Les Quatre élémens appeared around 1830 in Paris printed by Maulde and Renou. These four miniatures—a mere 3.25 x 2 inches—were designed to teach French children about the properties of the four elements: earth, fire, water, and air.
Each volume is a tricesimo-secondo, more commonly referred to as a “32mo”. In book production, these terms refer to a single sheet that has been folded to produce 32 leaves (64 pages). Each volume has glazed pastel paper boards (covers) in lavender, yellow, green, and pink. Each front cover is blindstamped with a decorative frame that surrounds a raised vignette representing the element featured in the volume.
Inside of each book are two wood engravings. One of the engravings in La Terre depicts a family fleeing an earthquake (below) and its other shows farmers harvesting crops.
Le Eau contains wood engravings of a fisherman (above) as well as a flood. In Le Feu, children see a volcano erupting (below) as well as a display of fireworks.
In the fourth book, Le Air, a mother and her children look upon a hot air balloon (above) and in the other wood engraving, the winds blows a man’s hat off.
Special Collections’ acquisition of this fine example of nineteenth-century science education in France was a collaboration with Professor Robert Goulding (Program of Liberal Studies, Director of the Reilly Center, and Director of History and Philosophy of Science). Professor Goulding states that this set is “probably one of the last publications to teach the old system of the elements as a scientific theory.”
The pages of this 1844 album contain not poetry, fiction, or a personal journal, but rather very fine samples of embroidery, sewing, and lace making. Created and assembled by a young Belgian girl, E. Carlier, the album displays her skills. It also shows her abilities in penmanship and calligraphy; she executed a decorative title page for her album, which served as a dedication (to her mother).
Mademoiselle Carlier carefully sewed each piece of needlework onto the album’s pages and pasted in a short label written in a neat hand. The first item, which she called simply, “Marque,” is an alphabet sampler. The following pages include an embroidery sampler and sewing exercises, and miniature examples of a shirt, an apron, a dress, a corset, and an embroidered fichu, as well as samples of crochet, knitting, and other lace making.
Up through the middle of the nineteenth century, girls expressed significant accomplishment in needle arts through the form of sampler albums. This one is particularly finely done, but learning to sew and mastering more advanced skills of lacemaking remained an important part of many girls’ education.
This item is still in process and does not yet appear in the catalog.
Enhancing the German literature holdings is the recent acquisition of Faust: Eine Tragödie, the first edition of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s work published in 1808 by J. G. Cotta’schen Buchhandlung in Tübingen.
Faust, the two-part epic poem written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), a masterpiece of German literature, reflects the transforming world in which Goethe lived. Begun in the waning years of the Holy Roman Empire (the final dissolution marked by the abdication of Francis II on August 6, 1806) and almost a century before the unification of Germany in 1871 into a nation-state, Goethe’s work exhibits his understanding of the world in upheaval—the revolutions in America and France and the Napoleonic Wars, the rise of Romanticism in literature and art, the Kantian Revolution in philosophy, the Industrial Revolution in science, technology, and economics.
Goethe, drawing upon Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s call for German dramatists to establish their independence from the French and to treat the Faust tragedy as a specifically German theme began composing his version around 1773. Goethe’s work went through numerous stages. The earliest version, known as the Urfaust, was probably finished by 1775 and the next revision, known as Faust: Ein Fragment, appeared in 1790. After almost a decade, Goethe returned to Faust, adding the prologues, the second part of “Night”, and “Walpurgis Night.” This version now referred to as Part I was finished in 1806 and published two years later. Goethe continued to work on Faust sporadically in the 1820s and completed Part II in 1831 but sealed the completed manuscript—though he made a few final corrections in early 1832—to be published only after his death.
In composing Faust, Goethe drew upon the so-called Faust tradition of texts dating to the early Christian period, but this source base forms only a small part of what he used in his composition. Goethe anchors his Faust firmly in the European tradition, alluding to and parodying ancient Greek and Roman authors including Homer, Hesiod, Herodotus, Apollonius, and Ovid as well as the more contemporary figures of Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, and Calderón de la Barca.
This copy was bound by René Kieffer (1875-1964), one of the foremost Parisian binders of the early twentieth century. Kieffer was trained in classical techniques and worked as a gilder for a decade at the Chambolle-Duru bindery in Paris. After opening his own shop in 1903, he found new inspiration from the father-son binders Jean Michel (1821-90) and Henri François (1846-1925) in Paris. The influence of the latter’s use of curved stamps to work floral and leaf forms is evident in Kieffer’s work.
A fine example of Kieffer’s adoption of the Art Nouveau style, this copy of the first edition of Faust is bound in gilt-tooled green morocco over stiff paper boards. Four rectangular panels on the upper and lower boards display four central lily ornaments. Each rectangle has a floral ornament in the center with four lily corner-pieces. The covers bear a single gilt fillet border, and the spine is gilt-tooled morocco with five raised bands with panels that have a central rose with foliate ornaments on either side. “Goethe / Faust” in gilt lettering appears in the title panel at the top and the bottom panel bears 1808 below the floral ornament. Inside the book are brown morocco doublures (decorative linings, shown above) with a gilt broken circle. Lily ornaments break the line between the four large lily ornaments at top and bottom and either side. A single fillet border surrounds the five floral ornaments that form the upper and lower border. The free end-leaves are silken with diagonal beaded line grain, a full-page floral water-color on verso of free end-leaves. This fine volume is housed in a slip case also designed by Kieffer.
