European studies blog

203 posts categorized "Romance languages"

01 July 2022

Your name here: five Spanish bullfighting posters from 1769

If you’re of a certain vintage you’ll remember the colourful bullfighting posters where you could have your name hand-printed, a souvenir of the modern period of Spanish tourism from the 1960s onwards.

There’s a plentiful literature in Spanish on bullfighting, as you might imagine, including bibliographies (there’s a sample below).

Lorca wrote about it (his lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejias) and Goya and Picasso painted it; and it’s supplied a vast range of metaphors. One might say of a politician: ‘Mr X has made a dextrous pass of the cape’. (In Britain he would have put the ball in the back of the net.) Bullfighters were among the celebrities fêted in Hola.

The BL has recently acquired five posters from 18th-century Madrid.

Bullfighting posters RB.37.c.85(1-5)

Bullfighting posters, RB.37.c.85(1-5)

The venue was the Plaza Extramuros de La Puerta de Alcalá, which opened in 1749 and closed in 1874. It was so called because it was outside the city limits.

The fights were in aid of the Reales Hospitales General and de la Pasión.

Each fight featured 18 bulls and the owners and of course bullfighters are named: Antonio Galeano, Juan de Escobar (both of Seville); Juan de Amisas and his son; Sebastián Vicente González, Severino Rodríguez, el famoso Juan Romero, Miguel Gálvez (alias El Lechero), Manuel Alonso (alias Mal Ojo), Bernardo Assensio (alias El Chavó), el indio Mariano Ceballos, ‘natural de Lima, en el reyno del Perú’, Joseph Romero (alias El Niño Bonito).

Some of the bulls will be ‘embolados’ (with mufflers on their horns).

Performances begin at 10 am and 4 pm.

Spectators sitting in the sun will have government permission to turn down one side of the brim of their hats to shade their eyes; this is not permitted to those seated in the shade. This may have been a reaction to the recent Esquilache riots of March 1766. Charles III’s minister Esquilache had wanted to ban garments which were effective as disguises and for concealing weapons: long capes and broad-brimmed hats. But these were typical Spanish wear, and the natives took against it.

Scene depicting the Esquilache Riots

The Esquilache Riots, from José Amador de los Ríos, Historia de la villa y corte de Madrid. (Madrid, 1861-64). 1852.c.20.

Equally interesting is the evidence of what we now call the custodial history of these posters. Posters are ephemera, material intended to be discarded when done with, and therefore rare (see Foster).

These posters are in excellent condition. There’s no glue, showing they were never pasted on a wall. They’ve been folded vertically down the middle, indicating they’ve been kept in an album. On the back are numbers: these I think contemporary with the posters. They’re at the top right nowadays but in the past when folded were on the first ‘page’. (You can see also that the continental 7 hasn’t always had a bar across it.)

On the fifth poster we also see the name ‘Dn Mariano Pizi’ (? or possibly Pizarro). (My thanks to BBM and FGB.) It’s probably not a signature as it lacks the flamboyant ‘rúbrica’ with which Spaniards scribbled over their names (and still do). Perhaps it’s the name of a customer.

So the evidence suggests that someone – Don Mariano? – was collecting bullfighting posters new and keeping them in an album.

And who was Don Mariano? Mariano Pizzi y Frangeschi was professor of Arabic at the Reales Colegios de Madrid. There are various of his works – including an Arabic grammar in verse (Add. MS. 10436, 10437) – in our Manuscript Collections, dated 1764, 1776 and 1782. So we can place him in Madrid around 1769.

He published Tratado de las aguas medicinales de Salam-Bir, que comunmente llaman de Sacedon, escrito en lengua arabe por Agmer-Ben-Ab-Dala, medico en Toledo, en el año de mil cinquenta y quatro ; traducido al idioma castellano e ilustrado con varias notas. This however turned out to be not a translation from the Arabic but a fake written by Pizzi himself (see Bravo).

Title page of Tratado de las aguas medicinales de Salam-Bir

Title page of Tratado de las aguas medicinales de Salam-Bir (Madrid, 1761) 14535.b.23. (Image shown from a copy in the Wellcome Collection Library)

Furthermore, I was delighted to read in Dowling:

[The famous author] Don Nicolás Fernández de Moratín presided over a group [tertulia] which included the most stimulating intellectuals of the reign of Carlos III, and his son Leandro tells us that the only statute which governed the informal gathering limited conversation to four vital subjects, namely, the theater, bull-fighting, love, and poetry.

Moratín père wrote a poem on the bullfight, Fiesta de toros en Madrid. Dowling again:

The story that went around literary circles in Madrid was that the professor of Arabic in the Estudios Reales, that picturesque fraud Don Mariano Pizzi, had given Don Nicolás a translation from the Arabic on which the poet based his poem.

Further proof that these posters belonged to Pizzi, a man with tastes high and low.

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Collections

References/Further reading:

On Bullfighting:

Graciano Díaz Arquer, Libros y folletos de toros (Madrid, 1931) 011899.d.35

Biblioteca Nacional (Spain), La fiesta nacional: ensayo de bibliografía taurina (Madrid, 1973) 2725.e.1742

José Sánchez de Neira, El toreo: gran diccionario tauromáquico nueva ed. corregida por el autor (Madrid, 1896-97) 7906.i.27

Luis Carmena y Millán, Bibliografía de la tauromaquia (Madrid, 1883)
2330.d.21.

