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15 posts categorized "Manuscripts"

23 February 2017

Stefan Zweig’s Literary and Musical Treasures

To mark the 75th anniversary of the death of the Austrian writer and collector Stefan Zweig (23 February 2017), the British Library has this week opened the display: ‘Stefan Zweig: The Magic of Manuscripts’ in the Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery.

The 2017 Stefan Zweig display at the British Library

Fast re-becoming a household name in the English-speaking world, Stefan Zweig was the most-translated author of his day. His short stories, his biographies and his memoir, Die Welt von gestern (The World of Yesterday), quickly became bestsellers but his writing was only one part of his work. From an early age, Zweig began collecting the manuscripts of creative figures he admired like Goethe and Beethoven. Soon, he owned one of the most prestigious manuscript collections in Europe and Zweig considered this group of ‘sublime figures’ as much of an artwork as his writing. Exile to England in the 1930s precipitated the dispersal of his collection – some items were donated to appropriate institutions, most were sold. What was left was the essence, the refined core of his original idea and in 1986, Stefan Zweig’s heirs donated this great collection to the British Library.

Photograph of Stefan Zweig in front of a bookcase
Stefan Zweig in London, 1938

Our display will celebrate the breadth and eclecticism amongst the literary, historical and musical manuscripts. It begins with a case dedicated to the many close friendships Zweig made across Europe, with manuscripts from Romain Rolland, Hermann Hesse and ‘the dear master’ Sigmund Freud. We move onto showing how Zweig’s writing often reflected his collection through figures such as Marie Antoinette (the subject of an incredibly successful biography by Zweig), Leo Tolstoy and Lord Byron.

Manuscript of a Letter from Marie Antoinette to Count Xavier von Rosenberg
Letter from Marie Antoinette to Count Xavier von Rosenberg (1775) Zweig MS 171, f.1.

Zweig was motivated by the ‘secret of creation’ and the way for him to get closer to that secret was through manuscripts that were ‘still warm from writing’. In other words, working drafts, works-in-progress, corrected proofs – anything that showed the mess of production. This is precisely what the third case displays with a leaf from the monumental bound corrected proofs of Honoré de Balzac’s Une Ténébreuse Affaire, which is certainly the collection’s most emphatic example of the creative process. Works by Goethe, John Keats, Paul Verlaine and Oscar Wilde join the Balzac in revealing the deviations, re-imaginings and second thoughts at the heart of the creative process.

Manuscript of John Keat's ‘I stood tip-toe upon a little hill’
John Keats, lines from the poem ‘I stood tip-toe upon a little hill’ (1816) Zweig MS 163

The final case belongs to Zweig’s musical manuscripts, since music would dominate his later collecting period. In exile in the 1930s and more and more uncomfortable with the German language which was becoming contaminated by Nazism, music became a less-complicated artistic refuge. Manuscripts by Richard Strauss, Mozart and Schubert each tell a story about Zweig’s later life. In Schubert’s ‘An die Musik’, we hear the famous line repeated so often in Zweig’s memoirs: ‘Thou lovely art, how often in dark hours, when life’s wild tumult wraps me round, have you kindled my heart with loving warmth, and transported me to a better world.’

Manuscript of the song ‘Das Veilchen’ by Goethe, set to music by Mozart,
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, ‘Das Veilchen’, a setting for voice and piano of a poem by Goethe. Zweig MS 56, f.1.

Other musical treasures from Zweig’s collection are also on longer-term display in the section of the gallery devoted to Music: a cantata by Gluck (Zweig MS 34), sketches for Stravinsky’s ballet Pulcinella (Zweig MS 94), and one of the greatest treasures in the collection, and indeed in the British Library, Mozart’s thematic catalogue of his own works (Zweig MS 63).

‘The Magic of Manuscripts’ will be on display until 11 June 2017 and to accompany the exhibition and celebrate the publication of the catalogue of the literary and historical manuscripts in the collection the Library will be hosting a study day and an evening of music and poetry from the Zweig Collection on 20 March. Tickets for these events are available through the links.

