Erasmus+, the comeback: Martyna Osuch (Biblioteka Uniwersytecka w Warszawie)

Després de la pausa causada per la covid-19, estem molt contents d’haver pogut reprendre enguany l’acollida de col·legues d’altres universitats europees, dins del marc del programa Erasmus+.

Us presentem l’entrada de la Martyna Osuch, bibliotecària a la secció de llibres impresos antics de la Universitat de Varsòvia, on fa un resum i balanç de la seva estada entre nosaltres la setmana del 13 de juny. Si després de l’experiència les seves impressions són positives, les nostres també ho són, atès que l’intercanvi de coneixements i de pràctiques va ser elevat i molt enriquidor. Moltes gràcies, Martyna!

In June, I had the pleasure of participating in STT Erasmus+ mobility at the University Library of Barcelona, specifically in the special collections of their library, the CRAI Biblioteca de Fons Antic.

As a special collections librarian at the University of Warsaw Library, my daily tasks at work involve cataloging incunabula in the MEI (Material Evidence in Incunabula) database, creating bibliographic records in MARC21 format, organizing presentations of early printed books, classes for students, and creating content for the library’s social media. Therefore, I was interested in all aspects of CRAI Library Fons Antic’s work.

During my stay in Barcelona, I learned a lot about the flexibility of descriptions in Alma, which my library will implement in 2024 (a positive surprise for me was the ability to include information about copy features in the records). Moreover, regarding provenance research, I was very impressed with the CRAI Library Former Owners database that I use during my classes with students, in conjunction with the Printers’ Devices database.

It should be mentioned that the collection of early printed books from CRAI Library reminds me very much of the collection of the University of Warsaw Libraries not only in size, but also in its “monastic” character, since a large part of the books come from the confiscations of church properties.

Although I had already learned to recognize monastic ownership marks, I encountered brand new provenances of this type in the CRAI Library. The most fascinating of these seemed to be the decorations on the spines of books from a Missionaries convent in Barcelona and provenance marks burned on the edges of the books, called “marcas de fuego” which were used by St. Catherine’s Monastery in Barcelona and which I have never seen in a Polish collection (the origin of the mark itself is Mexican).

During my stay I also worked in the MEI database with Marina Ruiz Fargas: I registered three CRAI incunabula, two copies of Johann Gerson’s collected works from 1489 and one copy of Auctores octo cum glossa from 1498. The biggest challenge for me was recognizing and deciphering notes in Catalan, which was fortunately facilitated, at least in the case of ownership marks, by the library’s local catalog and the extremely intuitive provenance database already mentioned. Registering incunabula together at MEI was an extremely informative and inspiring experience; discussing the records with Marina made me realize the need for international provenance consultations and constant contact with other institutions working on the provenance of early printed books.

As the subject of my Ph.D. dissertation is 16th century guidebooks of Rome, I happily consulted eleven copies of such booklets preserved in the CRAI Library’s collection during my Erasmus mobility stay. Of particular interest to me was a copy of the “Indulgences” from 1506 printed in Rome (shelfmark: CM-1657). As it turned out, this is so far the only known copy of this edition, not even listed by the EDIT16 catalog. The book also has very interesting individual features – early manuscript notes in Catalan made by three different hands, a 17th-century ownership inscription by two students and another ownership inscription belonging to Missionaries from Barcelona -. Important from the point of view of my research were also the mutilations of this copy – missing full-page woodcut illustrations –, which were usually included in the 15th and early 16th century guidebooks. I had already seen similar mutilations in Italian and Polish copies of the guidebooks, and in my opinion they are testimony to the ways in which users used this kind of booklets in the early modern era.

One of the most remarkable highlights of my stay was undoubtedly a trip to a unique section of the University Library – Pavelló de la República -. Lídia Martínez, who works there, talked eloquently about the books, archives, and documents of social life related to the Second Spanish Republic, the Spanish Civil War, and Francoist Spain. Thanks to this visit, I was able to learn a small fraction of the fascinating history of Catalonia. The Pavelló, a library-archive, is located in a very characteristic building – a replica of the Spanish pavilion presented in 1937 at the International Exhibition “Art and Technology” in Paris -. The construction, where the full-scale replica of “Guernica” by Pablo Picasso can be seen, still makes a big impression.

During my stay in Barcelona, I had a unique opportunity to learn totally new things about early printed books, but most importantly to exchange information and experiences with CRAI Library librarians. I would like to sincerely thank the entire Fons Antic team, especially Marina Ruiz Fargas and Neus Verger for organizing that wonderful stay, their openness, and willingness to share invaluable knowledge.

Martyna Osuch
University of Warsaw Library

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