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From cuddly toys to tea leaves – a child’s view of migration

Thu, 17/01/2019 - 08:00

When you’re a kid, moving house is a big deal. Moving to another country, learning another language, making new friends, facing a new culture… well, that’s a pretty huge deal.

During the Europeana Migration campaign, while adults shared stories about their childhood, we also heard stories about children from children, each illustrated by an object that means something to them. This blog explores some of the themes from these stories. 

This reminds me of my family

Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of the stories focus on an object that reminds the child of family members.

Ariadne’s is a golden badge which her dad got ‘for helping South Africa catching robbers’: a true superhero! ‘Having my badge makes me feel like I’m seeing my family. It has helped me remember my Great Grandma, and my Grandma who helps me paint with watercolour.’

Stella’s silver ornament ‘reminds me of my great grandma’s mother and her flossy cotton candy, silky and light caramels, bitter and rich chocolate, and vanilla cookies!’

My golden badge from Denmark, Ariadne, CC BY-SA

This is what I cuddle

Sometimes it’s not clear whether the link between the object and the family member is figurative or literal… Elsa tells us that her bunny teddy is important to her ‘because it reminds me of my dad. My Bunny has one banana yellow nose, one green eye, two soft black eyebrows and two faint yellow ears matching with his feet.’

Salavador says something similar: ‘It looks like a bear with fluffy ears. It has beautiful paws and reminds me of Dad.’

So does Isobel: ‘Back then my Bunny had beautiful flowers in her ears and her nose was not as torn and her fur was as soft as a polar bear’s. But now she is a bit scruffy and not as soft. When I look at her she reminds me of my sister and my Mum and Dad but I will always have my precious little bunny.’

And a toy monkey with ‘super sonic orange eyes’ makes Aidan think of his dad, ‘When we are together, we always go to new beautiful, magnificent places.’

The Monkey, Aidan, CC BY-SA

This feels nice to touch

Children experience the world in a different way to grown-ups. They talk a lot about how an object feels to touch, what it smells or even tastes like.

A holy thread feels rough and hard. A Rakhi soft and furry. A pen ‘smells like ice and tastes like salt’. A badge is cold and difficult to break. A cuddly bear smells like old toys and ‘sounds like soft little pillows when it falls’. A babygro smells of vinegar and ‘tickles a bit’. A soccer trophy ‘was ice cold’ and ‘as special as an old fossil’.

My favourite Rakhi, Het, CC BY-SA

This makes me feel at home

For some, the object they describe takes them back home even though home is now somewhere new.

Shaariq told us about his grandmother’s invention – ‘Palla podi’ – a powder made from burnt husk and cinnamon for cleaning teeth. ‘When you add water or saliva it becomes black and it makes your teeth white and clean.’ Another child brought the Indian silver cup they were fed from – tradition has it that feeding a baby out of silverware makes them smart, strong and precious.

Several children talk of shells they picked up and treasured – a pocket-sized piece of home. Abigail has two golden bracelets made especially for her Nanna by her sister in Croatia. Calypso’s doll’s house helps her to feel at home having moved from Cyprus to the Netherlands. For Kamila, it’s a rubber toy pig from Uzbekistan given to her when she was six that she just couldn’t stop hugging that reminds her of home. And for eight-year-old Kavin, a replica of the Shard reminds him of his time in London and remains his ‘third most treasured item’.

My toy pig from Uzbekistan, Kamila, CC BY-SA

This is my family

And of course, there are family photos. Nine-year-old Maanas moved from India to Brussels and returns every two years. He shared photos of both his father’s family and his mother’s family. And Maximilian says his snapshot ‘reminds me of when I was there in Switzerland to meet my family or go skiing. Some days I dream that I am in Switzerland with all my Swiss family eating delicious food in a restaurant or at the Badi Ruti swimming pool.’ 

Maanas’s big family, Maanas, CC BY-SA

I made this myself

Particularly special are the hand-crafted and unique – drawings, letters, school yearbooks. Ananya loves her Tanzanian yearbook. ‘It is so lovely to have a yearbook, which reminds you of nature, friends and teachers of your school.’

Leon appreciates the school folder his parents brought from his school in England when they moved to The Hague. And Aadit hand-wrote his contribution about ‘the best moment in my life’ – when he travelled with his mother and little brother from Mumbai to Brussels to move to a new country, rejoining his father who he hadn’t seen for six months.

Clara Herreros shared a picture showing Spain – churros, an omelette and a flag – and Holland – cheese, a tulip, a windmill and waffles. While Ana Lucia’s drawing puts Australia and Holland side by side as she remembers being bitten by ants.

Not all the stories are of happy times. Drawings by refugee and asylum-seeker children reveal both traumatic experiences and hopes for the future.

Una niña albaceteña en Holanda, Clara Herreros, CC BY-SA

This is mine, just mine

Some children talk about their object being special because it is theirs and theirs alone. A map of Uganda ‘belongs to me just me’. A teddy bear ‘has never belonged to anyone else’. Three shells on a beach ‘never belonged to anyone’. A way perhaps of gaining a little control when everything else is in transition.