 Pardaad Chamsaz, AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Student, British Library/University of Bristol

28 November 2016

Stefan Zweig and the ‘Magic of Manuscripts’

Stefan Zweig, whose birthday we mark today, was one of the world’s bestselling authors in his lifetime. In recent years his work has enjoyed something of a renaissance in the English-speaking world: his books have been rediscovered by publishers and readers (and was an inspiration for the 2014 film The Grand Budapest Hotel), and there has been a growth in academic interest in his life and work. One reflection of the latter interest is the collaborative PhD project between the British Library and the University of Bristol which began in 2014 and has seen PhD student Pardaad Chamsaz work on the aspect of Zweig which is perhaps of greatest importance to the British Library: his activity as a collector of autograph manuscripts.

Photograph of Stefan Zweig in 1912
Stefan Zweig in 1912 (from the Zweig Provenance papers, BL Add MS 73185.)

Manuscript collecting was a lifelong passion for Zweig. In the first three decades of the 20th century he built one of the finest and most admired collections in the world. When the rise of Nazism in the 1930s forced him into exile, first in Britain and finally in Brazil, he began to refine the collection, selling many items and keeping only those which had a particular significance for him. In 1986 his heirs donated the manuscripts from this final collection to the British Library in what has was justly described by the Library’s then Chairman, Lord Quinton, as “the most important and the most generous gift that the British Library has received since its foundation.”

A page from the manuscript of Goethe's 'Faust'
Lines from Act I of Goethe’s Faust Part II (Zweig MS 152 f.1r)

The manuscripts now in the British Library reflect various aspects of Zweig’s life and interests. The greatest number are musical scores: Zweig had long sought solace in music from “the grime of the political stuff, the black downpour of events” (Diary, 27 October 1915), and in his years of exile he found in the abstract beauty of music a better example of art as he understood it, as a humanistic and uniting force, than the written word, especially the written word in his native German which was becoming known as the language of the Nazis.

Manuscript score of Schubert's song 'An die Musik'
 Franz Schubert’s song ‘An die Musik’. The words by Franz von Schober express the solace Zweig himself found in music (Zweig MS 81A)

But although he collected and retained more musical than literary and historical manuscripts, Zweig did not neglect the latter. Among the literary and historical manuscripts in the collection there are some which recall Zweig’s own literary friendships – works presented to him by authors such as Émile Verhaeren (Zweig MS 193-4), Romain Rolland (Zweig MS 184-6), Rainer Maria Rilke (Zweig MS 179-80) and Sigmund Freud (Zweig MS 150), all of whom he knew personally.

Opening of fair copy manuscript of Rilke's 'Cornet'
The opening of Rilke’s Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Otto Rilke (Zweig MS 179, f.3r)

Freud is also an example of someone Zweig himself wrote about, along with historical figures such as Marie Antoinette (Zweig MS 171), Dostoevsky (Zweig MS 143) and Friedrich Nietzsche (Zweig MS 175), all present in the collection.

Letter in the handwriting of Marie Antoinette
Letter from Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, to Count Xavier von Rosenberg, 17 April 1775 (Zweig MS. 171, f.1v)

Zweig’s interest in the act of creation is clear from many of the manuscripts, perhaps most strikingly in the proof copy of Balzac’s novel Une Ténébreuse Affaire, with its numerous corrections and additions, but also in, for example, poems by John Keats (Zweig MS 163) and the German Romantic writer Novalis (Zweig MS 176).

A page from the manuscript of Keats’ poem ‘I stood tip-toe on a little hill’
Lines from Keats’ poem ‘I stood tip-toe on a little hill’ (Zweig MS 163, f.1r )

Although French and German writers predominate, the European cultural internationalism of Zweig’s outlook is clear from the scope of his collection. There are works in English, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Danish, Norwegian and Swedish. Many items also recall Zweig’s love for collecting items that he felt brought him close to great figures of the past, including one surviving ‘relic’, a collection of clippings from Goethe’s hair (Zweig MS 155).

