27 September 2023
You probably know what an emblem book looks like: a motto, a mysterious allegorical picture and a longer explanation in verse or prose. It’s had that form since Andrea Alciato’s Emblematum liber, first published in 1531.
Emblem from Andrea Alciato’s Emblematum liber (Augsburg, 1531) C.57.a.11.
In fact, Alciato’s manuscript didn’t have the pictures for which he became so famous: they were commissioned by his friend Conrad Peutinger.
This new acquisition is an adaptation in Portuguese of a famous pious emblem book, without the pictures.
Title page of Suspiros e saudades de Deos, exhalados e expostos em breves cantigos, reduzidos e imitados dos Afectos santos (Pia desideria) do P. Hermanno Hugo da Companhia de Jesus, pelo veneravel P. Fr. Antonio das Chagas. (Coimbra, 1830) RB.23.a.40412
The original was by the Flemish Jesuit Hermann Hugo (1588-1629): the Pia desideria were published at Antwerp in 1624, with 48 emblems by Boëtius à Bolswert.
In the words of the Emblem Project Utrecht:
Hugo’s Pia desideria contains emblems constructed on the basis of the three stages of mystical life.
In all it was reprinted 49 times, and 90 translations and adaptations of the Pia desideria were published in all the major European languages. Therefore, the Pia desideria was one of the most widely distributed, most widely translated and imitated religious books (not just emblem books) of the seventeenth century.
Complete with a picture of folly.
Emblem of folly from an edition of Hermann Hugo, Pia desideria emblematis, elegiis et affectibus, S. S. Patrum illustrate (Antwerp, 1529) 1019.g.40.
He (she?) wears the jester’s hat, rides a hobby-horse and – a clear sign of eccentricity – carries a kitten around in a handbag. Wisdom can only cover his eyes to avoid this unfortunate sight.
You’ll see that Chagas in his translation has rendered the motto and the poem and replaces the picture with a verbal description.
Emblem books without illustrations weren’t unusual, as Infantes shows. Nor was it unusual for Peninsular emblematists to draw on German Neo-Latin sources, the most famous example being Saavedra Fajardo and his debt to Julius Wilhelm Zincgref (explained in López Poza’s edition).
Fr António das Chagas (1631-82) was born António da Fonseca Soares. After an exciting life as a soldier and poet, he entered the Franciscan Order and destroyed his poems. In religion he enjoyed a reputation as a prose stylist.
This little book reminds us that an emblem book need not have pictures, and that Portuguese and Spanish authors were reading Germanic authors, provided they were Catholics and wrote in Latin.
Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Collections
Víctor Infantes, ‘La presencia de una ausencia. La emblemática sin emblemas’, Literatura emblemática hispánica. Actas del I Simposio Internacional (A Coruña, 1994), Sagrario López Poza (ed.). (A Coruña, 1996), pp. 93-109
Diego Saavedra Fajardo, Empresas políticas; edición de Sagrario López Poza (Madrid, 1999) YF.2010.a.32130
13 September 2023
The Enlightenment in Slovenian lands was initiated by a group of like-minded people who advocated the change of the linguistic and cultural practices of the time, which relied exclusively on the use of the Latin and German languages. The Slovenian educators believed that the national language could be used equally for religious and secular purposes. Guided by this idea, they produced a critical body of literature that not only preserved the Slovenian language but also paved the way for the development of a modern literary language.
Grammars, dictionaries, histories, textbooks, translations of religious and secular texts from Latin and German, the first newspapers, original plays and modern literary adaptations were the main means to save the Slovenian language and raise national awareness.
The 1972 facsimile reprint of Marko Pohlin, Tu malu besedishe treh jesikov = Das ist: das kleine Wörterbuch in dreyen Sprachen = Quod est: parvum dictionarium trilingue (Ljubljana, 1781). X.950/9786. The original can be seen in the Slovenian Digital Library
Anton Tomaž Linhart, Versuch einer Geschichte von Krain und der übrigen südlichen Slaven Oesterreichs (Nuremberg, 1796). BL 1437.e.11. This is the second edition of Linhart’s History of Carniola and Other South Slavs of Austria, which was originally published in two volumes in Ljubljana in 1788-1791.
