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10 things to love about Europeana

15 hours 52 min ago

This week Europeana celebrates its tenth birthday. Since 2008, we’ve been publishing, sharing and celebrating amazing cultural heritage online. To mark the occasion, we’re highlighting ten things we think make Europeana special (it wasn’t easy – even if we say so ourselves!). So, here’s our top ten: one for every year we’ve been transforming the world with culture.

  1. Stay home, see Europe

‘Snow of San Gennaro, view of Vesuvius and Naples’, 1836. Wellcome Collection, CC BY.

This might just as well become our new slogan! You might not have the time or money to visit all your favourite museums in person. With Europeana, you can visit thousands of libraries, galleries, archives and museums from all over Europe without having to change out of your pyjamas. Travel hundreds of kilometres in mere seconds while taking in every sight, from Barcelona to Norway to Naples and back again.

  1. Discover heritage from all sides

    ‘Portraitkopf eines Mannes’, Arachne. Germany, CC BY.

With Europeana, you can see every inch of a Greek bust to discover what Apollo’s curls look like from the back, or take in every frill and rhinestone of a stunning pink dress. Because Europeana is filled with cultural heritage from every country and every era, you can also enjoy cultural heritage from all sides in a more figurative sense, i.e. from different points of view. The art style that emerged as a reaction to 19th-century academic art developed differently in different countries and was called different names: Art Nouveau, Secession, Jugendstil, Skønvirke, Modernism. With Europeana, you can contrast and compare all these different expressions of the same reaction, for instance by looking at the poster art of that era.

  1. See the big picture

‘The Bull’, 1647. Paulus Potter. Mauritshuis, Public Domain.

The Mauritshuis in The Hague houses ‘The Bull’, a huge work of art by Paulus Potter measuring more than 3.3 metres in length and 2.3 metres in height. Not even the tallest Dutch person would be able to marvel at the detail put into the lone bird at the top right corner of the painting. In Europeana, you can take a look at every millimetre of even the largest artworks, without having to stand on your toes.

  1. See the details

‘Kitchen Scene with Christ at Emmaus’, 1560-1565. Joachim Beuckelaer. Mauritshuis, Public Domain.

Whether you want to inspect every petal of every flower in a lithograph or try to find Jesus in a sixteenth-century painting’s version of Where’s Waldo?, Europeana has you covered. With high-resolution zoomable images, you can now come closer to a painting than you ever would be allowed to in a museum without alarms going off.

  1. Contribute your own stories

We all have our own stories to tell, and it’s a joy to share those stories with others. Europeana gives everyone the opportunity to tell their own stories and share the objects connected to those stories. The Europeana migration campaign allows you to record your migration story and share it with everyone. Those contributions help us to tell the big story of Europe and the people who live there. Similarly, Europeana’s First World War

thematic collection displays stories and objects from people who have shared their or their family members’ tales of the First World War. A hundred years after the end of the Great War, recording and telling these stories shows the importance of remembrance of our shared history.

  1. Discover something unexpected

    Japan, street musician with stringed instrument Shamisen, image date: circa 1920. Carl Simon Archive

A man showing off underwear from the Swedish army in the 1930s? A lyre made from a real human skull? Twoof the most photogenic doggies posing for their portrait? A man in a fedora holdinga huge fish? A collection of 19th-century toilet sketches? A woman showing off her frozen food collection? A Japanese street musician shredding it on the Shamisen? Grumpy cat? Europeana really has it all. We .. have no idea what this is, though.

  1. Remix

    GIF based on Jaro. Almanach pro mládež. Preissig Vojtěch, eSbirky, CC BY.

You can share your own story on Europeana, or generate a completely new one by re-using cultural heritage in a creative way. In this year’s GIF IT UP competition, more than 200 creative GIF makers re-used images or videos from Europeana, DPLA, Trove or DigitalNZ to create stunning and often hilarious new art.

  1. Geek out

    ‘Richard Greene’s museum at Lichfield, the “Lichfield clock” standing among cabinets of curiosities. Engraving by Cook.’, Wellcome Collection, CC BY

If you enjoy a niche pastime or collection, chances are Europeana has stuff that makes you geek out. Are you an entomologist, or do you simply love creepy crawlies? How about a gallery on beetles and butterflies from Turkestan? Maybe you’re interested in early forms of photography, and just adore daguerrotypes. If you’ve got an obsession with Netsuke, which are small Japanese sculptures from the 17th century, we’ve got you covered. Or maybe you stand in awe of huge tractors and other agricultural machines. Every hobby, collection and obsession has its place in Europeana.

  1. Others use Europeana in amazing ways

    Child playing Birdie Memory at Fête de la Nature, Paris, 2018, CC BY-SA

Europeana is a valuable resource used by other creative initiatives and projects to bring culture to life. Apps and games are developed using Europeana content to provide rich historical content, like the snippets of historical photographs you pick up in your journey through a World War 1 Game. Europeana can be of immense value to educational programs, exemplified by this app developed to teach children the sounds of European songbirds. Researchers study objects provided by Europeana, which leads to outcomes like a website dedicated to showing Roma people and their customs in historical context. One of our favourite projects is Art up your Tab, a browser extension that gives you a beautiful work of art when you open a new tab!

  1. Take a dive into Europe’s rich past

Maybe the best part of Europeana is that you’ve never seen it all. Whether you’re browsing through the thematic collections for photography, art, manuscripts, or the first world war, you’re sure to find the best of Europe collected in one place. For 10 years Europeana has been collecting cultural heritage from galleries, libraries, archives and museum from all over Europe. Who knows what you’ll be able to find on Europeana in 2028? Here’s to another ten years!

GIF based on Orange festivities, 1932. Beeld en Geluid, the Netherlands. Public Domain

The Place of Literature in the World of Newspapers

Tue, 13/11/2018 - 09:12

In France, the important development of including literature in the press began with the launch of ‘La Presse‘ in 1836 by Emile de Girardin. He cut the subscription rate to his daily newspaper in half by speculating on advertising to cover the costs. He also developed the serialised novel to create customer loyalty, by calling on the biggest names in literature at that time, including Honoré de Balzac, Eugène Sue, Alexandre Dumas and George Sand.

‘L’Echo des feuilletons’, 1842. Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Restrictions

Creating Loyalty and Broadening Readership

Editors-in-chief also saw the value of literature in the press and started to hire new journalists to reach a wider audience.

Familie-Journalen læses!, 1895. Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Restrictions

This demand brought reinforcements to a generation of literary men who divided their activities between newspapers, theatre, writing novels and “physiologies” (caricatured descriptions of society): this group of younger writers aspired to a literary career. Some of these writers came no longer from the elite, but from among the so-called bohemians. The bohemians used the press as their usual means of publication and as a legitimising authority, forming the base of literary criticism in France.

The media-friendly bohemians functioned like a shifting group of “day labourers” in journalism, moving from one editorial board to another, learning from older members of the profession, launching new publications and, most of all, injecting journalism with a new, more insolent and artistic, tone. They imposed on the whole profession both their manner of addressing social issues, in relation to fashions and new urban practices, and a style that placed Parisian wit and banter at the heart of their writing.

‘Le Bouffon’: satirical newspaper, 28 February 1867. Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Restrictions

In addition to the bohemians, the entry onto the scene of journalists educated at university or the Ecole normale (for instance Edmond About, Francisque Sarcey) greatly improved the quality of writing, the range of topics addressed and especially the theatrical, literary and artistic critiques. Following the work of literary critic Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve, they found their natural place in the press.

Before and After the 1881 Legislation

A second factor in the growth of literature in the press in France is related to the repressive legal regime. As a result of  its censorship, which began with the September 1835 laws and was further radicalised by the 1852 legislation, a number of weekly literary or lifestyle newspapers emerged: the “petits journaux” or “little newspapers”. The 29 July 1881 law for freedom of the press ushered in a golden age for the press that was to last until France’s defeat in 1940. As the number of general information newspapers multiplied, the journalistic profession became more structured and more independent of the literary circles.

‘Journal officiel de la République française’, 30 July 1881. Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Restrictions

During the French Third Republic (1870-1940), political daily newspapers emphasised the presence of literature in the press, giving free rein to the constant reinvention of media forms and at the same time creating well-known literary supplements. Newspapers such as ‘Le Figaro‘, ‘Le Gaulois‘, ‘L’Écho de Paris‘ and ‘Gil Blas‘ are key to literature studies. They can be seen as an incubator of forms, ideas and genres. Without them, we would have an incomplete picture of what was known as “the literary movement”.

Jean-Didier Wagneur and Hélène Raymond
Department of Law, Economics and Politics, National Library of France

The blog post is a part of the Rise of Literacy project, where we take you on an exploration of literacy in Europe thanks to the digital preservation of precious textual works from collections across the continent.