Manuscriot oage from Gabriele D’Annunzio’s ‘La Laude di Dante’, with the poet’s signature
Closing lines of Gabriele D’Annunzio’s ‘La Laude di Dante’, with the poet’s signature (Zweig MS 140, ff.21v-22r)

The first volume of a catalogue of the British Library Stefan Zweig Collection, covering the music manuscripts (Zweig MS 1-131) was published in 1999 (2702.f.433), but for various reasons the cataloguing of the literary and historical manuscripts (Zweig MS 132-200 with some later additions) was delayed, despite the dedicated work of two now retired colleagues. One aim of the collaborative PhD project – alongside overseeing the digitisation of the literary and historical manuscripts, which can now be seen on our Digitised Manuscripts Catalogue – was to help see the second volume of the printed catalogue through to publication, and we are delighted that this will appear early next year.

Manuscript page from from Tolstoy’s novella 'The Kreutzer Sonata'
A page from Tolstoy’s novella The Kreutzer Sonata (Zweig MS 191, f.1r)

In order to celebrate this publication, and to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Zweig’s death in 1942, the Library will be mounting a display of items from the collection, ‘The Magic of Manuscripts’, in the Sir John Ritblat Treasures of the British Library Gallery from 21 February until 11 June 2017, and on 20 March will host a study day, ‘Stefan Zweig: European, Humanist, Collector’, followed by an evening event featuring readings and music from manuscripts in the collection and from Zweig’s own writings.

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Studies

Manuscript page from Charles Vildrac's play 'Le Paquebot Tenacity' with faces doodled in the margin
Doodles in the margin, from Charles Vildrac, Le Paquebot Tenacity (Zweig MS 198, f.4v). 

23 November 2015

1267 Shots Later

The Stefan Zweig Collection of manuscripts, donated to the British Library in 1986, has been described as ‘the most important and valuable donation made to the Library in the 20th century’.  The manuscripts are not those of Zweig’s own works but a selection of the autograph manuscripts of great composers, writers and historical figures which Zweig collected throughout his life.  A catalogue of the music manuscripts was published in 1999 and these have all been digitised. Now it is the turn of the literary and historical manuscripts. A digitisation programme was begun in early 2015, and nearly all of the manuscripts can now be viewed via the Library’s Digitised Manuscripts catalogue. A printed catalogue is due for publication in 2016, and the full catalogue descriptions will also be found online. In this post,  Pardaad Chamsaz, a collaborative PhD student working on the collection, considers the challenges involved in digitising Honoré de Balzac’s proof copy of his novel Une ténébreuse affaire, with its myriad corrections and editions.

When the first marked page of the corrected proof for Balzac’s Une ténébreuse affaire (British Library Zweig MS 133) prosaically gives its title, author and status as “épreuves”, we may linger on this last word, as it signals both its stage in the writing process as well as the “test” that its reading threatens. This innocuous page sits on top of a pile of over 600 sheets, both typed and handwritten, where the typescript is aggressively handled and manipulated, so that the physical struggle for the work is eternalised on the underbelly of its published variant.

  Folio 1 of the prrog copy of 'Une tenebreuse affaire'
The unassuming first leaf of Une ténébreuse affaire

This unassuming opening faced the Imaging Studio team, as Une ténébreuse affaire was delivered for digitisation earlier this year. They were all too aware of the “test” they were about to embark on. Indeed, translations for épreuve include equivalents such as “hardship”, “ordeal”, “trial” – words not inappropriate to the task at hand. Once the conflict of logistics around when to attempt the digitisation was resolved (the difference between the “let’s leave it until the end of the project” and “let’s get it out of the way” schools of thought – both implying trepidation), the photographer entered the proof, labelled by its collector, Stefan Zweig, as a ‘Höllenlabyrinth von Korrekturen’, an infernal labyrinth of corrections.