My map of Uganda, Micah, CC BY-SA

This is my future

And the children talk of their hopes for the future – of revisiting their country of birth, of seeing family members again, of learning more languages, of learning to read the tea leaves with Nanny, or of wanting to ‘explore the ocean wide and find treasure because none of my family did’.

Reading tea leaves – a family tradition, George, CC BY-SA


We thank them all for sharing their stories with Europeana Migration. 

Discover more stories of migration on Europeana Collections.

The Ice Follies: how a Swedish family changed American entertainment history

Tue, 15/01/2019 - 09:59

This photograph shows Frank Otto Skeppstedt, his wife and four children stoically posing for a studio photographer. The formal portrait gives away nothing of their extraordinary family history. At the time this picture was taken, the Skeppstedts (now Shipstads) had settled at St. Paul, Minnesota, after having emigrated from Sweden. Father Frank Otto had found work at a foundry but barely brought in enough to feed his family, that would eventually count ten children.

Yet one of the boys in this portrait, Eddie, was to become one of the biggest names in the American entertainment industry.

It all started in St. Paul, when Eddie (at the time a seller of typewriters) met Oscar Johnson (who worked as a chemist) and joined him in skating on the frozen lakes. Soon they were practicing stunts and got hired to do their act during half-time shows for St. Paul’s professional hockey team and New York Rangers games.

Then they were asked to put together a complete variety show on ice. In the meantime, Eddie’s brother Roy Shipstad – a talented skater who won several amateur titles – teamed up with Eddie and Oscar. Together they produced a first show as a charity benefit performance. Afterwards, they decided to take the show on the road. From these early ventures, in 1936 Shipstad’s and Johnson’s Ice Follies were born: the first traveling extravaganza on ice.

Ice Follies founders Roy Shipstad, Oscar Johnson, and Eddie Shipstad, Billboard Magazine, January 6, 1945, Public Domain

The Ice Follies were among the pioneering ice shows that would thrive throughout the 20th century, combining skating with theatre, music, lighting, choreography, music hall entertainment, elaborate props and costumes. Their main attraction was the complete novelty of the spectacle, that soon rivalled the more old-fashioned circus show in popularity. And thus business took off, with Metro Goldwyn Mayer even producing a film with Ice Follies in 1939. Also in 1939, the comic skating duo Frick and Frack joined the show.

Soon many other shows started building upon the Shipstads’ success, such as the Hollywood Ice Review, the Holiday on Ice shows (using ingenious mobile rinks) and the Sonja Henie Ice Revue.

Norwegian star skater Sonja Henie, a rival of the Shipstad’s Follies, 1930, Oslo Museum. CC BY-SA

Yet the Ice Follies would remain – together with the Ice Capades – among the most successful, playing for over 60 million people in 30 years. In the mid-1960s the Ice Follies were placed within General Ice Shows Inc, that would later buy Holiday on ice as well. When Mattel acquired both shows in 1979, the idea arose to collaborate with Disney. This resulted in the Disney World on Ice tours, that took off in 1981 and run to the present day.

As for the Shipstads: along with the permanent change of their last names, their American adventure brought them fame, fortune, and … tons of ice! For Eddie’s son and grandson – both named after him – would make their careers directing ice shows as well, while Roy’s daughter Jill would tour with the Ice Follies as a star skater for many glorious years.

Featured image: Frank Otto Skeppstedt and family in the United States, c. 1910, Sörmlands Museum. CC BY-SA

This blog post is a part of the Migration in the Arts and Sciences project, and was written by Sofie Taes of Photoconsortium.

Lighting the Way: How Illuminated Initials Guided Medieval Readers through Books

Thu, 10/01/2019 - 13:49

Many medieval manuscripts are full of decorated capital letters that add colour to the page. They come in all styles and sizes, but what exactly are they and what was their purpose?

Zoomorphic initial D with a dragon forming the ascender. Bible, France, 12th century. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Arsenal, Ms 578, f. 6v. NoC-OKLR

What is an illuminated initial?

The word illuminate, in the medieval sense, means to decorate with colours. An illuminated initial is an enlarged and decorated capital letter, the first letter of a section of text. They can vary from the basic pen-and-ink drawn letter to the most elaborate letter painted with gold or silver leaf. Text and illumination were complementary and were either closely related or sharply contrasted.

Instead of initials, many Hebrew manuscripts have decorated initial-word panels. There is no distinction between upper and lower case in Hebrew, so the entire first word was often decorated.


Historiated initial-word panel of the story of Ruth. Bible, Southern Germany, ca. 1322 (Additional 22413, f. 71). Decorated initial-word panel at the beginning of 1 Chronicles in the “Duke of Sussex’s Italian Bible”. North-eastern Italy, 1448 or 1498 (Additional 15251, f. 313v). British Library, Public Domain.

These initials, like other painted elements, were added after the text had been copied, often by a different person – an illuminator. Space for these letters was marked out and left blank while the scribe worked, with just a small guide letter marked so the illuminator would know which letter to paint. In some manuscripts the initials were never added and you can see the space that was reserved for them.

