THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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62 posts categorized "Language"

07 February 2017

“Ex musaeo” on a Latin title page = “from the library of” or “edited by”?

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On a Latin title page the author and title are only a small element: early printers just had to tell you where an author came from, his offices and distinctions (very important in an age of hierarchy) and the grandee to whom he dedicated his work (often in hope of patronage).

A phrase which turns up from time to time and which had puzzled me is: “ex musaeo”. Now, “museum” could mean “library”, and I often assumed that this meant that the edition had been prepared from a copy (presumably manuscript) “in the possession of” a certain party.

This seems to have be in the mind of the British Museum Library cataloguer who produced this record:

Musaeo Catalogue entry

Museo Maiansius 92.c.26

And of course there are examples when “ex musaeo” does clearly mean this. Take a look at the plate between columns 1011 and 1012 of Fortunius Licetus, De Lucernis Antiquorum reconditis libb. sex …. (Oldenburg, 1652; 810.l.18.): ‘Ex Musaeo Cl. V. Joan. Galvani. J. C. Pat.’

Museo plate

Proof positive that this means “in the possession of” is given in the text: “Inter alia quamplura cimelia Ioannes Galuanus Pt. I. C. in suo Gazophilacio pulcherrimam habet ... imaginem” [Among many other treasures Ioannes Galuanus has this most beautiful statue in his gallery]

In a textual context, “e museo” (note the variant “ex Museio”) does indeed mean “from the collection of”, as in the case of: J. Scaligeri ... Poemata omnia, ex Museio P. Schriverii. ([Leyden], 1615; 1213.b.6.). Schriverius writes (p. 12): “Quare cùm intellexissent quidam docti et venusti homines servari inscriniis meis integriora et auctiora Scaligeri poëmata ...”[When certain learned and distinguished men discovered that better and fuller poems of Scaliger were held on my shelves ...]

But I think it’s just as likely (if not more so) that “ex musaeo” indicates the labours of the editor.

These all have prologues by the editors which make no mention of where their copy-texts were to be found.

Museo Petronius 1489.a.26

Petronius, Satyricon. Extrema editio ex musæo ... J. A. Gonsali de Salas. (Frankfiort, 1629) 1489.a.26.

González de Salas says the text is “seriò castigatum, et nonnullis locis auctum, partim ex ingenio, partim ex Lutetianâ editione ann. 1595” [seriously corrected, and in a number of places increased, partly out of [my own] invention, partly from the Paris edition of 1595].

Guilielmi Postelli De republica seu magistratibus Atheniensium liber. Ex Musaeo Joan. Balesdeni, In Principe Senatu Advocati. Accessit A. Thysii Discursus politicus de eadem materia, et Collatio Atticarum et Romanarum legum. (Leyden, 1645). 9025.a.14.

Apuleius Madaurensis Platonicus serio castigatus. Ex musæo Pet. Scriverii. (Amsterdam , 1624) 1079.a.5.

Thesaurus novus Theologico-Philologicus, sive Sylloge Dissertationum Exegeticarum ad selectiora atque insigniora Veteris et Novi Instrumenti loca; a Theologis Protestantibus maximum partem in Germania diversis temporibus separatim editarum, nunc vero secundum seriem librorum, capitum et commatum digestarum, junctimque recusarum, additis indicibus ... ex Musæo T. Hasæi et C. Ikenii. Lugduni Batavorum ; Amstelodami, 1732. 5.g.7,8.

So, although unrecorded, I deduce “museum” here draws on a particular use of “Musae” to mean “sciences, studies” (Lewis and Short, citing Cicero no less).

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Studies

References:

D. J. Shaw, “‘Ars formularia’: Neo-Latin Synonyms for Printing”, The Library, 6th series, 11:3 (1989) 220-30.

Silvia Rizzo, Il lessico filologico degli umanisti. (Rome, 1973). X.900/14989.