A leaf from the proof copy of 'Une tenebreuse affaire' with Balzac's handwritten corrections and additions
The ‘infernal labyrinth’ within: f. 18 of Une ténébreuse affaire

Zweig considered the proof as a key document in his collection that could provide immense insights into the secret of literary creation. When Zweig purchased the item in 1914, he wrote in his diary that as soon as he saw it in the famous Parisian antiquarian bookseller, Blaisot, he bought it ‘lightning-quick, rashly, greedily, in spite of feeling like I might have overpaid’. Now, the library’s Zweig MS 133 is one of the most unique and complete examples of a Balzac corrected proof outside of the Spoelberch de Lovenjoul collection in the library of the Institut de France in Paris.

This mass of workings around the detective novel’s ever more complex intrigue, contains printed pages of uneven lengths and widths overlain with thick handwritten corrections, often with an indecipherable set of symbols linking old and new text. The reader will find slips of paper glued onto some pages to indicate replacement text, as well as, from the very beginning of the “labyrinth”, around 200 inserted small leaves of manuscript additions. It was rumoured that Balzac would go through this correction process 10-15 times for each work, and Zweig was in awe of how Balzac’s physical work was so tangible in these proofs.

Just as Zweig senses the artist wrestling with their art, like Jacob with the angel, the photographer fought with our corrected proof, unfolding its pages, pinning it down (for the count), before focusing the camera (one, two…) and shooting it still… only to turn the page and for the battle to recommence. ‘Jedes Blatt ein Schlachtfeld’, every page a battlefield, in the words of Zweig. Weeks of labour, in Balzac’s rewriting, in Zweig’s reading, in our digitizing. If the corrected proof opens a door onto the workshop of the writer, where, in the stroke and the trace of the ink, we experience the fugitive presence of the hand manically at work, we should retrace our digitisation in the same way and detail the actions behind the stillness of a photo.

A volume being photographed for digitisation
Balzac pinned down  (photo: Pardaad Chamsaz)

A pasted-on slip being lifted from a page to allow photography
Balzac fights back (photo: Pardaad Chamsaz)

A digitization technician's screen showing a photographed leaf
Balzac captured on the Imaging Technician’s screen (photo: Pardaad Chamsaz)

With the majority of the manuscripts in the Stefan Zweig Collection now digitised and available online, we are presented with an awkward idea: the unique material object, with which Zweig experienced the writing process, has lost its materiality through its digital cloning. No longer the actual trace, the photograph becomes, in the words of Sonja Neef, an ‘imprint of a trace’, a step away from the unique encounter. In the same way as Zweig draws attention to the “underground” compositional stages of writing, perhaps, by re-embodying the digitisation process, we can give the screen shot the texture it deserves.

Pardaad Chamsaz  Collaborative Doctoral Student


Stefan Zweig, Die Welt von gestern. (Frankfurt, 1955). F10/3573

Oliver Matuschek, Ich kenne den Zauber der Schrift: Katalog und Geschichte der Autographensammlung Stefan Zweig, (Vienna, 2005). YF.2006.a.13265

Sonja Neef Imprint and Trace: handwriting in the age of technology (London, 2011). YC.2011.a.14184


21 August 2013

The Georgian anarchist prince and his gift

Musha (“The Worker”): a journal of the socialist- revolutionary party in Georgia [Or.5315]

Title page of 'Musha' showing a man at a workbench

This is how Oliver Wordrop describes this Manuscript in his Catalogue of the Georgian Manuscripts in the British Museum [W 349].

This is a monthly hand-written journal by working men; the numbers are dated 1889-1891. It is apparently the work of one hand, including the illustrations, initials and borders.  The names of the authors of articles in prose and verse could be, for obvious reasons, fictitious.

