Untold lives blog

112 posts categorized "Conflict"

05 September 2019

A librarian’s death on Lake Onega - Roger James Chomeley

The British Librarians’ memorial at the British Library records the names of 142 persons who died during the First World War.  Two died after the signing of the Peace Treaty at Versailles on 28 June 1919.

Captain Roger James Chomeley M.C. of the Cheshire Regiment died during the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War.  The Allies began to withdraw their forces from North Russia in June 1919, but it was a long, drawn-out process.  Chomeley was drowned on Lake Onega on 16 August 1919, aged 47.

Steam tug Azot captured from the Bolshevik forces on Lake Onega  1919Steam tug Azot captured from the Bolshevik forces on Lake Onega, 1919 © IWM (Q 16793)

A naval court of inquiry reported:
‘Captain R. J. Cholmeley was on board the Russian steamship Azod, one of the lake flotilla, on Lake Onega, and on the night of August 16, 1919, he was washed overboard while overhauling machine guns which were required for action at daybreak the following morning.  The vessel was heavily laden, and there was a very heavy sea, hence this imperative duty was most dangerous.  The court considers that Captain Cholmeley sacrificed his life in the execution of his duty’ (Brisbane Courier 20 February 1920).

Studio photograph of Roger James CholmeleyRoger James Cholmeley, lecturer in Classics, The University of Queensland, c1910?  Fryer Library Photograph Collection

Roger James Cholmeley was born at Swaby, Lincolnshire in 1872, the son of the Rev. James Cholmeley and his wife Flora Sophia. He studied at St Edward’s School in Oxford, before gaining an open classical scholarship to Corpus Christi College, Oxford, graduating in 1894.  He afterwards taught at Manchester Grammar School and the City of London School.  Roger married Lilian Mary Lamb in Oxford on 12 August 1896.  They had one daughter Katharine Isabella born at Wimbledon in 1903.

Having already served with the East Surrey Volunteer Corps, Cholmeley enlisted in the Imperial Yeomanry at London in March 1900.  He served in South Africa until June 1901. He obtained a commission and, on his return to the UK, continued to serve with the volunteers and the Territorial Force.

In 1901 Cholmeley published his edition of The Idylls of Theocritus.  He returned to South Africa in 1905 to take up a post as professor of Latin at the Rhodes University College at Grahamstown, where he also acted as librarian.  In 1909 he moved to Australia, teaching classics at Scotch College, Melbourne.  In 1911, he was appointed to a lectureship in classics at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, combining teaching with sorting out the University Library.

On the outbreak of the First World War, Cholmeley once again offered his services.  He was initially employed as a military censor in Australia, a post using his considerable knowledge of French, German, Russian, Dutch, and Greek.  He was rejected by the Australian authorities for active service, so in June 1915 he sailed to the UK where he obtained a commission in the Cheshire Regiment.  Chomeley wrote the preface to a revised edition of his Theocritus on the voyage over, lamenting the war’s interruption to scholarship.


Cholmeley's preface to his new edition of The Idylls of TheocritusCholmeley's preface to his new edition of The Idylls of Theocritus shelfmark 2280.d.10 Noc

Despite his age, Cholmeley served with the 13th (Service) Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment on the Western Front, being wounded twice.  In September 1917, he was awarded the Military Cross for his actions as brigade intelligence officer.

After the Armistice, Captain Cholmeley was posted to Northern Russia.  In expectation of his return from military service, the University of Queensland promoted Cholmeley assistant professor of classics, but he died before he could take up the post. 

Michael Day
Digital Preservation Manager

Further reading:
Damien Wright, Churchill’s secret war with Lenin: British and Commonwealth military intervention in the Russian Civil War, 1918-20 (Solihull: Helion, 2017), pp. 75-85.
Ian Binnie, 'Captain Roger James Cholmeley, MC', Moseley Society History Group
The Daily Mail (Brisbane, Qld.), 20 September 1919, p. 9
Brisbane Courier, 20 February 1920, p. 2
J.M.S., 'Roger James Cholmeley', The Classical Review, 34 (1920), pp. 76-77
R. J. Cholmeley (ed.), The Idylls of Theocritus (London: George Bell & Sons, 1901).
R. J. Cholmeley (ed.), Principiorum Liber (London: Edward Arnold, 1910).
R. J. Cholmeley (ed.), The Idylls of Theocritus, new ed. (London: George Bell & Sons, 1919)
Albert C. Clark, Journal of Hellenistic Studies, XLI (1921), pp. 152-154

 

 

16 August 2019

Peterloo

Today, 16 August 2019, marks the two hundredth anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre – a major event in British history in which dozens of peaceful protesters were killed and hundreds injured when Yeomanry cavalry charged into them as they rallied for parliamentary reform.