Anton Tomaž Linhart (1756-1795) was the author of the first authoritative history of the Slovene nation. He was also the first Slovene playwright and theatre producer, author of Şhupanova Mizka (‘Micka, the Mayor’s Daughter’) and Ta veşsęli dan, ali: Matizhek şe shęni (‘This Merry Day or Matiček is Getting Married’), an adaptation from Beaumarchais’s The Marrige of Figaro.
Valentin Vodnik, Pésme sa pokúshino (‘Trial Poems’) (Ljubljana, 1806.) Cup.401.a.15.
Valentin Vodnik (1758-1819) a poet, journalist and linguist was the editor, writer, translator and technical designer of the first Slovene newspaper, Lublanske novize (‘The Ljubljana News’). Modelled on the Wiener Zeitung and used for promoting Slovenian language, culture and identity, it was printed by Janez Friderik Eger in Ljubljana between 1797-1800. Vodnik translated European news from German and he also published local news from Ljubljana and Carniola. Lublanske novize was first published as a semi-weekly and later as a weekly.
'A Song About My Countrymen', the title of the first poem from Pésme sa pokúshino. From Slovenian Digital Library
Bartholomæus Kopitar, Grammatik der Slavischen Sprache in Krain, Kärnten und Steyermark. (Ljubljana, 1808) 829.e.12.
Jernej Kopitar (1780-1844) a Slavist and national revivalist was the author of a scholarly and influential Grammar of the Slavonic Language in Carniola, Carinthia and Styria printed by Wilhelm Heinrich Korn in Ljubljana in 1808.
Pohlin, Linhart, Vodnik and Kopitar, among other Slovenian writers and scientists, were part of the cultural group named after their patron, Baron Sigismund (Žiga) Zois (1747-1819), a large landowner, naturalist and enlightened person. The group was united by their shared values of education and the promotion of Slovenian language, literature and culture.
Page one of Valentin Vodnik, Pismenost ali gramatika sa perve shole (Ljubljana, 1811) 1488.bb.8.
Vodnik’s Pismenost ali gramatika sa perve shole (‘Literacy or Grammar for the Elementary Schools’) contains an introductory part, and on eight unnumbered pages, a hymn entitled ‘Iliria oshivlena’ (‘Illyria resurrected’) in honour of Napoleon Bonaparte and the formation of the Illyrian Provinces as part of his French Empire from 1809 to 1814. During this period the Illyrian Provinces made economic and cultural advances felt long after the Austrians retook the territory in 1814. Vodnik’s Slovene language textbook also endured with the exception of its pro-French introductory parts.
Milan Grba, Lead Curator South East European Collections
Slovenian Enlightenment literature from Slovenian Digital Library:
Geschichte des Herzogthums Krain, des Gebiethes von Triest und der Grafschaft Görz (Valentin Vodnik, 1809)
Pismenost ali gramatika sa perve shole (Valentin Vodnik, 1811)
Dictionarium slavo-carniolicum. III partis a 1787/1798 manuscript by Blaž Kumerdej (1738-1805) a school teacher, philologist and educator
Svetu pismu noviga testamenta, id est: Biblia sacra novi testamenti ... ( A 1784-1786 translation of the New Testament)
Svetu pismu stariga testamenta id est: Biblia sacra veteris testamenti ... (A 1791-1802 translation of the Old Testament)
Glossarium Slavicum in supplementum ad primam partem Dictionarii Carniolici (Marko Pohlin, 1792)
Vadenje sa brati v' usse sorte pissanji sa sholarje teh deshelskeh shol v' zessarskih krajlevih deshelah (Reading textbook for schoolchildren, translation by Blaž Kumerdej, 1796)
Navúk k' osdravlenju te pluzhníze s' shelesnato solno kislostjo (Treatment of lung disease, 1804)
Mustertafel zur Aufsuchung krain : Wörter (Blaž Kumerdej, 1750-1800)
25 May 2023
This year's Seminar on Textual Bibliography for Modern Foreign Languages will take place on Monday 12 June 2022 in the Eliot Room of the British Library’s Knowledge Centre (formerly Conference Centre). The programme is as follows:
11.00 Registration and coffee
11.30 IAN CHRISTIE-MILLER
Tyndale’s first New Testament fragment
12.15 Lunch (own arrangements)
1.30 EMILY DI DODO (Oxford)
A text in exile: towards a bibliographical history of Las cient novelas de Juan Bocacio
2.15 DAVID SHAW (Canterbury)
The BL’s French post-incunables
3.30 MARJA KINGMA (London)
The Dutch Church Library: a library with nine lives.
