty years) and a new phase of amplifying that engagement with renewed commitment and energy.

When I saw the call-out for the residency it was as if it had been written specially for me. I had been thinking more and more about how action was needed on a larger scale against the heavy lean towards monoculturalism and monolingualism in the UK, and then this appeared. This is the right moment to be bringing translators and cultural mediators into the spotlight and I plan to be as ambitious, vocal and visible as possible in the residency’s inaugural year. It feels more vital than ever to be exploring foreign, globalised and multilingual subjectivities – and the perception of them – through the ‘impossible possibility’ of translation and other creative practices, and I consider the creation of this role to be a great step forward for translation and socio-political activism.

Jen Calleja c Robin Silas Christian
Jen Calleja (photo (c) Robin Silas Christian)

I’ve been a freelance literary translator from German of fiction, non-fiction, books for young people, poetry and essays since 2012 – though I’ve worked full and part-time jobs alongside that for most of the time. I moved to Munich when I was eighteen after my A-levels (something that the younger generation might not have the opportunity to do) and started reading German-language novels while doing my undergraduate degree in Media and Modern Literature at Goldsmiths in London. I went on to study an MA in German Studies, specialising in translation theory and practice, and translated my first book while finishing my Masters. My recent projects include Gregor Hens’ essay-memoir Nicotine (Fitzcarraldo Editions; YK.2017.a.1058), essays on art and culture by filmmaker Wim Wenders collected as Paul Cezanne’s Pixels (Faber & Faber), and I’m currently editing my translation of Kerstin Hensel’s novella Dance by the Canal (Peirene Press).

In 2012 I also founded my Anglo-German arts journal Verfreundungseffekt, which collates art and writing at the intersection of German-language and English-language culture and experience; reportage and personal essays on cross-cultural projects and the Anglo-German self; as well as translations. A couple of years later I became the acting editor of the journal New Books in German, where I spent two years immersed in the German-language and English-language publishing scenes, helping the best German-language books gain a platform in the English-speaking world and becoming familiar with how books make it into translation.

In early 2015, the Austrian Cultural Forum London invited me to become Guest Literary Curator, and inspired by a talk I had attended at International Translation Day at the British Library, I asked the ACF London if I could be ‘upgraded’ to Translator in Residence six months into my two year curatorship. This meant I could translate work by the as-yet-untranslated Austrian authors I invited to participate in events, discuss the craft of translation, and elevate ‘the translator’. The events I curated spanned an exhibition of multimedia translations of a translated short story and a performative reading of a crime novel, to a conversation series between British and Austrian authors and founding and co-judging the ACF London Translation and Writing Prizes.

Around the same time as my curatorship began, I successfully pitched a column on literary translation to online arts journal The Quietus. I had been inspired by translation publications like Asymptote and Words Without Borders, and wanted to do my bit to bring the kind of conversations taking place in the translation scene to a general literary readership. My aim was to focus on a different language and/or translation approach or issue with each column, and it’s still going strong. I wanted to demystify translation, and this has also been my motivation when I’ve given talks and workshops. Translation is a highly nuanced practice, but I’m constantly aware that we cannot only preach to the choir: we must engage with those for whom translation is still an abstract and invisible mystery in innovative, imaginative and generous ways.


Beyibouh_Al-Haj_Lo_Res2_1442753688_crop_550x778
Portrait of Beyibouh-al-Haj by Richard Phoenix, based on photograph by Emma Brown from a column by Jen Calleja on Saharawi poetry in translation

Throughout my residency, I hope to consistently explore translation at the intersection of the theoretical, the educational, and the practical, allowing for perspectives onto what translation has been, is, and could be within society and culture. I already have a long list of ideas and themes – working groups and workshops; a mentorship; archive creation; ‘translating’ the spaces of the British Library; accessibility as translation; translation, power and protest; translation as writing and writing as translation – but I’m sure that once I get up to speed with the Translating Cultures project and the British Library’s own ground-breaking ventures, my ideas will morph.