Further reading:
Read this blog post in French on the National Library of France’s Gallica Blog

Featured image:
A man is sitting on a small sofa reading a newspaper. Lithograph [The image is one of nine on the larger sheet entitled: Les Journaux et Leurs Lecteurs], Wellcome Collection, CC BY


Emile Zola: Novelist and Journalist

Thu, 08/11/2018 - 09:41

A true writer-journalist, Emile Zola successfully managed both activities for about 20 years, at first out of financial necessity before he became a successful author, but also by conviction.

Poster advertising the publication of Emile Zola’s ‘La Débâcle’ in the newspaper ‘Le Radical’, 1892, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Restrictions

He sent his first articles to newspapers in 1863. His early contributions were critiques of the art and literature of his day, but his articles soon turned political and took on a combative tone. Having mocked the French Second Empire (1852-1870) as a “feeding frenzy” in ‘La Cloche’ on 13 April 1870, Zola founded the patriotic newspaper ‘La Marseillaise‘ in the middle of the Franco-Prussian War. It was at that point that he became a political journalist, writing from the benches of the Assembly which had taken refuge in Versailles.

Left: print of Emile Zola by Marcellin Gilbert Desboutin, 1875. Right: caricature of Emile Zola by Nadar, 1870s. Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Restrictions

As an author writing in the naturalist genre, Zola showed the keen perception of a journalist in his writing and he considered his activity in the press to be genuine writer’s work. In this sense, the two aspects of his writing were closely related. “We are all children of the press”, he stated in ‘Le Figaro’ on 22 September 1881, as he announced his intention to leave journalism. It is surprising that his temporary retirement from journalism happened the same year as a major law for freedom of the press came into effect, almost as though the writer was leaving the battlefield once victory had been assured.

While temporarily withdrawn from political jousting in the press, Zola expressed concern in 1894 in the ‘Annales politiques et littéraires‘ about the “state of nervous over-excitement in which current journalism is holding the nation”. Yet he did not stay silent very long: his opinion column “Pour les Juifs” in ‘Le Figaro’ on 16 May 1896 gave him the opportunity to directly oppose Edouard Drumont’s antisemitic statements. It also foreshadowed his extremely famous open letter “J’accuse !” (“I accuse!”), published in Georges Clémenceau’s paper ‘L’Aurore’ on 13 January 1898, which made him the centre of attention and marked the point when “intellectuals” took on a central role in public debate.

“J’accuse” postcard, 1902. Bibliothèques de la Ville de Paris, Public Domain

This episode illustrates all the skill of a man who was well-versed in the workings of the press and perfectly aware of the impact his article would have. The Dreyfus Affair, covered by newspapers in real time and day by day, turned Zola into one of the main protagonists in a legal and political controversy. According to ‘La Croix’ on 14 January 1898, “Mr Zola published an abusive diatribe this morning in which he makes the most inflammatory accusations”.

Left: photograph of Emile Zola by Nadar, printed in 1910. Right: drawing of Emile Zola by Louis Lermercier de Neuville, around 1900. Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Restrictions

Once he had become a renowned novelist, Zola saw his work abundantly commented upon in the literary press, for example in the ‘Le Figaro’ literary supplement in 1890 when ‘L’Argent’ (‘Money’) was published. He also became a selling point for newspapers, as shown by the announcements and poster advertisements that various papers produced.

Poster advertising the publication of Emile Zola’s ‘Fécondité’ in the newspaper ‘L’Aurore’, 1899. Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Restrictions

‘Le Cri du peuple’ announced the publication of ‘Germinal‘ in this way in 1885, ‘Le Journal’ announced ‘Paris’ in 1897, while in 1899 ‘L’Aurore’ did the same for ‘Fécondité‘ (‘Fruitfulness’). Others include the illustrated newspaper ‘L’Omnibus’, which published ‘Pot-Bouille’ (‘Pot Luck’) and ‘L’Assomoir‘ (‘The Dram Shop’) for example, as well as the daily paper ‘Gil Blas’.


By François Michel
Department of Law, Economics and Politics, National Library of France

The blog post is a part of the Rise of Literacy project, where we take you on an exploration of literacy in Europe thanks to the digital preservation of precious textual works from collections across the continent.

Further reading:
Read this blog post in French on the National Library of France’s Gallica blog

Hotel New York and Lloyd Hotel: migration stopovers between Europe and the Americas

Wed, 07/11/2018 - 10:00

If you ever visit the Netherlands, perhaps you’ll stay at the Lloyd Hotel in Amsterdam or Hotel New York in Rotterdam. These two hotels – still operational – played witness to decades of migration through the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Shipped around the world

Both hotels were owned by shipping lines – the Lloyd hotel was owned by Royal Holland Line (Koninklijke Hollandsche Lloyd) and Hotel New York by the Holland-Amerika Line (Nederlansch Amerikaansche Stoomvaart Maatschappij).

Hotel New York, Rotterdam, acediscovery, CC BY-SA

Postage and packing

Both hotels were used as temporary accommodation for those migrating from Europe. Often, package deals were available which would combine a train ticket, hotel accommodation and passage over the oceans.

Holland-Amerika Lijn / Hotel New York, A.J. van der Wal, Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, CC BY-NC-SA

Destination – the Americas

Hotel New York provided respite for people migrating to North America. Initially, in the late 19th century, people staying there were migrating from the Netherlands and Germany, but later those moving from Eastern Europe and Russia stayed there too.

Lloyd Hotel, Amsterdam, acediscovery, CC BY-SA

Between 1921 and 1935, the Lloyd Hotel housed people migrating to South America. The hotel could cater for up to 900 people, who stayed there on their journeys from Poland, Romania, Hungary and the Balkans. Many were leaving behind the poverty of their homelands to go to South America, where labour was needed for agriculture.

Voyages from Amsterdam were to Buenos Aires with calls at Boulogne, Plymouth, Coruna, Lisbon, Las Palmas, Pernambuco, Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, Santos and Montevideo.

In a nearby quarantine building, people had a medical checkup and a shower before their long journey. These checkups were important as, should someone be refused at the destination port, the shipping line would have to pay for their passage back to Europe – something they were keen to avoid.

Stories from Croatia and Romania

At the Europeana Migration collection days in Zagreb and Sibiu, we heard stories of people who emigrated from Eastern Europe to the Americas at the time these Dutch hotels were hosting migrants. Perhaps the travellers in our stories even stayed at one of them. We don’t know. But what we do know is that their stories illustrate the kinds of journeys, highs, lows and emotions that the people who passed through these hotels experienced too. Next time you’re in a hotel, think about its history and the hundreds of people who lay their head on the pillow before you. Not every hotel is for holidays.

Read about:


The beauty of the bird songs: listen, remember, enjoy

Fri, 02/11/2018 - 08:23

Living in bustling cities we often tend to forget about nature, yet it is all around us and in many ways. Some of us might wake up in the morning to the sounds of a couple of birds singing while others hear their tunes through a stroll in the park or while waiting for some sort of public transport to take them along their merry way. Though we may sometimes see or hear them, do we know which ones sing what songs? We’ve picked out three bird songs from Europeana Collections most common birds across Europe. These sounds brought to you by the British Library and the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin are guaranteed to make you take a pause (in your busy life) and listen a little longer if you come across the three little birds pitched by your doorstep.

European Robin

A robin on a branch of holly. Colour lithograph after H. Weir, 1858., Wellcome Collection, CC BY

Robins are quite common and favoured winter garden birds because of how well they have adapted to living alongside people and keeping gardeners company in the winter. The male robin is very territorial and will sing throughout the year. Around Christmas, the male robin will sing more powerfully due to breeding territories becoming established. During breeding season, they will start their morning song an hour before sunrise and end half an hour after sunset. In urban areas that are artificially lit, they may be heard singing as a way to shunt daytime human noise pollution.

Robin singing, British Library, CC BY


Eurasian Blue Tit

Eurasian Blue Tit from “Feathered Favourites. Twelve coloured pictures of British birds”, drawings by Joseph Wolf, British Library, CC BY

The Eurasian blue tit is found almost everywhere in Europe. It sings mostly in late winter and spring as a means to defend its territory or attract mates. Calls are used to communicate with other Eurasian blue tits. They inform one another on their location in trees by means of contact-calls. They use alarm-calls to warn others (including birds of other species such as the great tit, the European robin or the treecreeper) about the presence of predators in the neighbourhood.

Cyanistes caeruleus (Eurasian blue tit) singing, Museum fuer Naturkunde Berlin, Tierstimmenarchiv, CC BY-SA


European Goldfinch

The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius, 1654, Mauritshuis, public domain

The striking red, black and white head and gold patches on the wings of this bird makes it instantly recognisable. It is commonly bred in captivity because of its beautiful appearance and song. In the wild, the goldfinch likes impenetrable environments and breeds wherever thistles, burdock and teasels grow. In Britain, during the 19th century, many thousands of goldfinches were trapped yearly and sold as cage-birds. One of the earliest campaigns of the Society for the Protection of Birds was directed against this.