4.15 BARRY TAYLOR (London)
Foreign books in Dr Williams’s Library, London.
The Seminar will end at 5.00 pm.
All are welcome and the event is free, but please notify us by email if you are able to attend. If you know of others who might be interested, please pass on the invitation.
A depiction of an early printing shop from Joannes Arnoldus, De chalcographiæ inventione poema encomiasticum (Mainz, 1541) G.9963.
13 March 2023
The outbreak of revolution in Vienna in March 1848 was inevitably accompanied by a wave of revolutionary poems and songs. The lifting of press censorship made the publishing and circulation of such material easy, and some pieces enjoyed great success.
One of the first to appear in print was Ludwig August Frankl’s ‘Die Universität’, which was composed while the author was on sentry duty on the night of 14-15 March and caught the popular mood when read aloud to an audience of students the following day. Its subsequent great success was no doubt helped by the fact that many of the 8,000 copies from the first print run were handed out free. The poem was quickly reprinted in various formats both in Vienna and further afield. There was even a French translation and there were at least 19 musical settings.
Ludwig August Frankl, ‘Die Universität’ (Vienna, 1848). 1899.m.19.(205).
Frankl’s chosen topic of the role of students in the March revolution was, like press freedom itself, a popular theme for poets, but there was one older student song that also enjoyed huge popularity and was described by the Viennese music critic Eduard Hanslick as “a kind of harmless student Marseillaise”.
The song in question, the ‘Fuchslied’ (‘Song of the Fox’), was originally intended to be sung at student fraternity initiation ceremonies, ‘Fuchs’ being a nickname for a student in his first semester. (A typical ceremony, complete with singing of the ‘Fuchslied’, was described by Hugo Hagendorff in an article for the magazine Der erzählende Hausfreund in 1838.) Various versions exist, but all involve the student initiate being plied with tobacco and/or alcohol until he vomits, after which he is accepted as a ‘Bursch’, a full fraternity member.
‘Das Fuchslied, oder das allgemein beliebte Studenten-Lied “Was macht der Herr Papa”’ ([Vienna, 1848.]). C.175.cc.6.(20.)
The song has no obvious political content. At a stretch, a section found in some versions about a father reading Cicero while his wife and daughter carry out various tasks for him could perhaps be read as a mild satire of bourgeois life, but since the song predates the revolution it is unlikely that there was any intended political slant to it. Some Viennese writers during the revolution added new verses and variations with a definite edge of political satire, but it was the continuing success and ubiquity of the apolitical original that gave rise to these additions.
Another odd twist is that the song’s popularity in Vienna had nothing to do with its use in the city’s own student traditions but arose from its appearance in a play by the German writer Roderich Benedix, Das bemooste Haupt (literally ‘The Mossy Head’, but the term can also refer to a ‘Perpetual Student’). The play was written in 1840 but only received its Viennese premiere in April 1848, when it swiftly achieved huge success among revolutionary students. The same work also popularised the practice of the charivari or ‘Katzenmusik’, where singing of the ‘Fuchslied’ became a regular feature.
A Viennese revolutionary charivari, from Maximilian Bach, Geschichte der Wiener Revolution im Jahre 1848 (Vienna, 1898) 9315.d.40.
Perhaps the secret of the song’s revolutionary success was that it was easy to learn, remember and adapt, and that its background lent it an aura of mischief – ideal for young men keen to cock a snook at traditional authority. Hanslick recalled hearing an escalating musical battle between students singing the ‘Fuchslied’ and a civil servant who tried to drown them out with the imperial anthem, ‘Gott erhalte unsern Kaiser’ (‘God Preserve our Emperor’). Joseph Helfert, in a survey of the literature of the Viennese revolution, describes how the ‘Fuchslied’ came to be perceived as the antithesis to the anthem, the latter supposedly representing “regression, slavery and narrow-mindedness” and the former “progress, freedom and high-mindedness”.
