The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) was a complex and divisive conflict that defines Spanish identity to this day. This recent acquisition, a cash book and diary (dietario) kept by a wealthy woman living on Mallorca, in the Balearic Islands, highlights daily life in 1936, during the first year of the war.
The largest of the Balearic Islands, Mallorca was a locus of nationalist sentiment from early on. Republican forces waged a hard fought battle to win the island back, between July and September of 1936, but were ultimately defeated by the nationalists’ superior air power. On September 4, the island was definitely taken and, over the course of the war, Mallorca served as an important air and naval base for Franco’s fascist forces.
From January to June, before the war touched Mallorca in any major way, this cash book’s owner, a resident of the city of Manacor, recorded mundane details of daily household life. These included expenses – money spent on food, amounts paid to household servants for cleaning, and pious donations to parish churches, religious orders, and the local hospital. She also recorded income, primarily from a rental house located at the port of Palma, and provided occasional recipes, written in a mix of Catalan and Spanish.
This page, from January 31, includes a recipe for coques, a traditional sweet or savory pastry common in the Balearic Islands, Catalonia, and adjacent regions.
By July, however, observations related to the war begin to appear in the diary and these become its main content through the end of the Battle of Mallorca, on September 4. As early as July 20, an entry reports fighting between republican and nationalist contingents, in the streets of the city of Palma de Mallorca. “This afternoon at the town hall there was fighting between the town guards and the fascists and national police. The national police gave up, seeing that they didn’t have the numbers and not one shot was fired, thanks be to God.”
On August 16, when Republican forces, supported by destroyers and coast guard ships, disembarked at Palma de Mallorca, the cash book states, “this morning at 5 am, an alarm was rung, and the communists entered the port to take possession of everything and the troops came from Palma and the fascists and the rest of our countrymen, with rifles, and they [all] went to defend us…” There were “miles of reds,” and many victims, according to the entry.
Subsequent entries describe the altercations, bombings, gunfire, and the deaths that occurred, primarily in the port city of Palma de Mallorca, before the island was definitively taken by the nationalists on September 4, 1936.
In addition to war-related details, the writer lists magazine subscriptions, organization memberships, and birth and death dates for her family members in the rear of the book.
This cash book and diary complements other materials related to the Spanish Civil War in our rare collections and offers an intriguing research opportunity for a budding student of history!
James Gillray’s New Morality (1798) is a loaded work from one of England’s greatest caricaturists at the height of his powers. The eighteenth-century had witnessed a flowering of both English art generally (with, for example, the establishment of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1768), and caricature specifically, especially in the work of Gillray’s predecessor, William Hogarth (1697 – 1764; for an example in RBSC, see Hogarth’s illustrations for Hudibras, below), although some care should be taken with terminology. Hogarth was concerned enough by the slight implied by “caricature,” that he created a print in 1743, “Characters and Caricaturas,” to emphasis his separation from the latter style. As the editors of the Public Domain Review write, “for Hogarth the comic character face, with its subtle exploration of an individual’s human nature, was vastly superior to the gross formal exaggerations of the grotesque caricature.”
Comic grotesquery would remain controversial, but it provided a powerful vehicle for visual expression, and its exaggeration need not imply a lack of technical mastery. Gillray was an early member of the Royal Academy (admitted April, 1778), and during “a sabbatical” from satirical work in 1783-85, he produced capable, non-satiric prints ranging “from nostalgic pastoral illustrations to ‘eyewitness’ reconstructions of celebrated marine disasters” for Robert Wilkinson” (Hill xx). His failure to “secure commissions” from Benjamin West and John Boydell (an example of whose famous Shakespeare illustration commissions, featured in the RBSC’s “Constructing Shakespeare” Spotlight Exhibit in 2016, can be found in RBSC holdings Graphic Illustrations and A Collection of Prints), helped determine his future direction; by “the early nineties Gillray finally decided to devote himself fully to the profession of caricature” (Hill xxi). Although his earlier “commercial failure was absolute and ignominious, yet it is paradoxical that his laborious hours cutting and notching with his engraver’s burin and stippling tools should have immeasurably strengthened his hand as a caricaturist” (Godfrey 15). Nor was capturing the exaggerated likenesses a trivial exercise. Without the benefit of willing models, let alone photographs, artists had to hunt “on big game safaris in the wilds of Westminster” and memorize faces from afar – “Earl Spencer, when warned decades later that there was a caricaturist in the gallery of the House of Lords, shrank on the front bench and ‘sat huddled-up [with his] face and beard in his knees’” (Hill x).