Brown, Jane K. “Faust.” In The Cambridge Companion to Goethe. Edited by Leslie Sharpe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Pp. 84-100.
Sharpe, Leslie. “Introduction.” In The Cambridge Companion to Goethe. Edited by Leslie Sharpe Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Pp. 1-5.
Sanjuan, Agathe. Les éditions René Kieffer, 1909-1950. Paris: A. Sanjuan, 2002. <http://www.chartes.psl.eu/fr/positions-these/editions-rene-kieffer-1909-1950/>.
Arwas, Victor. Art Nouveau: The French Aesthetic. London: Andreas Papadakis Publisher, 2002.
Roberts, Matt, Don Etherington, and Walter Henry. “Michel, Marius.” In Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2003. <http://cool.conservation-us.org/don/dt/dt2225.html/>.
By Jennifer Brcka, Processing Archivist for Special Collections
In the immediate wake of the Anschluss, or German annexation of Austria on March 12, 1938, the German Reich initiated a campaign against that nation’s Jewish citizens. The Seklers, a Viennese family, were victims of these actions, and later, of the Holocaust. The Hildegard Sekler Collection, a recent archival acquisition by Hesburgh Libraries’ Rare Books and Special Collections, records the family’s story through a series of letters and documents.
The collection consists of over 400 pieces of correspondence generated surrounding the separation of Leopold and Toni Sekler from their daughter, Hildegard. Most relate to Hildegard’s flight from Austria at the age of sixteen, and chiefly date from the years between 1939 and 1945. The bulk are personal letters and postcards sent to Hildegard by family, friends, and her tutor. A body of official correspondence with governmental and aid agencies has been preserved here, as well. More than 100 documents and personal papers are also found within the collection. These range from official records relating to Leopold’s career in the Vienna Finance Ministry to, less formally, Hildegard’s homework assignments, school notes, and essays.
This group of personal documents includes Leopold and Toni Sekler’s passports. In August of 1938, the German authorities enacted the Executive Order on the Law on the Alteration of Family and Personal Names. This order required Jews with non-Jewish first names to formally add “Israel” for males and “Sara” for females to their legal names. The Seklers were forced to comply. Three slips noting the name changes for each remain inserted in Leopold Sekler’s Passport. Following a similar pronouncement aimed at identifying Jewish citizens, Toni Sekler’s passport was stamped with a red “J”.
Letters illuminate desperation the family felt in the months that followed. Leopold Sekler appealed to Switzerland and the United States to obtain visas for the family to emigrate. His requests were met with delays and little success. Undeterred, he sought out directories and wrote to a handful of New Yorkers, strangers with the Sekler name, whom he hoped might provide support for a visa application. Replies from a Constance Sekler express frustration over past experiences with the Consulate in Vienna, as well as with her own limited resources. Empathetic, though unable to assist, she wrote, “Whether or not we are related isn’t of great importance because I am just as much interested in your welfare in any event.” A Jack Sekler, living in the Bronx, was able to offer support, though a quota system placed the Sekler family on a waiting list, and ultimately prevented their seeking asylum in America.
In January of 1939, a letter from the Welfare Headquarters of the Jewish Cultural Society advised that it had secured passage to England for Hildegard. At age 16, she quickly fled, unaccompanied, to London where she lived in a youth hostel. A wave of letters from her parents and concerned family and friends soon followed. Many capture the bleakness of the situation for those who remained in Austria. A March 14, 1939 letter sent by Trude Mesuse states (in German), “Furthermore, your father wants you to know, if he writes “ich” like this at the end or the beginning of a sentence, you ought to pay attention to this sentence and think about it, because it will have a particular meaning he can’t express clearly writing from Vienna. And you should be careful when you write, too.”
Many letters express the love and concern of parents separated from their only child. In a letter (in English) from her father on June 1, of 1940, he asks his “Dear Hilde” to, “[…] stay in the garden as long as possible and to sleep by open windows. You had better to speak only English, at home too. It would be better for all big girls. The German language you will not forget, I am sure. The conversation is the most important and the best mean to learn a language, believe me, I know it by experience.” By 1941, sending correspondence to countries at war with Germany was prohibited, and Leopold used the Red Cross Message Service to send his daughter greetings on her nineteenth birthday.
Further correspondence within the collection convey the uncertainties of life in London during the Blitz. Hildegard studied in London with a tutor, Dr. Judah Simon Goller, who wrote her frequently. In an undated letter he mentions two children, mutual acquaintances and also displaced minors, who had recently left London to be reunited with family. He muses, “So the twins have gone, and we are short two more. Please God, [may] they reach their parents in safety and soon forget all their sorrows, and remember sometimes the little joys they shared with us. I wonder what’s the good of telling me not to worry about the children when there’s a raid on? I just can’t help it.”