Luis Carmena y Millán, Tauromaquia: apuntes bibliográficos (Madrid, 1888)
011902.h.20.(2.)

Luis Carmena y Millán, Catálogo de la biblioteca taurina de L. Carmena y Millán (Madrid, 1903)
011907.f.15

Biblioteca Nacional (Lisboa), Bibliografia tauromáquica : impressos e manuscritos (Lisbon, 1927; reprinted [1982?]) YA.1986.b.1293

Anales taurinos (Madrid, 1900-). Includes portraits and advertisements. Discontinued. P.P.1863

Manuel Fernández y González,. Las glorias del toreo ... Cuadros biográficos, lances y desgracias de los diestros más célebres ... Artículos sobre costumbres de los pueblos aficionados á esta clase de espectáculos. (Madrid, 1879). Our copy was destroyed in WWII (D-7911.c/11), but there is a digitised copy at the Biblioteca Digital de Castilla y León.

On ephemera in the BL:

Ann-Marie Foster, ‘‘I am sending herewith’ – First World War Ephemera at the British Library’, Electronic British Library Journal 2017 article 3

Other:

Julián Bravo, ‘El apócrifo manuscrito árabe sobre Sacedon’

John C. Dowling, ‘The Taurine Works of Nicolás Ferndez de Moratín’, The South Central Bulletin, 22 (1962), 31-34. 8350.250000

15 June 2022

Ceramics and the Avant-Garde: the life of Tullio d’Albisola

During the interwar years, the focus of Italian Futurism expanded from the fine arts into a variety of media and mass media that were easily accessible to the wider public. On the one hand, the Futurists were attracted by new forms of communication intended for a wide audience, like the radio and advertising; on the other, they engaged with the large market of commercial items, such as furniture and household objects, that entered the majority of the Italian dwellings. Their intent was a real union between art and everyday life, a total rejection of traditional art hierarchies going beyond the move by the fine artist into the decorative arts, which would become increasingly popular in postwar Italy with artists like Fausto Melotti, Lucio Fontana, and Giacomo Manzù, to mention just a few.

Coppa amatoria, Tullio d’Albisola, 1930

Coppa amatoria, Tullio d’Albisola, 1930, from Enrico Crispolti, La ceramica futurista da Balla a Tullio d’Albisola (Florence: Centro Di, 1982) 3113.170350 v 151

It is within this background that Tullio Spartaco Mazzotti, an artist and entrepreneur from Albissola, a small community on the Ligurian coast, invited the Futurists to design ceramic objects that he could produce in his father’s factory, the Ceramiche Giuseppe Mazzotti Albissola. In his project he involved the founder of Futurism, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, who coined his Futurist pseudonym Tullio d’Albisola, and many artists, architects, and poets, like Benedetta Cappa, Bruno Munari, Farfa (Vittorio Osvaldo Tommasini), Fortunato Depero), and Enrico Prampolini. As described in the Manifesto Ceramica e aeroceramica (Ceramics and Aeroceramics) that he co-wrote with Marinetti in 1938:

‘[…] Tullio d’Albisola brings into ceramic the aesthetic of the machine […] speed […] cosmic forces […] simultaneities of contrasting or harmonizing emotional states […]’

Photograph showing (left to right) Farfa, Tullio d’Albisola and Marinetti in front of ceramics by Farfa

Photograph showing (left to right) Farfa, Tullio d’Albisola and Marinetti in front of ceramics by Farfa, 1930, from La ceramica futurista da Balla a Tullio d’Albisola.

Despite the number of Futurist tiles and ceramics manufactured in Italy during this time, d'Albisola was the only one who reached a wider public. With their unusual shapes and abstract decorations, his ceramics openly challenged the more conventional pottery of Sevrès, France, the fine porcelains from Vienna, and the contemporary ceramic production in Italy that was largely based on classical ideals.

During his adhesion to Futurism, d’Albisola applied his creativity and experimental personality to a variety of media, besides ceramic design, and was an enthusiastic supporter of the ideas and projects of his Futurist fellows. For example, he convinced his old father to entrust a young Futurist architect, Nicolaj Diulgheroff, with the project of a new location for the factory, which was completed in 1934 and is today one of the remaining examples of Futurist architecture in Italy. He made sculptures, wrote poems, designed the factory’s graphic identity (from the letterhead, to the advertising), and engaged at different rates with photography, cinema and painting. The genuineness and delicacy of his poetry is in apparent contrast with his most vanguard outputs, like the famous Futurist tin-books (‘Lito-latte’), which he financed entirely, although the project was eventually a flop.

Litolatta logo

Litolatta logo, from Filippo Tommaso Marinetti/Tullio d’Albisola Parole In Libertà Futuriste Olfattive Tattili Termiche (Rome, 1932). HS.74/2143, Courtesy of Archivio Tullio d’Albissola

Thanks to the success of their Futurist ceramics, the popularity of the Mazzotti factory increased exponentially, and the name of d’Albisola began circulating within the artistic circuits in Italy and abroad. New avant-garde movements could be found in Albissola in the 1950s and 1960s, such as Spatialism, the Arte Nucleare, and Co.Br.A (the latter developed in Albissola the M.I.B.I., ‘Movement for an Imaginist Bauhaus’). Although Futurism was long gone, the Mazzotti factory continued to be one of the favorite workshops of the international Avant-Garde, where artists like Fontana, Manzù, Aligi Sassu, Agenore Fabbri, Sandro Cherchi, Asger Jorn, and Karel Appel, realized the striking post-modernist sculptures that we all know. ‘The modern ceramic art was born in Albisola’, Italian architect and critic Gio Ponti wrote.