The song’s simple and catchy tune (similar to the English ‘A-hunting we will go’) also took on a life of its own. It was incorporated by Johann Strauss the Elder into a ‘March of the Student Legion’, first performed in April 1848, and Franz von Suppé composed a series of ‘Humorous Variations’ on it in the same year. Today it is probably best known for its appearance in Brahms’s ‘Academic Festival Overture’, written over three decades after the song’s brief but intense revolutionary career.
Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Collections
Eduard Hanslick, Aus meinem Leben (Berlin, 1894) 12249.ccc.7.
Roderich Benedix, Das bemooste Haupt, oder, Der Lange Israel (Wesel, 1840)
Joseph Alexander Helfert, Der Wiener Parnass im Jahre 1848 (Vienna, 1882) 11528.k.10.
Wolfgang Häusler, ‘Marseillaise, Katzenmusik und Fuchslied als Mittel sozialen und politischen Protests in der Wiener Revolution 1848’ in Barbara Boisits (ed.) Musik und Revolution: die Produktion von Identität und Raum durch Musik in Zentraleuropa 1848-49 ( Vienna, 2013) YF.2014.a.20622
A collection of digitised poems, songs, broadsides and periodicals from the 1848 Revolution can be found on the website of the Austrian National Library
30 December 2022
C is for Czechoslovak Independence Day, which marks the foundation of the independent Czechoslovak State in 1918.
D is for Digitisation, including the 3D digitisation of Marinetti’s Tin Book.
E is for Annie Ernaux, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in October.
Examples of Fraktur letter-forms from Wolfgang Fugger, Ein nützlich und wolgegründt Formular manncherley schöner Schriefften ... (Nuremberg, 1533) C.142.cc.12.
F is for Festive Traditions, from songs to fortune telling.
G is for Guest bloggers, whose contributions we love to receive!
H is for Hryhorii Skovoroda, the Ukrainian philosopher and poet whose anniversary we marked in December.
I is for our series on Iceland and the Library’s Icelandic collections.
J is for Jubilees.
Abetka (Kyïv, 2005). YF.2010.a.18369.
K is for Knowledge systems and the work of Snowchange Cooperative, a Finnish environmental organisation devoted to protecting and restoring the boreal forests and ecosystems through ‘the advancement of indigenous traditions and culture’.
L is for Limburgish, spoken in the South of the Netherlands.
M is for Mystery – some bibliographical sleuthing.
N is for Nordic acquisitions, from Finnish avant-garde poetry to Swedish art books.
O is for Online resources from East View, which are now available remotely.
Giovanni Bodoni and Giovanni Mardersteig, Manuale tipografico, 1788. Facsimile a cura di Giovanni Mardersteig. (Verona, 1968) L.R.413.h.17.
Q is for Quebec with a guest appearance by the Americas blog featuring the work of retired French collections curator Des McTernan.
R is for Rare editions of Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko’s Kobzar.
T is for Translation and our regular posts to mark Women in Translation Month.
Alphabet Anglois, contenant la prononciation des lettres avec les declinaisons et conjugaisons (Rouen, 1639). Digital Store 1568/3641.(1.)
V is for Victory – a contemporary Italian newspaper report of the Battle of Trafalgar.
W is for Richard Wagner who wrote about a fictional meeting with Beethoven.
X is for... (no, we couldn’t think of anything either!)
Y is for You, our readers. Thank you for following us!
Z is for our former colleague Zuzanna, whom we remembered in February.
Azbuka ōt knigi osmochastnye̡, sirěchʹ grammatikii (Lviv, 1574). Digital Store 1568/3641.(1.)
