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22 October 2014

Two Languages, One Nation?

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I’ve no need, or desire, to give you here potted histories of the vicissitudes of the Catalan language and its literature, with their controversial political aspects and problems of definition, as they’re well covered by Wikipedia. In anticipation of the conference  Language and the Making of Nations  to be held at the British Library on 14 November, I thought it would be more interesting to look at a few examples of the happy relationship between Spanish (alias Castilian) and Catalan as reflected in BL collections.

Nobody nowadays is monolingual in Catalan, although it is of course perfectly possible for people outside Spain to be bilingual in, say, Catalan and German.

Bilingualism may well be more common than monolingualism, although bilingualism doesn’t necessarily mean equality of status for both languages or that both are used in all contexts.  For centuries educated people were as fluent in the Latin they learned at school as in the vernacular they imbibed with their mother’s – or even their wetnurse’s – milk.  But of course Latin and the vernacular had different spheres of activity.

Spanish was spoken at the Catalan court from the 15th century onwards, when poets composed in both languages; and linguisticians study the dialect of Spanish now spoken in Catalonia (see Sinner, below).

1. The oldest Catalan-Spanish dictionary in the British Library appears to be:

Joaquin Esteve, Joseph Belvitges and Antonio Juglà y Font,  Diccionario Catalan-Castellano-Latino (Barcelona: en la oficina de Tecla Pla viuda, 1803-05). British Lbibrary 828.h.19.

Catalan DiccionarioThese three gentlemen have all the qualifications one could wish for (wouldn’t you like to have doctor utriusque iuris on your c.v.?). Their audience is Catalans who need to express themselves in Spanish in ‘tribunals, academies and pulpits’ not only in Spain as a whole but also ‘without leaving their houses’.


Pedro Martyr Anglès, OP, Prontuario orthologi-graphico trilingue. En que se enseña á pronunciar, escribir, y letrear correctamente en latin, castellano, y catalan: con una idiagraphia, ò arte de escribir en secreto ... (Barcelona: Mariano Soldvila, [1743]).  1568/2820.

Catalan Prontuario Orthologi-GraphicoWriting in the medium of Spanish (after all, he says, the grammar of Greek, Hebrew  and oriental languages are expounded in Latin), Anglès treats Spanish and Catalan on equal terms, though both have to cede prestige to Latin.

3.  Last but not least, the popular drama of  19th-century Barcelona and Valencia abounds in short pieces (sainetes/sainets, entremeses/entremesos) described on the title page as ‘pieza bilingüe’.  So far as I can determine, the linguistic divisions are drawn accurately: characters speak Catalan among themselves, and when joined by a Spanish speaker pass into Spanish as a matter of courtesy.

Don M. P., El memorialista. O Lo que vale un buen hombre, pieza bilingüe en un acto y en verso (Barcelona: Juan Llorens, 1859).  11726.g.11 (35)

Catalan Memorialista

Gregori is a letter-writer and matchmaker, who matches Doña Clara and Don Eugenio; Pauleta is a maid. The characters mostly  speak in Catalan. Doña Clara is a fine lady, who speaks only Spanish; when addressing her, Don Eugenio speaks good Spanish and wins her hand; Gregori speaks to her in humorously bad Spanish. Although there is a class division by language, the atmosphere is more one of One Nation.

The conclusion is suitably bilingual:

Don Gregori: Long live Gregori (CATALAN)
Doña Clara, Don Eugenio and Pauleta: Let him live long (SPANISH)
Doña Clara, Don Eugenio: For he is a good man  (SPANISH)
Pauleta: For he is a good man (CATALAN)


Carsten Sinner, El castellano de Cataluña : Estudio empírico de aspectos léxicos, morfosintácticos, pragmáticos y metalingüísticos, Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für romanische Philologie, 320. (Tübingen, 2004).[320]

Pedro-Manuel Cátedra (ed.),  Poemas castellanos de cancioneros bilingües y otros manuscritos Barceloneses (Exeter, 1983). X.0909/545(34)

