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14 October 2012

Symposium International. Le livre la Roumanie, l'Europe. Mamaia 2012

Metropolitan Library of Bucharest
Fifth international symposium. The book, Romania, Europe

The symposium was held in Mamaia from 24 to 26 September 2012. The conference languages were French and English. I attended section one: “Des livres pour tous" to make a presentation on Sabine Baring-Gould and his collections of popular literature and also to place English popular literature in a wider European context. I am giving a brief account of the sessions I attended. More information, including videos of some presentations, will be available on the Symposium website.

The symposium contained the following sections:

1a. Histoire et civilisation du livre. Des livres pour tous : textes populaires et imprimés de grande diffusion, XVe-XXIe siècles. (53 participants)

1b. La Roumanie : fenêtre sur l’Orient

2. Bibliothéconomie et sciences de l’information : Quels discours et quelle communication pour la bibliothèque ? (25 participants)

3. Poetical language and ritual pragmatics in ancient Indo-Iranian traditions. (28 participants)

4a. La Romanité balkanique: contacts culturels et linguistiques dans les Balkans. (20 participants)
4b. Les relations entre les Balkans et l’Asie Mineure dès l’époque classique jusqu'à la période byzantine. (12 participants)

Sunday 23 September. Arrival in Bucharest and transfer to Mamaia. Registration.

Monday 24 September. Opening ceremony for all four sections.

Sessions attended in section 1:

« Des livres pour tous » : essai de typologie, entre religion, usuels, information et récréation (1)

Olivier Grellety-Bosviel (Ministère de l`Education Nationale, France). Les chansons imprimées à Paris au XVIe siècle : vers une logique de la grande diffusion ?

The study was based on an analysis of titles in Bibliotheca aureliana and USTC. More than 1,000 editions of Parisian song books are recorded, the vast majority of them without music. They fell into several categories: songs proper, versified histories, religious verse, and accounts of recent events. During the century there was a growth of provincial song imprints, usually because of the wars of religion. In the period 1500-1540 the type face is usually gothic. Typically several songs are listed on a title page under a heading such as Sensuit cinq belles chansons … above a woodcut. In the period 1540-1560 there were many polyphonic songs in volumes of up to 100 leaves. In the period 1560-1600 formats became smaller, normally 12° with about 50 leaves. In this period we find indexes of first lines. Very few broadsides were produced, unlike in Germany where there was a flourishing tradition of single-sheet songs and verse.

Ursula Rautenberg (Institute for the Study of the Book, Leipzig, Germany). Printing, publishing and selling popular books in the early modern period.

The fairy tale Die schöne Melusine was examined, a work which started as a manuscript in the 14th century. French and German versions are known. The two first incumabula editions (Basel: Richel, 1473 and Augsburg: Bamler, 1474) led to two distinct lines of textual tradition. Richel’s edition, often coloured, appealed to upper social classes including readers in convents. In the 16th century editions appeared in Strasburg and Augsburg and later in Frankfurt where Gulfferich and Han reinvented the book for new groups of readers, including the middle classes from 1549, making it a Volksbuch and octavo in Fraktur type often with widely spaced paragraphs, helpful to the reader. After a lull in the 17th century there were 23 editions in the 18th century and publication continued into the 19th century and even into the 20th century as a children’s book. No editions are known of the tale in England.

Agnes Dukkon (Université Eötvös Loránd de Budapest, Faculté des Lettres, Institut d’Études Slavistique). Le cheminement du Calendrier Historial, type de publication populaire, dans l´Europe des XVIe et XVIIe siècles.

The Calendarium historicum was compiled by Paul Eber of Wittenberg, a pupil of Melanchthon. French versions are recorded from Lyon (1563) and Geneva (1563 and 1567), sometimes as an appendix to the Geneva Bible. It aimed to communicate historical facts and the Reformist view of Christianity and the Bible. It was based on the Calendrier des bergers and was structured like the ecclesiastical calendar containing details of floods, weather, comets and other astronomical events as well as medical information and historical events taken from biblical, classical and contemporary sources. It avoided astrological predictions. It evolved into later informational almanachs such as the Hamburger Historien-Kalendar (1712-1717 etc). An early English translation was published by Miles Coverdale: A faythfull and true prognostication (1548) and it influenced other almanachs in the Protestant world such as Mercurius britannicus (1691+). Versions also circulated in the Hungarian area. Ioana Costa (Bucharest University, Romania ). Summarium, a means to attract the reader.