Hildegard continued, unsuccessfully, to seek a means for her parents to flee Austria. In October of 1942, Leopold and Toni Sekler were deported to Theresienstadt, a transit and labor camp. From there, the couple were transported to Auschwitz on October 12, 1944. Neither survived. Hildegard married her tutor, Dr. Goller, in 1960. She remained in London until her death in 2008.
Through materials largely in German or English (and occasionally in French), the Hildegard Sekler Collection presents a unique view of the Anschluss and its aftermath, unaccompanied child refugees of the Holocaust, wartime experiences in London, and personal histories of prisoners of Theresienstadt. The collection (MSE/MD 6408) is open for research in Rare Books and Special Collections, and a detailed finding aid can be found online.
Friday, January 25 at 1:30pm |Panel Presentations in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, featuring William Collins Donahue (Director of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies), Judy Shroyer (the Jewish Federation), and Kevin Cawley (University of Notre Dame Archives). After the panel discussion, all attendees are invited to the Scholars Lounge for a reception.
The spring exhibit, As Printers Printed Long Ago: The Saint Dominic’s Press 1916-1936, curated by Dennis Doordan (Emeritus Professor, Notre Dame School of Architecture), opens in January and runs through the summer. The exhibition features different types of publications and posters produced by Saint Dominic’s Press, setting the story of the press within the larger history of the private press movement in England and examining its artistic as well as literary achievements.
The current spotlight exhibits are: Theresienstadt (Terezín), in remembrance of all the victims of the Holocaust (January – February 2019), and Creeley/Marisol: Presences, an exhibit occasioned by the 2018 publication of a critical edition of Presences, edited by Stephen Fredman, Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Notre Dame (January – February 2019).
If you would like to bring a group to Special Collections or schedule a tour of any of our exhibits, please email rarebook @ nd.edu or call 574-631-0290.
Friday, November 9 at 3:00pm | Operation Frankenstein: “Melodramatic Frankenstein: Radical Content in a Reactionary Form” by Jeff Cox (University of Colorado Boulder). Co-sponsored by the Department of English and the Indiana Humanities Council.
Tuesday, November 13 at 3:00pm | Workshop: Archival Skills.CANCELED
Thursday, November 15 at 4:30pm | Iberian & Latin American Studies: “Language and Power: Searching for the Origins of Catalan Linguistic Identity” by Vicente Lledó-Guillem (Hofstra University). Co-sponsored by the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, the Medieval Institute, the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, and the Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures.
The item featured in this week’s blog post is on display as a spotlight exhibit through the end of August.
French book artist Didier Mutel, inspired by Forbes Magazine’s annual listing of the world’s wealthiest people, created a portfolio called The Forbes simulachres: historiées faces de la mort, autant elegammẽt pourtraictes que artificiellement imaginées(Images and Illustrated Aspects of Death, as Elegantly Delineated as They Are Artfully Imagined). This 75-sheet portfolio, generously sized at 62 x 45 cm, comprises 36 pairs of woodcuts. Each duo consists of a full-page illustration of a skeleton, accompanied by text naming an individual from Forbes’ 2009 list of billionaires.
Mutel’s inspiration for this work was the iconic “Dance of Death” woodcuts created by Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543). The Dance of Death (danse macabre in French, Totentanz in German) is part of the medieval tradition of memento mori (contemplation of death). Its visual representation typically pairs a living person with a skeleton, reminding the viewer that death comes to all, regardless of their worldly circumstances. Holbein depicted this theme in woodcuts which he completed in 1526 while living in Basel. They were first published, however, in 1538 in Lyon, France.
In the Forbes simulachres, Mutel portrays skeletons in a variety of settings. Some are engaged in recreational activities such as skiing or surfing while others are shown in more mysterious and threatening circumstances. Every skeleton is paired with a plate of text accompanied by biblical verses in early French, and each references Forbes by giving individuals’ names and ranks on its annual list of the wealthy.
Didier Mutel, born in 1971, is an engraver and printer who specializes in book arts. He studied at l’École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs (1991-1993) and l’Atelier national de création typographique (1994-1995). He has received numerous awards including a “Grand Prix des métiers d’art de la ville de Paris” in 1997 and was named artist in residence at Rome’s Villa Médicis from 1997 to 1999. Since 2003 he has taught engraving and drawing at l’École des beaux-arts in Besançon.
When Mutel returned to Paris from Rome, he joined the workshop of a master artist, Pierre Lallier, whom he had met in 1988. Lallier’s workshop originated in 1793 and was the oldest continually operating etching studio in France. After Lallier’s retirement, Mutel continued his work, maintaining legacy equipment and original printing techniques.
Mutel often revisits historical creations of music and literature. His inspirations range well beyond Forbes Magazine and include TheMetamorphosis by Franz Kafka and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. In 1994 he published a noteworthy interpretation of Robert Lewis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
The library’s copy of the Forbes simulachres is number 6 in an edition of 42 and is signed by the artist. Its case is unusual in having been fabricated from one of the woodblocks used to produce the text for plate number 6 featuring Karl Albrecht.