Casa Mazzotti

Casa Mazzotti, designed by Bulgarian Futurist Architect Nicolay Diulgheroff in the years 1930 to 1932 for Tullio d'Albisola, who lived and worked here until his demise. It is a rare example of original futurist architecture. © UrbanItaly

On divergent but parallel paths, both d’Albisola and Ponti supported, for their entire life, the resurgence of ceramic practice, and assisted and guided in their careers worldwide renowned artists like Fontana and Melotti. Ceramics, however, continued to be largely seen as unsuitable for making art: as Melotti admitted in an interview in 1984, asking a sculptor to make ceramics was like ‘asking a poet to write advertisements’. (Tre ore con Fausto Melotti, television interview conducted by Antonia Mulas for RAI Italy)

Eleonora Traversa, Royal Holloway University of London

References:

Enrico Crispolti, La ceramica futurista da Balla a Tullio d’Albisola (Florence: Centro Di, 1982) 3113.170350 v 151

Danilo Presotto (ed.), Quaderni di Tullio d’Albisola, vol. I-IV (Savona: Editrice Liguria, 1981-87) P.421/871

Ursula Lehmann-Brockhaus, ‘Incontro Internazionale della Ceramica’ Albisola, Sommer 1954 (Rome: Campisano Editore, 2013)

The event Italian Collections in UK Libraries: Past, Present & Future will take place on Friday 17 June at the British Library. This event is now sold out.

10 June 2022

Meet the Curators: A News-themed Session – 23 June 2022

Exploring five centuries of UK news through broadsheets, blogs and objects, the British Library’s current exhibition, Breaking the News, challenges and seeks to change the way we think about news.

Poster with a drawing of a person sitting on a TV and reading a newspaper

A poster advertising the University of Poznań Solidarity journal Serwis Informacyjny Komisji Zakładowej NSZZ «Solidarność» przy UAM w Poznaniu. BL shelf mark Sol. 764

Looking beyond the UK focus of Breaking the News, on Thursday 23 June curators from the European, Americas and Oceania collections will be in conversation about items from their collection areas that speak to the themes of the exhibition and that they think deserve a spotlight. Join us for a friendly look behind the curating scenes as we discover unique collection items that illuminate news and the role it plays in our lives.

This free, online event will take place on Thursday 23 June 2022, 12.30 – 1.30pm. To register, please visit the Library’s event page. Bookers will be sent a Zoom link in advance giving access.

This session is run in partnership with the Library’s Asia and Africa department, whose parallel event takes place on Thursday 16th June 2022.

Breaking The News exhibition advert

07 June 2022

Italian Collections in UK Libraries: Past, Present & Future

We are delighted to bring to you a day-long exploration of the amazing diversity of 600 years of collecting Italian books in the UK. The Study Day, organized by the Italian Studies Library Group (ISLG), will be in person at the British Library Knowledge Centre, (Eliot Room), on Friday 17th June 2022. Booking essential, on the BL website

Portraits of Italian writers

Portraits of Italian writers

The programme is as follows:

09:30: Registration
10:00: Welcome: Janet Zmroczek (Head of European and American Collections, The British Library)
10:05: Welcome: Andrea Del Corno' (Italian Specialist, The London Library, ISLG Chair)

Past
10:10: Abigail Brundin (Director, British School at Rome) and Dunstan Roberts (University of
Cambridge), ‘The Italian collections in National Trust and English Heritage Libraries’

10:40: Tudor Allen (Senior Archivist for Camden Council), ‘Sources for the Study of London's
Italian Quarter: Archives of the Mazzini-Garibaldi Club and the Italian Hospital’

11:00: Stephen Parkin (Curator Printed Heritage Collections, The British Library), ‘The Colt
Hoare collection of Italian topographical books in the British Library’

11:20: Discussion
11:30: Tea and coffee

Keynote Speaker
11:45: Giuliana Pieri (Professor of Italian and the Visual Arts, Head of the School of
Humanities, Royal Holloway University), ‘Beyond Words and Images: Re-thinking twentieth-century
Italian Books’

Present
12:15: Julianne Simpson (Rare Books and Maps Manager, John Rylands Library) and Stephen
Milner (Serena Professor of Italian Studies, University of Manchester) ‘Le Tre Corone: Italian
collections at the John Rylands Library – projects and promotion’

12:45: Tabitha Tuckett (Rare Books Librarian, UCL) ‘Italian rare books and archives in UCL
Special Collections’

13:05: Cristina Dondi (Professor of Early European Book Heritage, University of Oxford)
‘Mapping the early Italian book heritage around the UK: From distribution to dispersal‘

13:35: Discussion
13:45: Buffet lunch

Keynote speaker
14:45: Michele Casalini (CEO, Casalini Libri) ‘Collections aren't built in a day: Changes and
trends in Italian collecting’

Future
15:15: Round table chaired by Andrea Del Corno', with Prof Cristina Dondi, Andrea Mazzocchi
(Bernard Quaritch Rare Books and Manuscripts), Valentina Mirabella (Curator, Romance Collections,
The British Library), Prof Giuliana Pieri, and Maria Riccobono (Librarian, Italian Cultural Institute).