10 November 2022
There are countless adaptations of the Alexander Romance, a collection of fantastical stories about Alexander the Great originally brought together in Greek, probably in the third century AD. Among the earliest adaptations to appear in print was Hartlieb’s Alexanderbuch. Nine editions of this German translation are known to have appeared from 1473 to 1514 at Augsburg and then Strasbourg. Each is enriched with woodcuts that depict, for example, Alexander’s first encounter with his man-eating horse Bucephalus, his meetings with naked philosophers, and his discussions with talking trees. By comparing the editions, it’s easy to see how the illustrations fall into three distinct categories and to begin to understand something of their development over time.
Johann Hartlieb (c.1410-1468) was a physician who wrote the Alexanderbuch around 1444 for his patron, Duke Albrecht III of Bavaria. His principal source appears to have been the popular Historia de preliis, which in turn was a Latin-language translation of a long lost Greek text made in the 10th century by Leo of Naples. That said, Hartlieb’s text begins with the phrase ‘Hereafter followeth the story of the Great Alexander, which was written by Eusebius’, and Hartlieb’s German adaptation is as a result often indexed under Eusebius of Caesarea in many reference works and catalogues.
Hartlieb’s text circulated in manuscript for three decades until Johann Bämler issued the first printed edition at Augsburg in 1473. His publication is illustrated with nearly 30 woodcuts, many seemingly inspired by the miniatures in a manuscript now at the Pierpont Library in New York (MS M.782). With the exception of the frontispiece portrait (see below), the same woodcuts then appear in three subsequent Augsburg editions (1478, 1480 and 1483) printed by Anton Sorg. Among them is the image of Alexander in a diving bell.
Alexander’s diving bell in the Sorg edition of 1483, IB.5949
The Greek Alexander Romance (Stoneman, Book II, Chapter 38) talks of a descent of 464 feet to the bottom the sea, but here the impression is of a rather cramped-looking Alexander being lowered into a fish pond.
The next group of early editions are all published in Strasbourg. (Unfortunately no copies can be traced of a further Augsburg edition of 1478 reported in the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue). These Strasbourg editions (1488, 1493 and 1503), whether issued by Martin Schott or Bartholomäus Kistler, are curious because they contain broadly the same woodcuts as seen in the Augsburg volumes, but they have been redrawn and printed in reverse.
Alexander’s diving bell in the Schott edition of 1488, IB.1178
The most obvious explanation is that they were created by copying or tracing the illustrations in one of the earlier Augsburg editions.
The last of these early Hartlieb editions also appeared in Strasbourg, but this time from the press of Matthias Hupfuff. Visually, this work is very different, with the text printed in two columns for the first time. The woodcut illustrations are also different, although the subjects are much the same. In the new woodcut of the diving bell, Alexander is still in an impossibly cramped vessel, but there is only one person on the shoreline instead of the usual three.
Alexander’s diving bell in the Hupfuff edition of 1514, C.39.h.14
In common with other illustrations in this 1514 edition, the woodcut appears to have been extended, unsatisfactorily, by the addition of a piece from a different illustration. This opens up the possibility that the woodcuts were not made specifically for this edition, and were in fact being re-used.
Returning to Bämler’s first edition of 1473, several surviving copies contain a curious frontispiece portrait of Alexander with boars’ tusks rising from his lower jaw.
Alexander with boars’ tusks in the Bämler edition of 1473. © National Library of Scotland
The source for this strange feature may ultimately lie in the Greek Alexander Romance, which tells us that ‘his teeth were as sharp as nails’ (Stoneman, Book I, Chapter 13). In Hartlieb’s German, this has become ‘Sein zen waren garscharpff als eines ebers schwein’ (‘his teeth were as sharp as those of a wild boar’). The portrait has the same features as one seen in a Hartlieb manuscript now at the Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Darmstadt (Hs. 4256), and the two may have had a common model. It is replaced in other editions up to 1503 by a full-length portrait of a seated Alexander without tusks.
The British Library exhibition Alexander the Great: The Making of a Myth covers 2,300 years of storytelling about Alexander, and runs until 19 February 2023. Four editions of Hartlieb’s Alexanderbuch are on display, including a copy generously lent by the National Library of Scotland that shows Alexander with the mysterious boars’ tusks.