27 January 2017

Lidia Zamenhof, a cosmopolitan woman and victim of the Holocaust

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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

 

23 January 2017

Scratching the Surface: the Runic Imaginary

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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

11 January 2017

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

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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

05 January 2017

Gysbert Japicx: founder of Frisian literature

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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.


GysbJpxportraitAc.966
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.


GysbJpxMapBolswardBeud
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.

GsbJpx816b36Tsjerne
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.

GsbJpx11557h27ttlp
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

21 December 2016

The Lettered Bridge: Aleksandr Kazem-Bek

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Long before the Soviets began their process of korenizatsiia, Imperial Russia boasted a small but prominent cadre of indigenous non-Russian academics. Among those from the 19th century is Aleksandr Kasimovich Kazem-Bek, a colourful mid-century scholar of Turkic and Persian. Kazem-Bek was born Muhammad Ali Kazem-Bek in 1802 in Rasht, Iran, the son of a prominent Shi’ite scholar and daughter of the local governor. At the age of 9, his family moved from Rasht to his father’s native Derbent in contemporary Dagestan. It was here that he met Scottish Presbyterian missionaries, and eventually decided to convert to Christianity.

Kazem-Bek portrait X.809-1671

Portrait of Kazem-Bek from Mirza Kazem-Bek by A.Rzaev (Baku, 1965). X.809/1671

Kazem-Bek’s conversion caused concern among Muslims and Russian Christians alike. The local authorities were worried that he would act as a bridgehead for British influence among the local populations, and he was exiled to Astrakhan. Although punitive, the move allowed him to begin his career in service of the Russian Imperial government as a translator from Persian and Azeri into Russian. It was first step that led to posts in both Kazan – the seat of one of the country’s largest Oriental Studies departments – and St. Petersburg, the Imperial capital. His immersion in both the Islamic and Christian faiths (notwithstanding his occasional polemics against Islam) and his mastery of Russian, Turkish, Tatar, Arabic and Farsi allowed him to act as a conduit of knowledge from the newly conquered regions on the southern fringe of the Empire to the Imperial centres of military, political and economic power.

Kazem-Bek memoir 864.g.43

Among the earliest of his works was an autobiographical account of his conversion from Islam to Christianity entitled A Brief Memoir of the Life and Conversion of Mahomed Ali Bey, a Learned Persian of Derbent (Philadelphia, 1827; 864.g.43; title-page above). This essay was more than simply an ego project: it marked the first of a number of endeavours over the next thirty years to explain and scrutinize the faith of Russia’s new Muslim populations for the benefit of Russian-speaking readers. From 1844, for example, we have his translation of the Kitab mukhtaṣar al-wiḳāyā fī masā’il al-hidāyā (‘The Book of the Collection of Consciousness in the Questions of Gifts’), a 12th century tract dedicated to the examination of the Shar’ia, or Islamic law. There is even a work in the Library’s collection from as late as 1859 entitled Miftāḥ kunūz al-Ḳur’ān (‘Key to the Treasures of the Qur’an’) (St. Petersburg, 1859; 14514.d.13), demonstrating that inter-religious comparison ran like a thread through Kazem-Bek’s oeuvre.

  Kazem-Bek MS notes 306.412.B.7

Kitab mukhtaṣar al-wiḳāyā fī masā’il al-hidāyā (Kazan, 1844; 306.41.B.7). An introduction to the work including autobiographical details by the editor, Aleksandr Kazem-Bek, with grammatical corrections to the Arabic, possibly in Kazem-Bek’s own hand.