16:30: Katia Pizzi (Director, Italian Cultural Institute)

23 May 2022

Seminar on Textual Bibliography for Modern Foreign Languages

After a two-year hiatus, we are pleased to announce that the annual Seminar on Textual Bibliography for Modern Foreign Languages will resume on Monday 13 June 2022 in the Bronte Room of the British Library's Knowledge Centre. The programme is as follows: 

11.00 Registration

11.30  CHRISTIAN ALGAR (London)
            The incunabula of J. B. Inglis in the British Library

12.15 Lunch (Own arrangements).

1.30  JOHN DUNKLEY
            Editing Destouches’s Le Philosophe marié (1727)

2.15  JOHN D. MCINALLY (Liverpool)
            Conflicting and Connected Messages in the Margins: (Para)textual Dynamics in Rwandan Testimonies of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

3.00 Tea

3.30  SHANTI GRAHELI (Glasgow)
            Foreign readers of Ariosto’s Orlando furioso between language acquisition and collecting practices, 16th and early 17th century

4.15  LLUÍS AGUSTÍ (Barcelona)
            Spanish Republican Exile Printing in Mexico

The Seminar will end at 5.00 pm.

The Seminar is a free event and all are welcome, but please let the organisers, Barry Taylor and Susan Reed (contact details below), know if you wish to attend. 

Barry Taylor (barry.taylor@bl.uk; tel 020 7412 7576)
Susan Reed (susan.reed@bl.uk; tel 020 7412 7572)

Two men working a printing press

11 May 2022

The Art of Noises

“In antiquity, life was nothing but silence. Noise was really not born before the 19th century, with the advent of machinery. Today noise reigns supreme over human sensibility.” Luigi Russolo

Photograph showing Luigi Russolo and his collaborator Ugo Piatti with their intonarumori

Photograph showing Luigi Russolo and his collaborator Ugo Piatti with their intonarumori, from Luigi Russolo, L’arte dei rumori (Milan, 1916). X.629/13035.

Futurism was a multidisciplinary artistic and social movement. Futurists wanted to reinvent all art forms: painting, sculpture, literature, photography, architecture, book production, dance, even cuisine... Futurist ideals were very radical, both artistically and politically.

Italian futurists, led by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, had a huge impact on the avant-garde of the twentieth century and gave popularity to art manifestos. Of the many futurist manifestos, the 11 March 1913 one titled L’arte dei rumori. Manifesto futurista (The Art of Noises. Futurist Manifesto), by Luigi Russolo, had a very long-lasting influence.

Portrait of Luigi Russolo

Portrait of Luigi Russolo, L’arte dei rumori.

L’arte dei rumori is a manifesto of futurist music. It was subsequently published as a monograph in 1916 in Milan by Edizioni Futuriste di “Poesia”, Marinetti’s own publishing house and official publisher of Italian futurists since 1905. The monograph, also titled L’arte dei rumori, expands on the 1913 manifesto and includes pictures and musical scores.

This book is the first to introduce the notions of noise as sound and sound-art. Noise was a product of the industrial revolution and therefore, for Russolo, futuristic. Onomatopoeic and cacophonic ‘words in freedom’ were already linked to the concept of noise as poetry in the early productions of futurist literature, so noise as sound appears a natural evolution of Marinetti’s Parole in Libertà.

The author of this book, painter turned musician Luigi Russolo, categorizes various types of noises and also created 21 rudimentary experimental noise making machines able to reproduce some noises for the futurist orchestra: intonarumori, including ‘howlers’, ‘bursters’, 'cracklers', ‘hummers’. These Leonardesque magic boxes with levers and trumpets were used for a composition, which reproduces the noise of the urban industrial soundscape: Risveglio di una città (Awakening of a city).

Concerts with intonarumori were organized in 1913 in Modena, and in 1914 in Milan and London, with 10 shows in the Coliseum. Most of Russolo’s instruments were destroyed during WWII and there is only one surviving phonograph recording of the instruments playing together with an orchestra. The full score of Risveglio di una città is also missing, apart from the two pages of notation reproduced below. Nevertheless, attempts to rebuild Russolo’s instruments and reproduce his musical performances happened in the course of the last century.

Score for Risveglio di una città

Score for Risveglio di una città, from L’arte dei rumori.

Russolo’s efforts to emancipate noises and to broaden the definition of music were truly revolutionary, but futurist music was not well received by the audience. The public was not ready at the time. However, the use of synthesizers, the invention of noise music, concrete music, soundscape art, sound-art, electroacoustic and electronic music, are all linked to Russolo’s production of writings, music, and instruments. Musicians who were directly influenced by his work include Pierre Schaeffer, Edgard Varèse and John Cage.