By the time Gillray produced The New Morality, in 1798, he was making some of his “most artistically brilliant and inventive images” (Hallett 36). He had also settled down from the pose of “a detached, cynical ‘hired gun,’ concealing any actual political convictions beneath a veil of ambivalence and irony” to a closer apparent alignment with the Tory government, which some allege was stirred by “a secret annual pension of £200” from 1797-1801 (Hill xxii and Hallett 35). Indeed, The New Morality was commissioned for the Anti-Jacobin Magazine (though also issued on its own) to go along with the poetical “New Morality” of George Canning, politician and eventual prime minister in 1827. The imputation of bribery was a detractor and source of embarrassment for some critics, though Gillray’s sympathies had started to manifest some years before the pension.
The allegorical density of The New Morality makes the image ripe for close and detailed analysis – an intense engagement supported by the magnifying glass of high resolution scanning at RBSC. The bookseller, Bernard Quaritch Ltd, describes the tableau thus:
On the right of the print is Lépaux, a member of the French Directory who had given prominence to Paine’s Theophilanthropic sect, preaching from a stool and attended on his dais by grotesque Jacobin creatures, while behind him are the monstrous embodiments of Justice, Philanthropy (devouring the globe) and Rousseauian Sensibility. Prostrated immediately before Lépaux are the two ass-headed figures of Coleridge and Southey, clutching their works, behind whom is seen the ‘Cornucopia of Ignorance’ and a flowerpot of plants resembling Jacobin hats with cockades. Out of the water rolls the monstrous Leviathan, resembling the misled Duke of Bedford (he has a fishhook through his nose), on whose neck rides the filthy Thelwall; on his back are Fox, Tierney and Nichols, waving their red bonnets[.] Emerging from the waves behind the Duke are diminutive sea-monsters and horned creatures clutching their works, while in the sky fly five grotesque birds, all representing various political radicals. In the foreground is a train of monsters: Paine as a crocodile (crying proverbial tears); Holcroft as a dwarfish figure in spectacles and leg-braces (Southey thought the likeness to be accurate); Godwin as an ass reading his Political Justice; and a snake representing David Williams, founder of the Royal Literary Fund.
(N.B. The acquisition of Gillray’s New Morality at RBSC coincides with the acquisition of a number of books written by “the filthy Thelwall”; RBSC’s holdings of Thelwall can be found here). The image’s breathless and baroque movement across a vast cultural landscape of major and minor political, philosophical, and poetical figures is a visceral reminder that a highly charged, partisan news media is hardly a twenty-first century invention. Graphical satires “functioned as powerful supplements to, and interventions in, the predominantly textual sphere of political journalism and printed social commentary [… in which newspapers and journals] were frequently subsidised [sic] by either the government or the opposition, and consequently functioned as propagandist mouthpieces for their policies” (Hallett 35).
The physical qualities of the print are noteworthy in their own right. While the plate was designed for mass printing, the print itself bears witness to bespoke treatment in its coloration. According to Draper Hill, “individual copperplate etchings, available plain or exquisitely colored by hand, were collector’s items from the moment of issue,” and perhaps most interesting, we “know nothing” of Gillray’s “colorists; presumably they were teams of extremely accomplished ladies working in relays” for the female printseller Hannah Humphrey, at whose residence Gillray lodged (ix, xi). Ironically, Gillray’s “technical wizardry” with his engraving tools “would be concealed by the bright hand colouring which became the norm for a published print” (Godfrey 15). Nevertheless, the colorized prints bear witness to a partnership with artisan labor, rendering each one a unique production.
Godfrey, Richard T. “Introduction.” James Gillray: The Art of Caricature, Tate Gallery Publishing, 2001, pp. 11–21, 38.
Hallett, Mark. “James Gillray and the Language of Graphic Satire.” James Gillray: The Art of Caricature, Tate Gallery Publishing, 2001, pp. 23–37, 39.