Map of St Peter's Field Manchester'Map of St. Peter's field, Manchester, as it appeared on the 16th of August, last' from Peterloo Massacre, containing a faithful narrative ... Edited by an Observer (Manchester, 1819) 601.aa.9.(1) Noc  Images Online

On 16 August 1819 thousands of political protesters met at St Peter’s Fields in Manchester to campaign for parliamentary reform.  They sought a widening of access to the vote and a more democratically accountable Parliament.  It is estimated that somewhere between 60,000-100,000 people gathered at the meeting.  A large draw for the crowd was the speech of the noted radical and orator Henry Hunt (1773-1835).  Concerned that his words might incite a riot the Manchester magistrates ordered the local volunteer Yeomanry to arrest him.  Inexperienced in crowd control, the Yeomanry rode into the crowd with their swords drawn followed by the 15th Hussars who sought to disperse the crowd.  Hunt was arrested, but in the process at least eleven people were killed and many hundreds were wounded.

Portrait of Henry Hunt, and title page of Peterloo MassacrePortrait of Henry Hunt, and title page of Peterloo Massacre, containing a faithful narrative ... Edited by an Observer (Manchester, 1819) 601.aa.9.(1) Noc Images Online

Though the magistrates were officially praised by the government for their actions, there was an immediate national outcry as news spread of the attack.  Very quickly the event was derisively dubbed as ‘Peterloo’ scornfully comparing it with the Battle of Waterloo.  There was considerable public sympathy for the protesters and, for decades after, Peterloo was invoked by radicals as a powerful symbol of political corruption, working-class oppression and the need for parliamentary reform.

One author who was particularly appalled by the Peterloo massacre was the radical poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822).  Shelley was living in Italy when the news reached him.  In response he drafted his, now famous, poem ‘The Masque of Anarchy’.  According to Shelley ‘the torrent of my indignation’ flowed into the work and throughout his anger is tangible. 

The poem gives an apocalyptic vision of a Regency England in political crisis.  Shelley describes several monstrous creatures riding upon horses wearing masks that look like leading politicians.  Taken together they personify murder, hypocrisy, and fraud and they parade a final beast: anarchy.  The poem then describes a ‘maniac maid’ called Hope, though ‘she looked more like Despair’.  Like the protestors at St Peter’s Fields,  Hope is about to be trampled under the horse’s hooves when ‘a Shape arrayed in mail’ rises to defeat the monstrous creatures.  ‘A great Assembly…Of the fearless and the free’ is then described, like the crowd at Peterloo, and a voice is heard advocating freedom and imploring the people to rise up for liberty.  Famously, the poem ends with the rallying cry:

‘Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number—
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you—
Ye are many—they are few.’


Percy Bysshe Shelley, 'The Masque of Anarchy' autograph draftPercy Bysshe Shelley, 'The Masque of Anarchy' autograph draft, 1819. Ashley MS 4086 Noc

                 
The British Library holds the original manuscript of Shelley’s ‘The Masque of Anarchy’. It was never published in his lifetime. After writing the poem, Shelley sent a copy of it to his friend Leigh Hunt (1784-1859) who felt that it could not be published safely following government censorship in the aftermath of Peterloo. Others also refused to publish the poem and it did not come out in print until 1832.

Alexander Lock
Curator, Modern Archives and Manuscripts

Further reading:
Peterloo
'The Masque of Anarchy’

 

23 July 2019

Finding Mermanjan – the star of the evening Part 4

We’ve reached the final instalment in our story of Mermanjan.

Mermanjan, distraught at the sudden loss of her beloved husband, was taken in by a General and his wife who were fervent evangelical Christians.  They persuaded her to be baptised at Poona in December 1861 in the hope that she would meet Thomas in heaven.