What are they for?

Illuminated initials could have several purposes in medieval manuscripts. The most obvious is their decorative or aesthetic value.

Initials that include human or animal figures in or around them are said to be inhabited. Others may be more abstract, incorporating geometric or interlace designs – these are simply called decorated initials. Inhabited and interlace initial O. Second Bible of Charles the Bald, Abbey of Saint-Amand, c. 871-877 (Latin 2, f. 272); inhabited champie initial A with a dragon. Songbook of Noailles, Northern France, ca. 1275-1300 (Français 12615, f121v), Bibliothèque nationale de France, NoC-OKLR. Gilded initial S with the “bianchi girari” decoration typical of Italian humanistic manuscripts. Homer, Iliad, Italy, second half of the 15th century (Universitat de València BH Ms 413, f1 – CC BY-NC).

They could also be used to illustrate the text, in addition to or instead of miniatures.Historiated initials show a scene or a recognisable person that relates to the text, in and around the shape of the letter. Sometimes illuminated initials contrast with the text: they might show irreverent or humorous figures and scenes.

Historiated initial D: David beheading Goliath with his sword. Psalter, North-western France, c. 1175 (Koningklijke Bibliotheek, 76 E 11, f. 51 – Public Domain). Historiated initial C: Ptolemy at work as a geographer. Claudius Ptolemy, Geography, Florence, c. 1475-1480 (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Latin 4802, f. 3 – NoC-OKLR). When animal or human figures form the shape of the letter, these are called zoomorphic or anthropomorphic initials, or even zoo-anthropomorphic if there are both people and animals. Left to right: the Virgin Mary as an anthropomorphic initial I. Gellone Sacramentary, Meaux or Cambrai, late 8th century (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Latin 12048, f.1v – NoC-OKLR). Zoomorphic initial A formed by two birds. Corbie Psalter, Northern France, 9th century (Bibliothèques d’Amiens métropole, Ms. 18, f68v – NoC-OKLR). Zoo-anthropomorphic E. Songbook of Zeghere van Male, Bruges, 1542 (Cambrai, Bibliothèque municipale, Ms 126 B, f76v – CC BY-NC).

Beyond decoration and illustration, the primary role of illuminated initials was more practical. They provide a visual point of reference, marking the division of the text into books, chapters, paragraphs and sometimes even verses.

Three different sizes of initials, in alternating gold and blue with blue and red pen-flourishing, mark the major and minor divisions within Guillaume de Machaut’s poem “Remède de Fortune”. Paris, around 1350-1355 (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Français 1586, ff. 41v-42 – NoC-OKLR).

Unlike books published today, medieval manuscripts don’t have title pages and new chapters don’t generally start on a new page, because parchment was costly and the space on the page had to be used carefully.

Different types, different styles

Illuminated initials can look very different from one manuscript to another, and even within the same manuscript. This may depend on several factors:

  • when and where the manuscript was decorated
  • the type of manuscript and its intended use
  • the level of significance of the initials within a programme of decoration
  • the importance and wealth of the person commissioning the manuscript
A puzzle initial is a letter divided into interlocking pieces, often painted red and blue, with a fine line of white to separate the two parts. From left to right: puzzle initial A in red and blue with red and blue pen-flourishing. Lumley Bible, Southeastern England, 2nd half of the 13th century (British Library, Royal 1 E II, f. 370). Puzzle initial B in red and blue with red, blue and yellow pen-flourishing. Bible, Italy or Southern France, 2nd quarter of the 13th century (British Library, Arundel 287, f. 163). Puzzle initial D in red and blue with red and blue pen-flourishing. Book of Hours, 15th century (National Library of Romania, Ms III 28 4, f. 1v). Public Domain

Styles and techniques particular to one region would spread as scribes and illuminators travelled and exchanged ideas and techniques. One example of this is the Channel School. This style of illumination flourished on either side of the English Channel during the 11th and 12th centuries, and also influenced illuminators as far away as Bavaria and Bohemia.

Initials in the Channel School style, from left to right: initial E. Psalter, England 3rd quarter of the 12th century (British Library, Add MS 17392, f. 129v – Public Domain). Initial U. Bible, Foigny, 4th quarter of the 12th century (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Latin 15178, f. 2v – NoC-OKLR). Initial E. Bible “Codex Gigas”, Bohemia, ca. 1220 (National Library of Sweden, MS A 148, f. 45v – CC BY).

This practice continued with the first printed books, which were designed to resemble manuscripts as closely as possible. Many printers left space on the page so that initials and other elements could later be added by hand, according to the owner’s specifications.

Elizabeth MacDonald
Europeana Rise of Literacy Editorial Coordinator, National Library of France


Be sure to check out our gallery for more illuminated initials!

Further reading:

Géhin, Paul (dir.), Lire le manuscrit médiéval. Paris: Armand Colin, 2018.