Title page of 'Musha' showing two men working on a sailing boat

This journal obviously aimed to spread propaganda amongst peasants and workers, but when we look at it doesn’t give the impression of a revolutionary organ.  The handwriting is very neat and resembles that of  a diligent  schoolboy rather than an angry worker.

Page of text from 'Musha'

The articles are naive; some, especially those in verse, sound more like prayers or dreams of better times to come rather than fuming calls to revolution. It brings together a very interesting combination of different items including sermons.

This journal was presented to the British Museum on February 10 1898 by Prince Varlaam Cherkezishvili, quite a remarkable person.

Varlam Cherkezishvili (also known as Warlaam Tcherkesoff or Varlam Cherkezov in the Russian Photograph of Varlam Cherkezishvilimanner) was a Georgian nobleman, intellectual, politician and journalist and a well-known figure in the International Anarchist Movement. He sensationally claimed that Marx and Engels plagiarized The Communist Manifesto and The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844. He was later also involved in the Georgian national liberation movement.

Varlam Cherkezishvili

He was born in Georgia (then part of Imperial Russia) in 1846 and moved to St Petersburg for further education. There he joined the Socialist movement, was arrested, imprisoned and exiled to Siberia in 1874. Two years later, he escaped to Western Europe, where he stayed for most of his life, settling in Britain in 1907. A few times during his exile he managed to return to Georgia, both legally and illegally.

He worked with the Russian émigré press and with fellow anarchists. He was also prominent in his criticism of Marxist ideas. His pamphlets Pages of Socialist History (1896), which was translated into nine languages, and Forerunners of the International (1899), followed by his book The Doctrines of Marxism (Geneva, 1903) provoked discussions and disputes in Russian and European socialist circles. Cherkezishvili tried to prove that Marx and Engels based The Communist Manifesto on the ideas of Victor Considerant , while Engels in his book The Condition of the Working Class in England lifted the work of the French socialist Buret. Cherkezishvili’s s sharp attack on Marxist philosophy made the young Stalin dispute with him in his famous work  Anarchism or socialism? These polemics continued during 1905-1907 in  Georgian periodicals.

Actively involved in the Georgian national liberation movement, Cherkezishvili helped to found the Georgian Socialist-Federalist Party , which demanded national autonomy for Georgia; he wrote a series of articles for the Times to bring the political situation in Georgia to the attention of an English-speaking audience. He expressed his support for Georgian independence vocally and in print; in 1907 he delivered a special declaration on this question at the Hague Peace Conference.

Along with other Georgian anarchists he took part in the publication of the first legal anarchist newspapers in the Georgian language: The Call (1906), The Voice (1906), and The Worker (1906).  Georgian anarchism combined in a unique form ideas of freedom with those of national independence.

During his time in Britain he helped to found the Anarchist Red Cross; in 1912-16 he became the acting editor of a proposed 10-volume edition of Bakunin’s collected works , writing a biography of Bakunin for the first volume (London, 1915; During World War I he endorsed “war to the end against German militarism” and signed in 1916 the so-called Manifesto of the Sixteen.

After the Russian revolution of 1917 Georgia gained its independence. Cherkezishvili returned to Georgia in 1918 and was offered a seat in the Constituent Assembly of the Democratic Republic of Georgia. The Soviet occupation forced him to leave Georgia in March 1921. According to eye-witnesses, “the Soviet victory was a great tragedy for him.” He returned to London where he would continue to fight again for Georgia’s independence until his death in 1925.

The biography of this extraordinary person could be the subject  of further research, as could the history of the manuscript donated by him to the British Library.

Decorative title-page of 'Musha'

His most important works are held in the BL's printed Collections:

Páginas de historia socialista; doctrinas y actos de la democracia-social (La Coruña, 1896)  [8285.bbb.80.(2.)]

Sociaal-Demokratie in haar leeringen en daden. Een stuck socialistische geschiedenis. (Amsterdam, 1899) [08275.g.12.(2.)]

