THE BRITISH LIBRARY

European studies blog

65 posts categorized "Language"

17 May 2017

Short words strike home

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A monosyllable is a long word that means a short one. Some tongues have more of them, some less; some are rich, some poor. English and Catalan (Eng and Cat in the MARC language codes used by library cataloguers) have more than Spanish (Spa).

Some think they’re the soul of Eng: all the words we spell with * are short and stark.

But what a punch the short can deal! To quote:

Basic English, produced by Mr C. K. Ogden of the Orthological Institute, is a simple form of the English language which, with about 1,000 words, is able to give the sense of anything which may be said in English.

The Bible in Basic English:

1 At the first God made the heaven and the earth.
2 And the earth was waste and without form; and it was dark on the face of the deep: and the Spirit of God was moving on the face of the waters.
3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
4 And God, looking on the light, saw that it was good: and God made a division between the light and the dark,
5 Naming the light, Day, and the dark, Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Now, Cat or Spa? Let’s try some.

Spa             Cat
bueno         bo
cabeza         cap
lejos             lluny
plano           pla
vino             vi

And of course names such as Pep, places such as Vich and El Clot and shops such as Pans.

Ausiàs March (1400-59) loved short words:

Qui no es trist de mos dictats no cur
ó en algun temps que sia trist estat
é lo qui es de mals apassionat
per ferse trist no cerque lloch escur
lija mos dits mostrant pensa torbada
sens algun art exits d’hom fora seny,
é la rahó qu’en tal dolor m’enpeny
Amor ho sab quina es la causa estada.

Monosyllables March C.62.c.5.
Les obres de Mossen Áusias March ab una declaratio en los marges, de alguns vocables scurs. (Barcelona, 1543) C.62.c.5. fol. 1r

His Spanish translator, Jorge de Montemayor (1520-61) lived a short life but did a good job:

No cure de mis versos, ni los lea
quien no fuere muy triste, o lo aya sido;
y quien lo es, para que más lo sea
lugar no pida escuro, ni escondido.
Mis dichos puede oýr, y en ellos vea
cómo sin arte alguna me han salido
del alma, y la razón de mi querella
muy bien la sabe Amor qu’es causa d’ella

Monosyllables March trans 1072.c.18
Las obras del excelentissimo poeta Mossen A. March ... Traduzidas de lengua Lemosina en Castellano por J. de Montemayor. (Saragossa, 1562). 1072.c.18 fol. 1r

Here’s a punt of my own:

If
you’re
not
sad,
don’t
heed
my
verse,
or
if
you
weren’t
sad
once,
and
if
you’re
burnt
with
lover’s
ills
don’t
slink
to
dark
holes
to
make
you
sad,
but
read
my
words
that
show
tormented
thoughts ...

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Studies

03 May 2017

Petro Lyzanets and his love for linguistics

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The Ukrainian collection of the British Library receives many donations during the year, but a recent generous gift was especially noteworthy. First of all, it consisted of an exceptional number of books – 37, and secondly, they were all by the same author. Olga Kerziouk and I wish to thank the Uzhhorod National University and Petro Lyzanets for their amazing contribution to Ukrainian and Hungarian studies.

Picture 1 with portrait

 Volodymyr Fedynyshynets, Fenomen profesora Lyzantsia. (Uzhhorod, 1996) YA.2002.a.18051.

Petro Lyzanets (also known as Péter Lizanec in Hungarian), a Ukrainian linguist and Professor at Uzhhorod National university was born on 2 July 1930 in the village of Izvor, later renamed as Rodnykivka, in the Zakarpattia Region  of Ukraine. One of a family of five children, he received his education at Uzhhorod State University, and his love of the Hungarian language developed during his studies at school and was encouraged at home by his mother. In 1948 he became a student of Ukrainian language at Uzhhorod State University and also worked at the library, writing his thesis about Mykhailo Luchkai (1879-1843) (also known as Michaelis Lutskay).

In 1989 Petro Lyzanets wrote an introduction to Luchkai’s book Hramatyka slov’iano-ruska = Grammatica slavo-ruthena (Kyiv, 1989; YA.2001.a.7611) (pictures below), which became a bestseller due to huge public interest.

Picture 2 Mykhailo Luchkai   Picture 2.1 Mykhailo Luchai-reprint

Ukrainian/Hungarian dialects in the Zakarpattia Region continued to be a strong academic interest of Petro Lyzanets for many years, as evidenced by his books Atlas leksychnykh madiaryzmiv (Atlas of lexical Hungarian elements; volume 3; Uzhhorod, 1976; awaiting shelfmark; picture below on the left) and Ukraïnsʹko-uhorsʹkyĭ slovnyk stalykh slovospoluchenʹ ta vyraziv = Ukrán-magyar állandosult szókapcsolatok és kifejezések szótára (Ukrainian-Hungarian dictionary of idioms and phrases; picture below on the right),  Magyar-ukrán állandosult szókapcsolatok és kifejezések szótára = Uhorsʹko-ukraïnsʹkyĭ slovnyk stalykh slovospoluchenʹ ta vyraziv (Hungarian-Ukrainian dictionary of idioms and phrases), both published in 2009 (awaiting shelfmarks).

Picture 3 Atlas leksychnykh  Picture 4 Ukrainian-Hungarian dictionary

In 2000 and 2010 were published IUvileĭnyĭ zbirnyk na chestʹ 70-richchia vid dnia narodzhennia profesora Petra Lyzantsia (YA.2002.a.28390) and IUvileĭnyĭ zbirnyk na chestʹ 80- richchia vid dnia narodzhennia profesora Lyzantsia (YF.2012.a.5983) celebrating the 70th and 80th birthdays of Petro Lyzanets (picture below).

Picture 5

While we already had volume 1 of A kárpátaljai magyar nyelvjárások atlasza = Atlas vengerskikh govorov Zakarpatia (Atlas of Hungarian dialects of Transcarpathia Region) (Ungvár: 1992; Maps 217.a.21.), it was great to add volumes 2 and 3 to our collection (picture below).

Picture 6 Atlas

We also received a donation of the complete Works of Petro Lyzanets (1957-2010) in 30 volumes (picture below).

Picture 7 Works

 Rimma  Lough, SEE Cataloguer Russian/Belarusian/Ukrainian

References:

Magyar-ukrán szótár = Uhorsʹko-ukraïnsʹkyĭ slovnyk / szerkesztésében Péter Lizanec = za redaktsiieiu P.M. Lyzantsia (Ungvár, 2001). Awaiting shelfmark.

Ukraïnsʹko-uhorsʹkyĭ slovnyk = Ukrán-magyar szótár (second edition) /szerkesztésében Péter Lizanec = za redaktsiieiu P.M. Lyzantsia. (Ungvár, 2008).

Profesor Lyzanets’ Petro Mykolaīovych: bibliohrafichnyī pokazhchyk (do 70- richchia vid dnia narodzhennia) (Uzhhorod, 2001) YF.2005.a.14044

Kárpátaljai Magyar Tudományos Társaság : életrajzi lexicon = Zakarpatsʹke uhorsʹkomovne naukove tovarystvo : bibliohrafichnyĭ dovidnyk ( Uzhhorod, 1995) ZF.9.a.8543

Petro Lyzanets’ = Péter Lizanec. Naukovi pratsi = Tudományos művek (Uzhhorod, 2009-2013). 30 volumes. Awaiting shelfmark.

 

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."

 

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.

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

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


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

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

Marja Kingma. Curator Germanic Collections, Low Countries.

References:

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

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

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

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