The table of contents is a means of making the content of larger works accessible. Anicient books, mostly those written on a series of papyrus scrolls sometimes included a Summarium. The examples of Pliny the Elder’s Naturalis historia in 37 books, and Cato the Elder’s De agricultura in 170 chapters were examined. Both are placed at the start of the works and give important information on the work itself, sometimes revealing missing sections and listing the authors consulted, in Pliny’s case separating Latin autors from the “externes". They played a vital role in keeping a text alive during the long passage through the manuscript era to the different printed editions.

Rosaria Campioni (Soprintendenza per i beni librari e documentari della Regione Emilia-Romagna, Bologna, Italia). Small works of Giulio Cesare Croce “per quattro quattrin" for all.

Giulio Ceasre Croce (1550-) blacksmith turned story-teller produced some 500 works in Bologna intended for a wide circulation. They are often poorly printed in octavo or duodecimo by Bartolomeo Cochi and his heirs in Bologna. They are short texts with long explanatory titles, normally with a woodcut on the title-page. There is a wide variety: songs (e.g. Canzone nova e ridiculosa sopra I sughi), laments, dialogues, proverbs, riddles, notices, parodies, all mainly in verse. The author is often depicted with the lyre that he used to accompany his performances. He was inspired by everyday life in Bologna throughout the year, religious processions, the fair at which silk-worm cocoons were sold, the feast of the piglet which took place on 24 August. These chapbooks are now rare and much sought after.

Agnès Sandras (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris). Les manuels Roret, hôtes obligés des bibliothèques populaires (1861-1914) ?

The firm of Roret began to publish manuals for various trades in the 1820s. There were specially commissioned from different authors and by 1830 some 150 titles are recorded covering manuals for bankers, butchers and even “elegance des dames". Later in the century a manual of librarianship appeared. For manuals covering technical matters engraved illustrations were included and the series was much imitated. In the 1860s the bibliothèques populaires movement was established and evidence is available from a number of catalogues and stock records. The catalogue of Epernay gives donors and often shows publishers donating texts. Located in a great railway centre, the library acquired many technical works for railway engineers but few Roret manuals. Perhaps they were too expensive or their coverage was not felt to reflect the local needs of a working community.

Frédéric Barbier (École pratique des hautes études, Centre national de la recherche scientifique, Paris, France ). Un auteur de best sellers pour toute l'Europe: le chanoine Christoph Schmid (1768- 1854).

The canon is known as the author of many popular tales, such as Genovefa (1810), Die Ostereier (1816) but above all Das Blumenkörbchen (The basket of flowers) (1823). His works spread to France from Germany via Strasburg and Alsace. The Bibliothèque Nationale has 2498 eidtions of his works, making him the best represented author after Voltaire. Of these editions 2308 are French (900 from Limoges, 634 from Paris and 609 from Tours) ; there are 106 Spanish editions. There are some 40 editions known in Hungarian and the work was also translated into English. Their popularity comes from the fact that they were used as educational as well as religious texts.

The following presentations were missed as I visited the nearby town of Constanta:

Andrea De Pasquale (Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense de Milan, Biblioteca Palatina de Parme et Museo Bodoniano, Italie ). Un roman populaire italien de large circulation au XIXème siècle: I promessi sposi d’Alessandro Manzoni.

Marisa Midori Deaecto (Université de Sao Paulo, Brésil ). Textes populaires et imprimés de grande diffusion au XXe siècle: le cas du Manifeste du Parti communiste au Brésil.

Istvan Monok (Collège Eszterházy Károly, Eger, Hongrie ). Les livres populaires : un genre sous estimé.

SECTION I B. La Roumanie, fenêtre sur l’Orient

This section included two contributions from English participants, one a fellow Exonian:

Geoffrey Roper (Bibliographical Consultant, London, UK). The publication of Arabic popular texts in the 19th century.

This paper showed that printing was reintroduced into the Arab world only in the 18th century and did not become the normal method of transmitting popular texts until the 19th century. Popular literature included religious and devotional works, educational literature, epics and tales which had previously been transmitted orally, humorous and satirical literature and manuals of advice on heath and domestic matters. Low levels of literacy restricted the impact, although they were recited in coffee-houses and other public places.

Paul Auchterlonie (University of Exeter, UK ). English captivity narratives from North Africa as popular texts.

This paper studied the changing popularity of accounts of men and women captured by Barbary pirates and returned to England by ransom, exchange or escape. They were popular in the 18th and early 19th centuries but almost completely neglected after that until the late 20th century when they were rediscovered by scholars and general readers.

Tuesday 25 September.

La réception : publics et canaux de diffusion.

Adrian Gheorghe (Institute for Near and Middle Eastern Studies, Munich University, Germany ). Entertaining and the crowds: early Ottoman historiography between orality and bestseller.