Translation is – or should be – an exercise and expression of empathy. This will be what I will return to throughout my time at the British Library, but much of what the residency will be is very much still to be discovered. I couldn’t be more excited about the next year of unfolding translation as our way of reading foreign literatures and as creative writing in its own right; as an embedded and largely invisible practice that influences our everyday lives; and as the foundation for communication and our connection with others – not to mention something that brings joy, creates strong bonds between people, and makes the inaccessible accessible.

Jen Calleja is a writer, literary translator and musician based in London and is the inaugural Translator in Residence at the British Library @niewview

Charles Forsdick (AHRC Theme Leadership Fellow, ‘Translating Cultures’) said: “I am delighted that Jen Calleja has been appointed as the inaugural British Library / AHRC ‘translating cultures’ translator-in-residence. The scheme will allow us to develop already fruitful collaborations between the AHRC ‘translating cultures’ theme and the British Library. The AHRC has funded a number of projects that explore the practice of the translator, as well as the growing field of translation and creativity. We hope that Jen will be able to work with some of our award holders to develop further activity in these areas. In recent years, a growing public interest in questions of translation, multilingualism and creativity has become increasingly apparent, and we are keen to demonstrate through the residency the centrality of research and scholarship in these areas.”

Janet Zmroczek (Head of European and American Collections at the British Library), said: "At the British Library, we aim to bring inspiration and enjoyment through our translation-related projects and events, where participants engage with our collections covering an extraordinary range of world languages and many formats. The breadth of our resources, from translators’ archives to spoken word recordings and a wealth of printed materials from all periods and most world languages, makes us an ideal home for those interested in how stories travel between languages and cultures. We’re delighted that, with support from the AHRC, we’re able to offer Jen Calleja, out first Translator in Residence, the opportunity to put down roots in the multilingual community of staff, readers and visitors at the heart of the British Library. By giving Jen the opportunity to get to know our collections from the inside, we hope her residency will contribute to opening up this multilingual treasure-house for new groups unfamiliar with our collections and events and encourage wider understanding of the value of translation and linguistic diversity."

 

31 March 2017

Wagenseil, Wagner and the Mastersingers of Nuremberg

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By a neat coincidence, an enquiry about a work by Johann Christoph Wagenseil arrived in the same week that I attended a performance of Richard Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von NĂŒrnberg at the Royal Opera. Why a neat coincidence? Because an important source for Wagner’s opera was another work by Wagenseil, a history of Nuremberg with an appended study of the Meistersinger, or Mastersingers, and their art, especially as it developed in the city.

Wagenseil tp
Title-page and frontispiece portrait of the author from Johann Christoph Wagenseil, De Sacri Rom. Imperii Libera Civitate Noribergensi Commentatio ... (Altdorf, 1697) 794.f.6.(1.)

The precise origins of the historical Mastersingers are not entirely clear, but their schools or guilds developed in the late middle ages and their heyday was in the early 16th century. Wagenseil reports the tradition that the Mastersingers looked back to ‘Twelve Old Masters’, including the mediaeval poets Wolfram von Eschenbach and Walther von der Vogelweide – although in the opera the pedantic town clerk Beckmesser dismisses the latter as a master because he is ‘long since dead’ and would have known nothing of the guild’s rules.

In Wagner’s story, the knight Walther von Stolzing seeks admission to Nuremberg’s guild of Mastersingers in the hope of winning the hand of his beloved Eva Pogner at the St John’s Day singing contest. Among the masters he is opposed by rival suitor Beckmesser and assisted by the shoemaker Hans Sachs, who has to set aside his own feelings for Eva. In the first act Walther auditions for the guild and the Masters are shocked by his untutored efforts, which break all their rules and are especially condemned by Beckmesser, who judges the song in his official role as ‘Marker’.

Wagner took many details of the Mastersingers’ rules and ceremonies from Wagenseil. The list of sometimes bizarre names for the guild’s approved tones, which Sachs’s apprentice David reels off to the baffled Walther, all come from Wagenseil, and the rules of the ‘Tabulatur’ which the master Fritz Kothner recites before Walther’s audition for the guild cleverly reflect in verse the rules described by Wagenseil in prose.