Glossary for the British Library Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts

Codicologia (IRHT-CNRS), a multilingual glossary for describing medieval manuscripts

Codex Gigas (National Library of Sweden)

Making Medieval Manuscripts: Making Miniatures (video, British 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.

Ivan Cankar – The Writer, The Migrant

Tue, 11/12/2018 - 09:18

Zala Mojca Jerman Kuželički of National and University Library in Slovenia introduces us to Ivan Cankar, who died 100 years ago today and is regarded as the greatest writer in the Slovene language.

Ivan Cankar, the first professional and most prolific Slovene writer and playwright, is mostly known for his skilful depictions of the petty bourgeoisie and the margins of society; his hometown Vrhnika; for the coffee he made his poor mother go beg for and then refused to drink, and the wine he’d never refuse to drink. He is hailed for his sweet language of sorrow and nostalgia, and the suffering somehow made beautiful.

Ivan Cankar (1876-1918) by Fran Vesel, National and University Library of Slovenia, public domain

What usually doesn’t come to mind is Vienna and migration. Cankar was a proud Slovenian, always giving praise to the Slavic nations and Slovene, but it must be noted that he spent a major and highly influential part of his most fruitful years in Vienna, Austria.

Vienna back then was, of course, the capital of Austrian Empire, Cankar’s own country. It only made sense at the time for any young person aspiring to any sort of greatness to pack their bags and leave (possibly by train, but mostly on foot) their home towns and villages for the broad, gleaming streets of the capital.

Ansicht von Wien aufgenommen von St. Stephansthurme, Johann Breyer, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, public domain

Cankar joined the battalion of youngsters gravitating toward the centre of everything to continue his technical studies at the Viennese Technische Hochschule. While enamoured with the city, he quickly grew restless in his classes, dissatisfied with the underwhelming challenges and dry technical language. Deciding to enrol instead at the Department of Philology to study Romance and Slavic languages, he lost his scholarship and took to writing as a means of making ends meet. Thus began the career of Slovenia’s greatest writer.

The metropolis offered Cankar a most colourful array of people to get to know and be inspired by; there, he rubbed shoulders with other writers, thinkers, bohemians and many great personas of the time like Stefan Zweig and Sigmund Freud. He participated in heated literary discussions in the notorious Beethoven Café, had easy access to all the important magazines, and got to experience first-hand the latest literary trends. His career blossomed. With his sardonic talent for hitting the nail on the head and his unwavering independence, he was quickly becoming the most sought-after writer back home. The conservatives feared him, the liberals ridiculed him; the public adored him.

At the same time, living in Vienna brought Cankar face to face with a new level of poverty and profound homesickness; an experience that crucially influenced his work and radicalised him. His political ideas about the clergy, the Austrian Empire, socialism and Slavic nations earned him an enormous amount of censorship, yet he persisted as the voice of the voiceless, the beacon of hope for the hopeless, the empathetic hug for the untouchables.

Večer na Dunaju, Ivan Cankar, National and University Library of Slovenia, public domain

In 1908, after ten years of the metropolitan life, Cankar left Vienna. Growing perhaps tired of the constant hubbub of the great city, he retired to Rožnik, a small hill perched atop Ljubljana. He continued writing profusely until his untimely death at 42, on 11 December 1918, his Vienna-won wisdom infusing every letter. It is for Cankar’s deep understanding of the human psyche and the constant calling out of the injustices of human society that we still cherish his work today.


The National and University Library is currently displaying “I AM CANKAR – THAT SAYS IT ALL!” an exhibition presenting a selection of letters from Ivan Cankar’s legacy. The exhibition runs until 26 January 2019. More info.

Featured image: Poet Peter (left), Ivan Cankar; portrait of Ivan Cankar (right) by Fran Vesel;  National and University Library of Slovenia, public domain  

Iberian iconography and ritual

Thu, 06/12/2018 - 10:30

In last week’s blog The history of the Iberians, we gave a high-level overview of the Iberian peoples. Today, we focus on the iconography shown in Iberian art and objects from archaeological research, and what it says about the social structures, beliefs, and myths of the Iberians.

Image and funerary ritual

Certain cultural features define the Iberian societies, perhaps the most noteworthy being Iberian pottery. This was decorated in red with mainly geometric forms, although in some areas (from Murcia to the south of Catalonia) figurative images were added. The art of these societies was characterised by powerful iconography: images were one of their best and most effective methods of dissemination and propaganda. Studying this iconography offers us an insight into the ideologically complex beliefs, narratives, and myths of the Iberians. expounded in the towns, shrines and cemeteries, as well as into their myths, both heroic and divine. All this gives us an idea of the ideological complexity of those cultures.


Supernatural and mythical beings. Left: Wolf. Sanctuary of El Pajarillo (Huelma, Spain); centre: Griffin. Sculptural group of Cerrillo Blanco (Porcuna, Spain); right: Patera of the Treasure of Perotito (Santiesteban del Puerto, Spain).