The scholar’s two most passionate interests, however, were history and language. In many ways, Kazem-Bek’s writings adumbrated the shift in emphasis from religious community to ethno-linguistic belonging that would grow apace following the 1905 Revolution in Russia. This is exemplified by his insistence on studying the vernacular cultures of Russia’s Turkic subjects. The earliest of his historical works held at the Library is the Asseb" o-sseĭiar" / Sem' planet" soderzhashchii istoriiu  Krymskikh" khanov" (‘The Seven Planets Comprising the History of the Crimean Khans’) 

Kazem-Bek 14456.h.21. titlepage

Title-page of Asseb" o-sseĭiar"(Kazan, 1832) 14456.h.21

 This is followed by an English version of his Derbend-Nâmeh, or The History of Derbent. His choice of topic is an indication that, despite his conversion and exile from Azerbaijan, Kazem-Bek never forgot his childhood home or the territory of his ancestors. Finally, among the later works produced on the history of the region, we hold his Bab" i babidy:  religiozno-politicheskiia smuty v" Persīi v" 1844-1852 godakh" (‘Babas and the Babids: Politico-Religious Turmoil in Persia’ 1844-1852) (St.Petersburg, 1865; 4504.f.30). Even as a professor and an eminent scholar, Kazem-Bek did not tire of analyzing the social environment of the Caspian region.

Kazem-Bek 11456.h.14 Titlepage

Derbend-Nâmeh, or The History of Derbent (St. Petersburg, 1851) 14456.h.14. Title-page (above) and signed; inscription by Kazem-Bek (below)

Kazem-Bek 14456.h.14 inscription

Within the realm of language and linguistics, among his most passionate topics was the typology of Turkic languages and cultures. The Library holds both the original 1846 Russian version (12906.c.34) and the 1848 German translation (T.6887) of his primary work of historical linguistics, Obshchaia  grammatika Turetsko-Tatarskago iazyka (‘General Grammar of the Turco-Tatar Language’). Whatever the value of Kazem-Bek’s theoretical approaches to the study of language, his interest in the languages and dialects of the Eurasian steppe – particularly Kazan Tatar and Uighur – helped focus contemporary minds on the distinctive characteristics of the various Turkic idioms. This too translated into socio-political action, especially cultural and social reform. Indeed, Kazem-Bek is known to have been in contact with another Azeri linguistic reformer, Fathali Akhundzade, about issues of modernization and popular education.

Kazem-Bek Grammar Russian 12906.c.34 Kazem-Bek grammar German T.6887
Russian and German editions of Kazan-Bek’s Turko-Tatar grammar

 Aleksandr Kazem-Bek was no stranger to controversy, and it is indeed partly thanks to this controversy that his memory has lived on through the Soviet and post-Soviet periods. The works of his housed at the British Library and other institutions, however, demonstrate that he was a formidable part of 19th century Turkic intellectual history, and an important builder of the foundation of Russian Oriental Studies.

Michael Erdman, Curator of Turkish and Turkic Collections

 

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 kontraŭ 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 kontraŭ 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

 

 

12 December 2016

'An absolutely essential handyman and busybody in Russian literature’…Nikolai Karamzin (1766-1826)

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These were the words in which Andrew Field, in his The Complection of Russian Literature (1971; X.981/2277) described Nikolai Mikhailovich Karamzin, who was born 250 years ago on 12 December 1766, and without whom Russian literature and the Russian language would never have developed as they did.

Karamzin_by_Tropinin_(1818,_Tretyakov_gallery)

 Portrait of the writer and historian N.M.Karamzin (1818)  by Tropinin (From Wikimedia Commons)

 Ironically, perhaps, he was not of Russian but of Tatar stock, as his name indicates, though his father was an officer in the Russian army, serving in the Simbirsk governate at the time of his son’s birth in the village of Znamenskoe. However, young Nikolai did not remain in the provinces but was sent to study in Moscow and later moved to St. Petersburg, where he made his first literary contacts and began to experiment with translations into Russian. Among these was Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (1787), one of the first of his plays to appear in Russian. In the introduction, his first foray into historical literary criticism, Karamzin acclaimed Shakespeare’s capacity to fathom human nature, and noted that the average Russian reader was wholly unfamiliar with English literature, a situation which he set out to remedy. He also produced a new translation of Lessing’s Emilia Galotti (1788) which was successfully staged in Moscow.