Hill, Draper, editor. The Satirical Etchings of James Gillray. Dover Publications, 1976.
Our colleague Doug Archer, a longtime activist for intellectual freedom and a Freedom to Read Foundation Roll of Honor awardee, has always used Banned Books Week as a time to raise awareness of threats to intellectual freedom. During this year’s Banned Books Week (September 27 to October 3), since Doug is enjoying his well-earned retirement, we decided to dive into our collections and identify books whose circulation has been impeded in different times and places.
In this post, you will find an assortment of examples that show various types of books and the ways that they have been withheld, by government or by church, nationally or locally, in various parts of the world.
This was the poster for our 2008 exhibit on the Index of Prohibited Books, curated by Benjamin Panciera (now Director of Special Collections and Archives at Connecticut College). The Freedom to Read and the Care of Souls: The Index of Prohibited Books since the Enlightenment examined how the Catholic Church sought to influence the circulation of ideas in the 19th and 20th centuries and what sort of material was considered dangerous.
The Index Librorum Prohibitorum, a list compiled by the Catholic Church over a period of four centuries, consisted of a large number of books that lay Catholics were not permitted to read. Galileo’s Dialogo dei massimi sistemi [Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems] was added to the Index in 1634 and was not removed until 1822. In addition, Galileo was tried for heresy in 1633 and placed under house arrest, where he remained until his death almost a decade later.
One of the most famous pronouncements on censorship of a literary work, which occurred in the U.S., is that of Judge Woolsey on James Joyce’s Ulysses. This was widely reported in newspapers at the time.
James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” a novel which has been banned from the United States by custom censors on the ground that it might cause American readers to harbor “impure and lustful thoughts,” found a champion yesterday in the United States District Court.
Federal Judge John M. Woolsey, after devoting almost a month of his time to reading the book, ruled in an opinion which he filed in court that “Ulysses” not only was not obscene in a legal sense, but that it was a work of literary merit.
New York Times, December 7, 1933.
As we have seen in the case of Galileo (above), in various places and at various times in history, censorship has not only prevented people from access to certain books, but has sometimes punished, imprisoned, or publicly shamed their authors.
This rare book is an example of early Stalin propaganda. It became the first and only Stalin-era book that glorified the use of slave labor in the massive building projects of the 1930s. An estimated 170,000 prisoners worked in subhuman conditions on Belomorkanal, moving stones and digging the canal using their bare hands or primitive materials and technologies. Tens of thousands of inmates died during the twenty-one months of its construction (1931–33).
Commissioned by Stalin and published in Moscow in 1934 to coincide with the opening of the infamous XVII Party Congress, this book was presented as a souvenir to Congress delegates to celebrate the success of the First Soviet Industrial Five-Year Plan. Thirty-six Soviet writers and many leading artists, including the avant-garde photographer Aleksandr Rodchenko, visited the Canal and contributed their essays and photographic images of prisoners to praise the “transforming power” of the Gulag. By 1937, at the height of the Stalin Great Terror, the policy of “reeducating” class enemies through corrective labor was replaced by mass arrests, imprisonments and executions. The new policy called for the physical extermination of the “enemies of the people” and the obliteration of their names from the public record, including books. Four years after its publication, even this blatantly propagandist piece was found suspect and withdrawn from circulation; most copies were destroyed, and its many contributors were sent to the Gulag.
While many countries have not taken such extreme measures against authors, censorship has sometimes been carried out along with public shaming.
In Ireland, books that portrayed indecency or behavior that was not approved by the Catholic Church were often subject to censorship. A famous case was that of The Tailor and Ansty, Eric Cross’s book portraying the storytelling and commentary of a rural couple, Tadhg Ó Buachalla and his wife Anastasia, or Ansty. Not only was the book the subject of government debate over a four-day period, but the couple were visited by a priest (or three priests in some accounts) and ordered to burn their own copy of the book.
In the first decade of Ireland’s Free State, the Censorship of Publications Act, 1929, was enacted to prohibit the sale and distribution of “unwholesome literature”. Over the next forty years, hundreds of books were banned from sale in Ireland.