A great example of this is Iberian eschatology (i.e. the Iberian theological beliefs about the end of the world). For Iberian societies, the hereafter was a continuity of life; death was seen as the starting point for a journey symbolised by a crossing of the sea, the land or even the sky. Supernatural and mythical beings, such as the Sphinx, the Griffin or the wolf, and sometimes the divinity, accompanied and guided the deceased on this journey. The crossing of this threshold of death culminated in a celebration, a place of reunion symbolised by abundance.

All this was channelled through a funerary ritual characterised by the funerary banquet, the libations, the cremation and the definition of the spaces in the necropolis that linked the hereafter to the territory. The configuration and meaning of those spaces varied according to the historical period of the Iberian societies. It is noteworthy that, at a certain time in the late 5th century BC and, above all, in the mid-4th century BC, perfectly hierarchised funerary landscapes were laid out. In these landscapes, not only can we identify social groups differentiated on the basis of grave goods, tomb types and spatial distribution, we can also clearly see the relations with the ancestors and the divinity. The necropolises of Baza and Tútugi (both in Granada province, Spain) are clear examples.

Burial mounds. Left: Burial chamber of Piquía (Arjona, Spain); right: Burial mound 75. Cemetery of Tútugi (galera, Spain)

Worship sites

The cultural and social diversity of the Iberian societies is reflected in their wide variety of urban and rural sanctuaries. In general, archaeological research has focused on the analysis of sanctuaries or urban sacred sites that served to emphasise the ideological representational role of certain communities and their dominant lineages in the bosom of the power centres. These urban sanctuaries could be collective or family worship sites. Collective sanctuaries reflected the power of a town and its community in the structuring of the political landscape. Places of worship associated with the more restricted scope of the family or lineage were linked to the cults and rituals of ancestor veneration.

Iberian Sanctuary of Cueva de la Lobera and bronce exvote (Castellar, Spain)

Rural worship sites demonstrate the function of religiosity in the processes of territorial cohesion and control. They often defined the enshrinement of the territorial boundaries by placing worship sites on the frontiers. Those sanctuaries strengthened the relationship between the town and its political spaces and concretised the relations of the community with their neighbours. They were true centres of representation to which pilgrimages were organised to hold the most important community rituals (initiation, nuptial, aggregation, etc.). Of particular note, due to their size, are the sanctuaries of Collado de los Jardines (Santa Elena, Jaén) and Cueva de la Lobera (Castellar, Jaén). These worship sites were in the territory of the oppidum of Cástulo (Linares) and became true symbolic and territorial centres of reference, above all during the 3rd century BC.

Guest blog by Carmen Rueda, Alberto Sánchez, Pilar Amate, from the University Research Institute for Iberian Archaeology (University of Jaén, Spain), in collaboration with CARARE.

This is the second of two guest posts on the Iberians – read part one here and explore archaeology in Europeana Collections.

Featured image: Iberian Peninsula from “Winter and Spring on the Shores of the Mediterranean … Fourth edition”, British Library, public domain

ARANEGUI, C. (2012): Los iberos ayer y hoy. Arqueologías y culturas. Ed. Marcial Pons, Colección de Historia, Madrid.
GONZALEZ REYERO, S. (Ed., 2012): Iberos. Sociedades y territorios del occidente Mediterráneo, Madrid.
GONZÁLEZ REYERO, S. y RUEDA, C. (2010): Imágenes de los Iberos. Comunicar sin palabras en las sociedades de la Antigua Iberia. Colección Divulgación, CSIC. Editorial Catarata. Madrid.
GRAU, I. y RUEDA, C. (2018) : « La religión en las sociedades iberas : una visión panorámica », Revista de Historiografía 28 : 47-72.
IZQUIERDO, I.; MAYORAL, V.; OLMOS, R. y PEREA, A. (2004): Diálogos en el País de los Iberos. Ministerio de Cultura, Madrid.
RUIZ A.; MOLINOS, M. (1998): The Archaeology of the Iberians. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Pizza: a slice of migration history

Tue, 04/12/2018 - 09:00

Pizza – possibly one of the most popular, tasty and simple things you can have for dinner tonight. But behind its simplicity lies a much more complex history – this is the tale of the Margherita’s migration.

Take ingredients from Naples

Pizza has been around in Italy for more than 1,000 years in differing forms. What we recognise today as pizza was invented in Naples. This dish began to conquer the world in the 19th century.

The ‘Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana’ (‘True Neapolitan Pizza Association’), which was founded in 1984, sets the very specific rules that must be followed for an authentic Neapolitan pizza. For example, many Naples pizzerias will only use San Marzano tomatoes grown on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius. This video shows Neapolitans living and working in Milan in the 1960s, with some working in the pizza industry.

Today, however, you don’t need to be in Naples, or even Italy, to get your hands on a great pizza. In many ways, this is due to movement and migration.

Kraftfahrzeug, Spielzeugmuseum der Stadt Nürnberg (Museum Lydia Bayer), CC BY-NC-SA

Roll the dough across the seas

A number of factors led to a rise in the popularity of pizza around the world. Large numbers of Italians migrated to the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries, bringing with them their local food traditions which were enjoyed mainly by Italian and Italian-American communities. What would those original migrants think to the now-iconic New York-style pizza, cut into huge slices with extra thin crusts that you fold in half to eat?