Wagenseil Tones
A selection of the Mastersingers’ tones, from Wagenseil’s book

Walther’s experience of the ‘Singschule’ also follows Wagenseil’s description, including the time and place: following a service at St Catherine’s Church. One key difference, however, is that where Wagenseil describes four Markers, each with a specific task, Wagner has only one, in order to highlight the contrast and rivalry between Walther and Beckmesser.

Even the Masters’ names come from Wagenseil, who lists 12 ‘old masters’ of the Nuremberg guild. Wagner uses all of these (with some minor changes), but attributes a selection of trades to them which are not mentioned by Wagenseil. As Wagner also needed to add Hans Sachs to his list and presumably wanted to avoid the odd and unlucky number of 13 masters on stage, one of Wagenseil’s line-up, Niclaus (In Wagner’s libretto Niklaus) Vogel, is absent from the action, reported sick by his apprentice during the roll-call.

Wagenseil Masters
Wagenseil’s list of the 12 ‘old masters’ of the Nuremberg guild

For all its basis in Wagenseil’s work, Wagner’s opera presents a romantic and idealised view of the Mastersingers as a core part of a community where art and work go hand in hand, and where the townspeople share an instinctive appreciation of true art. The guilds actually had little public or popular resonance, but were more of a closed circle. Those who did become popular writers, such as the real Hans Sachs, tended to be known for other works, not least because their Meistergesang was performed only at the guild’s meetings and preserved only in manuscript among the members.

In fact one of the historical Sachs’s works features in the opera: the opening lines of his poem in praise of Martin Luther, Die Wittenbergisch Nachtigall, are sung in act 3 by an admiring chorus in praise of Sachs himself. But its poetic form is not that of authentic Meistergesang, and nor is the musical setting of the chorus.

Nachtigall  

Nachtigall Wach auf
Title-page and opening lines (as set by Wagner) of Hans Sachs, Die Wittembergisch Nachtigall  ([Augsburg, 1523]) 11515.c.18.(4).

Indeed, it seems that Wagner took little inspiration for the actual music of the opera from Wagenseil’s work: according to the musicologist Annalise Smith, it is only the songs of the rule-obsessed Beckmesser that closely follow the guidelines cited by Wagenseil. But since Wagner’s plot is concerned in part with the importance of change and innovation in artistic practice, and since he gently mocks many of the rules quoted from Wagenseil, perhaps this is only fitting.

Wagenseil Melody
An example of Meistergesang with music from Wagenseil’s history

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Collections

References/further reading

Herbert Thompson, Wagner & Wagenseil: a Source of Wagner’s Opera ‘Die Meistersinger’ (London, 1927) 07896.f.36.

John Flood, ‘Mastersingers’, in Matthias Konzett, ed., Encyclopedia of German literature (Chicago, 2000) pp. 687-689. YC.2000.b.1167

Annalise Smith, ‘Honour Thy German Masters: Wagner’s Depiction of “Meistergesang” in Die Meistersinger von NĂŒrnberg.’ Musicological Explorations, 11 (2010)

31 January 2017

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

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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.

 

25 January 2017

Unsuccessful Persuasion: Jane Austen in 19th-century Germany

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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 FamiliengemĂ€hlde (‘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 VerfĂŒhrung (‘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 fĂŒr gebildete StĂ€nde (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 â€˜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 MĂŒnch, 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

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

 

13 January 2017

Science, Art and Insects: Maria Sibylla Merian

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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 MatthÀus 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

 

03 January 2017

Making Good - a Cultural Restitution Story

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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 JosĂ© 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 JosĂ© 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. MaylĂ€nder 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 MaylĂ€nder from Die goldenen Waffen

Rather to my surprise the name brought up a number of hits about a Dr Karl MaylĂ€nder, whose bookplate was the one in our book. But my initial satisfaction in finding this information turned to concern when I realised why Dr MaylĂ€nder’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 Ɓodz 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 MaylĂ€nder knew and supported) in the Leopold Museum in Vienna.

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

The case of the drawings was complex, but it was clear from the documentary evidence that MaylĂ€nder’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 MaylĂ€nder 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 MaylĂ€nder’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 MaylĂ€nder 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

15 December 2016

The dangerous language

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Can there be anyone in the world more harmless than an Esperanto enthusiast? Probably not. Speakers of the international language Esperanto are mainly interested in languages, foreign cultures and world peace. However, since the first book of Esperanto was published in 1887 they have lived through recurrent periods of intolerance and repression.