Adrian S. Edwards, Head of Printed Heritage Collections
Hellmut Lehmann-Haupt, ‘Book Illustration in Augsburg in the Fifteenth Century’. Metropolitan Museums Studies, 4.1 (1932), 3-17. Ac.4713.b.
Richard Stoneman (editor), Alexander the Great: The Making of a Myth [exhibition catalogue] (London, 2022). Awaiting shelfmark
Richard Stoneman (translator), The Greek Alexander Romance (London, 1991). H.91/1160
14 October 2022
Brother Vicente Salgado (1732-1802) was a tertiary, that is, a member of the Third Order of St Francis, set up by the saint to allow admission to married people.
Frei Vicente wrote extensively on antiquities and on the history of his order. Innocêncio Francisco da Silva lists six printed works and 18 works in manuscript. With this new acquisition, the BL now boasts four. One of these is his history of his Order, another a history of the Algarve. His knottiest work of erudition was his study (modestly entitled Conjectures) on a medal found at Setúbal.
Medal from, Conjecturas sobre huma medalha de bronze com caracteres desconhecidos, e com os latinos VETTO, achada no lugar da Trova defronte da villa de Setubal (Lisboa, 1784) 7758.a.22
He dedicates 72 pages to this medal and comes to some minor conclusions. It’s genuine, and VETTO refers to … the ancient tribe of Vettones. (He doesn’t consider the possibility that the ‘unknown characters’ are just squiggles.)
The Franciscans were a preaching order from their earliest days, speaking to the people in their own languages, and this meant they were also devoted to the learning of languages. In England they’re seen as promotors of literature in English (see Fleming). The majority of early publications featuring the indigenous languages of Latin America were the work of Franciscans (see Ortega Sánchez and Kobayashi).
Title page of Vicente Salgado, Origem, e progresso das linguas orientaes na Congregaçao da Terceira Ordem de Portugal (Lisbon, 1790) RB.23.a.39568
This recent acquisition is an account of the Portuguese Franciscans who studied Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac and the languages of Africa and Asia as early as the 15th century. Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac were of course Biblical languages, but Greek and Arabic also had a practical function as linguae francae.
Special topics are the missionaries who worked in the Congo from 1484 to the early seventeenth century (pp. 10-22) and the programme of study inaugurated under King Joseph I in 1759 (pp. 53-73).
Innocêncio rather damns this work with faint praise:
Although the style, method and language of this book, like all the author’s, are far from being models, it is after all of use for the information – hard to find easily elsewhere -- it gives on this interesting branch of our literary history. (Dicionario bibliographico português, VII 441-2)
Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Collections
Vicente Salgado, Memoria ecclesiasticas do reino do Algarve (Lisbon, 1786) 4625.c.4
Vicente Salgado, Conjecturas sobre huma medalha de bronze com caracteres desconhecidos, e com os Latinos Vetto, achada no lugar da Troya defronte a villa de Setuval (Lisbon, 1784) 7758.a.22
Vicente Salgado, Compendio historico da Congregaçao da Terceira Ordem da Portugal (Lisbon, 1793) 4625.c.3
Delfín Ortega Sánchez, La pedagogía de la evangelización franciscana en el Virreinato de Nueva España (siglo XVI) (Saragossa, 2013) YF.2015.a.9942
José María Kobayashi, La educación como conquista (empresa franciscana en México) (México, 1974)
Fleming, John V., An introduction to the Franciscan literature of the Middle Ages (Chicago 1977)
Innocêncio Francisco da Silva, Dicionario bibliographico português (Lisbon, 1858-1972) HLR 011.269
11 August 2022
Under the auspices of the German Studies Library Group in association with the British Library, the fourth Graham Nattrass lecture, Wittenberg 1522: Print Culture and Soundscape of the German Reformation, will be delivered on Tuesday 20 September 2022 at the British Library by Professor Henrike Lähnemann.
Her lecture will take us back five centuries to September 1522, when the Wittenberg printers had a bestseller on their hands: the German New Testament translated by Martin Luther over the summer. It sold so quickly that in December they produced a second edition.
