Untold lives blog

Sharing stories from the past, worldwide

11 October 2022

Can’t fly to Rio for Carnival? Explore the British Library’s Portuguese Language Collections!

This year the British Library joined CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) and Westminster College to offer new opportunities to train as a Library, Information and Archives Services Assistant (LIAS).  The course was launched by CILIP in 2021, the first institution in the world to offer this unique training qualification.  I am among the first four lucky people to be accepted as an apprentice.  The course will last eighteen months, and I will rotate within three departments.

Montage of photographs illustrating the British Library core purposes - custodianship, research, business, culture, learning, internationalThe British Library core purposes - custodianship, research, business, culture, learning, international Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

My first department is Collections and Curation where I am working with Printed Books, and Modern and Contemporary Manuscripts and Archive Collections.  This has allowed me to access some unique collections items that I am very excited to share with you.

Let me first introduce myself - my name is Sheila, but I am not English, Irish or Australian. I am a ‘Brazuca’.  What does that mean, you may ask?

I was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a true carioca!  Cariocas are people born in the City of Rio de Janeiro nicknamed ‘The wonderful City’!  The British Library holds many items written in Portuguese, both printed and manuscript form, and these highlight the beauty of that rich language.

An illustration of nineteenth century Rio de Janeiro city and harbourAn illustration of  19th century Rio de Janeiro city and harbour from Edmondo Luiz, A Côrte de D. João no Rio de Janeiro - British Library X.700/456 Images Online

So, let’s start!  It is time for you ‘Brits’ to practise.  C'mon, I know you can do better than ‘Obrigado/Obrigada'.

The first item is: A Coleccao Dos Documentos, Estatutos e Mais Memorias da Academia Real da Historia Portuguesa, dated 1721

Finding it difficult?  Ok, I will help you.

It translates as 'The Collection of Documents, Statutes, and Memoirs of the Royal Academy of Portuguese History'.

On 8 December 1720, the king of Portugal, John V, decided to establish the academy to register the ecclesiastic history of Portugal and its colonies, as well as the history of all Portuguese conquests.  This date was chosen because it is the day dedicated to ‘N. Sa. Da Conceicao’ the Patron Saint of Portugal.

Cover of Collecçam dos Documentos  estatutos  y memorias da academia ... anno 1721 ... ordenada pelo Conde de Villarmayor    Title page of Collecçam dos Documentos  estatutos  y memorias da academia ... anno 1721 ... ordenada pelo Conde de Villarmayor

Fly page of Collecçam dos Documentos  estatutos  y memorias da academia ... anno 1721 ... ordenada pelo Conde de VillarmayorCover, title and fly page of Collecçam dos Documentos, estatutos, y memorias da academia ... anno 1721 ... ordenada pelo Conde de Villarmayor, British Library 131.g.1 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence


Next is 'The Memoir of D. Pedro I',  the first emperor of Brazil.  Surprised?  Me too when I found it.  This one was easy - it has an English title!

After the Portuguese Court returned to Portugal, Pedro decided to stay in Brazil.  He declared independence and became the first Brazilian Emperor.  Brazil, the largest country in South America and the fifth largest in the world, became independent in 1822.   So in 2022 we celebrate 200 years of independence.

This 'authentic memoir' was written by an English woman who was the governess to the Emperor’s daughter.  Being trusted with such a task makes her appear closer to him than his family were.   Perhaps it is best not to gossip, but bear in mind that during her time in the household she witnessed the day-to-day life of an Emperor, the ‘upstairs, downstairs’ of a Brazilian/Portuguese dynasty.

Cover of An authentic memoir of the life of Don Pedro    Title page of An authentic memoir of the life of Don Pedro

Folio 1 of An authentic memoir of the life of Don PedroCover, title page and f.1v of An authentic memoir of the life of Don Pedro [Pedro I, Emperor of Brazil (b. 1798, d. 1834)]', covering his early years until 1826: an unpublished work by Maria, Lady Callcott formerly Graham, based on her experiences in Brazil in 1824-1825, British Library Add MS 51996 Public Domain Creative Commons Licence

Would you like to get your hands on these fantastic items?  Come to the British Library, become a reader and explore our vast collections.

Sheila Rabello
LIAS Apprentice, British Library