Goldfinch singing, British Library, CC BY


Birdie Memory

The beauty of these three and other birds songs from the British Library and Natural History Museum in Berlin collections on Europeana inspired the French multimedia designers Léna Mazilu and Yoann Guény to take part in the #edTech Challenge 2018. They won it with the Birdie Memory project which invites kids to discover 20 European birds and their sounds by using a mobile app in combination with a visually stimulating and animated poster. Kids and adults alike are encouraged to become more aware of the nature around them, learn about the diversity of wildlife, and improve their visual observations skills and sound memory.

The app is available in French, English and Spanish. It can be downloaded for free on the AppStore and Google Play while the poster can be purchased at a small price on the Birdie Memory website. Enjoy!

Europe’s First Printed Book

Tue, 30/10/2018 - 09:35

How do we know what Europe’s first printed book was? Until the 18th century this question was open to speculation.15th-century printed books usually have no title page and do not always give the printer’s name.

Volume 1 folio 1 of three copies of the Gutenberg Bible, held at three different libraries. From left to right: Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – PK, CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 DE; National Library of Scotland, CC BY; Bibliothèque nationale de France (vellum copy), No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions.

A reliable historical source from 1499, the Cologne ‘Cronica’, had told of the Gutenberg Bibles, however, their locations were either unknown or they were undated and therefore not credible. Around 25 copies of the first Bible printed in two columns with 42 lines per page were identified during the course of the 18th century. The name of the printer, Johannes Gutenberg, does not appear in any of them. Today we know of 49 of the 180 originally printed 42-line Bibles. Of these 21 are complete.

(Re)discovery of the Gutenberg Bible in Berlin

What happened? Christoph Hendreich (1630-1702), head librarian of Berlin’s Electoral Library, discovered a two-volume Latin Bible in folio format in the library’s collections. It was printed on vellum in a gothic font known as black letter. Hendreich linked his find to the 1499 Cologne ‘Cronica’.

Opening page of the book of Genesis, vol. 1 f. 5, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – PK, CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 DE

However, his discovery remained a hidden gem until 1760 when the scholar Karl Conrad Oelrich published a facsimile of an extract from the Bible. This dramatically changed the situation: scholars used Oelrich’s facsimile to identify other copies of the Gutenberg Bible from the same edition. This copy is still preserved in the Berlin State Library.

Moveable Type

The Gutenberg Bible was produced in Mainz in 1455. It is the first book in Europe to be printed using moveable type: a system of printing that uses individual units of letters and punctuation marks. A mixture of lamp soot, varnish and egg white was used for ink. The text was printed either on vellum, i.e. parchment, or on paper. Vellum was more durable and thicker but also more expensive.

Unique Copies through Illuminations

Following the manuscript tradition, copies of the Gutenberg Bible were normally decorated at the instruction of their purchasers, mostly monastic houses.

Illuminated initials from 5 different copies of the Gutenberg Bible. Clockwise from left: Historiated initial I showing St Mark writing the Gospel, vol. 2 f. 207, National Library of Scotland, CC BY; Historiated initial N, vol. 2 f. 46, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – PK, CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 DE; Puzzle initial E with red pen flourishing, vol. 1 image 244, Bibliothèque nationale de France (paper copy), No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions; Decorated initial E with gold leaf, vol. 4 image 7, Bibliothèque nationale de France (vellum copy), No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions; Puzzle initial S with red and blue pen flourishing, vol. 2 f. 305v, Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal, Public Domain

The vellum copy at the Bibliothèque nationale de France has particularly impressive illuminations: spectacular marginal decorations on two pages and a huge variety of illuminated first letters or initials.The illuminations correlate with those in a model book (Musterbuch) for illuminators that was in use at the time. The borders resemble others that were in circulation in the same region and around the same time as the Gutenberg Bible.

The Göttingen Model Book (Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen, f. 11v) on the left shows examples of acanthus leaf borders in different colour combinations that are very similar in style to the marginal decoration in the BnF vellum copy of the Gutenberg Bible (vol. 3 f. 1, right). Other motifs found in the Musterbuch are also repeated in various illuminated initials throughout this copy. Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions

The paper copy at the National Library of Scotland has fewer illuminations; they are in gold and colour and originate in Germany, possibly at Erfurt. The Bible has marginal notes in a continental hand. It probably remained on the Continent until it came into the possession of David Steuart (1747-1824), the former Lord Provost of Edinburgh, in 1796. He sold it to the Advocates Library, the National Library’s predecessor, for 150 guineas.

This image shows the watermark on the page (volume 1 folio 94): this is the bunch of grapes watermark, one of three used by Gutenberg. National Library of Scotland, vol. 1 f. 94, CC BY

The only other book Johannes Gutenberg seems to have printed was a schoolbook: the Latin grammar by Donatus. The printing process with movable type pioneered by him was soon taken up by others. By the end of the 15th century, printing presses had been established in more than 250 towns and cities across Europe.

Nathalie Coilly, Department of Rare Books, National Library of France
Dr Anette Hagan, National Library of Scotland
Zora Steiner, Berlin State Library


The blog post is a part of the Rise of Literacy project, where we take you on an exploration of literacy in Europe thanks to the digital preservation of precious textual works from collections across the continent. 

Further reading:

Learn more about the National Library of France’s two Gutenberg Bibles (in French) and about the global spread of printing.



Three Saints and the Art of Anamorphosis

Thu, 25/10/2018 - 07:00

Ross MacFarlane is a Research Development Specialist at London’s Wellcome Collection, a free museum and library exploring health, life and our place in the world. In this guest post, Ross explores the phenomenon of anamorphic art through an unusual religious painting depicting not one, not two, but three saints.

The current Pope, Francis I, took inspiration for his name from St Francis of Assisi – founder of the Franciscan movement and noted for his frugality and humble lifestyle. This 17th-century painting in the Wellcome collection depicts St Francis, dressed in the habit of the order he founded and with the marks of stigmata mirroring the crucifix he holds in the same hand:

Saint Francis of Assisi, unknown artist, c. 17th century. Wellcome Collection, CC BY

However, the image of St Francis of Assisi is only seen when looking at the painting from the left-hand side. If one looks at it from the right, a different image emerges:

Saint Francis of Paola, unknown artist, c. 17th century. Wellcome Collection, CC BY

This figure, wearing a cowl and holding a paper lettered CHARITAS, can be identified as another St Francis – St Francis of Paola (St Francis of Paul). Not as well-remembered as St Francis of Assisi, St Francis of Paola followed in the path of his namesake, being taught by Franciscans, living a life of frugality and humility and founding the Hermits of Saint Francis of Assisi. He was also renowned in his lifetime as a thaumaturge or miracle worker, active both in Italy and in France.

As those are the images observable from left and right, it’s perhaps not too surprising that if one looks straight on at the painting, a third different figure is revealed:

Saint Peter, unknown artist, c. 17th century. Wellcome Collection, CC BY

Whilst the first two representations suggest this might be a third Saint Francis, the two teardrops falling from the figure’s right eye – being a feature of many visual depictions of Saint Peter (who, according to the Gospels, burst into tears after denying Christ for the third time) – suggest that it is he, rather than another Saint Francis that is depicted here.

Where did this painting come from? Its baroque style suggests it originated in the seventeenth century, and is probably from the region of Naples – where St Francis of Paola was especially venerated – or from Spain.

The key to how the painting works is in its physical shape. The two side paintings are painted on vertical slats at right angles to the backboard, so that the three different images are formed when the viewer stands to the left of the painting, the right of the painting and straight on. This style of artwork is known as an anamorphic painting (sometimes called a ‘turning’ painting) and is probably most familiar to us from one of the most famous works from the National Gallery in London, The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein:

The Ambassadors, 1533, Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/8-1543). National Gallery, CC BY NC-ND

Many a visitor to the National Gallery has stood at the right edge of this painting, so that the anamorphic skull at the bottom of the painting comes into focus:

Anamorphic skull (detail) from The Ambassadors, 1533, Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/8-1543)
Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Historian Stuart Clark‘s work helps situate anamorphic paintings in the wider visual culture of the Early Modern period. Clarke’s Vanities of the Eye: Vision in Early Modern European Culture places anamorphic art into wider debates concerning wonder, astonishment and objectivity in this period.

Clark also considers if anamorphic paintings were particularly suited to communicate religious themes. He quotes the 17th-century French theologian Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet who said that “anamorphic images were the perfect natural emblems of a world whose justice, hidden behind appearances, was impossible to see except from ‘a certain point’ revealed by faith in Christ”.