Title-pages from the editions of Luther’s New Testament translation published in Wittenberg in September (above, C.36.g.7.) and Deccember (below, 1562/285) 1522
The lecture will contextualise this publication in the print culture and soundscape of its time. A particular focus will be on Reformation pamphlets from 1522 in the British Library and contemporary hymn production to spread the biblical message. The British Library and British Museum Singers will provide practical examples.
Title-page of Martin Luther, Das Huptstuck des ewigen und newen testaments, [(Wittenberg, 1522?]) 3905.c.68., one of the pamphlets that will be discussed in the lecture.
Before the lecture there will be a performance of music in the Library’s main entrance hall by the British Library and British Museum singers, conducted by Peter Hellyer, including pieces by Bach, Brahms, and Mendelssohn.
The timetable for the event is as follows:
17.00: Music in the main entrance hall
17.30: Refreshments served in the Foyle Suite
18.00: Lecture in the Foyle Suite
Graham Nattrass (1940–2012) enjoyed a long and distinguished career at the British Library and its antecedents, starting at the National Central Library at Boston Spa in 1971. He became Head of the British Library’s Germanic Collections in 1996 and retired from the Library in 2005, as Head of West European Collections. He was Chair of the German Studies Library Group from 2003 to 2007, and a founding member of the group, which in 2016 instituted an annual lecture in his memory.
Henrike Lähnemann is Professor of Medieval German Literature and Linguistics at the University of Oxford and Professorial Fellow of St Edmund Hall, Oxford. Her research interests include medieval manuscripts, the relationship of text and images, and how vernacular and Latin literature are connected, currently mainly in late medieval Northern German convents.
Both concert and lecture are free to attend and open to all, but places for the lecture are limited, so if you wish to attend please contact the Chair of the German Studies Library Group, Dorothea Miehe ([email protected]).
05 August 2022
A while ago I was alerted by a colleague to a German item in our collections that appeared to have no catalogue record. It was bound with a list of books censored by the Austrian Empire in the late 18th century, so when I ordered the volume up, I assumed that the uncatalogued item would be something similar, perhaps even a continuation of the previous list.
However, when it arrived, it was obvious that, although only a fragment of a larger work, it was not at all similar, let alone related, to the other work in the volume. It began with a half-title page bearing the title ‘Zusätze, Verbesserungen und Druckfehler’ (‘Additions, improvements and printing errors’), so it was obviously an appendix to a larger work, and from the first two pages of text it was clear that the larger work was a guide to a spa town.
Opening of the mysterious fragment (818.d.9.(2))
Since the town was not named anywhere in the few pages of text, it might have been impossible to identify the place and therefore the book. However, a long-ago cataloguer had obviously had a better knowledge of spa culture than I did as there was a pencil note reading ‘K Carlsbad’. The letter K was used in the British Museum Library to indicate that an item had been catalogued, and the word after it denoted the heading used for it in the catalogue. So this was presumably a guide to the famous spa at what was then known as Karlsbad (anglicised as Carlsbad), and is today Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic. From the look of the typeface and the style of writing – and based on the date of the other item in the volume – it seemed likely that it dated from the late 18th or early 19th century.
I knew from the pencil note that there had been a catalogue record made for the fragment, so went to the version of the printed catalogue published between 1979 and 1987 (known as BLC) to check it out. Perhaps it had been one of those odd records that had somehow fallen off the radar when the printed records were converted to an online format. But there was no heading in the catalogue for ‘Carlsbad’. There was one for the German spelling ‘Karlsbad’, which was a cross-reference to ‘Karlovy Vary’, but there was nothing there that could conceivably match the item in question.
So I had to go further back in time, to the first general catalogue of the British Museum Library, published in the 1890s and known as GK1. Here there was a heading ‘Carlsbad’ with a number of mainly anonymous works listed, including the item in hand. However, the record didn’t get me much further in identifying the book the fragment came from, describing it simply as ‘a fragment of some work on the mineral waters of Carlsbad’ with a speculative date of 1803.
At this point I had two options. I could either create something similar to the GK1 record on our current catalogue, giving approximate details and date, or I could see whether I could find an item that would match our fragment by searching online and create a fuller record. I thought I would try the latter and turned to one of my all-time favourite websites, the Karlsruhe Virtual Catalogue, which can be used to search a wide range of German and other library catalogues. By typing in ‘Carlsbad’ along with other keywords that might conceivably appear in the title of a German travel guide I found various possibilities, and the increasing availability of digitised editions enabled me to check for matches in most cases.
