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Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

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Welcome to the Kenneth Spencer Research Library blog! As the special collections and archives library at the University of Kansas, Spencer is home to remarkable and diverse collections of rare and unique items. Explore the blog to learn about the work we do and the materials we collect.

Collection Snapshot: Notes from Underground …

June 27th, 2014

If you’re interested in matters Polish and Russian or in travels in Slavic lands and in sights seen through western eyes AND if you can read this page from the manuscript diary of an Englishwoman traveling in the summer of 1828 (186 years ago!), then YOU may be the person to transcribe the contents of this little volume. You will get to know “Roberta” and “Mr. Sayer” (their real names), who were her companions on the trip. We can picture Ms. English Lady settling into the pension at night to write … Inside the front cover she begins, “The weight of the statue of Peter The Great …” You’ve seen the blurb; now read the book!

Image of a page from the diary of an English woman open to entry for Warsaw, June 22, 1828.

An English Lady: An anonymous manuscript travel-diary, a detailed account of the sights, costumes, social services, village and town life, war aftermath, travel mishaps in Russia and Poland. Warsaw-Smolensk-Moscow-Novgorod-St. Petersburg. 22 June to 21 July 1828. Call Number: MS B144. Click image to enlarge.

Sally Haines
Rare Books Cataloger

Adapted from her Spencer Research Library exhibit, Frosted Windows: 300 Years of St. Petersburg Through Western Eyes.

The Double

January 10th, 2014

The statue of The Bronze Horseman (= Peter the Great, the inspired hero, rash, speedy, proud, majestic, handsome, and yes, six and a half feet tall in real life!) symbolized a powerful upsurge in Russian energy (and the horse and his rider are pointed westward). Indeed it is the subject of many a frontispiece in our holdings of St. Petersburg travel literature, and is immortalized in Pushkin’s poem, “The Bronze Horseman.”

Frontispiece illustration of the statue, "The Bronze Horseman," (i.e. Peter, the Great) from Granville's " St. Petersburg. A journal of travels to and from that capital." (1829, 2nd Edition)

Statue of Peter the Great: Frontispiece from Augustus Bozzi Granville’s St. Petersburg.
A Journal of Travels to and from that Capital
. 2nd ed., carefully revised and with considerable
additions. London: H. Colburn 1829. 2 vols. Call Number: C9755, v.1. Click image to enlarge.

French sculptor √Čtienne-Maurice Falconet was commissioned by Catherine II on recommendation of Diderot to erect a memorial to Peter I. Falconet apparently had only unhappy experiences during his Russian years and never came back to see his masterpiece in place and ready to leap into the no longer frozen future. Falconet knew that Catherine abhorred allegory, and he himself did not want a “Peter in Roman armor.” On this matter he locked horns with Ivan Betskoi of the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts. In the end he had his way artistically, but we have seen no images amongst our holdings that do it justice for display. Obviously this is one statue that must be seen “in the flesh.”

The story of the hauling from Finland of the granite block on which this saddle-sore Peter and his horse are erected is as dramatic as the story of obtaining the rock and wooden underpinnings of St. P., the city, in 1703. Both were the death of many a good Russian.

The biography of Granville, from whose travel journal the above frontispiece illustration is taken, reads like Candide: his Cornish mother’s death-bed wish was that he take a British last name, but in fact he was an Italian patriot and political rabble-rouser, journalist, actor, and eventually physician. He first visited Petersburg in 1827, a second time in 1829 as physician, when he predicted Nicholas would die before July 1855.

Sally Haines
Rare Books Cataloger

Adapted from her Spencer Research Library exhibit, Frosted Windows: 300 Years of St. Petersburg Through Western Eyes.