Ethel Voynich’s popular novel, The Gadfly, first published in the U.S. in 1897, was banned in Ireland in 1943. We had occasion to pull this book off the shelves as a Notre Dame student who is writing her senior thesis on this novel is particularly interested in why the book, popular elsewhere in Europe, was little known and also banned in Ireland.
Novels by Kate O’Brien were banned in Ireland and in Spain. The novel featured here, Land of Spices, was apparently banned in Ireland on account of one sentence in which the protagonist learns that her father was in a homosexual relationship. “She saw Etienne and her father in the embrace of love.” Thus the novel was deemed indecent and obscene.
Edna O’Brien, whose recent books include Girl (2019) and The Little Red Chairs (2016), is the author of novels that were very controversial in Ireland in the 1950s and ’60s. Her earliest novels, found offensive for their depiction of girls’ and women’s lives, including sexuality, were consistently banned by the Irish Censorship Board. O’Brien’s books circulated widely in spite of censorship, and the following account by Dónal Ó Drisceoil shows that the Irish Censorship Board was fighting a losing battle:
At a packed public meeting in Limerick in 1966, O’Brien asked for a show of hands as to how many had read her banned books: she was met with a sea of hands and much laughter.
Ó Drisceoil, 154
The censorship in Ireland of Frank O’Connor’s Kings, Lords, and Commons continues to provide amusement as the content that raised the censors’ concern was O’Connor’s translation of the acclaimed poem “Cúirt an Mheán Oíche” written in the eighteenth century by Brian Merriman. Much praised and valued as a literary work, the original Irish language text, and even earlier English translations, had never been censored, but this translation by O’Connor, conveying the humorous, hard-hitting language of sexually frustrated women, suggested that such lively discourse could exist in Irish-language literature, but not in English.
Once again, the Republic of Ireland is the place where this book by Hemingway was banned. This book and many others in our collection that could be freely read in the U.S. might not have been available to readers in Ireland and in other countries where such censorship was practiced. Examples of American books not allowed in Ireland for some time during the twentieth century include Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell (banned 1933), Manhattan Transfer by John Dos Passos (banned 1934) and For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway (banned 1941).
Moving from national censorship to local censorship, the Hesburgh Libraries’ shelves are filled with books that have been censored in some way, either by being removed from the shelves of libraries, or being challenged and banned by local school boards. This is the kind of censorship that is generally of concern to the American Library Association, and that is highlighted during Banned Books Week.
Judy Blume, an author whose books have often been removed from school libraries, has become a spokesperson against the censorship of books. Her 1970 book, Are you there, God? It’s Me, Margaret, has a young protagonist who muses on, and discusses, sexuality, menstruation, bras, and religion. Reasons that the book has been challenged and sometimes removed from library shelves include the sexual content and the treatment of religion.
Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, winner of the Newbery Medal in 1963, has frequently been challenged, e.g. by parents asking school districts to have the book removed from library shelves. The combination of science and religion in the book, along with a kind of magic or fantasy, is at the root of many of the challenges. The American Library Association’ Office for Intellectual Freedom compiles annual lists of books based on reports they receive from libraries, schools, and the media on attempts to ban books in communities across the country. For two decades, L’Engle’s novel was in the top one hundred challenged books.
More on the American Library Association’s findings on the books challenged throughout America may be learned by checking the Banned Books Week website.
Ó Drisceoil, Dónal. ‘The Best Banned in the Land: Censorship and Irish Writing since 1950’, in The Yearbook of English Studies 35 (2005), pp. 146-160. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3509330
Waterford-born artist William Hincks created a set of prints depicting linen production in the north of Ireland. It is assumed that he spent some time in Ulster, but this has not been documented. He published the prints in London in 1783, and the set was republished in 1791 by R. Pollard of Spafields, London.
The linen industry played an important part in Ireland’s economy, accounting for the occupations of a large proportion of the people of Ulster in the eighteenth century. The prints show a whole range of tasks performed in the pre-industrial production of linen, from ploughing and sowing flax seeds in a County Down field, to selling the linen at Dublin’s Linen Hall.