Portrait of Mermanjan

Portrait of MermanjanPortraits of Mermanjan, probably by Thomas Maughan - India Office Private Papers Mss Eur E304/5 (Copyright - heirs of Thomas and Mermanjan Maughan)

On 5 November 1863 Merrmanjan married an Irish Roman Catholic doctor Francis Ronanyne O’Kearney, who was attracted by the ‘comfortable little fortune left to her’ by Thomas.  This was no romantic relationship: ‘she told him plainly that her first husband held all her heart and always would’. During the early years of her second marriage she travelled and visited many of the capitals of Europe, but she found she was suffering from glaucoma and she eventually became totally blind.

My great-grandmother Beatrice became firm friends with Mermanjan after the Dimmocks were posted to Mahableshewar in 1889.  Beatrice wrote of the O’Kearneys: ‘relations were obviously strained, but the ill-sorted couple still lived together.  Little by little she poured her troubles into my ear, and occasionally I had a glimpse of the terrible violence of her anger against her husband, long unfaithful to her and becoming more and more insulting and indifferent to any attempt at disguising his feelings’. 

Beatrice moved to Bombay in 1892. She soon received news that Dr O’Kearney had brought a charge of infidelity against Mermanjan and had  ‘lodged his complaint against her in the High Court of Bombay to obtain separation from her’.   The man named was a blacksmith with whom Mermanjan used to read the Koran, together with her Muslim house staff.  ‘The disgrace and disgust nearly turned her brain’ – she was 68 and the blacksmith only 25, a ‘low born workman!’.   She was confined to her room and followed by her husband and sister-in-law every time she left the house and was worried that she would lose claim to her belongings if she left without her husband’s permission. As she was blind, Mermanjan found a kindly librarian who wrote to Beatrice to ask for her help. 

Letter from the librarian in Mahableshewar to Beatrice Dimmock Letter from the librarian in Mahableshewar to Beatrice Dimmock

Letter from the librarian in Mahableshewar to Beatrice Dimmock concerning Mrs O’Kearney (Mermanjan) 1894 - India Office Private Papers Mss Eur E304/15 (Copyright - heirs of the author of the letter)

Mermanjan was grudgingly allowed to travel to Bombay to obtain legal advice with Beatrice’s help.  Eventually the case was settled out of court when O’Kearney realised that he ‘would simply be washing his dirty linen in public with no advantage to himself’.  He even expressed himself ‘willing to forgive and forget etc.’ but Mermanjan said that she did not want to see his face again. O’Kearney returned to Ireland and Mermanjan bought a small house in the hills at Satara.

Then Mermanjan’s health began to fail, and she became ‘querulous and irritable’.  It was not deemed acceptable for a Muslim woman to live apart from her husband so she wrote to O’Kearney forgiving him.  He joined her in Satara, though it was not a happy household.  O’Kearney died in 1911 after catching a cold.  Mermanjan died of heart disease in 1917, aged 84, and was buried by the side of her second husband.

Mermanjan’s treasured relics and papers were left to her friend Beatrice. She handed them down to her daughter Gertrude who pieced together the story: ‘Mermanjan, Star of the Evening,  who may  shine once more and the story of her life may light up those other lives, like the brilliance of an Indian sky at night, uncovering some small piece of the making of what was once an Empire’. 

Felicia Line
Independent researcher

Further reading:
Gertude Dimmock, Mermanjan, Star of the Evening (Hendon Publishing Co. Nelson, 1970) 
India Office Private Papers Mss Eur E304 Maughan Collection
IOR/N/3/35 f.278 Meermanjan’s baptism at Poona 13 December 1861
IOR/N/3/37 ff.307, 312 Marriage of Mermanjan to Francis O’Kearney at Roman Catholic and Church of England ceremonies, Poona 5 November 1863
IOR/N/3/106 f.329 Burial of Francis O’Kearney
IOR/N/3/117 f.276 Burial of Mermanjan [Her name is generally spelled Meermanjan or Meerman Jan in official records]

Finding Mermanjan Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

16 July 2019

Finding Mermanjan – the star of the evening Part 3

We continue our story of Mermanjan and Thomas Maughan.

The couple moved to Bombay soon after Thomas was promoted to Major in 1849.  In 1854 he became Lieutenant Colonel.  When the Indian Rebellion or ‘Mutiny’ broke out, Thomas was Political Secretary in Kolhapur.  Thomas recounts how he disagreed with ‘the cruel destruction of (36) wretched creatures shot in cold blood, many of the aged men on the verge of the grave… Our troops had not been fired at, and there was no necessity, in truth no excuse for the butchery’.  As a result of Thomas’s disagreements with his superiors, which had taken a toll on his health,  he was ‘turned out’ of his appointment and granted 15 months furlough (leave) in England.