Explore the Wellcome Collection in Europeana.


A version of this post was previously published on the Wellcome Library blog.

A Place to Call Home: Migration and Housing

Wed, 24/10/2018 - 09:50

Home is where we are safe. Home is where our loved ones are. When that home becomes unsafe, is it still home? If we move away from our loved ones, where is home then? How long does it take create a new home when you move away from your roots? Is anywhere else really ever home? Or is home wherever you lay your hat?

For people migrating to new countries, home is something that is often negotiated on a daily basis.  Below, we hear some of the thoughts about home collected throughout our Europeana Migration collection days.

When moving to a new land, many people who are migrating – whether through choice or circumstance – often begin their lives in their new countries in temporary accommodation. Once the journey is made, the next step is to find somewhere to live, to search for a new home.

The place we call home is a very important theme which recurs throughout many of the stories we’ve heard at our Europeana Migration collection days.

This blog looks at how and why people have chosen or had restrictions on where they could live, and how people make themselves feel at home when in a new country. Where we live is something many of us take for granted, but for people migrating to new countries, it’s something to negotiate on a daily basis.

It’s a topic that comes up in stories from the present day as well as the past.

Bricks and mortar – building a new home

Some migrant communities find ways to build their own new homes. In the stories of the Geelongskis (a Ukrainian community in Geelong, Australia) gathered by Dr Natalie Senjov-Makohon, we hear from several families who built their own wooden homes when settling in the city.

Building materials like cement, wood and nails were not readily available at the time. As many of the community were employed by a Ford Australia factory, they were able to bring wood from the car packaging crates which they broke up and used to build houses.

Peter and Katerina Senjov’s first home in Geelong, Australia, 1956. Image source -Senjov, 2016 CC BY-SA

This photograph of Peter and Katerina Senjov’s first home is one such house. Although basic, they had a roof over their heads with walls, albeit with no plaster on the walls. However, as Katerina recalls, ‘[we] didn’t care; this was [ours] and [we] had [our] own freedom.’

Finding a place to lay your head

In Dublin, at our collection day at EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, Ann told us about moving from Ireland to London in the 1950s. Moving to the UK in search of work, she arrived there and found it hard to find a place to live.

‘My father had a friend who was supposed to put us up, but that didn’t work out and so we got a room. It was a tiny little room with no cooking facilities, a small fireplace, and we had to share a bed. It was hard to get a room in London – ‘No Blacks, no Irish, no dogs’ was the sign in the windows.’

Photograph of my bedroom with 4 beds, Robson, CC BY-SA

Similar housing problems abound in Dublin today. Robson, living in Dublin, is part of the growing Brazilian community in Ireland. He tells us about his bedroom, which he, due to high rent prices, must share with three other people.

‘Sharing a room with 4 people is not so good. It’s not a big house, we don’t have privacy. We want our space and it’s really bad. Everyone works and studies at different times, so it’s complicated.’

This story, Robson says, is very common for non-European foreigners living in Ireland.

Making a house a home

A home is more than four walls and a roof – what do people do to remind them of home, to feel at home?

Grandmother’s Macrame, Simina, CC BY-SA

Simina tells us that she moved from Romania to Brussels, and how a traditional home decoration from Romania made her feel at home.

‘I remember walking around my new big, already furnished house in Brussels, trying to make it feel like home. I was failing. And then I put the macrame on a cupboard and there it was: HOME!’

Michel escaped from the recent conflict in Syria in 2014 and undertook a treacherous journey, eventually living in the Netherlands. He told us that once he was more settled in Amsterdam, he asked his mother to send him some objects from home, to remind him of his good memories.

Shisha, Michel Youseff, CC BY-SA

‘Shisha for us is about time spent with family and friends. We invite them, the shisha brings us all together. We connect shisha with talking, fun, love, being gezellig, as the Dutch say. If there is no shisha, we feel bored.

I still miss a lot from Syria … sometimes it’s very small things I miss: the steps I used to sit on with friends, shisha, cafes I used to visit, the jasmine trees in the garden that I sat under every morning.’

Regalo de despedida, Fernando Berraquero, CC BY-SA

Fernando spoke about a large collage of photographs his friends made when he and his wife were moving from Spain to the Netherlands. The photographs show parties, holidays, celebrations with messages and dedications written on the back. It’s now proudly displayed in Fernando’s home in the Netherlands, a reminder of another home, of friendship, of good times.

In Fernando’s story, we can see how our homes connect us with our communities and remind us of the people that mean the most to us. In that way, for some people, home is a relative concept. Home is where the heart is, as the well-known saying goes.

Taking your home wherever you go

As Chris tells us in his story, for him, home moves with him.

‘Wherever I live, I tend to put my roots down … I’m a homebody. Because I’m an air-force brat, moving around when I was young, I have no strong feeling of a home. Home is where I am at the moment. For me, home isn’t a place to go. It’s being surrounded by the ones you love. Home is family. Your true family. Even if they don’t share the same blood. My home is where people I care about are; wherever those people are.’

Have you moved to another country? What did you do there to feel at home? Share your story and memories with Europeana Migration.

A Path to Literacy – Role of the Catechism in Learning to Read

Fri, 19/10/2018 - 08:00

For Protestant and Catholic communities of the past, learning the basics of faith and the basics of reading went quite naturally hand in hand. But were all early catechisms necessarily intended as reading primers?

The ‘A, B, C, des chrestiens’ is a Protestant catechism and alphabet book for children in French, printed in Caen sometime between 1669 and 1685. Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions

Children’s Education: a Point of Contention between Catholics and Protestants

For Europeans at the start of the Early Modern Period, knowledge of Christian doctrines was essential. When the time came to learn to read, it was only natural to begin with prayers or basic religious instruction.

With the development of the printing press, small booklets mixing alphabets, syllabaries and prayers became popular throughout Europe. In 1529, the publication of Martin Luther‘s ‘Small Catechism’ marked the official birth of a format that would have a bright future: a text organised as a series of questions and answers. After a period of hesitation, Catholics took up the practice of using a catechism as well.

The Shorter Catechism of Dr. Martin Luther : Translated from the Latin into English By a Clergyman of the Church of England(…),
London : 1770, Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Sachsen-Anhalt, Halle (Saale), public domain

Invaluable Sources for Linguists

The goal was to teach all Christians, even the most humble, whenever possible in their native languages. This explains why some of the earliest texts in many European languages are catechisms. For example, the first book printed in Lithuanian was a catechism published in 1547 in Königsberg (modern-day Kaliningrad, Russia). Nineteenth-century scholars sought out these modest-looking books with great enthusiasm.


Last page of a Catholic catechism in Basque printed sometime after 1742, from the collection of 19th-century linguist and astronomer Antoine d’Abbadie (1810-1897). Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions

An Instructor’s Book or a Primer?

Alphabet books containing prayers were quite clearly meant to be placed in a child’s hands, but the role of catechisms themselves in learning to read is open to discussion.

In Catholic countries, bishops had made a point of publishing their own catechisms since the 17th century, sometimes drawing on earlier versions that had proven effective and adapting them to local circumstances. These were instructor’s books first and foremost, and they reflect the oral nature of teaching. They also contain many practical tips on how to teach.

Catéchisme du diocèse de Nantes’, 1718. Jean De La Noë-Mesnard, author of this catechism that was first printed in 1689, recommends using a long rod “to admonish the children seated farthest away but not to strike them” with it! Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, No Copyright – Non-Commercial Use Only

The picture is different for Protestants, among whom religious education more often took place in a family setting. There are many examples of catechisms that include alphabets and syllabaries, a sign of greater familiarity with books, such as this syllabary in Icelandic that was printed together with Luther’s ‘Small Catechism’ in 1695. They show the concern with personally appropriating the doctrines of the faith usually associated with the Reformation.

An Apparent Increase in Production

From the beginning of the 19th century until the time when religion became less prominent in primary education, a wide variety of booklets were produced that included a mix of alphabets, syllabaries, prayers and catechisms.


‘Gros alphabet divisé par syllabes’, Montereau, 19th century. This book teaches the letters of the alphabet followed by a list of syllables. It includes prayers in Latin showing all the words divided into syllables with hyphens. Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions


Should this be seen as a consequence of progress in education? It’s best to be cautious in drawing conclusions. In reality, this impression of increasing production is partly an illusion. Many booklets published in the early centuries of the printing press were fragile and neglected, and have since been lost. This is not the case with more scholarly books, such as the Roman Catechism (1566) or, to give a Protestant example, the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), of which many copies can still be found in European libraries today.