This is the subject of Ulrich Lins’ book Dangerous Language whose new revised edition in Esperanto has just been published as La danĝera lingvo – Studo pri la persekutoj kontraƭ Esperanto. This book has also been translated into German (1988), Italian (1990), Russian (1999), Lithuanian (2005) and Korean (2013), besides an earlier draft into Japanese in 1975, and will soon appear in English.

DangeraLingvoDuEldonojDSC_3718Lins, Ulrich, La danĝera lingvo. Studo pri la persekutoj kontraĆ­ Esperanto (Gerlingen, 1988; YA.1989.a.13531). First edition (on the left); New revised edition (Rotterdam, 2016; YF.2016.a.19474) on the right.

 The last century was no less bloody and bellicose than earlier ones, but it was also the century of Esperanto, whose speakers represented an idealistic view that all peoples, languages and cultures were of equal value, a view apparently seldom shared by national leaders. From the earliest days of Esperanto, governments were quick to see potential dangers to their authority in the message spread by Esperanto.

As early as February 1895, when the language still had its base in the Russian Empire, the magazine La Esperantisto  was blocked by the censor because it included an article by Leo Tolstoy, an enthusiastic supporter of Esperanto.

LaEsperantisto1895 La Esperantisto. February issue with Tolstoy’s article Prudento au Kredo? P.P. 4939

In Nazi Germany the authorities immediately understood that the internationalism, pacifism and equality which went hand in hand with Esperanto were the exact opposite of everything proclaimed by the Nazi ideal of a superior “Aryan” race destined to rule over other “Untermenschen” (“subhumans”). Added to this, in Mein Kampf (Vol.1, Chap.XI) Hitler expressed his belief that Esperanto would be used by the Jews to achieve world domination. When the Jews were deported from Warsaw, the Gestapo received specific orders from Berlin to search for the descendants of Zamenhof (the creator of Esperanto). All three of his children died in the concentration camps. The only survivors were his daughter-in-law and her teenage son, Zamenhof's grandson, who still lives today in Paris.

In Japan, too, the imperial police force immediately recognized the progressive (and potentially communist) tendencies of the Esperanto movement. In the first decade of the 20th century the police began to take an interest in the relationship between anarchists and Esperantists, and in 1934 the Japanese Proletarian Esperantist Union was shut down.

It is harder to understand the reasoning behind the persecution of Esperanto speakers in the USSR under Stalin. Immediately after the Russian Revolution there was a flowering of languages in the new Soviet Union. New alphabets were created, all minority languages were recognized, and there was support for Esperanto.

However, in Stalin’s time Soviet society underwent a period of closing in on itself and suspecting everything which potentially had links with other countries. Esperantists were people who corresponded with foreigners, or at least were in a position to do so. As Sergej Kuznecov wrote in the afterword to the previous edition of La danĝera lingvo, the treatment of Esperanto speakers can be seen as the measure of the totalitarianism of every regime. In the purges of the 1930s, many outstanding Esperantists perished even though they were sincere communists: Yevgeny Mikhalski, Vladimir Varankin, Ernest Drezen  and others too numerous to list here.

SovetiajEsperantistojMurditaj

 Books by Drezen,  Varankin and Mihalski from the British Library’s Esperanto collection.

La danĝera lingvo describes in rather less detail the persecutions against Esperanto and its speakers in Spain, Portugal, Italy and other European regimes. Esperantists were even executed in those countries, most notably in Cordoba in Spain, when the Fascist army occupied the town in 1937 and shot all members of the local Esperanto group.

The difficulties in reviving Esperanto organizations after Stalin’s death are described in detail by Lins. The Association of Soviet Esperantists (ASE) was founded in 1979, but remained under strict government control for years. Even in some Western countries it was necessary to wait for the collapse of former regimes; the Portuguese association was only revived in 1972.

ASE-SEJMEsperantoBlog
Memoirs about ASE and SEJM (Soviet Esperantist Youth Movement) by prominent  Esperantists in the British Library’s collection.