Valentina Mirabella, Curator, Romance Collections

Further reading

Claudia Salaris, Marinetti Editore, (Bologna 1990) YF.2009.a.20485

Luigi Russolo, The Art of Noise (futurist manifesto, 1913), translated by Robert Filliou, Originally published in 1967 as a Great Bear Pamphlet by Something Else Press, 2004 

Barclay Brown, ‘The Noise Instruments of Luigi Russolo’ Perspectives of New Music, vol. 20, no. 1/2, 1981, pp. 31–48 PP.8000.mn 

If you are interested in finding out more about our Italian collections, join us at the upcoming event: Italian Collections in UK Libraries: Past, Present & Future, on Friday 17 June, in person at the British Library. Bookings are open on the BL website

 

27 April 2022

Reframing the Tin Book

In 1913, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876-1944), founder and chief promoter of Italian Futurism, extended the Futurist revolution to the field of typography:

My revolution is aimed at the so-called typographical harmony of the page, which is contrary to the flux and reflux, the leaps and bursts of style that run through the page. On the same page, therefore, we will use three or four colours of ink, or even twenty different typefaces if necessary […]. With this typographical revolution and this multi-coloured variety in the letters I mean to redouble the expressive force of the words, Destruction of Syntax –Imagination without Strings – Words in Freedom (1913).

The so-called ‘Tin Book’ is one of the best examples of the radical rethinking that the Futurists applied to the arts and the book in particular.


 

3D model of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti/Tullio d’Albisola Parole In Libertà Futuriste Olfattive Tattili Termiche (Rome, 1932). HS.74/2143, Courtesy of Archivio Tullio d’Albissola

The British Library's copy of the Tin Book, digitised as part of the AHRC funded project Interdisciplinary Italy 1900-2020. Interart/Intermedia, was manufactured in Savona in 1932. A selection of word-in-freedom texts by Marinetti are accompanied, on the verso, by a ‘chromatic-poetic’ Futurist synthesis by Tullio d’Albisola (1899-1971), a second generation Futurist whose activities spanned ceramics, poetry, and design. The arrangement has been seen by critics as a potential flaw of the project: we cannot read simultaneously Marinetti’s words-in-freedom and d’Albisola’s visual chromatic-poetic response. Be that as it may, this object-book is no less revolutionary in the way it invites an expanded multi-sensorial reading, signalled by the proper title of the book: Parole in Libertà Futuriste Olfattive Tattili Termiche (‘Futurist Words in Freedom - Olfactory, Tactile, Thermal’).

Portrait of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti

Portrait of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti/Tullio d’Albisola Parole In Libertà Futuriste

The act of opening the book and turning the pages is first and foremost an acoustic experience. Italian artist and critic Mirella Bentivoglio performed a reading in 1982 at the Pompidou Centre in Paris. The performance piece was called Jouer la page. This is how she describes it: ‘air pressed between the pages at different times and distances from the microphone produced unexpected results. The tin book proved to be a regular instrument furnished with a sounding-box. The cylinder of the spine is an elementary flute through which the pages seem to materialize as sounds’.


 

3D model of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti/Tullio d’Albisola Parole In Libertà Futuriste

The Tin Book took an industrial material and turned it literally into poetry, fusing art and industry. The metallic sound evokes the ‘infinite variety of noises’ of modern life which Luigi Russolo (1885-1947) saw as part of the extraordinary diversity of sound (including music-sound and noise-sound) that would generate the new Art of Noises (The Art of Noises. A Futurist Manifesto, 11 March 1913).

The material and its sonic qualities de-familiarize the reader with the traditional sensorial experience of reading a paper (or digital) book. The association with industrial sounds, turns the book into a machine, and, on a more ordinary level, reminds the reader of the colourful packaging of tin boxes and glossy advertising metal plates that were part of interwar material and visual culture.

The smooth and rough surfaces of the pages have a visual equivalent in shiny and duller areas of the lithographed images, blurring the boundary between text, image, and object. The act of reading the Tin Book pushes meaning to the surface, allowing the reader to experience a multi-sensorial perception in which meaning is not principally held by the words in the book. The process recalls also the principles of the tavole tattili which Marinetti had composed in the later 1910s, especially during the war years. In the 1921 Manifesto of Tactilism, Marinetti introduced the new art of touch—tactilism—which was a means to reconnect with the sense of touch and use it as another important channel of communication and means to experience the world.

The introduction of concrete elements in poetry was a seismic shift in the concept of literature: the fundamental overlapping between word and image (and their connection to sound and touch) opened up new pathways to explore the boundaries between the arts, exposing the artificial separation between arts and media. The Futurist tin books, by playing with the sonic qualities of the book as object, took literature into the realms of sculpture, design and modern technology.

Giuliana Pieri, Professor of Italian and the Visual Arts and Executive Dean (School of Humanities), Royal Holloway University of London

Further reading

Futurist Manifestos, ed. by Umbro Apollonio (London, 2009).

Giovanni Lista, Le Livre Futuriste. De libération du mot au poème tactile (Modena, 1982).

Mirella Bentivoglio, ‘The Reinvention of the Book in Italy’, The Print Collector’s Newsletter, 24.3 (1993). 93-96. 6613.160000

'The Tin Book', European Studies Blog, 12 March 2014

If you are interested in finding out more about this topic, Prof Giuliana Pieri is among the speakers of the upcoming event: Italian Collections in UK Libraries: Past, Present & Future, on Friday 17 June, in person at the British Library. Bookings are open on the BL website.

23 March 2022

The Man who Discovered his Homeland; or, a Polymath without Publications

Title page of Martín Sarmiento, Disertacion sobre las virtudes maravillosas...