He also identified another serious gap in the reading material available in Russian: literature for children. In 1785 he launched Detskoe chtenie dlia serdtsa i razuma (Children’s Readings for Heart and Mind), the first Russian periodical for young readers. Containing lively articles on science, history and geography as well as stories and fables, many translated from German, it drew on Karamzin’s earlier experience as an educational publisher. Together with his co-editor Aleksandr Petrov, he also included translations of tales by Madame de Genlis and prose versions of James Thomson’s The Seasons.

In 1789 Karamzin decided to embark on extensive travels through Germany, France, Switzerland and England, which would later provide material for his Pis’ma ruskago puteshestvennika (Tales of a Russian Traveller). It is available to English-speaking readers in an excellent translation by Andrew Kahn (Oxford, 2003; YC.2004.a.2638), with an introduction in which he points out that the book `represents an ambitious attempt to join Enlightenment discourses and literary modes…producing nothing less than an anthropology of the Enlightenment.’ Of special interest to such readers is his account of visiting London in 1790, including Hamlet at the Haymarket Theatre, `the lovely village of Hampstead’, Parliamentary elections and the Tower of London, where he records that `we were shown the axe with which Anne [sic; actually Jane] Grey’s head was cut off!!’.

Karamzin Traveller 1455.a.15

Pis'ma ruskago puteshestvennika  (Moskva, 1797; 1455.a.15

In his attempts to link Russia into a wider European literary tradition, Karamzin also experimented with novel-writing, though his efforts in this genre are, to modern tastes, less successful than his traveller’s tales, and more interesting for their contribution to language and style than their intrinsic merits. In the interest of greater suppleness and fluidity he started the process of introducing Gallicisms to replace Slavonic expressions and aid him in transmitting the high-flown elegance of Sentimentalism to Russian readers. Unfortunately the results smack less of Sentimentalism than sentimentality, and one of his most famous tales, Bednaia Liza (Poor Liza; 1792), ends in typically melodramatic style: `Liza’s mother heard of the dreadful death of her daughter, and her blood went cold from the horror – her eyes closed forever. – The cottage became deserted. Now the wind howls through it, and hearing this noise at night, superstitious villagers say: `There moans the dead one; there moans poor Liza!’ (tr. David Gasperetti; Three Russian tales of the eighteenth century: DeKalb, Illinois, 2012; YC.2012.a.13725).

 

Karamzin Aonidi 149.d.36

Aonidy, ili Sobranie raznykh novykh stikhotvorenii (St. Petersburg, 1797) 1491.d.36. 

However, if Karamzin was a less than distinguished novelist, he was a pioneer as a historian. This field was comparatively undeveloped until he began his twelve-volume Istoriia Gosudarstva Rosiiskago. After a successful career as an editor and publisher, launching the Moskovskii zurnal (Moscow Journal) in 1791 followed by the poetical almanac Aonidy (The Aonides; picture above) in collaboration with Derzhavin and Dmitriev, in 1803 he decided to retire to Simbirsk to concentrate on his new venture. Learning the reason for his withdrawal from public life, Tsar Alexander I invited him to Tver to read the first eight volumes. Not surprisingly, he was a strong advocate of autocracy, and his wish that `there should be no Poland under any shape or name’ strikes a startling and sinister note to modern readers. Yet these considerations should not detract from his achievement as one of the first Russian authors to gather and annotate historical materials systematically and thoroughly. Despite his rational Enlightenment views (he was also an active Freemason), Karamzin was not immune to the spirit of an age which enthusiastically devoured Scott’s historical novels and uncritically swallowed the Ossian forgeries, and as such was a man of his time whose glamourizing of the reign of Ivan III is typical of the period.

He did, however, express a great admiration for the attainments of Catherine the Great, and the British Library possesses a copy of a German translation by Johann Richter (picture below) in which he pays fervent tribute to her work as an innovator, reformer and patron of the arts and philanthropy.