Pages d'histoire socialiste. Précurseurs de l'Internationale. (Bruxelles, 1899) [08276.df.20.]

Doktriny marksizma. (Zheneva, 1903) [8247.bbb.51.]

Concentration of Capital. A Marxian fallacy. [From “Pages of Socialist History.”] (London, 1911) [X.0529/1082.]

La Géorgie, ses traditions et ses droits politiques. (Paris, 1919) [8095.g.29.]

Anna Chelidze, Curator Georgian Studies

03 July 2013

Chiaroscuro of a Croatian master

On 1 July 2013 Croatia  joined the European Union. One of the events in the Welcome Croatia Festival  held in the run-up to 1 July was Neven Jovanović’s lecture at the BL on Croatian Latin Heritage (3 June), where I picked up Flora Turner-Vučetić’s Mapping Croatia in United Kingdom Collections.

Turner-Vučetić shows very effectively how many Croatian artists are hidden under Italian names, one among them Giulio Clovio,  more correctly Juraj Julile Klović (1489-1578), and points out his illuminations in the Stuart de Rothesay Book of Hours (British Library Add. MS. 20927).

Portrait of Giulio Clovio

Portrait of Giulio Clovio (Juraj Julile Klović) by El Greco. Picture from Wikimedia Commons)

 But there is another British Library connection: the Rt Hon. Thomas Grenville. As is well known, the politician and diplomat bequeathed his collection of over 20,000 volumes of printed books to the British Museum Library in 1846, thanks to the Machiavellian machinations of Anthony Panizzi. What is less known is that he also donated fifty-nine manuscripts (now Add. MSS. 33733-33791). 

Add. MS  33733 is a volume illustrating a Spanish text on the Triumphs of Charles V over Suleiman the Magnificent, Pope Clement VII, Francis I, the Dukes of Cleves and Saxony, and the Landgrave of Hesse.  Grenville bought it some time before 1817, in London (as he did all his books).  The binding is by Charles Lewis,  whom Grenville often employed: presumably he made it  for Grenville, it incorporates a magnifying glass.

Clovio Charles V BT
Charles V triumphing over his enemies (BL Add. MS  33733)#

Grenville died on 17 December 1846; on 28 January 1847, Assistant Librarian W. B. Rye, with the help of eight Museum attendants and three of Grenville’s servants, set about transferring the 20,240 volumes from Grenville’s home at 2 Hamilton Place, Piccadilly, to Great Russell Street. They numbered the shelves, put the books on trays and placed them in a horse-drawn van which had been fitted with planks to form shelves. Each van was accompanied to the British Museum by an attendant who walked close behind it.  There were twenty-one vanloads. The book-move took five days. 

Rye took the most valuable item, the Clovio manuscript, in a cab: an indication of the importance which attached to it. Modern scholarship has downgraded it to the work of a pupil or follower of Clovio. One wonders if Clovio suffered a dip in appreciation after Grenville’s time: the British Library online catalogue  has five books on him from 1733 to 1894, nothing from 1895 to 1961, and thirteen from 1962 to date.

Grenville is not famous for his love of manuscripts, or for his love of visual culture in general, though he did have a Valuable and Unique Collection of Rare Oriental, Sevres, Dresden, Berlin and Chelsea Porcelain (auctioned at Christie & Manson, 15 June 1847).

The Clovio MS is rarely mentioned in the accounts of Grenville’s library, which focus on the printed books. Like the Croatian identity of Juraj Julile Klović, it has stayed in the shadows. Until now.

Barry Taylor, Curator Hispanic Studies


Flora Turner-Vučetić,  Mapping Croatia in United Kingdom Collections (London, 2013) YD.2017.a.1470

Barry Taylor, ‘Thomas Grenville (1755-1846) and his books’, in Libraries within the Library: the Origins of the British Library’s Printed Collections, ed. Giles Mandelbrote and Barry Taylor (London, 2009), pp. 321-40. YC.2010.a.1356


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