Martín Sarmiento, Disertacion sobre las virtudes maravillosas y uso de la planta llamada carqueyxa, conocida en Galicia por este nombre, y en otras provincias de [sic] reyno por una voz análoga á la misma pronunciacion, Escrita por … en el año de 1749, y reimpresa y aumentada por D. Josef Felix Maceda (Segovia: Antonio Espinosa, 1787). RB.23.a.39569

There’s a lot to unpack about this small recent acquisition: ‘Martín Sarmiento’, ‘carqueyxa’, ‘Galicia’.

Carqueyxa is in English common broom (genista tridentata), used in folk medicine and modern homeopathy as a medicine. As Sarmiento explains, taken as a syrup it purifies the blood; in a bath it eases rheumatism. He describes cases of patients in the region of Segovia who had read a previous edition of his work (he calls it a pamphlet, pliego) and used broom with success. (One thinks of the ‘unsolicited testimonials’ which purveyors of medicines boasted in the 20th century.) Don Miguel Dovalin (his name suggests he was a Galician) was forbidden chocolate owing to stomach problems. After drinking broom tea, he was able to eat chocolate freely. (I sense a business opportunity). And many more…

Drawing of English common broom (genista tridentata)

Drawing of common broom (genista tridentata) in Adam Lonicer, Kreuterbůch (Frankfurt am Main, 1564). 447.i.6.

But Sarmiento was no snake-oil merchant: his book is scientific and non-commercial.

Galicia in North-Western Spain was the author’s homeland and it came to loom large in his Weltanschauung. He was actually born in Leon in 1695, as Pedro Joseph García Balboa. Educated in Galicia, in 1710 he moved to Madrid and entered the Benedictine order, where he became a friend of Feijoo: Martin was the patron saint of his monastery and Sarmiento his mother’s family. (I do wonder if the name of ‘vine shoot’ was attractive to him because of his interest in the soil.)

He fulfilled the duties of a man of God which he combined with a life of erudition, discovering manuscripts, botanising and, from 1745 on – already in his fifties --, travelling in his homeland, where he studied its language, archeology and natural history. It was a turning-point: he realised ‘he knew more about China than his own land’.

Portrait of Sarmiento

Portrait of Sarmiento by Francisco Muntaner. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Like other scholars of the time, he published very little in print (his only publication in his lifetime was his defence of Feijoo, the Demostración crítico-apologética del Theatro Crítico Universal) but a lot in manuscript. He counted 10,400 pages of manuscript in 1767. Men of erudition gathered in his cell on Sunday mornings. He wrote reports to government on cultural projects such as a new royal library and the decoration of the royal palace. And the foundation of the Botanical Gardens of Madrid. Like Feijoo he was up to date with the latest European journals. He died in 1772.

Galician now has co-officiality with Castilian in Galicia. The language of the Spanish troubadours (and not just those born in Galicia), in Sarmiento’s time its glory days were well past and it had to wait for the 19th-century Rexurdimento. Sarmiento was an enthusiastic writer on the language and its etymologies (note the -ei- in carqueyxa) but he had no option but to write up his research in Castilian. But in Galician verse he did write one thing, the Coloquio de 24 gallegos rústicos, which he modestly described as an exercise to ‘bring together many Galician words and write them with their true orthography’.

Like the ethnobotanists of today, early botanists learned much of their subject conversing with peasants, and when writing his broom book Sarmiento had the pleasure of combining language and lore.

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance collections 

References 

Ramón Mariño Paz, ‘Unha biobibliografía do padre Martín Sarmiento (1695-1772)’, in A lingua galega, historia e actualidade. Actas do I Congreso Internacional (Santiago de Compostela: Consello da Cultura Galega / Instituto da Lingua Galega, 2004), pp. 385-99.

17 February 2022

In Defence of Armchair Travellers

Stand up for bookworms. Sir Christopher Wren never went to Italy. But he did have a library.

When you see a gleaming white Wren building against a bright blue London sky, it’s easy to think that Sir Chris. was evoking his experience of a sun-drenched Rome. This is why I was surprised to learn from Campbell (p. 124) that he never went to Italy. He did visit Paris and Holland. The nearest he got to Rome was meeting Bernini in Paris.

Portrait of Sir Christopher Wren

Portrait of Sir Christopher Wren, 1713. John Smith after Sir Godfrey Kneller. Source: Wikimedia Commons

D. J. Watkin, introducing the sales catalogue of Wren’s books (1748), commented:

It is one of the wonders of architectural history that Wren could have conceived a classic architecture so huge and assured without ever having seen at first hand any of the monuments of ancient or modern Rome.

His library did however include ‘copies of Arberti, Serlio, Vitruvius, d’Alvier, Bellori, de Rossi, Desgogetz, Boissard and Bosio, as well as three editions of Palladio’.

Some Englishmen did of course go to Italy, and a number of them doubtless were absolute wastrels, but others fed their minds. A case in point is John Evelyn, who was in Italy in the 1640s, studied medicine in Padua and attended sermons and observed buildings and antiquities in Rome.