Pizza’s popularity boomed in the years after World War II. Allied troops stationed in Italy during the war ate and enjoyed pizza, bringing their taste for the dish home to their countries. During the 1950s and 1960s,  increased prosperity and leisure times led to populations from other Western European countries holidaying in Italy, discovering the delicious dish and creating an appetite back home for it.

Arrival of Italian guest workers […] in Brunssum, 1957, Historic Center Limburg, CC BY-SA

Add toppings to taste

In these decades too, many Italians moved to Germany, Sweden, Netherlands and other Western European countries as guest workers, and later established their own restaurants. These photographs of pizzerias in Swedish towns in Örebro County all have names associated with Italy: Pizzeria Italia, Pizzeria RomaPizzeria Verona, Pizzeria Mona Lisa and Pizzeria Colosseo.

Like the good ingredients of a pizza, all these factors combined to bring pizza to the world. In the collections gathered in Europeana, we see evidence of pizza’s popularity.

Leaflet advertising for a Hungarian pizza and pasta house, s.d.
Bács-Kiskun County Katona József Library – Kecskemét. CC BY-NC-ND

Local food traditions in individual countries now combine with the original Italian pizza recipes: Japanese enjoy pizza with squid and Tabasco; banana topping is popular in Iceland and Sweden; Hungarian pizzas, promoted in the leaflet above, boast sausage, smoked knuckles, beans, leek and mustard-sour cream sauce.


Pizza & Kebab House i Karlskoga, Johanna Björck, Örebro läns museum, CC BY-NC

In Sweden, one of the most popular dishes – now considered a Swedish tradition – is kebabpizza. It combines pizza, ‘brought’ to Sweden by Italian guest workers, with kebab, brought to Sweden by Turkish and Middle Eastern guest workers. Read more about how the Swedish tradition of kebabpizza came about.

We can also see examples of the mixing of migrant communities’ food traditions in the Netherlands: here are the gyros pizza and the tandoori chicken pizza.

Enjoy with a side of tradition

But, in some cases, the age-old Italian traditions still remain.

My Pizza and bakery shop, Gheorghi Kostadinov, CC BY-SA

At the Roads of Remembrance and Identity – Migration Stories from Romania collection day in Sibiu, we heard from Gheorghi, a Bulgarian man who trained in Italy to be a pizzaiolo and now owns a pizzeria in Romania.

My strong wish is to carry on the tradition of making a good and healthy food, to preserve the old pizza recipes, innovating at the same time. I have brought with me from Italy four traditional pizza peels and even some high quality oven plates made from refractory materials from the Vesuvius Area.

So the next time you tuck into a pizza, think about the ingredients and where these have come from, and the communities who have migrated around the world and helped this dish from one city in the south of Italy become a world favourite.


Featured image: Pizza vegetaria, Sörmlands museum, CC BY-SA

Europeana EYCH 2018 Advent Calendar

Fri, 30/11/2018 - 17:01

December is here so it’s time for a countdown! We know you (secretely) love a chocolate advent calendar, but due to a digital character of our activity, we can’t provide one here. But no worries, we prepared some brain candy that will make you equally happy – a Europeana Advent Calendar. And as 2018 is European Year of Cultural Heritage, there’s no better way to celebrate than discovering a festive piece of cultural heritage content every day. Enjoy!

The history of the Iberians

Fri, 30/11/2018 - 09:17

Archaeological research provides us with a broad overview of the past life of cultures and communities. One such culture that has seen extensive archaeological study is the Iberians. We use the generic name Iberians to refer to a group of peoples who inhabited a large part of the Iberian Peninsula for much of the first millennium. This is a brief overview of their history, their political structures, and their demise.

Diversity in time and space

The Iberians lived along the Mediterranean coast and in the south and centre of the Iberian Peninsula, as well as in the French Languedoc region. The large cultural area of the ancient Mediterranean was the staging ground of the historical dynamic between the 6th-1st centuries BC that the Iberian peoples took part in.
The term Iberian encompasses a huge diversity. Iberian society was a mosaic of political entities with common cultural features, as well as their own regional and local traits. The ancient writers referred to them by different names: Oretani, Contestani, Bastetani, Indiketi, Edetani, etc. These people shared a language that today we call Iberian. Of course, that does not mean there were no other languages, as we have evidence of others on the Iberian Peninsula just prior to Romanisation.

An aristocratic and clientele society

In the late 5th and early 4th centuries BC, we see a series of important social changes that would lead to the consolidation of an aristocracy and the emergence of a clientele system. This meant that a single aristocrat or prince would become a dominant leader of groups of people who supported him and his lineage. This new political system led, among other things, to cities and towns that centered around these leaders, also known as territorial nucleation. In this context, the oppidum or fortified Iberian town became the centre of reference in the landscape and the political space. The town focused and organised the territory and, mainly from the 4th century BC on, led expansion programmes. This meant that the differences between towns became more evident and the hierarchy in the territory accentuated. The Iberian landscape stayed heterogeneous in the way that its towns were constructed, however: the Romans did territorial organisation very differently, and not all Iberian towns became oppida.