Maurizio Fabbri, A Bibliography of Hispanic dictionaries: Catalan, Galician, Spanish, Spanish in Latin America and the Philippines Appendix: A bibliography of Basque dictionaries (Imola, 1979).  X.950/20122

Barry Taylor, Curator Hispanic Studies

20 October 2014

Ukrainian printing in the Russian empire

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As a result of the Union of Lublin in 1569, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was formed, and Kiev (Kyiv) with other Ukrainian territories were transferred to the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland. Lviv and its neighbouring territories had already been part of the Polish Crown from the 14th century. A series of uprisings, the most successful one being under the command of Bohdan Khmelnytsky, resulted in the creation of a Cossack state. Between 1654 and 1667 a series of treaties between the newly formed Cossack Hetmanate, the Russian Empire and  the Kingdom of Poland led to the agreement, according to which part of Ukraine on the left bank of the river Dnieper became part of the Russian Empire with the administrative status of ‘Hetmanate’. Although Lviv was also stormed and taken by the Khmelnytsky army, the city and the rest of the Western Ukrainian territories remained under Polish rule until the First Partition of Poland in 1772, when Lviv became the capital of the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria within the Austrian empire.

Eastern territories of Ukraine became part of the Russian Empire and Ukrainian presses became subject to Russian Imperial censorship carried out by the Holy Synod, although it took some time to tighten restrictions.

The output of the Kiev Monastery of the Caves press apart from liturgical literature traditionally included sermons, poems, original works on philosophy and theology. In the mid-17th century, the press was managed by Innokentii Gizel’ (1620-1688), a prominent scholar and public figure. He was an author of a  Synopsis, the first popular history of the East Slavonic nations.

Image 1-Synopsis

Noah's Ark – illustration from Synopsis, Kiev, 1681 (the British Library holds a facsimile edition (Cologne, 1983) at shelfmark X.0900/189(17)

Another prominent clergyman, Lazar Baranovych,  initiated the opening of a new printing house in Novgorod-Siverskii (1674), which was later relocated to Chernihiv (1680). The British Library holds the 1691 Chernihiv edition of Runo oroshennoe by Dimitry of Rostov  – a book of miracles performed by the icon of the Mother of God of Chernihiv (picture below).

Image 2 - Runo oroshennoe
British Library C.192.a.222

In Western Ukraine, the press at the Uniate Monastery in Pochaiv (in operation between 1730-1918), became the most productive. This press published books in Church Slavonic, Ukrainian, Russian, Greek, Latin and Polish, serving Orthodox Christians, the Uniates, and Catholics. It specialised in liturgical books and literature related to the Holy icon of Mary, Mother of God of the Pochaiv Monastery. The British Library has several Pochaiv editions, including two of the 18th century.

Image 3 - Irmologion
An Irmologion – a  book of texts for liturgical singing – published in Pochaiv in 1794 (474.d.10)

The Pochaiv Monastery press competed with the Lviv Brotherhood press and until the first Partition of Poland tried to transfer exclusive rights to print liturgical books from Lviv to Pochaiv. In 1772 the Lviv Brotherhood press won the court case, but it was no longer relevant, as Lviv became part of Austria, and Pochaiv remained in Poland. Ironically, the Partition of Poland helped to boost printing activities in Pochaiv, as before 1772 the Pochaiv Press could not publish certain liturgical books that the Lviv Press had exclusive rights for. As a result of the next Partition of Poland Pochaiv ended up in the Russian Empire, and of course, the press had difficulties with printing and distribution of Uniate editions, although it escaped such strict control as publishers in the territories of the Hetmanate. At the end of the 18th century, the press signed contracts with Old Believers to produce their books. The Russian officials soon found out about these contracts, and the press was almost closed. In 1830-31 the monks supported the Polish uprising, printing leaflets and pamphlets for the Poles. As a result, the monastery was transferred to the Orthodox Church, and printing which by the mid-19th century became the main source of income for the monastery, fell under control of the Orthodox Church.