Excerpt from Bombay Gazette 22 January 1858

Excerpt from Bombay Gazette 22 January 1858 Excerpt from Bombay Gazette 22 January 1858 - India Office Private Papers Mss Eur E304/11

Mermanjan and Thomas had been living together bound by the Muslim ‘Nikkah’ ceremony and they were both convinced of the validity of their union.  However 'gossip was busy’ and Thomas realised that their unique union was viewed with suspicion by his British friends: it would ‘injure his reputation and hers if they were not made man and wife in the eyes of his world’.  Perhaps prompted by the imminent visit to England, they were married on 19 January 1858 by the registrar for Bombay at his home. 

For a while they lived in London, where Thomas had relations. Mermanjan was ‘shy and retiring by nature, but of great spirit’, and she was greatly celebrated and made a few good English friends, including Thomas’s niece Eliza with whom she corresponded. Thomas appears to have composed the ‘Nina waltz’ for his wife, using his pet name for his wife. 
 

Music in Mermanjan’s possession, Nina’s Waltz possibly by Thomas MaughanMusic in Mermanjan’s possession, Nina’s Waltz by Thomas Maughan? (name of composer has been torn away) - India Office Private Papers  Mss Eur E304 (Copyright - heirs of Thomas and Mermanjan Maughan?)

By September 1858 they had moved to a country house, Wrotham Place in Kent. Mermanjan must have caused a stir amongst the locals who would have thought her an exotic visitor to the village. Thomas and Mermanjan were invited by Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort to stay at Windsor Castle.  Mermanjan was well received at court and ‘bore herself well’.

Sketch of Victorian women Sketch of Victorian women

Sketches of Victorian women - India Office Private Papers Mss Eur E304/5 (Copyright - heirs of Thomas and Mermanjan Maughan)

By 1860 Mermanjan and Thomas were back in Poona. They found many changes. The East India Company had been wound up in the wake of the Rebellion and its armies had been absorbed into Her Majesty’s Army.  Thomas was ‘fretting at continued unemployment’ and his health ‘was not good’.

On 3 July 1861, aged only 55, Thomas ‘died very suddenly, after taking a dose of medicine wrongly made up by the native apothecary’.  The prescription was later described as being a ‘lethal dose’, which ‘no reputable chemist would make up … without reference to the doctor who made it’.

Mermanjan was left alone in India grieving for Thomas, a widow at the age of 28 estranged from her family. None of the papers mentions any children, but some baby clothes and shoes were found among her possessions which suggests that maybe Mermanjan lost a child too. 

Mermanjan’s tragedy and hardships did not end there – Part 4 will take us to the end of her fascinating life.

Felicia Line
Independent researcher

Further reading:
Gertude Dimmock, Mermanjan, Star of the Evening (Hendon Publishing Co. Nelson, 1970) 
India Office Private Papers Mss Eur E304 Maughan Collection
Finding Mermanjan Part 1, Part 2, Part 4
IOR/N/11/1 f.412 Marriage of Thomas Maughan and Mermanjan at Bombay 19 January 1858 [her name is generally spelled Meermanjan or Meerman Jan in official records]

 

20 June 2019

A mother’s appeal for an Indian Army cadetship

An apparently ordinary early-20th century application for a King’s India cadetship within the India Office Records contains a traumatic story from the time of the Indian Uprising or ‘Mutiny’.

On 31 January 1908 Mrs Louisa Sutherland of Bedford took it upon herself to pen an appeal to the War Office on behalf of her teenage son.  Her five-page letter was forwarded, and reached the India Office on 10 February. 

Letter from Louisa Sutherland to the War OfficeIOR/L/MIL/7/13035 Noc

Her reason for writing was unambiguous: ‘The request and favour I now humbly and respectfully crave is that my son Herbert Orr Sutherland may be granted a King’s Honorary Cadetship in His Majesty’s Indian Army, on his passing the necessary qualifying examination … My desire is to secure for him a Commission … beyond the accident of the matter of a few marks in an open competition …'. 