Wren’s books are in Cambridge, but a good number of Evelyn’s are in the British Library. Among them are:

Giulio Cesare Capaccio, La vera antichità di Pozzuolo (Rome, 1652) Eve.a.21

Johannes Baptista Casalius, De profanis et sacris veteribus ritibus (Rome, 1644-45) Eve.a.134
(which includes illustrations of antiquities)

François Perrier, Icones et segmenta illustrium e marmore tabularum quae Romae adhuc exstant (Paris, 1645 [1650?]) Ece.c.26

Antonio Zantani, Primorum xii Caesarum verissimae imagines ex antuquis numismatibus desumptae (Rome, 1614) Eve.a.108

There’s a lot to be said for experience, but even more for the assiduous conning of a good library.

Page from Giulio Cesare Capaccio, La vera antichità di Pozzuolo (Rome, 1652) Eve.a.21

Page from Giulio Cesare Capaccio, La vera antichità di Pozzuolo (Rome, 1652) Eve.a.21

Page from Giulio Cesare Capaccio, La vera antichità di Pozzuolo (Rome, 1652) Eve.a.21

Page from Giulio Cesare Capaccio, La vera antichità di Pozzuolo (Rome, 1652) Eve.a.21

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Collections

References and additional reading:

James W. P. Campbell, Building St Paul’s (London, 2007) YK.2009.a.8760

Gordon Craig, ‘John Evelyn and the theatre in England, France and Italy. Dedicated to the memory of Charles Stuart II’, The Mask. An illustrated journal of the art of the theatre, X;3 (July 1924), 97-115; X:4 (Oct. 1924), 143-60

Michael Hunter, ‘The British Library and the Library of John Evelyn, with a Checklist of Evelyn Books in the British Library’s Holdings’, in John Evelyn in the British Library (London, 1995), pp. 82–102. 2719.e.3064

John L. Lievsay, The Englishman’s Italian Books 1550-1700 (Philadelphia, 1969) YA.2002.a.8788

Giles Mandelbrote, ‘John Evelyn and His Books’, in John Evelyn and His Milieu, ed. Frances Harris and Michael Hunter (London, 2003), pp. 71-94. YC.2004.a.315

D. J. Watkin, Sale catalogues of libraries of eminent persons, IV, Architects (London, 1972) W77/0506

23 December 2021

Festive Feasts

It’s the festive season again! Conversations in our multi-national department invariably turn to colleagues’ national Christmas and New Year traditions, especially what we have to eat in our home countries. In today’s post colleagues share some Christmas Eve cuisine from Central Europe, Ukraine and France

Christmas Carp 

In Central Europe, carp is a popular traditional dish for Christmas. ‘The queen of rivers’, as it was called by the 17th-century English writer Izaak Walton, this fish is quite oily and bony. So the first thing to do is to remove as many bones as possible, so that your Christmas dinner is not spoilt by a call to the ambulance. Choking on carp bones was a typical Christmas accident and is the source of many songs and anecdotes. However, you really should risk it, as carp scales are a symbol of wealth, so don’t forget to place them under plates before dinner, or hold in the palm of your hand, or put them in your wallet.

If you want your taste-buds get excited this Christmas and are seriously concerned about your wealth, why not visit your fishmonger and then indulge in a quality family time removing bones together during dark December evenings? Once the bones are out of the way, you can be creative with rubbing salt, spices, and pepper into the fish. Some recipes suggest using mustard and lemon juice or eggs to mix with flour or breadcrumbs for wrapping. Each household in Czechia or Poland would have their own traditional recipe, but the most important thing is to fry carefully and not overdo it.

Of course, carp is not only for Christmas, it is a really big part of Central European culture all year round. Books have been written about this wonderful and really tasty fish, as for example this one, promoting carp from the southern regions on the Czech Republic in national and foreign cuisines.

Book cover with a cartoon of a carp wearing a chef's hat

Cover of Vilém Vrabec, Jihočeský kapr v naší a zahraniční kuchyni (České Budějovice, 1979) X.629/16113

In fact, in Polish territories neighbouring the Czech lands carp was popularized by Czech Cistercians in 12th century. Although it became one of the staples of Polish cuisine, for a long time it was not considered as an essential part of the Christmas Eve table. Other fish dishes were equally, if not more popular. However, after the Second World War when freshwater fish farming could not come back to its former glory and the Baltic fleet was depleted, the Polish Minister for Industry and Trade, Hilary Minc, came up with an ingenious trade and marketing strategy. First, he decided that the answer for the ‘fish crisis’ was to set up carp breeding ponds which would offer fish-starved Poles a cheap but hefty chunk of protein. The slogan ‘Carp on every Christmas Eve table’ became a reality. Since 1947 almost every Polish child has been able to pet their own carp, held for days in bathtubs, in a run up to Christmas. Live carp were often offered to workers as a festive bonus.

In recent years animal rights activists launched a very successful campaign ‘Uwolnić karpia!’(‘Free the Carp!’) to put a stop to animal suffering which for years has been a part of the festive season. The campaign, which is ongoing, does not aim to fight the Polish Christmas tradition, but to get rid of the part which is unnecessarily cruel to animals. So let us celebrate with a cheerful: Happy Carp – Happy Christmas!

Katya Rogatchevskaia, Lead Curator and Olga Topol, Curator, Slavonic and East European Collections

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Ukrainian Christmas Dishes

In Ukraine the whole family gathers at the table for the Christmas Eve dinner. Traditionally they wait for the first star to be appear in the sky. It reminds them of the star of Bethlehem which once announced to the Magi the birth of the Son of God. Only after that (and after prayer) can they start dinner.