As printing and publishing in the Russian empire was very much focused in the two capitals, civil Cyrillic types appeared in Ukraine only in the second half of the 18th century: in 1764 a press opened in Elisavetgrad, in 1793  in Kharkiv, in 1787  in Kiev, and in 1793  in Ekaterinoslav. The end of the 18th century and first half of the 19th was a period of establishing a network of Russian state publishers in Ukraine. A new printing house in Mikolaiv became very active at the end of the 18th century.

Ukrainian culture became subject to enforced russification, so the formation of a modern Ukrainian literary language was delayed till the beginning of the 19th century. The first book in literary Ukrainian – Ivan Kotliarevskii’s mock-heroic version  of Virgil’s  Aeneid – was published in St Petersburg in 1798. Unfortunately, the British Library doesn’t hold the first edition of this work, but of course, numerous consequent editions are available.

A private St Petersburg publisher V. Plavil’shchikov produced some books in the Ukrainian language, including a Ukrainian Grammar (Grammatika malorossĭskago nari︠e︡chii︠a︡, 1818; 1332.e.5.(1.)) compiled by A. Pavlovskii. As many Ukrainians moved to the two Russian capitals, works of contemporary Ukrainian authors who later became classics of Ukrainian literature – Taras Shevchenko, Hryhorii Kvitka-Osnov’ianenko (1778-1843), Mykhaylo Maksymovych (1804-1873) – were first published in St Petersburg and Moscow. The first collection of works by the prominent Ukrainian public figure and writer Hryhorii Skovoroda  (1722-1794) appeared in St Petersburg in 1861. A short-lived Ukrainian journal Osnova (‘Basis’) was also published in St Petersburg.

The leading academic publisher in Ukraine was Kharkiv University Press (opened in 1805), but its production was primarily in Russian. The press issued several works on Ukrainian studies, original Ukrainian historical documents and some classical Ukrainian authors. Ukrainian modern journalism in Russian and Ukrainian also started in Kharkiv, where 12 periodical titles appeared between 1812 and 1848.

The Kiev Monastery of the Caves Press kept publishing liturgical and religious texts in Church Slavonic, but also catered for primary schools, seminaries and the general public, publishing calendars and serials. The Kiev-Mohyla Academy was shut by the Russian authorities in 1817, and Kiev University was opened instead in 1834. A year later a university press was set up, which supplied textbooks for secondary and higher education institutions and published scholarly works by the university professors. Another state publishing house was established in Odessa in 1814. It specialised in literary almanacs and scholarly works. In 1839 the Odessa Society for History and Antiquities set up a press to publish their proceedings.

The liberal reforms of Tsar Alexander II made it possible for Ukrainians to publish in their language. The period of liberalisation was short-lived, and already in 1876 a decree that prohibited printing (including ‘lyrics’ for printed music) in Ukrainian was issued. The types of material that were exempted were historical documents, ethnographic sources and very selective fiction and poems, subject to censorship. Export of books from abroad was also banned. Some works by Ukrainian authors did not pass Imperial censorship and appeared abroad in uncensored editions; for example Shevchenko’s Kobzar’ was published in Prague in 1876 (11585.k.11; see picture below).  

Image 4 - Kobzar

However, new private publishing houses became active at the end of the 19th century. These enterprises aimed to popularise literature among the lower classes, and therefore their books were produced cheaply with small print runs. See, for example, a collection of Ukrainian poetry and prose published in Kiev in 1902.

Image 5 -Vyk
This page opening from vol. 1 of this three-volume collection (012265.i.7) shows a portrait of and lyrics by Mykola Verbytskyi, also a contributor to the journal Osnova.

Making books accessible for the wider public was the main goal of the publishing activities of various Ukrainian cultural organizations, such as societies for literacy in Kiev and Kharkiv and the St Petersburg-based ‘Charity for publishing useful and cheap books’ (1898-1917). Apart from these organisations and other publishers who produced some Ukrainian books, in 1909, there were almost 20 Ukrainian publishing houses, and the overall number of Ukrainian books published between 1798 and 1916 is about 2,800 titles.

During World War I production figures fell dramatically, but the printing industry quickly revived in the independent Ukraine  (1917-1921): about 80 titles appeared in 1917, compared with over a hundred in 1918.