The fourth plate is the first with an indoor setting. Women, girls and a man are engaged in beetling, scutching and hackling. These were all very unfamiliar verbs for me, and I recommend the video of Ulster Folk Museum curator, Valerie Wilson, who describes the process of linen-making from beginning to end. The video is at the end of her blogpost, Warp and Weft: The Story of Linen in Ulster.
This print, the sixth in the series, shows women spinning, reeling, and boiling the yarn or thread.
Following spinning and boiling, the next print shows a weaving shed, with the tasks of winding, warping and weaving. At this time, Ulster had an estimated 40,000 weavers, so one can imagine that the activities depicted were common in villages and towns throughout the province.
As Irish economic history forms an important part of the Irish collections at the Hesburgh Libraries, we have many books treating various aspects of the linen industry. We are glad indeed to have a set of William Hincks’ prints, with their view of activities and equipment that were once an important part of Irish life.
RBSC is closed Monday, September 7th, for Labor Day.
In the fall of 2019, my fellow curator, Julie Tanaka, and I planned our exhibition, Paws, Hooves, Fins, and Feathers: Animals in Print, 1500-1800. This exhibition was an opportunity to share Rare Books and Special Collections’ holdings with South Bend community youth as much as a showcase of our natural histories featuring animals. We promoted the show with local school districts and arranged visits for first graders, second graders, and high school students.
Beyond tours, which are primarily a visual and aural experience, we wanted to provide a fun, hands on opportunity for local kids related to our exhibition. Touching, holding, and even smelling is integral to the experience of handling a book—especially an old book. We wanted young students to be able to feel the weight of traditional early modern wooden boards and handle a half leather binding. We wanted them to be able to view our woodcuts and engravings of an early modern rhinoceros, elephant, sloth, and other critters up close!
This desire to share the physical experience of a rare book with kids prompted us to explore the possibility of creating a facsimile of an early modern book that students could handle freely. As curators in a special collections setting, we interact frequently with conservators, our colleagues skilled in the treatment and preservation of books. They provide guidance on handling rare materials and perform repairs that facilitate use of our materials on a daily basis. This project, however, was a special opportunity to collaborate with our preservation department, particularly one of our conservators, Jen Hunt Johnson, and our current Gladys Brooks Fellow, Maren Rozumalski. The COVID-19 pandemic presented a challenge and has postponed our use of the facsimile, but it has nonetheless been completed! This blog post is an opportunity to share the facsimile with readers and to highlight the collaborations that often occur between curators and conservators.
Julie and I met with Jen, Maren, and Sara Weber, our digital project specialist (and the constant force behind this blog!) to flesh out the details of this project. Ultimately we decided to create a sort of composite facsimile volume comprised entirely of images selected from the works featured in our physical exhibition. Sara photographed the images that Julie and I selected. They were formatted and printed on heavyweight paper chosen to mimic the look and feel of early modern rag paper. Jen and Maren then performed the heavy labor to construct this artifact! In the following paragraphs, Jen describes her work on, and experience with, this project.
Creating opportunities to promote our collections is a goal that’s shared between curators and conservators. As the facsimile provides an opportunity to bring elements of the RBSC exhibit to a broader audience through school visits, and other programming, the project also introduces participants to the work that conservators do in the library to treat and preserve books. Handling this book offers a tactile experience to illustrate the ways in which an historic book structure functions, and allows the audience, particularly children, to handle materials such as paper, leather, and wood, that they may be less encouraged to interact with when encountering our rare and fragile materials. This is an opportunity for participants to feel engaged in an environment where there are often barriers and restrictions to objects that can limit the sense of personal connection.
Creating the facsimile during the initial outbreak of a pandemic was not without its challenges. Working remotely restricted access to tools, equipment, and a proper surface to work on. Coordinating decisions regarding printing, sewing, material choices, and also foreseeing and troubleshooting problems was much harder to do through emails and still images, as compared to face-to-face meetings, and ready access to materials and supplies. In the end, a patio table and clamps set up in my living room served as a sturdy station for preparing wooden boards. A lying press, non-slip foam shelf liners, and careful balancing made do for a job backer to secure the material being worked. A 12 x 12” granite floor tile made a reasonable weight, applying even pressure when drying large areas like endsheets when a book press was unavailable. I even had to source material from a mail order wood shop when I realized the original wooden board I had purchased to work with was too thick to fit our textblock, and local vendors were closed due to the pandemic. None of these situations were ideal, but working through the process and figuring out what worked was ultimately rewarding, and fun!