By Antoine Monaque,
Retrospective Catalogue Service, National Library of France


The blog post is a part of the Rise of Literacy project, where we take you on an exploration of literacy in Europe thanks to the digital preservation of precious textual works from collections across the continent. 

Looking for Europe through Fashion Plates

Tue, 16/10/2018 - 09:08

For the #SalonEuropa blog parade, the curatorial team at European Fashion Heritage Association looks at how fashion plates have created and imagined European national identities.

Fashion objects can tell us many stories – the social histories of their origin and use, how we portray our identities through clothing, how we form communities around fashion and how clothes play a role in our relationships with our bodies.

Latest Parisian Winter Fashions, from The Young Ladies Journal Latest Parisian Winter Fashions’ October 1878. Courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum, CC BY

European archives preserve a large number of objects with diverse origins, both from within Europe and beyond. Fashion objects such as these can illustrate how national identities are  formed.

This blog will look at fashion plates. Fashion plates are pictures – usually illustrations – typically published in magazines at least from the 18th century onwards, illustrating fashionable styles in clothes and accessories. Very often they were used to describe fashion of a specific place or nation – for example, Paris, London, or more generally French fashion, and were the most common method to disseminate information about new fashions. So, plates travelled and were mainly used as a way of showing fashions across the borders of different nations. Some nations’ fashion was valued over other’s; desire was created for some things over others. Describing national trends, these plates also reflected on the differences between nations through the ‘look’ of their populations.

Samuel William Fores, English and French Taste or a peep into Paris, 1818. Courtesy Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, CC BY NC SA

These images tell many stories: they are informative and funny at the same time, and can be used to understand social groups through the ways that national design traditions and clothing practices are described.

Johann Martin Will, Modethorheit: Les Dames vivent en Paris, 1775-1776. Courtesy Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, CC BY NC SA

The differences in style depicted by fashion plates was also exaggerated in satirical prints and caricatures, which were published in popular magazines and newspapers. These prints used fashion as main indicator of the similarities and dissimilarities between peoples and nations, focusing on what was considered ’strange’ and not immediately understandable to construct national stereotypes.

The images selected to illustrate this post show an array of different illustrations, both fashion plates and satirical prints, that show how fashion was indeed considered a clear language to demonstrate the difference in tastes and customs of, say, English and French people: this is particularly clear in the caricatures by Samuel William Fores and William Heath. Other artists looked out from the spaces that were considered the centres of fashion and depicted other peoples, such as François Nicolas Martinet who illustrated Russian Costumes in 1814.

François Nicolas Martinet, Russian Costumes, 1814. Courtesy Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, CC BY NC SA

All in all, apart from the differences in style, these images are able to relate to their historical time and signal alliances and oppositions that are mirrored in the political and social scene of the Europe asset of the time they belong to – and are therefore a fundamental material to look at to better understand our common past.

Explore more fashion plates on Europeana Fashion.

Use of Propaganda in WWI Postcards

Thu, 11/10/2018 - 12:08

Millions of postcards circulated during the First World War and influenced public opinion. It is not surprising that something as ordinary as a postcard was used by governments on all sides to either defend their own actions, to discredit the enemy and to rouse the masses to support their nation.  Within just three days of the declaration of war on 1 August 1914, publishers had war-themed postcards on sale. Their powerful images had an unprecedented impact on the masses: The postcard became a weapon of propaganda.


Patriotic cartoon postcard. Contributed by Tony Cole via Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA

During WWI, propaganda became, for the first time, the responsibility of government agencies like the Ministry of Information in Great Britain. Postcards were cheap to produce, cheap to buy and cheap to send. This made it possible to produce and distribute propaganda on a large scale. Although propaganda was still in its infancy, governments systematically influenced public opinion both at home and abroad.

World War I propaganda postcards can be divided into two categories:

1. Positive Propaganda

The images portrayed the positive aspects of war. They supported the war effort, showed brave, dependable and modest soldiers on the front, and the peaceful and virtuous families back in the homeland. They evoked sympathy for the cause of the war and sought to make it appear less gruesome. Patriotism and nationalism were used to further political agendas.

Postcard with propaganda motif, Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA


2. Negative Propaganda

The images were used to dehumanize the enemy and to stir up hatred against them. The opposing nations were made out to be a formidable opponent – but not to an extent that would induce fear. The enemy was portrayed as menacing and murderous as well as weak and incapable.

Postcard with a cartoon and text: “Belgium, France and Russia are cut in the pan, now I have only to make the Englishman into a biefstück!” R. Hille. Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA

Of course, postcards were also used as a simple means of communication. But was it that simple?

During WWI, letters and postcards were the only significant means of communication connecting the military front and the home front. Although both the soldiers and their families much preferred letters,  many soldiers were unable to write home frequently. The postcard, being economic and compact, was very popular. It offered both the soldiers and their families some solace and reassurance of their love and well-being.

Official field postcards were cheaply made, distributed for free and easy to fill out. But was it that simple? They were in fact unpopular as they were impersonal and uninformative. Moreover, they had no space for expressing worries or fears, and in this sense the soldiers’ communication from the front was censored.

Field Service Postcard, 23.11.1914. 3 Pilots – 1 War project, CC BY-SA

Embroidered postcards on the other hand were difficult and expensive to get, but due to the careful hand-embroidery, they were very popular among soldiers who sent them home as keepsakes.

Postcard made of silk ‘Glory to Belgium’ send to the refuge of Uden. Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA

Finally, there were commercial picture postcards. These were inexpensive and offered illustrations which suited all tastes and occasions. They were in very high demand.

‘With Love from Daddy’,12.02.1918. Contributed by Elsie Butler via Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA

Images of women were not at all uncommon on postcards. They were either depicted as strong symbols of the nation offering good luck, as vulnerable damsels in need of protection, or as saving angels.


‘An Angel of Mercy’. A British patriotic postcard, The Army Children Archive via Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA

The images were meant to encourage soldiers to live up to the expectations of the nation, and to reassure the women waiting for them to return from a successful war.

Propaganda Postcard. Contributed by Claus-Ulrich Bielefeld via Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA

The outbreak of  World War I was met with excitement on all sides, but the terrible reality of war and its casualties greatly changed people’s perception. As a result, in the Second World War new propaganda strategies and techniques had to be implemented to influence the masses. The end of WW I also signified the end of WWI-style war propaganda postcards.

To view more postcards, check out our gallery or explore Europeana 1914 – 1918.

By Zora Steiner, Berlin State Library

The blog is a part of the Rise of Literacy project, where we take you on an exploration of literacy in Europe thanks to the digital preservation of precious textual works from collections across the continent. 

GIF IT UP 2018 – create animated GIFs from openly licensed cultural heritage material

Mon, 01/10/2018 - 13:46

Your favourite GIF-making competition is back!

For the fifth time, from 1 – 31 October, all GIF-­makers, cultural heritage enthusiasts and lovers of the internet are invited to create brand new GIFs by remixing copyright-free and openly licensed material from Europeana, Digital Public Library of AmericaDigital NZ and Trove.


1. Find an inspiring piece of copyright-free / openly licensed material from Europeana CollectionsDPLATrove, or DigitalNZ.
2. Create an awesome gif.
3. Submit it for a chance to win great prizes.



In 2018, we’re celebrating the 100th anniversary of the end of the WWI. That’s why we created a special prize category for a gif created from WWI material.


Find out more and submit your on the competition’s website.

Arthurian Literature: Foundation for a Common History in Europe

Thu, 27/09/2018 - 09:36

No literary figure has stood the test of time quite like King Arthur. His story has inspired people across Europe for centuries.

King Arthur: a Legendary Figure

The earliest reference to Arthur can be found in ‘The Book of Aneirin’. Originally composed in the 6th century, Aneirin’s poem ‘Y Gododdin’ discusses the battle of Catraeth between the Celtic Britons and the Saxons. However brave the Briton heroes, they were ‘no Arthur’ in Aneirin’s eyes. Here, Arthur is remembered as a royal Celtic warrior, who fiercely fought the Saxons a century earlier.

Miniature of king Arthur, holding a spear and a shield emblazoned with the Virgin and Child.
King Arthur from BL Royal 20 A II, f. 4, Peter of Langtoft and others.
British Library, public domain

Geoffrey of Monmouth‘s ‘Historia Regum Britanniae’ (‘History of the Kings of Britain’), written around 1136, contains one of the earliest accounts of King Arthur’s life from his extraordinary birth to his wars and conquests, and his triumph over the Romans. It ends with the battle at Camlann where Arthur is mortally wounded and taken to Avalon, never to be seen again.

Arthur in single combat with Frollo, Roman tribune of Gaul and guardian of Paris.
Wace, ‘Roman de Brut’. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MSS Français 1454, f. 72, 
No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions

Around 1155, Wace adapted the ‘Historia Regum Britanniae’ into the French ‘Roman de Brut’. Arthur becomes the ultimate symbol of strength and glory through his triumphs. Wace was the first to mention the Round Table: to him, it represented a model of ideal society.