Katya Rogatchevskaia, Lead East European Curator

Our seminar Language and the Making of Nations on 14 November will include a talk on ‘Ukrainian language and nation: a cultural perspective’ by Marta Jenkala (Senior Teaching Fellow in Ukrainian, UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies)

17 October 2014

One book, many faces: the Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano

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When the French novelist Patrick Modiano (b.1945) was announced as the winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize for Literature, many readers in the English-speaking world reacted with incomprehension. Even allowing for the notoriously low percentage of publications each year represented by foreign literature in translation, this might be understandable, as none of his books has aroused  the international curiosity or controversy as those of Michel Houellebecq or Michel Tournier. Revisiting the same themes and employing similar stylistic devices, he has instead provoked certain critics to see this as recourse to a tried and tested formula or lack of imagination. At the very outset of his career, in 1975, Modiano himself remarked in an interview that he did indeed have the feeling that he had been repeatedly writing the same novel from the beginning.

There is no excuse for those with a limited knowledge of French to neglect his novels, as several have been translated, including Le quartier perdu as A trace of malice (1988; British Library Nov. 1988/2400) and Voyage de noces (Honeymoon, 1992; YK.1993.a.1120).  The more one reads, the more apparent it becomes that instead of rehashing old material for want of new ideas, Modiano is probing more profoundly into subjects of timeless significance and constantly honing and refining the tools which he employs.

Interestingly, for an author whose use of language is so subtle and polished, Modiano’s first tongue was not French but Flemish, in which he was raised by his maternal grandparents who cared for him during the frequent absences of his mother, the actress Louisa Colpijn, and father Albert Modiano who, despite his Sephardic Jewish origins, had evaded deportation during the Second World War, trading on the black market and actively associating with the Paris Gestapo. This clouded background influences many of Modiano’s writings, including the one for which he may be best known outside France:  the screenplay for  Louis Malle’s film Lacombe Lucien (1973; screenplay published Paris, 1974: X.909/29206), which explores the protagonist’s involvement with the French Gestapo when he is rejected by the French Resistance. Modiano’s very first novel, La place de l’Etoile (Paris, 1968; X.908/17202), is the initial statement of a theme which so enraged his father that he attempted to buy up the entire print-run, experiencing this wartime story of a Jewish collaborator as a personal attack.

Modiano books
Some of Modiano’s books in the typical livery of his French publisher Gallimard

Throughout his career Modiano returns to the themes of, memory and loss, the fallibility of recollection, the fragile nature of identity and the many ambivalent elements of which it is composed. He sometimes draws on factual material, as in Dora Bruder (Paris, 1997; YA.1999.a.11146. English translation Berkeley, Calif., 1999; m00/17481), inspired by an item in a 1941 number of Paris Soir which set him on a search for a 15-year-old Jewish girl who escaped from the convent which had sheltered her, only to end up on a transport to Auschwitz. His characters struggle with amnesia or with troublingly persistent memories; they search for the families, loves and past which they have lost or remember only in fragments. Yet amid this atmosphere of rootlessness and displacement   Modiano also displays a startlingly detailed sense of place, most evident in his vivid evocation of the landscape of Paris. Appropriately, he received the telephone call from his daughter announcing his award, the crown of a career in which he had also won the Prix Goncourt, Austrian State Prize for European literature and  Prix mondial Cino Del Duca, as he was walking near the Jardin du Luxembourg.

It was a meeting with the writer and critic Raymond Queneau which launched Modiano’s career by bringing him into contact with the Parisian publishing house Editions Gallimard. His style, however, has little in common with that of the author of Exercises du style and Zazie dans le métro; indeed, he has been described as the Marcel Proust of his time. Outside French literature, though, one might compare him to another European writer whose work is tinged and haunted by the same feeling of loss and hallucinatory quality of wandering through a landscape which is now bewilderingly strange, now painfully familiar – W. G. Sebald. Both share an ability to act as the remembrancers and consciences of an age threatened by the consequences of an amnesia which is all too deliberate.

Susan Halstead Curator Czech & Slovak