Karamzin Lobrede 10790.aa.1

Lobrede auf Catharina die Zweyte; Riga, 1801: 10790.aa.1

Karamzin ended his days happily on 22 May 1826 at the Tauride Palace, where he had lived as a guest of the Tsar who had eagerly awaited the appearance of every new page of the histories. Though the conservative views which strongly influenced Alexander, such as his criticism of Speransky’s reforms, undoubtedly had a detrimental effect on the course of Russian political history, his accomplishments in forging links between Russia and the West and even giving its alphabet a new letter (ë) make him a figure of lasting significance and continuing interest.


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

 

07 November 2016

Knud Leem and the Sami People of Finnmark

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In a recently broadcast episode of the Sky Arts series Treasures of The British Library Professor Robert Winston looked at an 18th-century book from the King’s Library that includes some delightful images of Sami skiers.

Leem Skiing
Sami skiers. From Knud Leem, Beskrivelse over Finmarkens Lapper, deres Tungemaal, Levemaade og forrige Afgudsdyrkelse. (Copenhagen, 1767) British Library 152.f.17.

In the illustration chosen, the skiers can be seen on a downhill run, one nonchalantly balancing a pole on his shoulder, the other manoeuvring his skis to break his descent. As the author Knud Leem (in the 1808 English translation of the original text) describes it, ‘by a certain wooden machine, of an oblong figure, fastened to their feet, commonly called wooden sandals, they are carried with such rapidity over the highest mountains, through the steepest hills …. that the winds whiz about their ears and their hair stands on end’.

Leem Titlepage
Title page of Beskrivelse over Finmarkens Lapper.

The book in which the illustration appears, Beskrivelse over Finmarkens Lapper, published in 1767, is a long and detailed (over 600 pages in the original) description of the Sami people of Finnmark  in northern Norway and was written by the Norwegian missionary and linguist Knud Leem who lived amongst the Sami for a number of years. The parallel text in Danish and Latin is accompanied by over a hundred illustrations by O.H. von Lode based on Leem’s descriptions, and together they provide a fascinating insight into how the Sami lived at this time. The subject matter ranges from the basics of everyday life such as shelter, clothes and food to reindeer herding, marriage customs and religion, the latter covering both the religion which Leem pointedly describes in the original title as that ‘previously’ practised by the Sami, and the Christian conversion which was the focus of his work.

Leem Reeindeer herding
Herding Reindeer. From Beskrivelse over Finmarkens Lapper.

Leem’s father, also a priest, had worked in Finnmark for a number of years and it is probably from this family connection that Leem’s interest in the Sami people was originally awakened. He studied theology in Copenhagen (Norway was at that time part of the Danish kingdom and was yet to establish a university of its own) and while waiting for an appointment in the mission to become vacant, he spent two years in Trondheim learning the Sami language. In contrast to earlier attempts by missionaries to teach Danish to the Sami, Leem’s belief was that in order for missionary work to succeed, he and future missionaries needed to be able to communicate with the Sami in their own language. He writes that in this way ‘… a much greater progress in the salutary knowledge of the true God is made’. During the years he spent in Finnmark from 1725 to 1733, he would preach and conduct services in the Sami language, at times in the open air.

Leem Preaching
Conducting a service in the open air. From Beskrivelse over Finmarkens Lapper.

As well as his ethnographic work on the Sami people, of which there are three copies in the British Library, Leem also wrote a Sami grammar (En lappisk Grammatica, 1748), a Danish-Sami dictionary (En lappesk Nomenclator, 1756) and an extended Sami-Danish-Latin dictionary (Lexicon Lapponicum bipartitum, 1768-81, the second part of which was completed by Gerhard Sandberg and published after Leem’s death). Copies of the grammar and of the first dictionary form part of the Hannås collection, a collection of Scandinavian linguistic material donated to the British Library in 1984 by the antiquarian bookseller Torgrim Hannås. The Leem titles from this collection have now been digitised and are available online through our catalogue.