Arthur’s Knights, Merlin and Magic

Ywain rescues a lion from a serpent in the forest; the lion then becomes his companion during his adventures
Chrétien de Troyes, Yvain, le chevalier au lion. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MSS Français 1433, f. 85
 No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions

A generation later, between 1170 and 1190, Chrétien de Troyes wrote several Arthurian romances in French. He glorified Arthur’s knights, including Lancelot, Percival and Ywain, incorporating them into a fictional universe full of elements from earlier traditions.

Merlin uses magic to arrange Arthur’s conception: he disguises Uther Pendragon, Arthur’s father, so that he can spend the night with Igraine at Tintagel.
Robert de Boron, ‘Histoire de Merlin’. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MSS Français 95, f. 149v,
No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions

In the 13th century, Robert de Boron refocused the legends on Merlin and his magical gifts, giving him a more central role. Merlin becomes instrumental in ensuring Arthur’s birth, crowning him king and establishing the Round Table.


In the late-12th – early-13th centuries, the legend of King Arthur took another step east. Chrétien de Troyes’s stories were translated in Germany:
– Hartmann von Aue’s ‘Erec’ and ‘Iwein’
– Wolfram von Eschenbach’s version of the Holy Grail story, ‘Parzival’

At the same time, it crossed the Alps. Old French manuscripts circulated in Italy and inspired authors like Rustichello da Pisa, who wrote a compilation of Arthurian material.

Rustichello da Pisa’s ‘Compilation’ is an adaptation of the ‘Palamedes’ romance, composed in French. It was later divided into two parts: ‘Meliadus de Leonnoys’ and ‘Guiron (or Giron) le Courtois’.
Rustichello da Pisa, ‘Roman de Giron le courtois’ (frag.). Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MSS NAF 5243, f. 22,
No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions

Several translations were also produced in the 14th century: the ‘Estoire del Saint Graal’, the ‘Queste’ and the ‘Mort Artu’. You can also read an Italian translation of ‘Lancelot’, but unfortunately the only surviving manuscript is incomplete.

The most famous Italian writers Dante, Petrarca and Boccaccio and painters such as  Pisanello knew those texts very well, as they mention and portray Arthur and his knights in their works.

A Model Society

The Arthurian literary traditions promoted the code of chivalry throughout Europe, turning Arthur into an emblematic European hero. With the Round Table, King Arthur sets the standard for a government where all the knights are equals. This lays the founding principles for a European model of government:

– the noble deeds of the knights and the equality between them appealed to the medieval nobility

– the emblematic king embodied the ideal of good government

– the supernatural elements supported the idea that God approved of the monarchy and the chivalric code

To our modern eyes, the Round Table may appear as an early attempt at democracy, despite being restricted to a small elite.
‘Lancelot en prose’ (vol. IV). Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MSS Français 116, f. 610v,
No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions

In 15th-century England, Thomas Malory compiled and translated the major French novels in ‘Le Morte d’Arthur’. He refers to “the once and the future king”, implying that Arthur may one day return to rule again. Calling on Arthur’s authority and possible return, at a time when factions of the English royal family fought for the crown, meant pleading for peace, for a return to a glorious past.


Andrea Beretta, Research Fellow, CNR-OVI
Ludmilla Dali, Intern at the Department of Manuscripts, National Library of France
Elen Jones, Digital Projects Officer, National Library of Wales


The blog post is a part of the Rise of Literacy project, where we take you on an exploration of literacy in Europe thanks to the digital preservation of precious textual works from collections across the continent. 


Further reading:

See the National Library of France’s virtual exhibition on King Arthur (in French)

‘All of Europe is my country’ and other stories from Europeana Migration

Tue, 25/09/2018 - 12:21

Europeana Migration brings together digital collections dedicated to the theme of migration to, from and within Europe, sourced from both cultural heritage institutions and the public.

When Museum Burg Posterstein invited us to take part in their blog parade #SalonEuropa, which asks writers to consider what Europe means to them, the obvious thing to do was to see what Europe means to the people who have shared their stories of making new lives here. Let’s take a look…

Europe means feeling safe

‘I brought today my European Health Card. This illustrates my sense of being European, of the blurring of borders and feeling safe wherever I am. All of Europe is my country, and that is kind of amazing when I think about it.’ 

Read ‘Lifelong migrant | Anne

Europe means feeling scared

‘There was a very complex situation in all of Europe when I arrived: terrorist threats, rising xenophobia and nationalism. This was particularly seen in Poland. In a smaller city, like Łódź, you can feel more directly the nationalism and conservative ideas.

‘In the university, I took courses with Polish students. Often I was the only foreigner in the course; the Polish students would sitting separately from me.

‘In supermarkets and train stations, it was hard for all the foreigners. Some experienced discrimination a lot. One of my friends was hit by someone in a nightclub.’

Read ‘How it was challenging to study in Łódź | José

Europe means freedom to travel

‘I found a job, worked hard and used my EU Freedom of Movement to find somewhere I could bear to live. My retirement was well organised: from the warmer countries in the EU, the obvious choice was Spain, because I already spoke Spanish. The warmest part is the Canary Islands. I had spent a winter there and loved it.’

Read ‘From a Serial Migrant | Elisa


‘And I was lucky to see a lot of Europe. I travelled to almost 30 countries – all in the space of 6 months! I think I actually only stayed three weekends in Łódź, the rest I travelled. I tried to travel with people linked to those places: like going to Romania with a Romanian friend. I tried to prioritise parts of Europe in the east, with hard histories: the Balkans, the Baltics.’

Read ‘How it was amazing to study in Łódź | José

‘I love being somewhere where you can be somewhere else in an hour. In Australia, you travel an hour from Melbourne and you’re still in Melbourne. Here I could be in Poland in an hour or Lithuania and there’s so many more cultures to explore within easy reach. Maybe people in Europe take this for granted.’

Read ‘The only Australian in Ireland | Chris

Europe means struggle

‘Diana dreamed that Europeans could have equal rights all over Europe. But the reality was different. The ‘Wall’ came down in 1989 but the division between East and West was still present on our continent.

‘From 1999 to 2007 (when Romania joined the EU), it was a time full of struggle for Diana. Finally she received annual work permits and was able to make a living in Belgium. Her parents were sad and lonely in Romania. Her father never came to Brussels to visit Diana. He died 5 months before I was born.’

Read ‘Dreams of Freedom | Diana


‘I am Spanish and I was in Holland when the anti-austerity movement known as 15M emerged in Spain.

‘I lived it with great intensity and I got involved in the movement with other Spaniards from Holland. This allowed us to give visibility to what was happening in Spain and to try to get the Dutch to join our anti-austerity demands.’

Read ‘Expandiendo el ‘Spanish revolution’ | Sol

Europe means techno

‘I’m a big techno fan. Wherever I go – England, Spain, Italy – techno is with me, it’s my European heritage. Here, I discovered different techno music. I go to different festivals where I can discover new music. Techno is part of my movement around Europe – wherever I go I ask ‘where is the techno club?’

‘It’s easy to move around in Europe and techno is part of that. I was listening to this music today. Music is what I bring wherever I travel.’

Read ‘Coming to Dublin | Shem

What does Europe mean to you?

Let us know in the comments, or add your own story to Europeana Migration.


Image credits
All images contributed to Europeana Migration by the contributors under a CC BY-SA licence.

The nature of Turkestan – legacy of Ernst Kleiber

Fri, 21/09/2018 - 12:14

It was in January 2014 during our second series of Europeana 1914-1918 collection days in Berlin that a very special and unique contribution to our project was made: the richly-illustrated manuscript produced by German prisoner of war (POW) Ernst Kleiber, while he was in Russian custody in Central Asia.

Page from Kleiber’s manuscript, Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA

Although he was eventually released in April 1918, Kleiber unfortunately never made it back home. His manuscript, however, returned in safe hands to his family, who have ever since sought to publish it. In 1927, Prague zoologist, Prof. Dr. Ludwig Freund, attested to the scientific value of Kleiber’s manuscript but was unable to provide the necessary funds to publish it.

Each document records in meticulous, scientific detail Kleiber’s findings on the flora and fauna of Turkestan, the region where he was held captive. His written notes are accompanied by detailed sketches of his surroundings and illustrations of species of flora and fauna he describes in the manuscript

Ernst Kleiber (on the right) standing next to an unidentified soldier,
Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA

Ernst Kleiber was born on December 15, 1886 in Budweis, now České Budějovice in Czechia. On June 25, 1904, he completed his school education and studied at the Technical University in Prague. He finished his studies there on 15 December 1911. Already in March 1912, the engineer was called to join the technical service at the postal administration in Linz (Lower Austria). He began his service on March 30, 1912.