Islamic culture is primarily oral ; the Koran was widely printed only in the 20th century. Ottoman histories were compiled in manuscript by chroniclers attached to the court and examples are known from the 14th century onwards. Murad II had annual historical calendars produced. Dervish writers emphasised the religious element of historical tales. These histories were transmitted by guilds of bards, including jesters. Itinerant dervish reciters performed the tales, normally to musical accompaniment. The practice continues today and a video of one such performance was shown.

Raphaële Mouren (Ecole nationale supérieure des sciences de l’information et des bibliothèques, Lyon, France ). De la lecture pour tous aux livres choisis : collectionner le livre populaire au XVIIIe siècle.

Manuscripts were produced in a variety of hands according to the subject, and this variety was carried over into the printed text. USTC indicates the survival of over 1,000 different popular French texts in a variety of gothic typefaces. In the course of the 16th century Garamonde replaced the lettre batarde and these new style books were generally preferred. However in the 17th century bibliophiles, normally in the aristocracy, began to seek out early bibliographical curiosities and rare items, leading to the development of auction sales, with astronomical prices for certain choice items. These were items of bibliophilic interest rather than with important informational content. Price guides and bibliographic manuals were drawn up, perhaps the most influential being de Bure’s Bibliographie instructive. Some of these personal libraries survive intact or as sale catalogues and are shown to be selective rather than attempting to be exhaustive in a subject area. Of course they needed suitable distinctive bindings. They typically formed a “cabinet d’antiquités gauloises", full of black-letter popular texts. Examples are libraries of Chalme de Cangé, acquired by the Bibliothèque du Roi in 1753 and Guyon de Sardière whose catalogue dates from 1759.

Emanuela Timotin (Institut de Linguistique Iorgu Iordan – Al. Rosetti de l’Académie Roumaine, Bucarest). La diffusion d’un livre de colportage aux XIXe et XXe siècles : La Lettre du Christ tombée du ciel.

The Letter of Christ is attested since the sixth century and in the 17th century became popular in the Romanian area. It became especially widespread in the 19th and 20th centuries up to about 1930, both in printed editions and manuscript copies. Editions of up to 10,000 copies are known and it was distributed both in town and country.

Andrei Timotin (Institut D’études Sud-Est Européennes, Académie Roumaine, Bucarest). Lectures et lecteurs d’un opuscule à succès : La Vision d’Agathangelos (Jassy, 1818).

The author of the text, the monk Theoklitos Polydis was based in Strasbourg and it was first drawn up in Greek between 1745 and 1751. The text was full of contemporary political allusions but vague enough to be of general application as it was in the form of oracles and apocalyptic visions. A main theme was the liberation of Constantinople. It was printed in Jassy (Iasi) then in Moldavia and now in Romania in 1818 and inspired liberation movements in Eastern Europe. Besides being printed it was also circulated widely in manuscript. The copies in the library of the Romanian Academy show the importance of prophetic texts in nationalist circles and they are often associated with other prophetic and political texts.

Mariana Dorina Magarin (Bibliothèque Centrale Universitaire "Eugen Todoran" Timisoara, Roumanie ). La première encyclopédie populaire roumaine (1898-1904) et la contribution des gens du Banat à son édition.

In the Banat region of Romania a cultured section of the community arose in the late 19th century headed by those with revenues above 100 florins, the so-called “viri-barbati. Education became generalised and cultural institutions were established and it is against this background that the Romanian encyclopaedia was planned. There is a long list of contributors for different subjects and in all some 172 collaborators were co-ordinated by Corneliu Diaconovich. The format was based in Meyer’s Konversations-Lexikon and it was a high-quality production in three volumes with a list of subscribers which appeared between 1898 and 1904. It won a gold medal in the National Exhibition in Bucharest in 1903.

Jacques Hellemans (Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgique ). Les Marabout, le mythe du livre populaire.

The study is largely based on the surviving records of the Canadian distributor, now transferred to a university in Quebec; the records of the parent company in Belgium were destroyed by the firm. Marabout pioneered popular series in paperback after World War 2 inspired by American paperbacks. They ran a modern printing establishment which could produce 12,000 volumes an hour, and developed modern plasticised covers. They adopted a stork-like bird with a book under its wing as a trade mark, perhaps influenced by Penguin. At least two volumes a month were issued including many English translations. It was aimed at all francophone areas, with editions in a range of other languages. Marabout became the first international series of pocket editions. Many different series were developed: biographical, educational, classic fables and fairy tales, often well illustrated. Some book covers were censored in Canada, for example an edition of Quo vadis. The firm pioneered new methods of publicity, using sportsmen and organising parades where free copies were distributed. There is evidence for this in the records of the Quebec distributors. The firm was acquired by Hachette in the 1980s but the Marabout Club still has some 25,000 members world- wide.