Leem Nomenclator titlepage
En lappesk Nomenclator
(Trondheim, 1756) Han.135 

The other substantial piece of work for which Leem is remembered today also has a Hannås connection. It is a study of Norwegian dialect words, Norske Maalsamlingar fraa 1740-aari, which was only published many years after his death, in 1923. The editor of that work was Torleiv Hannaas, a professor at Bergen University and father to Torgrim Hannås. The bookplates of both these distinguished book collectors, father and son, appear in our copy of Leem’s Grammatica.

Leem Hannas bookplate
Bookplates in En lappisk Grammatica (Copenhagen, 1748) Han.110

Knud Leem’s contribution to the area of Sami studies, both linguistic and ethnographic, continues to be important and recognised to this day.

Leem Sami couple
Sami couple in traditional dress. From Beskrivelse over Finmarkens Lapper.

Barbara Hawes, Curator Germanic Studies

References and further reading

Knud Leem, An account of the Laplanders of Finmark, their language, manners, and religion.
(London, 1808) L.R.80.c.1

Knud Leem og det samiske : foredrag holdt ved et seminar i regi av Det Kongelige Norske Videnskabers Selskab 11.-12. oktober 2002. (Trondheim, 2003) Ac.1060(2)[2003,No.2]

Professor Knud Leems Norske Maalsamlingar fraa 1740-aari-handskr. nr. 597. 4to i Kallske samling. Ed. Torleiv Hannaas. (Kristiania, 1923) Ac.5561/27

Treasures of the British Library will be broadcast on Sky Arts at 21.00 on Tuesdays until 22 November 2016.

 

06 October 2016

Mistress, Mädchen and Minzmeat Pasteten: Kitchen English with Elsa Olga Hollis

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Readers may remember a blog post some time ago featuring  a manual for Czech servicemen simultaneously fighting alongside their British comrades to repel the threat of invasion and struggling with the English language. They were not, however, the only ones forced by history to grapple with a new language and bewildering customs.

The British Library holds a copy of a curious little book published at the modest price of three shillings and sixpence and ‘specially compiled to help the mistress and her German-speaking maid’ by Elsa Olga Hollis. Nothing is known about the author, who claims in the preface that she was encouraged to publish her work by friends and their foreign maids who had used her as an interpreter. She acknowledges the help of ‘Miss Lorna Yarde Bunyard’, who typed the manuscript and revised the English, and was presumably responsible for some of the oddly unidiomatic expressions and misprints, as when the maid is directed to close, not the Flügeltür (French window), but the Flügeltier, a strange winged creature.

Deutsche und englische Haushalt Phrasen und Wörter  first appeared in May 1937 and by November of that year had already gone into a third edition. Clearly it was in great demand – but why?

Mistress und Mädchen cover
Cover of Elsa Olga Hollis, Deutsche und englische Haushalt Phrasen und Wörter = German and English household phrases and words. (Mistress and Mädchen. A comprehensive German and English domestic phrase-book) (London, 1937) British Library 12964.bb.54.

Hollis’s book was published some months before the British government introduced a visa requirement for refugees seeking entry from Germany and Austria following Hitler’s annexation of Austria in March 1938. Many of the women who arrived as domestic help came from wealthy and cultured families which employed servants, and had never had to make a bed or lay a table in their lives, let alone ‘throw the ashes and hard clinkers into the dustbin’, ‘empty slops and wipe utensils dry’ or tackle the ‘light work … getting tea, cleaning silver, ironing, mending clothes, cleaning out cupboards and so on’ between three o’ clock and the preparation of the evening meal. Marion Berghahn’s Continental Britons: German-Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany (revised ed., Oxford, 2007; YC.2007.a.9766) notes the psychological adjustments needed and the frequent insensitivity of employers who ‘lacked any clear ideas of their domestics’ backgrounds’ and exploited them mercilessly as cheap labour.