In 2017 UNESCO will be commemorating the centenary of the death of Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof. It is fitting that as that year approaches we should also remember the persecutions which have taken place against Esperanto and Esperanto speakers over the past century.

It is surprising now to realise that Zamenhof’s concerns were not primarily linguistic. He was far more interested in bringing an end to wars between different peoples, and in creating conditions for international understanding and peace. He lived through a period of pogroms and major wars in Europe, and it is not by chance that the present period of increasing xenophobia and intolerance in many parts of Europe and the world reminds us of events in Zamenhof’s lifetime. This shows yet again that the road leading towards progress and civilization is neither straight nor easy, but Esperanto remains a tool of vital importance in making Zamenhof's vision of world peace and mutual understanding a reality.

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

Further reading

Garvía Soto, Roberto. Esperanto and its rivals : the struggle for an international language. (Philadelphia, [2015]) m15/.11262

Richardson, David. Learning and Using the International Language. (Washington, 2004). YD.2007.a.8182

 

 

28 October 2016

To Naples with Nietzsche and beyond: Malwida von Meysenbug (1816-1903).

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When on 28 October 1816 another daughter was born into the large family of Ludwig Carl George Philipp Revalier, no-one could have predicted that she would grow up to be a revolutionary sympathizer. Her father, major-domo at the court of Wilhelm I of Hessen, was promoted by the latter’s son Wilhelm II in 1825 to the nobility as a mark of gratitude for his service as an adviser, and when young Malwida von Meysenbug grew up to write her autobiography Memoiren einer Idealisten (1869-76; the British Library holds the third edition of 1882 at shelfmark 12357.c.12), she recalled that she had taken great pride and pleasure in belonging to the aristocracy. Yet those memoirs were written in political exile in England, where she had fled after supporting the democratic cause in the revolutions of 1848, and where she acted as governess to the daughters of Alexander Herzen.

Malwida - Old age
Portrait of Malwida von Meysenbug in old age, from Emil Reicke, Malwida von Meysenbug: die Verfasserin der Memoiren einer Idealistin (Berlin, 1911) British Library 010705.ee.16.

In her memoirs, she devotes the longest chapter to the 1830 revolution, which made a profound impression on the 14-year-old girl. Although she affectionately describes her family as close and happy, there are hints that all was not idyllic; in the chapter dedicated to the 1848 revolution, she mentions the ‘tyranny of the family, which in this case still rests on the regrettable principle that the woman should not think for herself but remain in the place to which fate has assigned her, no matter whether her individuality is submerged or not’.

As her interest in politics became more marked, she became increasingly estranged from her relatives. In this her relationship with the theological student and revolutionary thinker Theodor Althaus was a major factor in influencing her to question her father’s political stance and develop her own ideas. Much as she admired her father’s efforts to draft what she described as ‘the most liberal of all German constitutions’, it did not go far enough for her. He died in Frankfurt late in 1847; this placed Malwida in an ideal location to witness the preliminary planning for a pan-German Parliament in the spring of 1848, but she was bitterly disappointed to find that only men were admitted for lack of space, and had to observe the proceedings from a window.

Malwida - Theodor Althaus

 Malwida’s portrait of Theodor Althaus, reproduced in Mildred Adams’s English edition of Malwida’s memoirs, Rebel in a Crinoline (London, 1937). 010709.h.2.

1847 had also seen the end of her relationship with Althaus, who broke it off as he did not reciprocate her feelings. A strong-minded woman whose portraits show an equally determined and formidable physique, she had no further romantic attachments, though her lively intellect and independent cast of thought equipped her to become the friend of several of the most outstanding men of the age, including Richard Wagner and Friedrich Nietzsche.

With her family’s reluctant consent she made a journey to Ostend in 1849 of which she wrote an account, Eine Reise nach Ostende (Berlin, 1905; 010107.g.11). Far from being a conventional travel narrative, it presents evidence of her political convictions, reflected in her remarks on memorials to those who fell in the struggle to free the Netherlands from Spanish domination and her strong identification with the common people.