I was on almost my last attempt when I finally found what looked like a match in the collections of the Austrian National Library. Ironically, this copy didn’t have the ‘Zusätze, Verbesserungen und Druckfehler’ to make a direct comparison, but by cross-checking the corrections and additions with the page references from the original given in our fragment I was able to confirm that I had indeed found the right book, and to create a full catalogue record for it with a note explaining that we only hold a small part of the whole.
Engraved title-page of the complete work, from a copy in the Austrian National Library
Although I’m rather proud of myself for having solved this little bibliographical mystery, I doubt anyone will ever know why two such different items ended up bound together. But at least the fragment that we have is now identifiable.
Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Collections
19 July 2022
As part of the events programme accompanying our current exhibition, ‘Breaking the News’, curators from the European, Americas and Oceania Collections department took part in an online 'Meet the Curators' event to introduce some stories about news media in the countries they cover. This blog post is based on one of the talks given at that event.
‘Breaking the News’ also means reporting events of historical importance. Battles often are. The Battle of Trafalgar was one of the most famous battles in British naval history, worth reporting internationally. On the 21st of October 1805 the victory of the British fleet, led by Admiral Lord Nelson, contained Napoleon’s ambitions to invade Britain. Lord Nelson was mortally wounded during the battle and the official despatch was written by his second, Admiral Collingwood.
How was this event reported in European news? How long it did it take for the ground-breaking news of the victory to circulate, in an age of slow-travelling information?
Cover of Relazione della battaglia navale seguita ne’ giorni 22 e 23 del passato Ottobre 1805 nanti Cadice, tra le squadre combinate Gallo-Ispana e l’Inglese (Genoa and Turin, 1805). Awaiting shelfmark
We have recently acquired a very rare Italian account of the battle, a bifolium published in Italy, by the Frugoni printing-house in Genoa and by Carlo Bocca in Turin, in 1805. It is titled Relazione della battaglia navale seguita ne’ giorni 22 e 23 del passato Ottobre 1805 nanti Cadice, tra le squadre combinate Gallo-Ispana e l’Inglese [...]. Not many other copies of this account are recorded in Italy, and this is the only one in the UK.
Last page of the Relazione with a list of the English ships and the imprint details
The account opens with a description of the composition of the Royal Navy fleet against the combined fleets of the French and Spanish navies, followed by a report of the circumstances in which Lord Nelson lost his life. The description is in accordance with Admiral Collingwood’s despatch from the battle, published in the London Gazette on the 6th of November 1805. This proves that the author of this document read Collingwood’s despatch. Perhaps the news arrived by postal ship from Spain to Genoa and from there it was carried by horse to Turin, where it was translated to Italian and then printed. The only thing we know for sure is that this account was published in the same year 1805, so sometimes between November and December.
The age of the Napoleonic wars was the moment communication started to become global; transmitting information and news from various corners of the empires become essential for the European powers.
I would like to draw your attention on my favourite element of this document, which you can see in the image above. This is an illustration showing, by means of typographic elements, the order of battle of the two sides, and their two successive changes of formation, for a total of three positions. I find this a rather clever use of typography, which visualizes Nelson’s strategy better than prints, or his manuscript memorandum that is held in our collections [https://www.bl.uk/collection-items/admiral-nelsons-trafalgar-memorandum].
Valentina Mirabella, Curator Romance Collections
Valentina Mirabella, Curator Romance Collections
European studies blog recent posts
- An Emblem Book without Emblems
- The Slovenian Age of Enlightenment
- Seminar on Textual Bibliography for Modern Foreign Languages
- The revolutionary career of a student drinking song
- An A to Z of the European Studies Blog 2022
- The Curious Woodcuts in Hartlieb’s Late-Medieval Adventures of Alexander the Great
- Vicente Salgado: a new acquisition
- Graham Nattrass Lecture 2022 - ‘Wittenberg 1522’
- A Bibliographical Mystery Solved
- Reporting Victory