Oppidum of Puente Tablas (Jaén, Spain). Left: aerial view; right: Gate of the Sun. Instituto de Arqueología Ibérica-Universidad de Jaén, CC BY-NC.


Iberian pottery is a unique and distinguishing feature of this culture. Most Iberian pottery was decorated in red with mainly geometric forms, although in some areas (from Murcia to the south of Catalonia) figurative images were added. The powerful iconography of these societies made the images on pottery a great way of sharing information and spreading propaganda. Studying this iconography offers us an insight into the ideologically complex beliefs, narratives, and myths of the Iberians.

Funerary urns. Left: funerary urn with lead cover from grave 51, cemetery of Piquía (Arjona, Jaén, Spain); right: funerary urn from grave 229, burial mound E, cemetery of La Noria (Fuente de Piedra, Málaga, Spain). Instituto de Arqueología Ibérica-Universidad de Jaén, CC BY-NC.

A great example of this is Iberian eschatology (i.e. the Iberian theological beliefs about the end of the world). For Iberian societies, the hereafter was a continuity of life; death was seen as the starting point for a journey symbolised by a crossing of the sea, the land or even the sky. Supernatural and mythical beings, such as the Sphinx or the wolf, and sometimes Divinity itself, accompanied and guided the deceased on this journey. The crossing of this threshold of death culminated in a celebration, a place of reunion symbolised by abundance.

The end of the Iberians

The Second Punic War shook the deeply-rooted social and political structures of the Iberian societies. In the final years of the 3rd century BC, the Iberian peninsula became the staging ground for the war between Carthage and Rome, accelerating a series of transformations that affected all levels of life. Iberia soon came under the effective domination of the Roman victors. This process did not affect the whole Iberian area in the same way, as the official interests varied according to the territory. It is, therefore, difficult to summarise such a complex and varied process that in the late 1st century BC would lead to the end of the Iberian societies, as they became integrated into the homogeneity of the Roman structure.

Battle of Baécula, Cerro de las Albahacas (Santo Tomé-Cazorla, Jaén, Spain). Left: Weapons (selection); right: Iberian mercenary, Roman legionary and Carthaginian soldier.

This historical and contextual complexity offers us an open panorama for archaeological research in which the University Research Institute for Iberian Archaeology (University of Jaén, Spain) is a centre of reference for the multidisciplinary analysis of those Iron Age societies.

Guest blog by: Carmen Rueda, Alberto Sánchez, Pilar Amate, from the University Research Institute for Iberian Archaeology (University of Jaén, Spain)
This is the first blog in a series of two on the Iberians, written for Europeana Archaeology. Explore the collection here!

ARANEGUI, C. (2012): Los iberos ayer y hoy. Arqueologías y culturas. Ed. Marcial Pons, Colección de Historia, Madrid.
GONZALEZ REYERO, S. (Ed., 2012): Iberos. Sociedades y territorios del occidente Mediterráneo, Madrid.
GONZÁLEZ REYERO, S. y RUEDA, C. (2010): Imágenes de los Iberos. Comunicar sin palabras en las sociedades de la Antigua Iberia. Colección Divulgación, CSIC. Editorial Catarata. Madrid.
GRAU, I. y RUEDA, C. (2018) : « La religión en las sociedades iberas : una visión panorámica », Revista de Historiografía 28 : 47-72.
IZQUIERDO, I.; MAYORAL, V.; OLMOS, R. y PEREA, A. (2004): Diálogos en el País de los Iberos. Ministerio de Cultura, Madrid.
RUIZ A.; MOLINOS, M. (1998): The Archaeology of the Iberians. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
1: Featured image:Iberian aristocrats and warriors. Left: Rider dismounting from the horse to spear the enemy, (Cerrillo Blanco, Porcuna, Spain); centre: Warrior with double armour (Cerrillo Blanco, Porcuna, Spain); right: Hero from El Pajarillo (Huelma, Jaén, Spain) Instituto de Arqueología Ibérica-Universidad de Jaén, CC BY-NC.

The Sinking of the Titanic – a Historic Press Panorama

Thu, 29/11/2018 - 09:17

Clipping from Revista Mundo Gráfico of 24 April 1912 (via Biblioteca Digital Memoria de Madrid, CC-BY-NC)

In the early morning of 15 April 1912, one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history occurred. RMS Titanic – which was considered unsinkable – was on her maiden voyage in the North Atlantic when she collided with an iceberg. Her sinking was one of the first and most significant international news stories of the early 20th century, with newspapers around the globe featuring daily updated stories and reports as more and more details of the tragedy became apparent being spread.

Not all newspapers across Europe and around the world covered the Titanic’s sinking equally. The historical newspapers gathered in Europeana Newspapers allow us to see how the event was reported throughout different countries and newspaper titles. More than that, they also give us further insights into the varied newspaper styles and editorial decisions of the time.