In August 1914 he was “taken in”, that is to say, he entered the standing army, and subsequently became an officer (fortification construction) of the K. u. k. Directorate General of the Przemyśl Fortress in Galicia.

On one of the first postcards after his capture as a prisoner in April 1915 sent from Penza in Russia, Ernst writes to his mother: “Dear Mother, I send my warmest greetings to all the loved ones from Penza as I travel to the Far East”.

Kleiber was taken into Russian captivity in February 1915 during the Russian winter offensive at Przemyśl and was transferred to the Orenburg-Tashkent railway from Orenburg (Оренбург / Russia) to the POW camp Perowsk in Russian Turkestan (Қызылорда / Kysylorda / Kazakhstan) and in October 1916 via Andijan (Andijon / Uzbekistan) moved to the camp in Osh, Fergana region in Russian Turkestan (Kyrgyzstan).

It was during his imprisonment that Kleiber drew an extensive work on the flora and fauna of Turkestan. You can appreciate a selection of his drawings in our gallery “Beetles and Butterflies”. He was released from captivity in April, but never returned home. On November 23, 1918, his mother received her son’s last message: a postcard dated April 26, 1918 in which he expressed his anticipation of a speedy reunion. Since then Ernst Kleiber is officially considered missing.

Page from Kleiber’s manuscript, Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA

The manuscript of his work “The Nature of Turkestan” (96 pages manuscript, 43 plates) reached his mother via detours. She tried to publish it in the twenties, but without success. It was marked by experts such as Prof. Friedrich Blumentritt, Budweis, and zoologist Prof. Dr. med. Ludwig Freund, Prague, as extremely valuable and that it should necessarily be secured in a public institution, until the funds for a publication could be found. 

We invite people to work on the transcription and annotation of this very important work with the help of our online transcription tool Transcribathon – learn more about this initiative and our project. Eventually, we hope that Ernst Kleiber’s manuscript would become a printed publication.

The ‘Romance of the Rose’: A Medieval Guide to Love

Thu, 20/09/2018 - 09:15

This poem about living and loving in medieval courts was both very popular and controversial in the late Middle Ages and throughout the Renaissance.

Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, ‘Le Roman de la Rose’ (Paris, 2nd quarter of the 14th century)
Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Français 1572, f. 3r,
No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions

The Story of the Rose

Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun, ‘Le Roman de la Rose’ (Paris, 1353)
Genève, Bibliothèque de Genève, Ms. fr. 178, f. 1r, CC BY-NC

The ‘Romance of the Rose’, a medieval French poem that takes the form of an allegorical dream vision, was written by two successive authors: Guillaume de Lorris in the late 1230s, and Jean de Meun, who completed it almost forty years later. The authors’ purpose is to both entertain and teach others about the art of courtly love, as a part of the tradition of the “art of love” inspired by Ovid.

Garden of Pleasure, with the Lover and Dame Oiseuse (Idleness) outside,
British Library, Harley 4425, f. 12v, public domain

The poem tells of the Lover’s quest for the Rose, representing his lady, from love at first sight to the deflowering of the beloved. The earlier part of the ‘Rose’ belongs to the tradition of the fin’amor of troubadours and the romantic epic. In the later part, Jean de Meun replaces Guillaume de Lorris’s poetry with a summary of university culture and a more cynical vision of love. At the end, the ‘Romance of the Rose’ concludes in favour of the forces of nature, ignoring the tensions specific to courtly love, the moral obligations of marriage and the teachings of the Church.

Reception and Influence

The ‘Rose’ became the most popular work in the Old French vernacular. Some 250 medieval manuscripts are still extant. It had a strong influence on literature in France and beyond.

Around 1290, Gui de Mori rewrote the ‘Rose’ from a Christian point of view. Guillaume de Digulleville also composed an allegorical work around 1330-1331, the ‘Pèlerinage de vie humaine’. Using the codes of the ‘Rose’, he invites his readers on a quest of spiritual rather than amorous initiation.

Evrart de Conty, ‘Le Livre des échecs amoureux’Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Français 143, f. 1r,  No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions

The poem was also the subject of two moralisations: around 1400, Evrart de Conty, in the ‘Livre des Echecs amoureux’ (‘Book of Love Chess’), transposed in a didactic commentary the stages of amorous conquest into an allegorical game of chess. Later, around 1500, Jean de Molinet rewrote the ‘Romance of the Rose’ in prose and gave it spiritual significance.


Echoes of the ‘Romance of the Rose’ were heard beyond the French language, especially through great European poets.

The most relevant Italian translation is the poem ‘Il Fiore’ (‘The Flower’), attributed to Dante. The hypothesis of Dante’s authorship is supported by the explicit naming of the poem’s author, Durante (the full form of Dante), and by the mention of the assassination of Siger of Brabant, an Averroist scholar at the Sorbonne who was murdered in Paris. This episode is cited by only one other source, Dante’s ‘Paradise’.

The poem is composed of 232 sonnets functionally linked to one another, representing one of the first examples of this kind of poetic structure. It is just called ‘Flower’, since the text never explicitly mentions a rose, but every time Dante mentions the ‘Romance of the Rose’ in the ‘Comedy’, the quotation seems to depend on the translation of the French poem already given in the ‘Fiore’.

Geoffrey Chaucer, the author of the ‘Canterbury Tales’, translated the poem into English from the original Old French. Critics have suggested that the character of La Vieille acted as source material for Chaucer’s Wife of Bath, who claims the same lust for life.

The Quarrel of the Rose

At the beginning of the 15th century, the ‘Romance of the Rose’ sparked the first French literary quarrel between Jean Gerson, Christine de Pizan and other writers and moralists.

Christine de Pizan in her studyBritish Library, Harley 4431, f. 4, public domain

Fiona Lüddecke, Intern at the Department of Manuscripts, National Library of France
Andrea Beretta, Research Fellow, CNR-OVI


The blog post is a part of the Rise of Literacy project, where we take you on an exploration of literacy in Europe thanks to the digital preservation of precious textual works from collections across the continent. 

Further reading:

Contini, Gianfranco, “Un nodo della cultura medievale: la serie Roman de la Rose — Fiore — Divina Commedia,” in Lettere italiane, 25, 1973, p. 162-189.

Dante Alighieri, Il Fiore e il Detto d’amore, a cura di Luciano Formisano, Roma, Salerno, 2012

Read this blog post in French on the National Library of France’s Gallica Blog

See the National Library of France’s virtual exhibition on the ‘Romance of the Rose’ (in French)

Banned Authors – who got on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum?

Thu, 13/09/2018 - 10:00

Many noteworthy authors were put on the Index librorum prohibitorum because their works were seen to cause religious, political and moral controversies.

Famous names on the Roman Index include:
– Greek and the Roman authors like Ovid and Petronius
– religious reformers like Martin Luther, Philipp Melanchthon, and Jean Calvin
– humanists like Erasmus of Rotterdam, Hugo Grotius and Nicodemus Frischlin
– natural scientists like Nicolaus Copernicus, Paracelsus, and Joannes Kepler
– political thinkers like Niccolò Machiavelli, Jean Bodin and Montesquieu
– philosophers like René Descartes, Francis Bacon, Baruch Spinoza, David Hume, John Locke, Jean Jacques Rousseau, immanuel Kant, George Berkeley, Auguste Comte and Jean-Paul Sartre
– poets and novelists like Giovanni Boccaccio, John Milton, Jean de la Fontaine, Madame de Staël, Daniel Defoe, Stendhal, Gustave Flaubert, Emile Zola, André Gide, David Herbert Lawrence
– and many others!

Portrait of Martin Luther, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions

The boundaries between the permitted and the banned were sometimes very thin and unpredictable. Erasmus of Rotterdam’s popular collection of proverbs, the Adagia, was banned together with his entire opus, only because he did not take a sufficiently critical stance against the Protestant Reformation.

Though exorcism was an acknowledged method of casting out demons and the devil, popular exorcism manuals like Flagellum daemonum by Girolamo Menghi were banned because they contained rites which were not compliant with the official Church liturgy.

Though widely popular, Machiavelli’s political works were banned because they dealt with politics outside of the Church’s authority. Montesquieu’s proposal to divide political power into legislative, executive, and judicial in his De l’esprit des lois was considered to be politically subversive at the time. But it had a strong impact on numerous state and political regulations, and constitutional acts.

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek – Austrian National Library, Public Domain 

Baldassare Castiglione’s Il Cortegiano was the central reference work for aristocratic courtly etiquette throughout Europe. It was put on the Index because of its satirical comments and jokes at the Church’s expense.