In 1852 she was forced to flee to London as a result of those same principles, and made contact with her fellow political exiles Gottfried and Johanna Kinkel. Refusing to accept support from her family, she took a situation as governess to the two motherless daughters of Alexander Herzen. She became especially attached to the younger girl, Olga, and in 1861, at Herzen’s request, she assumed permanent charge of her. She provided stability and consistency for her small charges amid the chaotic domestic life described by Herzen’s friend Nikolai Ogarev in his sketch Bedlam, or A Day of our Life (1857-58), reproduced in E. H. Carr’s The Romantic Exiles (London, 1933; 010795.i.84). The liaison between Herzen and Ogarev’s wife Natalia created a febrile and tense milieu in which Malwida’s tact and firm principles were sorely needed, and she became a second mother to Olga, who in 1873 married Gabriel Monod, the French historian who edited and published several of her works.

Malwida and Olga

 Malwida and her foster-daughter Olga Herzen (later Monod), reproduced in Rebel in a Crinoline

It was in 1854/55 that she first met Richard Wagner, initiating a friendship which lasted for many years and is frequently mentioned in Cosima Wagner’s diaries. She was present at the disastrous Paris performances of his TannhĂ€user, and left an account in the Memoiren of the whoops and whistles with which the notorious Jockey Club ruined the evening. ‘So this,’ she shouted, ever the governess, ‘is the public that claims to set the standards of taste for the whole world! A rabble of street urchins, without even manners enough to let people who differ from them listen in peace and quiet!’ After the debacle of the third performance she described visiting Wagner at two a.m. and finding him outwardly composed but trembling with suppressed emotion before writing to withdraw the opera from performance.

It was though the Wagner connection that she met Nietzsche in 1872 at Bayreuth, when the ceremony took place at which the foundation stone of the Festspielhaus was laid. Their shared love of Italy led her to invite him and Paul RĂ©e  to the Bay of Naples in 1876 for a stay at Sorrento, where Nietzsche began his Menschliches, Allzumenschliches and RĂ©e his Origin of the Moral Sensations (1877).

Malwida Salon
Malwida’s salon in Rome, with a bust of Wagner in the corner. Reproduced in Rebel in a Crinoline

Malwida had settled permanently in Rome in 1877, and received Romain Rolland, among other distinguished guests, in her home there. She died in Rome in 23 April 1903, aged 86 – the first woman ever to be nominated (by Monod in 1901) for the Nobel Prize in Literature, and an inspiration to all her female compatriots who fought against the suffocating conservatism of Wilhelmine Germany.

Susan Halstead, Content Specialist, Humanities and Social Sciences, Research Engagement.

11 October 2016

Andreas Gryphius, monarchs and mechanicals

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In 2016 we have been commemorating the 400th anniversaries of the deaths of both Cervantes and Shakespeare. Today, however, we look at a literary figure who was born in the year of those deaths, Andreas Gryphius.

Gryphius portrait
Andreas Gryphius, after an engraving by Philip Kilian. Reproduced in Marian Szyrocki Andreas Gryphius: sein Leben und Werk (TĂŒbingen 1964) British Library X.909/3470

Gryphius was born in Glogau in Silesia, today Polish GƂogĂłw, on 2 October 1616 although some sources claim 11 October as the date, possibly a confusion of birth and baptismal dates, but more likely due simply to roman numerals being read as arabic ones. His early years were marked by personal loss and the upheavals of what would become the Thirty Years’ War. His father died when he was four years old, his mother seven years later, and young Andreas spent the following years moving between various Silesian towns, living with his stepfather or other relatives and patrons, sometimes attending school and sometimes studying independently. In 1638 he entered the University of Leyden, a centre of European scholarship and a refuge from the ongoing war in the German territories, where he could develop his literary and academic talents in an atmosphere both politically safe and intellectually stimulating. After six years in Leyden and a further four travelling around Europe, Gryphius returned to Silesia and in 1649 was appointed Syndic of his native Glogau, a post he held until his death in 1664, despite being a Protestant in a state that, since the Peace Of Westphalia, was under Catholic control. Alongside the duties of his post, he continued the writing career which had begun in his teens.