Front page of the French newspaper Le Petit Parisien on 16 April 1912 (via Bibliothèque national de France, NoC-OKLR)

One of the earliest reports was made on 16 April in the French newspaper Le Petit Parisien. They ran the story under the headline “World’s biggest ocean liner hits an iceberg”. The timely news coverage came at the price of accuracy: unfortunately, the subheading “Happily it was possible to save all 2,358 people on board” did not turn out to be true. During the next few days, victims were estimated to be anywhere between 1400 and 2000 individuals. Various newspapers speculated on the potential death toll for several days before more accurate figures could be made available.

In Romania, the sinking of the Titanic already made the news on 9 April – six days before she did actually sink. How could they have predicted the collision? This discrepancy can be easily explained: dates in Western Europe are based on the Gregorian calendar but Romania followed the Julian calendar until 1919. The converted date becomes 22 April in the Gregorian calendar.

The sinking of the Titanic dominated newspaper headlines for many days following the collision as more and more details about the incident came to light. Initially, many newspapers portrayed the horror using dramatic sketches and illustrations of the sinking steamship, such as those by the illustrated daily newspaper Die Neue Zeitung from Vienna, Austria. This was at a time when the use of photographs in newspapers was still in its early stages and most graphic newspaper content was received in the form of engravings.

Front pages of the Austrian illustrated newspaper Die Neue Zeitung on 18 April 1912 and Wiener Bilder on 21 April 1912 (via Austrian National Library, copyright not evaluated)

Eventually, more investigative articles appeared, which went on to explore the technical details of the disaster, such as the likely profile of the iceberg that the ship hit and whether the Titanic actually had enough lifeboats on board.

The sinking of the Titanic was met with worldwide shock. Although the tragedy resonated with an international readership, the news of the collision soon gave way to other stories in the headlines of European newspapers. Public inquiries after the incident eventually led to the establishment of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) as well as to other major improvements, which still govern maritime safety to this day.

To view more headlines and articles on the Titanic, please visit our Flickr gallery.

This blog was collaboratively written and features contributions by:

Clemens Neudecker & Zora Steiner, Berlin State Library
Elizabeth MacDonald, National Library of France
Benjamin Prémel, Department of Law, Economics and Politics, National Library of France

Further reading:

Discovering Europeana’s first world war objects in a game: 11-11 Memories retold

Tue, 27/11/2018 - 11:30

Still from the 11-11: Memories Retold launch trailer. Source.

When thinking of a first world war game, some images immediately come to mind: huge battlefields where players shoot each other over and over again, constantly dying and respawning, gamers shouting at each other through their headsets, tanks rolling over your dead virtual corpse just to spite you. 11-11 Memories Retold is a first world war game, but it is as far removed from the clichés in that genre as can be.

Maybe the most striking thing about this game is its graphics. The game studio Bandai Namco paired up with DigixArt and Aardman animations to create a painterly art style for the game, every item and effect made up of individual shifting brushstrokes. As a player, you feel like you’re immersed in a living impressionist painting, with vivid colours and beautiful lighting effects that makes you stop and stare at the scenery every so often. What’s more is that the art style aids in the narrative development, conveying emotions through the drab grey skies of the front versus the warm fuzzy colours of home.

Gif from the launch trailer of 11-11: Memories Retold. Via GIPHY.

The story follows Kurt and Harry, one German, one Canadian, in their experiences of the last months of World War One. They both join the war for different reasons, in a different context, but their stories intertwine as they both end up at the front in Vimy, France. You discover the plot of the game through beautifully narrated voice work from none other than Elijah Wood as Harry and Sebastian Koch as Kurt. The sound design and music of the game blend beautifully with the voiceover work to create an immersive storytelling experience where you become invested in the lives of the characters you’re playing as, making decisions that impact the story as you go.

Discovering Europeana items while playing. Via Giphy. Source.

What makes the first world war feel even more alive in this game is the way that real-world memories have found their way into 11-11 Memories Retold. The developers worked together with, among others, Europeana, to fill their game world with historical footage and objects. Throughout the story, you can find collectable scraps of paper on the ground that combine to reveal historical context along with a digitised object from that era. These little bits of flavour create an incentive to explore the game world more to find these collectables. The inclusion of these real memories of the past makes 11-11 Memories Retold cross the line between being a fictitious storytelling experience and an immersive form of remembrance.

Joueurs de Manille, BnF. Europeana 14-18, CC BY-SA.

11-11 Memories retold is especially reminiscent of Valiant Hearts: the Great War, a game by Ubisoft that came out in 2014. It combines a specific art style, two crossing paths, storytelling without the use of gun combat, and the inclusion of historical context, into a beautiful form of gaming as remembrance. There’s something poetic in the fact that Valiant Hearts came out 100 years after the start of WW1, and the launch of Memories Retold heralds the centenary of the end of the Great War. Europeana will be remembering the end of World War 1, and the finale of the Europeana 14-18 campaign, at the centenary tour finale in Brussels on 27-28 November.

10 things to love about Europeana

Tue, 20/11/2018 - 08:00

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.