Les « livres pour tous » : problèmes de bibliothéconomie et de gestion

Rodica Paléologue (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris). Amartolon Sotiria : Itinéraires diachroniques.

The work by the Greek Agapios Landos was first published in Venice in 1641. A popular religious work which includes the miracles of the virgin, the text was translated into Romanian by the monk Rafail in the 17th century. Many manuscript copies survive in monasteries in the 17th century but the first printed Romanian edition, published in Cyrillic characters in Ramnic in 1820 is a new translation.

Ian Maxted (Retired local studies librarian, book historian, Exeter, UK). L’oral et l’imprimé : Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924) et sa collection de littérature populaire.

This paper appears in full elsewhere on the website.

Albert Weber (Institute for East and Southeast European Studies, Regensburg, Germany ). Digitizing and presenting historical German periodicals from eastern and south-eastern Europe. Concept of a digitization strategy for national minorities abroad.

The focus of the digitisation project is on publications for German minorities in Eastern Europe, whose gradual disappearance has been described as “the end of history". Much survives in eastern European libraries, six times as much as in Germany but digitisation of German materials is not a priority in those countries. Within Germany itself the federal nature of the country with sixteen states and no strong national library makes co-ordination of a digitisation project difficult. Priorities were identified as newspapers, calendars, journals. The Institute in Regensburg has developed a website to chart progress at

Philippe Nieto (Ministère de la Culture, Archives Nationales, Paris, France ). Le fonds d’Impressions populaires du Musée national des Arts et Traditions populaires à Paris.

The Musée national des Arts et Traditions Populaires is a very rich source for hawkers’ books with over 3,000 editions, second only to the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. The collection has been built up by purchase and donation since 1945 and includes some foreign language material. Chapbooks were sold in town as well as country and were aimed at all sections of the public. Digitisation has not yet started although there are some images on CDs. Some titles are on the Troyes website. The Museum is due to move to Marseilles where it will form part of the Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Mediteranée, a prestigious project due to open in 2013. There are considerable worries that its significance will be lost there and the facilities for storage and conservation will be remote from consultation rooms.

Martine Poulain (Département de la Bibliothèque et de la Documentation, Institut National d'Histoire de l'Art, Paris, France). L'émergence et la difficile conquête de légitimité du livre de poche au XXe siècle.

Two important series of paperbacks were launched in England and France, Penguin by Allen Lane in 1936 and Livres de Poche in 1953 by Hachette. Despite their succcess they were often looked down on in the 1960s. While some in France greeted this democratisation of literature, others saw paperbacks as “sub-books". Their poor quality production provided no encouragement to read and keep them. Their covers were felt to be pornographic. They were seen as “sorti de la civilisation du livre" : “Racine en poche n’est plus Racine" and as the death of culture, being mere industrial merchandise, a degradation of the texts they contained. In England the trial of Lady Chatterly’s lover in 1960 raised similar issues. A main objection was the cheapness and easy availability of the edition; children and other vulnerable readers could acquire it too easily. Was it something that you would want your servant to read? It was acceptable for the text to be locked away in expensive bibliophile editions, difficult for the common reader to access. The presenter saw these two debates as important steps in paperbacks achieving general recognition.

Florina Dobre Brat (Pedagogical National Library I.C. Petrescu, Bucharest, Romania). The Collection of Sanskrit Books in the Library of the Romanian Academy (Cluj Napoca Branch)

The collection derives from the Unitarian College in Cluj whose library was transferred to the Romanian Academy in 1948. Samuel Brassai collected the items in Cluj. He was interested in linguistics and amassed over 100 titles ranging in date from 1755 to 1886, all published in Europe. They include the complete Mahabharata in 19 volumes and the Ramayana in 7 volumes, also volumes on the Tibetan language. He established a chair of Sanskrit studies in Cluj in 1878. His own works and some manuscript items are included in the collections.

Wednesday 26 September

Excursion to the Danube delta, return to Bucharest.

The conference was enlightening on the range of popular literature across Europe and the Near East, particularly Eastern Europe. Especially striking were the long survival of the manuscript tradition in the Romanian region and of oral culture in Turkey and the Islamic world. How the Metropolitan Library of Bucharest manages to fund such a major event each year at no cost to the participants is difficult to understand. For a less serious view of the Symposium by a hanger-on, which also details our visit to Constanta see: Constanta and the Black Sea.

Copyright © Ian Maxted, 2012
This page last updated: 14 October 2012