Since Christmas Eve is the last day of the Advent fast, all meals should be lean. Traditionally it is 12 festive dishes in honour of the 12 apostles.

Chief among these are kutia and uzvar. The dinner starts with kutia – a porridge made from wheat or barley grain which symbolize eternal life and prosperity. Before cooking, the grain is soaked in cold water. Traditionally some people cook it in clay pots. Cooked porridge is placed in a deep, preferably earthenware, bowl or makitra and crushed poppy-seeds, walnuts, raisins and honey are added. Everything is mixed thoroughly.

Kutia recipe from the book 'Ukraine: Food and History'

Recipe for kutia from Ukraine: Food and History, edited by Olena Braichenko (Kyiv, 2020). Awaiting shelfmark.  

The traditional Christmas drink Uzvar is made from dried fruits. Uzvar means ‘boil down’ because the fruit is boiled over a low heat. First of all it is apples, pears, plums and cherries which give it an intense and warm colour. It could be also dried apricots and raisins or other fruits depending of the area of Ukraine.

Cover of the book 'Ukrainian Christmas Feast'

Cover of Igor Stassiouk, Ukrainian Christmas Feast = Ukraïnsʹke Rizdvo (Kyïv, 2010) YK.2012.a.9322

The other 12 dishes are not so prescriptive, and among them could be holubtsi (stuffed cabbage with mushrooms), lean borsch, vinaigrette, deruny (potato pancakes), varenyky (dumplings with cherries or grated poppy seeds), baked apples, etc. Recipes for these and other festive dishes can be found in the British Library’s collections, for example in the works illustrated above and cited below.

For Christmas and Easter: religious holiday dishes = Na Rizdvo i na Velykdenʹ: zakarpatsʹki sviatkovi stravy. Compiled by Valentyna Dzioba English translation by Valentyna Babydorych. (Uzhhorod, 2002) YF.2007.a.29847

Olha Verbenets, Vira Manko, Obriady i stravy sviatoho vechora (Lviv, 2007) YF.2008.a.30595

Lidiia Artiukh, Zvychaï ukraïntsiv u narodnomu kalendari (Kyïv, 2015) LF.31.a.5017

Nadiia Strishenets, British Library Chevening Fellow

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A ghost and thirteen desserts

Christmas is associated with many things: seasonal food and drink, dancing, games and a festive generosity of spirit. Since Charles Dickens, maybe, it has also been associated in literature with ghost stories and  just supernatural retribution for mistakes, past and present.

French author Alphonse Daudet (1840-1897), who was instrumental in reviving and creating a canon of Provençal folklore, somehow managed to combine food and ghosts in his story of the ‘three low masses’, which was part of his work Lettres de mon moulin (Letters from my Mill; Paris, 1879; 11483.aaa.13).

Published in 1875, Daudet’s short story ‘Les trois basses messes’ imitates the tradition of folk-tale and evokes the delicious food of Christmas with a celestial retribution that sees gourmand Priest Dom Balaguère so impatient for his Christmas réveillon feast of truffled turkeys, pheasant, eels, trout, and wine that he succumbs to the Devil’s tricks and rushes through the required three low masses for Christmas Eve… As a punishment, God decrees that the priest shall not enter heaven until he has celebrated 300 Christmas masses in his chapel, where for centuries his ghost will be heard saying the masses he had first botched because of his gluttony. The British Library has several recordings of readings of excerpts from Lettres de Mon Moulin including some by French actor Fernandel (Sound Archive 1LP0095903), and in English by British actor Stephen Fry (Sound Archive 1CA0029425).

It has been argued that Daudet, following Provencal Poet Frederic Mistral’s success, deliberately exaggerated his links to Provence to further his literary career and social success; but Provence has been, and still is, an acknowledged source of Christmas traditions, be they religious, musical or culinary.

The true Provençal Christmas delicacy, is nowadays considered to be the tradition of the ‘thirteen desserts’ (Occitan: lei tretze dessèrts), the traditional table of delights arranged for the celebration of Christmas in the South of France. In Provence particularly, the ‘Réveillon de Noel’ (Christmas Eve supper) ends with a ritual of thirteen desserts, representing Jesus Christ and the 12 Apostles – you can read a nostalgic and love-filled description of this in Marcel Pagnol’s Le Chateau de ma mère (Paris, 1958; F9/5843).

Reveillon

Definition of the reveillon, from Petit almanach perpétuel de gastronomie (Paris, 1859). Source: Gallica

The food should be presented on Christmas Eve and remains on the table for three days. The precise composition varies in each province, town, or even family. There are only six compulsory items including the four mendiants (‘beggars’), evoking religious orders that had taken a vow of poverty (walnuts or hazelnuts for the Augustinians, dried figs for the Franciscans, almonds for the Carmelites and raisins for the Dominicans), black and white nougat (which counts as one dessert) and the famous pompe à l’huile d’olive, a sweet focaccia-type brioche made with olive oil and flavoured with orange blossom water. Other treats might include calissons (a sweet made of almonds and candied melon), fresh fruits, oreillettes (a type of light doughnut) and all sorts of delicious things.

If only poor Dom Balaguère could have waited for a few hours…

Thirteen desserts

The traditional thirteen desserts served for the celebration of Christmas in the South of France. Photo by Jean-Louis Zimmerman from Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)

Sophie Defrance, Curator Romance Collections

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