In fiction, characters who arrived in England in this way appear in Natasha Solomons’s  The Novel in the Viola ([Bath], 2011; LT.2012.x.1871) and Eva Ibbotson’s The Morning Gift (London, 1994; H.95/761). Both authors recalled the experiences of relatives who escaped from Austria in the 1930s on domestic service visas, like Solomons’s Elise Landau, who confidently advertises ‘Viennese Jewess, 19, seeks position as domestic servant. Speaks fluid English. I will cook your goose’, or Ibbotson’s heroine Ruth Berger’s Aunt Hilda, an eminent anthropologist but inept housemaid who is repeatedly bitten by her employer's pug and gets the sack when she brings a glass-fronted bookcase crashing down on her while attempting to dust.

The adventure begins with ‘Meeting the Boat’ (‘the crossing was (very, not) good, bad. I have (not) been seasick’), the Customs, and a train journey, culminating in ‘Arrival at the House’ (‘the chauffeur will bring in the rest of your luggage’) and ‘A Little Talk over Tea’, where the mistress of the house presses jam, cake, rolls and pastries on Marie, the new housemaid. She is informed that she will have to undertake the housework and all the cooking, though a charwoman comes for the rough work (‘grobe Arbeiten’), and assured ‘Sometimes we will try your native cookery’. Weekly and daily plans for housework are included, beginning with washing day on Monday (‘Here is the wash-tub, washing machine, soap, soda, soap-powder, Lux, copper stick, Blue and starch, mangle’) leading to the puzzled enquiry, ‘We do not “air” clothes at home. Why is it done?’), whereupon it is explained that ‘in England the air is so moist that everything gets damp’. Weights, measures and ‘really economical’ recipes are provided, together with precise instructions about how to make tea and ‘Toast machen’. One can picture poor Marie’s perplexity when requested to prepare ‘Reis Pudding’, ‘Talg-Puddings’ (the unappetizing translation of ‘suet puddings’), and ‘Minzmeat Pasteten’ for Christmas, not to mention ‘Rührei auf Toost’.

Mistress und Mädchen mince pies
A culture shock for Marie? The recipes for mincemeat and mince pies from Deutsche und englische Haushalt Phrasen und Wörter

Not surprisingly, the heavy work, unfamiliar food and peremptory demands of her mistress (‘You will have to wait at table. See what Baby wants. You must finish your work sooner’) take their toll on Marie’s health, spirits and digestion. ‘What is wrong with you?’ barks Madam, to be met with a catalogue of ailments: ‘[I have head-, eye-, ear-, tooth-, stomach ache. …I have a cold in the head, a nosebleed, a cough, indigestion’ (it must be all those tallow puddings). The plaintive query ‘Do I give satisfaction?’ receives only the chilly reply, ‘I have no reason to complain’, and the domestic tyrant continues ‘Be more careful with the breakable things…. If that happens again I shall have to give you notice! … I must send you back home’. Finally, the worm turns: ‘I wish to give notice,’ announces Marie. Triumphantly, her mistress brandishes the permit: ‘This permit is valid only for the particular employment for which it is issued … If you wish to leave now, I am afraid you will have to go home’.

It would be pleasant to think that Jan Novák, the Czech airman from Vojáci, učte se anglicky!, was invited to tea in the household and captivated by the sight of Marie, trim in her afternoon uniform (‘black, brown or wine-coloured dress (wool), small cap, and “afternoon” apron’); their eyes meet over the tea-tray, and they arrange a tryst in her meagre leisure time (‘one afternoon and evening a week and every other Sunday afternoon and evening free’), shyly exchanging phrases from their respective handbooks… One fears not. The German preface, unlike the English one, emphasizes the need to rise early, work quickly, and suppress any homesickness, ‘taking a great interest in everything new’ instead. But despite the unhappiness which many a Mädchen (of whatever age) endured, the domestic service visa was, all too often, a life-saver.

Susan Halstead,  Content Specialist (Humanities and Social Sciences), Research Engagement