We are very excited about the final product that has emerged from this collaboration. Here we share some photographs of our unique creation, Compendium Animalium, and we look forward to sharing the volume in person in the future with students on campus and in the South Bend community!
“It is with bittersweet feeling I write to announce that Julie Tanaka accepted a position as Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts at Arizona State University. Julie is excited about the opportunities in the new position and I am very happy for her.” —Natasha Lyandres, Head of Special Collections
Julie Tanaka achieved so much that it’s difficult to believe that she arrived here less than eight years ago. Along with her role as Curator of Special Collections and as subject liaison for Western European History, Julie took on many more responsibilities in Special Collections and in the Hesburgh Libraries.
Julie’s impact on the role and visibility of the Rare Books and Special Collections has been appreciated throughout campus and beyond. In her willingness to partner with professors of History, English, Design, and other disciplines to plan excellent programs for research, she has set high standards for her fellow curators. In fact, she initiated and designed many programs that are now an integral part of RBSC.
Julie approaches the library world not as a gate-keeper but in the generous spirit of an educator who wishes everyone to learn and to benefit from the collection. Her outreach to professors who had not considered integrating rare books and other library materials in their courses has had great results. Julie applies the same high standards of planning, teaching and performance from tours for the children of Notre Dame’s Early Childhood Development Center to a research methods class for graduate students.
Julie’s commitment to outreach helped ensure that Rare Books & Special Collections was a welcoming place for students and faculty. But it wasn’t just members of the Notre Dame community who benefited from Julie’s vision.
Everyone who came in, from visiting researchers, who gained access to far more research materials than they originally anticipated, to football fans who happened to wander in on a rainy Football Friday just curious about what goes on behind the smoky glass walls on the first floor of the Hesburgh Library, left fascinated by the items housed in our department—all thanks to Julie. One notable visitor was a ten year old boy from Albania. Julie had noticed the young man and his English-language tutor visiting our exhibit room weekly. They liked to look at the books in the glass cases and study the English letters on the exhibit cards. Julie introduced herself and asked if, on their next visit, they would like to see some more items from Special Collections … outside the glass. Julie carefully choreographed a display for the young man. He left in awe of what he had seen, with a personalized Special Collections coloring book in hand, full of English letters and wonderful pictures to aid him in his studies. For the remainder of the semester he would come in to say hello and happily test out the new English words he had learned.
The current exhibit, Paws, Hooves, Fins & Feathers, co-curated with Erika Hosselkus, was planned with the greater community in mind. Julie and Erika curated an exhibit that highlights our remarkable natural history collection, with a well-planned outreach to local schools integrated into the plan. In light of the closure, they have transformed the physical exhibit in a digital one, Paws, Hooves, Fins, and Feathers Digital.
As a historian, Julie has been proactive in ensuring that Notre Dame’s students receive a good grounding in library and archival research, and her work over the years with library colleagues and with faculty from various departments, has resulted in the development of a series of classes and workshops carried out in the Special Collections.
Despite Julie’s dislike for our Midwestern winters, she was invariably the first person to arrive every morning. We expect her to send us regular notes about the warm temperatures in Arizona. And in return, we will send Julie pictures of any innovations we develop in the design of our reading room, because Julie taught us that there is an optimal way to arrange the classroom furniture for every class.
All of us in Rare Books and Special Collections send our best wishes to all of the 2020 graduates of the University of Notre Dame.
We would particularly like to congratulate the following students who have worked in the department:
Eve Wolynes (ND ’20), Ph.D., Department of History. Her dissertation is titled Migrant Mentalities: Reconstructing the Community Identity and World of Venetian Merchants in the Late Medieval Mediterranean.
Hannah Benchik (SMC ’20), Bachelor’s in Business Administration from Saint Mary’s College, with a minor in German from Notre Dame.
Jessica Saeli (ND ’20), Bachelor’s, double major in Philosophy and Russian.