In order to prevent further opposition to the geocentric worldview, Nicolaus Copernicus’s De revolutionibus orbium coelestium was put on the Index in 1616. This was more than seventy years after it was first published!

 Portrait of Nicholas Copernicus, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions

D’Alembert and Diderot’s Encyclopedie was banned because of its materialistic and empirical views of science, while Johannes Trithemius’s Steganographia was condemned because of its occultist content.

Left: portrait of Denis Diderot, Wellcome Collection, CC BY.
Right: Jean Le Rond d’Alembert, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions

The novelist Ferrante Pallavicino experienced fierce revenge and was executed in Avignon because of his anti-papal and anti-Jesuit satires.

Two notorious 17th- and 18th-century libertines and pornographers, Donatien Alphonse François Marquis de Sade and Nicolas-Edme Restif were in fierce personal disputes, but they appeared together on the Roman Index as well as on other censorship lists of the time.


By dr. Sonja Svoljšak, Manuscript, Rare and Old Prints Collection, Special Collections Division, National and University Library, Slovenia

Interested in book censorship? Read our previous blog post about it. Both posts are part of the Rise of Literacy project, where we take you on an exploration of literacy in Europe thanks to the digital preservation of precious textual works from collections across the continent. 

International Literacy Day 2018 with Rise of Literacy project

Sat, 08/09/2018 - 11:53

Specimens of Calligraphy, Inglis, Esther; University of Edinburgh, CC BY

On September 8, International Literacy Day, established by UNESCO, is celebrated around the world. This year’s theme is ‘Literacy and skills development’. Literacy is strongly connected to improving people’s life and the growth of societies but they are still persisting challenges despite the global progress.

For several weeks on this blog we have been exploring how reading and writing evolved across Europe, thanks to our partners from Rise of Literacy project, who are working to digitally preserve precious textual works from collections across the continent. In case you missed it, so far you could read about:

texts with no punctuation in Reading habits in the past;

– how to learn what was it like to live in the Florence of 1400 in How primary sources transcend time and transform our connection with history;

medieval love affair captured in letters in The Correspondence of Heloise and Abelard: Love, Friendship and Philosophy in the Middle Ages;

–  what happens when a book have no title page in Text Announcement in Manuscripts and Early Printed Books

–  what was the most common reason to be condemned as an author and added to a list of forbidden texts in Book Censorship and Banned Books: the Index Librorum Prohibitorum

how Italian publishers used travelling vendors to spread their prints in Travelling texts: information networks of the past

what gossip columns and compressed tablets have in common in A Variety of Newspaper Formats;

More of literacy related blogs will appear in the future, but if you have enough of reading, take a look at some of our beautiful galleries, featuring calligraphy, images of children reading, and details of manuscripts.


The Artist’s Sisters Signe and Henriette Reading a Book, Constantin Hansen, 1826, Statens Museum for Kunst, CC0


Back to school – historic school uniforms in Europeana Collections

Fri, 07/09/2018 - 08:00

If your social media feed is anything like mine, this week it’s been full of photographs of children dressed in school uniforms and big grins, ready for their first days at new schools. Their uniforms have been bought with growing room, so they all look tiny, swamped in swathes of grey, navy and black Teflon-coated fabric. Yes, the same stuff they put on non-stick frying pans gets applied to school clothing to try to make sure the knees don’t go through before Christmas.

So what did schoolchildren wear before polyester? I took a dive into Europeana Collections to see if I could find out. From the very youngest to some more mature students, I found fewer smiles than I’ve seen on Facebook this week, but more home-knitted jumpers, military-influenced jackets, voluminous blouses, pinafores and more than one very fine moustache. Enjoy.

And here are a few school uniform facts I found along the way (from Wikipedia actually)…

The school uniform is thought to have originated in England in the 16th century.

Research in 2017 showed that school uniforms stopped bullying. But there is no conclusive evidence to show they improve academic results.

On average, in the UK, parents spend around £200 (222 Euro) a year on school uniform for one child.

Image credits

Fotó, Pápa, Református Gimnázium. Gróf Esterházy Károly Múzeum – Pápa. CC BY-NC-ND.

Svetoslava Slaveykova in school uniform. NALIS Foundation. Public domain.

Introductory lesson in the Girls’ High School (Više djevojačke škole). Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the University of Graz. CC BY-NC-ND.

Group portrait of teachers and students. Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the University of Graz. CC BY-NC-ND.

Dimitar Drumev and others in school uniform | Дюрнбека, Ф. NALIS Foundation. Public domain.

Marko Molov in school uniform | Дюрибек. NALIS Foundation. Public domain.

Gerona. C. del Carmen. Salon de labor. Fargnoli Iannetta, Valentí. Ajuntament de Girona. CC BY-NC-ND.

The Classroom: 40 young students | Classe Unica: quaranta piccoli scolari | Unknown. Promoter Digital Gallery. CC BY-NC.

First Year at School | John Heywood (Photographer). Victoria and Albert Museum. CC BY.

Kinderkoor verbonden aan het Weerter Vocaal Ensemble o.l.v. Harry Janssen zingt in het stadhuis bij gelegenheid van de overdracht van een nieuw vaandel aan de K.M.S. Gemeentearchief Weert. CC BY-SA.

The Correspondence of Heloise and Abelard: Love, Friendship and Philosophy in the Middle Ages

Thu, 06/09/2018 - 13:28

What led to the most famous medieval correspondence? A thwarted love affair! The passionate relationship between Abelard and Heloise in 12th-century France was well-known even in the Middle Ages and has remained popular ever since.

Left: Portrait of Peter Abelard, engraving by Charles Mauduit based on Le Carpentier, 1820, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions; RightPortrait of Heloise d’Argenteuil, 19th century engraving, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, public domain


A Legacy of Love …

The scholastic philosopher and theologian Peter Abelard, described by Peter the Venerable as ‘the Socrates of France, the sublime Plato of the West, our Aristotle’, was as brilliant as he was controversial. His thought and works on morality, theology and dialectic were of great importance. Besides these contributions, he is also remembered as the castrated lover of Heloise d’Argenteuil.

The story of their passion has made Heloise and Abelard one of the great couples of legend: their correspondence was quoted as early as the 13th century by Jean de Meun in the Romance of the Rose, and François Villon mentioned it in 1461 in his Ballade des dames du temps jadis, which was set to music in 1953 by Georges Brassens.

François Villon, ‘Ballade des dames du temps jadis’, 1461,
Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions

In Modern French, the poem reads: ‘Où est la très sage Héloïs, Pour qui fut châtré et puis moine Pierre Esbaillart à Saint-Denis ? Pour son amour eut cette peine.’

Villon’s poem was translated into English in 1870 by Dante Gabriel Rossetti as The Ballad of Dead Ladies:

Where’s Heloise, the learned nun,

For whose sake Abeillard, I ween,

Lost manhood and put priesthood on?

(From Love he won such dule and teen!)

Their story tells of the love that grew between one of the greatest minds of the early 12th century, then 40 years old, and his brilliant 18-year-old student. The affair led to their secret marriage and the birth of their son, Astrolabe. However, it also caused conflict with Heloise’s family and resulted in Fulbert, a powerful canon in Paris, giving the order for Abelard to be castrated as punishment.

The story of Heloise and Abelard, Epinal print, 1842,
Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions

… of an Exceptional Couple

The Letters of Two Lovers (Epistolae duorum amantiumwere discovered in the 15th century, but lay forgotten until the 20th century. Some scholars have recently attributed them to Heloise and Abelard, believing these letters could be the passionate correspondence of their youth. Better known are the letters translated by Bussy-Rabutin in the 17th century. These were exchanged after the lovers’ forced separation and their later entry into religious life, when Heloise was abbess of the Paraclete and Abelard a monk in Saint-Denis.


The Parting of Abelard and Eloisa, engraving by Gawrila Skorodomoff based on Angelica Kauffman, 4th quarter of the 18th century, Teylers Museum, CC BY-NC

The oldest letter from Heloise to Abelard in this collection was written nearly 20 years after she entered the convent. She seeks to resume their past relationship while at the same time encouraging him to focus on faith and religion. In this exchange, where Heloise truly exists as Abelard’s lover and wife in only five letters that have been preserved, the former lovers discuss Benedictine rule and Heloise in particular provides a critical reflection on monastic life.

To continue celebrating a love story that took place a thousand years ago, why not visit the tomb where Heloise and Abelard have been reunited, finally and forever, in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris?

Tomb of Heloise and Abelard in the Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, photograph by Eugène Atget, 1901,
Parisienne de Photographie, public domain

By Monique Calinon
Department of Literature and Art, National Library of France


The blog is a part of the Rise of Literacy project, where we take you on an exploration of literacy in Europe thanks to the digital preservation of precious textual works from collections across the continent.