Mrs Sutherland's father, Captain Patrick James Orr, had been an Assistant Commissioner in the freshly annexed state of Oudh when native troops rebelled in May 1857.  Five-year-old Louisa and her mother Hannah were sent by night to seek the protection of a local Rajah, while Captain Orr stayed at his post to protect the Treasury.  Things, however, did not go to plan:
‘ … my Father was recognized by some of the men of his old regiment who called upon him to throw down his arms and said they would spare his life.  He was notoriously feared, loved and respected by the men who had served under him, and it was through the fidelity of these men that he … was escorted by them and placed under the protection of that same Rajah …'.

This protection proved illusory, however, for they spent more than two months in the jungle ‘ … exposed to the prowlings of wild animals, to the fiery heat and torrential rains of a tropical climate, without any shelter or covering, bare-footed and with scanty tattered clothing, and subsisting on the coarsest and poorest of diet barely sufficient to keep body and soul together …'.

Tiger drinking from a  jungle pool Foster 884 - John Trivett Nettleship, Tiger drinking at a jungle pool (c.1880) Images Online

The family and the small number of Europeans who were with them were sold to the mutineers at Lucknow, which they reached on 26 October.  The four men in the party were then taken out and shot on 16 November.  Incredibly, in mid-February 1858 ‘ … after some negotiations between General Outram’s camp and one of the officials of the Rebel Durbar I was smuggled out of the City as a corpse after having been coloured to represent a native child’.

View from Outram's headquarters at Lucknow1781.c.13 - View from General Outram's headquarters at Lucknow from General views and special points of interest of the city of Lucknow, from drawings made on the spot by D. S. D[odgson] Images Online

On 19 March Mrs Orr and Miss Madeline Jackson, the only other surviving European from the original party, were rescued, and mother and child were re-united the following day.  Mrs Sutherland sought to bolster her case by mentioning that two of her paternal uncles had served on General Outram’s staff.

If Louisa Sutherland thought that recounting her family’s dreadful sufferings would melt the hearts of the India Office’s bureaucracy and gain a cadetship for her son, she was to be cruelly deceived. The cover of the file bears the word ‘Ineligible’.

Front cover of file about applications for King’s India cadetships IOR/L/MIL/7/13035 Noc


Hedley Sutton
Asian & African Studies Reference Services Team Leader

Further reading:
IOR/L/MIL/7/13035 Collection 288/27 Application by Mrs Sutherland for honorary King's India Cadetship for her son, as special case on account of Mutiny experience
M Wylie (ed.) The English captives in Oudh: an episode in the history of the mutinies of 1857-58,  (1858)
Martin Richard Gubbins, An Account of the Mutinies in Oudh, and of the Siege of the Lucknow Residency (1858)

 

18 June 2019

Findings from the Bindings: Nazi Era Spoliation Research at the British Library III – The Collection of Lucien Graux

There is a book-stamp on the front pastedown of Davis 692, Johann Carion, Chronica Carionis…Auffs neuve in Lateinischer Sprach beschrieben, und…vermehret…durch Herrn Philippum Melanthonem, und Doctorem Casparum Peucerum, Wittenberg: H. Krafft, 1573.  This indicates that the volume was formerly in the collection of Lucien Désiré Prosper Graux (1878-1944).  Graux’s name appears on a report listing French Private Collections compiled in 1943 by the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in War Areas (The Roberts Commission), as part of their identification of cultural property at risk on the European continent.

  Record of American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historical MonumentsRecords of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historical Monuments in War Areas (The Roberts Commission), 1943-1946, National Archives, College Park, Maryland, M1944, Record Group 239, Roll 0021

Dubbed the ‘Prince of Bibliophiles,’ and collecting over two decades, Graux amassed one of the largest and most spectacular private collections of books and manuscripts in the first half of the twentieth century in France.  Consisting of over 10,000 volumes, the collection excelled in  French, German and Italian literature, fine-bindings, historical and literary manuscripts, music, and illustrated books, amongst others.  Housed in his mansion at 33 Avenue Kleber in Paris, books were not the only pursuits for which Graux was noteworthy: as a doctor, entrepreneur, writer and publisher, Graux crossed disciplinary boundaries, and contributed widely to medical, social, political and literary fields.
 