Despite the vicissitudes of the Thirty Years’ War, German literature was enjoying something of a renaissance in this period, with writers such as the founders of the Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft (modelled on the Italian academies) seeking to give German a new status as a language of literature and scholarship. Gryphius became a member in 1662, and was given the soubriquet ‘der Unsterbliche’ (the Immortal), which suggests the esteem in which contemporaries held him, although it  has some poignancy in retrospect given that Gryphius was dead within two years of his election to the society.

Gryphius frontispiece 11525.bb.3
Frontispiece of a collected edition of Gryphius’s works, A Gryphii Deutsche Gedichte erster Theil (Breslau, 1657) 11525.bb3.

As well as poems and plays Gryphius wrote factual prose works and was not afraid of controversy. One of his first published works, Fewrige Freystadt, describes the fire that devastated the Silesian town of Freystadt (modern-day KoĆŒuchĂłw) in 1637, and openly criticises the authorities for failures in dealing with the crisis. In his early years as a Syndic in Glogau, he published a collection of historical documents Glogauisches FĂŒrstenthumbs Landes Privilegia ... (Lissa, 1653; 1502/223) intended to demonstrate to the ruling Habsburg Emperor that local freedoms had a long precedent and could not be overturned by a centralising absolutist state. But it is for his poems, and perhaps even more his plays, that Gryphius is best remembered today. The plays include both tragedies and comedies (among the latter the splendidly titled Horribilcribrifax Teutsch), and interestingly one of each has an English connection.

The tragedy Ermordete Majestät, oder Carolus Stuardus is unusual for its time in dramatizing a near-contemporary event, the execution of the English King Charles I in 1649. Although the play was not published until 1657, Gryphius began work on it soon after hearing of Charles’s execution, and he later revised it partly to take account of the Restoration. The action is relatively static: various groups of people discuss the reasons for or against and the possible repercussions of regicide, Charles prepares to die a martyr, and a series of allegorical choruses comment on the situation. Gryphius strongly takes the royalist side, and seems to have a low opinion of how the English treat their monarchs in general: in Act I the ghost of Mary Queen of Scots lists a number of murdered kings (who later appear as a chorus) and reflects ‘Es ist der Insell Art’ (‘It is the way of the Island’ [i.e. Britain]).

Gryphius Carolus 11525.bb.3
The opening of Ermordete Majestät, oder Carolus Stuardus from the 1657 collection of Gryphius’s works

Gryphius’s ‘English’ comedy is Absurda Comica, oder Herr Peter Squentz, essentially a version of the ‘Rude Mechanicals’ material from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, although leaving out the fairies and Bottom’s transformation. The comedy shows the schoolmaster Peter Squentz and his players preparing their version of Pyramus and Thisbe and presenting it to drama-loving King Theodorus and his court in the hope of winning favour. Their rustic language, outmoded poetic style and frequent blunders cause great amusement among the aristocratic audience, and the play is sometimes described as a satire on common folk who pretend to be learned and talented above their station, but Squentz and his company are nonetheless shown to come off well since Theodorus rewards them with 15 Gulden for every mistake.

Gryphius Squentz 11745.a.55.
A song performed by the weaver and Meistersinger Lollinger in Absurda Comica, oder Herr Peter Squentz, from the collection A Gryphii Freuden und Trauer-Spiele auch Oden und Sonnette (Leipzig, 1663) 11745.a.55. It is a parody of the Meistergesang style, widely considered outdated by Gryphius’s time.

Gryphius claims to have adapted his work from that of Daniel Schwendter, revising and improving Schwendter’s text. It his highly unlikely that either Schwendter or Gryphius knew Shakespeare’s original play, but quite possible that either could have seen a version of it –or of the Mechanicals subplot – performed by travelling English players on the continent, an idea supported by the fact that one of Gryphius’s characters is called PickelhĂ€ring, the name of a stock fool character among such troupes.

While even Gryphius’s most ardent admirers could hardly claim him as Shakespeare’s literary equal or heir, there is nonetheless a nice symmetry in the fact that the author of this first literary reworking of a Shakespeare play in German was born in the year of Shakespeare’s death and died in 1664, the centenary year of Shakespeare’s birth.

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Studies