In 1911, a new group of artists who called themselves Der Blaue Reiter organized its own exhibition and published an almanac also named Der Blaue Reiter. Edited by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc and published by Reinhard Piper in Munich, this volume contains a wide range of contributions including theoretical treatises on artistic form, vocal scores, children’s drawings, and illustrations of sculpture.
The formation of this group stemmed from an event involving Kandinsky. Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), the Moscow native who was among the pioneers of abstract art, composed ten works between 1910 and 1939 that he considered to be his most important paintings. These ten paintings constitute his Compositions of which seven survive; the first three were destroyed during the Second World War. The artist’s guiding principle for each of these works was what he called the “expression of feeling” or “inner necessity,” a combination of “perceptions that arise from the artist’s inner world [and] . . . the impressions the artist receives from external appearances.” (1) In these paintings, Kandinsky explored the manipulation of color and form, emphasizing the artist’s process of creation and “pure” painting.
During the process of creating Compositions, Kandinsky submitted Composition V (1911) to the Neue Künstlervereinigung (NKV) to be considered for inclusion in the NKV’s third exhibition in 1911. The NKV jury rejected his work on the grounds that it was too large though the rejection probably represented the opinions of a faction within this group who opposed Kandinsky’s experimentation to represent spiritual values in a new way. (2) Upon his work being rejected, Kandinsky along with Franz Marc and Gabriele Münter left the NKV. Joined by others including Paul Klee, August Macke, and Marianne von Werefkin who also rejected the NKV’s traditionalism, these artists founded Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider).
Special Collections’ copy of the 1912 printing of Der Blaue Reiter is one among a few works acquired related to German Expressionism. These acquisitions were made in collaboration with faculty in the German Department to support the undergraduate courses they teach. Notable among these works are:
Gottfried Benn, Söhne: neue Gedichte (Berlin-Wilmersdorf: A.R. Meyer Verlag, 1913). Rare Books Small PT 2603 .E46 S57 1913
Bertolt Brecht, Hauspostille (Berlin: Im Propyläen-Verlag, 1927). Rare Books Medium PT 2603 .R397 H3 1927
(1) Magdalena Dabrowski. Kandinsky Compositions (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1995), p. 11. Accessed April 12, 2020, https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015034282809 (\Access provided through HathiTrust Emergency Temporary Access Service).
(2) Shearer West, The Visual Arts in Germany, 1890-1937: Utopia and Despair (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2001), p. 65.
Contextualizing the turbulent landscape that beset France during the Revolution of 1789 is this set of nine texts spanning the years 1783 to 1785 . In 1783, the French gastronome, Alexandre-Balthazar-Laurent Grimod de la Reynière, hosted a fourteen-course feast, each course comprised of five dishes, for seventeen guests. A few days later, his Philosophical Reflexions on Le Plaisir; by a Bachelor went on sale to great acclaim. It went through three editions, launching the career of the first gastronomical critic.
This collection also features works of the well-known authors, Voltaire and Mirabeau (their Les Soirées Philosophiques du Cuisinier de Roi de Prusse (1785) and Sur Les Actions de la Compagnie des Eaux de Paris (1785) respectively), Antoine de Rivarol’s De the universality of the French language (1784) on the origins and characteristics of the French language, and several texts criticizing the social, economic, and political situation in France during the reign of King Louis XVI (r. 1774-92).
An extremely rare allegorical work from 1784 rounds out the collection. Using the pen name Francisco Xaviero de Meunrios, Louis de Bourbon (Louis XVI’s brother) who became King Louis XVIII (r. 1814-24), composed Historical description of a symbolic monster, taken living on the shores of Lake Fagua, near Santa-Fé, by Francisco Xaviero de Meunrios, Count of Barcelona and Viceroy of the New World. Sent by a local merchant to a Parisian friend.
The Description features two engravings of monstrous harpies; this is timely as Courier de L’Europe reported about these creatures for the first time in the same year. Their discovery in Santa Fé, Peru at Lake Fagua resulted in numerous depictions. It is extremely rare for both male and female amphibious monsters to appear in this type of printed tract and when they do, the plates are generally lacking.
Information used in this post provided by Gerald W. Cloud, Rare Books, Manuscripts, Archives, Petaluma, CA.