Ex-libris of Doctor Lucien-Graux on the front pastedown of Davis 692Detail, Ex-libris of Doctor Lucien-Graux on the front pastedown of Davis 692

Graux received his early training in medicine, finding success in his position as editor of the Gazette Médicale de Paris, and shortly thereafter wealth in filing a patent for the drug Urodonal.  At the end of the First World War, Graux turned his attention toward the founding of Arys, a perfume company.  He became an advisor to a number of French ministries during the 1920s, including the foreign trade, for which he oversaw a number of diplomatic missions.  His work for the French state ultimately earned him the title, Knight of the Legion of Honour.  Another venture, Graux’s publishing house Les Amis du docteur, published bibliophilic booklets, original engravings, and his own historical and biographical essays, fantastical novels, and topics including, medicine, science, and the occult, further reflecting his vast, varied and interdisciplinary interests.

With his interests in the occult and supernatural, some have referred to him as a spiritualist.  But his response to the depredation of man during the Second World War might characterize him as a humanist.  In June 1940, shortly after the German occupation of France, Graux joined the resistance.  Discovered and arrested by the Gestapo in the spring of 1944, he was deported to the Dachau concentration camp in June, where he was murdered on 10 October 1944.

Despite the wide-scale confiscation and looting of property throughout France under the Nazi occupation, and the Roberts Commission’s identification of Graux’s collection being at risk, Graux’s collection remained intact.  Retained by his widow, Mme Lucien Graux (née Léontine de Flavigny), Graux’s library was sold through the Galerie Charpentier at Hotel Drouot Auction house, Paris, in nine sales between 1953 and 1957.

Davis 692 is presumed to have been purchased from the sale on 26 January 1957 by antiquarian book-seller Bernard Breslauer, from whom it was purchased by Henry Davis on 6 August 1959.  In addition to Davis 692, many works under Graux’s authorship can be found in the British Library Catalogue.

Antonia Bartoli
Spoliation Curator, British Library Printed Heritage Projects

Further information:
The Nazi Destruction and Looting of Libraries public lecture given by Antonia Bartoli.
Findings from the Bindings: Nazi Era Spoliation Research I - The Nazi Destruction and Looting of Libraries
Findings from the Bindings: Nazi Era Spoliation Research at the British Library II - the Collection of Jean Furstenberg 

 

04 June 2019

Findings from the Bindings: Nazi Era Spoliation Research at the British Library II - the Collection of Jean Furstenberg

Included in the Henry Davis Gift at the British Library is Davis 874: Ordinarium missae pontificalis, Venice, 1595, MS with a named scribe: Fr. Cyprianus Mantegarrius.  This manuscript is recorded in Répertoire des biens spoliés en France durant la guerre 1939-1945, an inventory compiled and published between 1947 and 1949 documenting the loss of French collections during the Second World War.  Described as ‘Ordinarium — Мissæ pontificales. Venise, ms. italien de 1595 copié par Fr. Cyprianus Montegarius (no. 396 32.069)’, the manuscript is listed as missing from the collection of Мonsieur Jean Furstenberg.

Page from Répertoire des biens spoliésRépertoire des biens spoliés en France durant la guerre 1939-1945, tome VII Archives, Manuscript et livres rares, no 396 32.069 British Library General Reference Collection S.F.925  Noc

Jean, formerly Hans, Furstenberg (1890-1982) was a prominent German-French banker and book collector, with a vast collection excelling in French and Italian editions dating between the 16th and 19th centuries.  In 1938, as a Jew living in Nazi Germany, Furstenberg was forced to flee his home in Berlin.  By paying a punitive Reichsfluchtsteuer (flight tax), he was able to salvage his collection and transport his library with 16,000 volumes.  Settling in France, he took French citizenship, changed his name from Hans to Jean, and moved to the Renaissance castle Beaumesnil in Normandy.  However, in 1940, following the German occupation of France, Furstenberg was persecuted by the Gestapo, and fled to Switzerland.  Shortly afterwards his collection was confiscated by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, a Nazi looting task force, and brought back to Germany.  There it was transferred to the Zentral Bibliothek der Hoch Schule, the central library of a projected elite academy of the Nazi party.

Scratched out ex-libris of Monsieur Jean Furstenberg on the front pastedown of Davis 874 Detail, Scratched out ex-libris of Monsieur Jean Furstenberg on the front pastedown of Davis 874 Noc

Towards the end of the war, as the Third Reich’s loss became apparent, Nazi forces transferred their holdings of confiscated cultural property to depots throughout Germany and Austria.  Following liberation by allied forces, many items from Furstenberg’s collection were recovered at two castles in Annenheim and Tanzenberg, Germany.  Davis 874 was one of the items recovered postwar by Furstenberg.  It was offered for sale in London in 1958 by antiquarian bookseller Bernard Breslauer, the son of the German antiquarian bookseller Martin Breslauer and another German-Jewish émigré, who fled as a result of Nazi persecution.

Martin’s bookshop in Germany had been in Unter den Linden and subsequently in the Franzosenstrasse, areas very close to the young Fürstenberg’s family’s business.  The catalogue advertising Davis 874 was issued to mark the 60th anniversary of the foundation of the firm Martin Breslauer.  In a preface by Bernard Breslauer called ‘1898-1958,’ he discusses the life and career of Martin Breslauer, and mentions Hans Furstenberg amongst his father’s friends.  Bernard describes how the young Furstenberg made the acquaintance of his father, and how this developed into a genuine friendship.  Martin had evidently helped the young Furstenberg to form his bibliophilic tastes.

Antonia Bartoli
Spoliation Curator, British Library Printed Heritage Projects

Further information:
The Nazi Destruction and Looting of Libraries public lecture given by Antonia Bartoli.

Findings from the Bindings: Nazi Era Spoliation Research I - The Nazi Destruction and Looting of Libraries

Findings from the Bindings: Nazi Era Spoliation Research at the British Library III – The Collection of Lucien Graux

 

21 May 2019

Findings from the Bindings: Nazi Era Spoliation Research I - The Nazi Destruction and Looting of Libraries

Between 1933 and 1945, the Nazi regime was responsible for the confiscation, destruction, looting, and coerced sale of hundreds of millions of art objects and other items of cultural, historical and religious significance from public and private collections throughout Nazi-occupied Europe.  While stories of paintings and art collections have received academic, institutional and public attention, the history of the Nazi looting of books, manuscripts, and other printed material, from public and private collections, is lesser known.

The exact numbers accounting for total loss and destruction can only be estimated, due to the widespread nature, and sheer volume of the plunder and destruction.  Recent studies, however, have indicated that 22 million volumes from 37,000 libraries, not including private libraries, were affected.  While many volumes were either burned, or sent to paper mills and re-purposed, others were retained for study, or sold to profit the Third Reich.  Likewise, numerous private collectors as well as book-dealers and antiquarian businesses were forced to liquidate their collections and either abandon their stock or sell them for below market value.

An American soldier amongst cultural property looted by the Nazis and stored in a church at Elligen, Germany in 1945. An American soldier amongst cultural property looted by the Nazis and stored in a church at Elligen, Germany in 1945.
Credit: National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, MD

At the end of the war, the western allies came across numerous repositories throughout Germany, and recently liberated territories within Europe, filled with the cultural property the Nazis had systematically plundered.  Specialist units of the armed forces were tasked with sorting and classifying the material, and where original owners could be identified, restituting the items, or returning them to their country of origin.  The post-war restitution and repatriations were not always comprehensive, however, nor were original owners able to be identified.  Likewise items that were sold on the market or changed hands between 1933 and 1945 have continued to circulate, ending up in public or private collections, or on the market, necessitating further research.

In 1998, the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi-Confiscated Art developed a consensus of non-binding principles to which forty nations signed on in a pledge to research Nazi confiscated cultural property, and achieve just and fair solutions for object restitutions.  With the UK as a signatory, and as a national institution, the British Library take its duties seriously to identify collection items that might have been confiscated, lost, sold under duress, or otherwise displaced, between the period 1933-1945.

Most recently, investigations have focused on the Henry Davis Collection of Bookbindings: an encyclopaedic collection of cloth, panel, painted, paper, embroidered, and leather-bound bindings spanning from the 12th through 20th century, made across the globe, and acquired from dealers and at auction between the 1930s and 1970s.  Gifted by Henry Davis, O.B.E, (1897-1977) to the British Museum in 1968, the collection came to the British Library in 1972.

The present blog post is the first in a series of five to highlight these investigations, share our most recent findings, and to illustrate provenance research methodology that is conducted on a daily basis within the library.

Antonia Bartoli
Spoliation Curator, British Library Printed Heritage Projects

Further information:
The Nazi Destruction and Looting of Libraries public lecture given by Antonia Bartoli.

Findings from the Bindings: Nazi Era Spoliation Research at the British Library II - the Collection of Jean Furstenberg

Findings from the Bindings: Nazi Era Spoliation Research at the British Library III – The Collection of Lucien Graux

 

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