On the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the death of Antonio de Nebrija, author of the first Spanish Grammar (1492) and the first dictionary of the Spanish language (1495), and inspired by the International Decade of Indigenous Languages started by UNESCO this year, Archives Portal Europe celebrates languages and their uniqueness with an online exhibition showcasing material from its network.
Language Diversity and Multilingualism in Koç University Library Collections
Koç University Library preserves a valuable and rich manuscript collection whose subjects span a variety of fields, including Turkish poetry, law, geography, astronomy, medicine, philosophy, logic, music, mathematics, chemistry as well as language and cultural history studies.
The collection includes manuscripts that are written in different languages, such as Turkish, Arabic, Persian, Karaman, Crimean Tatar, Crimean Turkish and even bilingual (Persian-Arabic or Arabic-Turkish), and some of these manuscripts are unique testimony of the early Anatolian Turkish language and literature.
Among the dated ones, the oldest manuscript in the collection is “Nazmü’l-Hilāfiyyāt [Manzumetü’n-Nesefiyye]” which dates back to 1100.
The collection was acquired as donations mainly from scholars such as Fuat Bayramoğlu (1912-1996) who served as a diplomat and was poet and author; Şinasi Tekin (1933-2004) who was an acknowledged Turkish linguist professor and Turkologist; Josephine Powell (1919-2007) who was a photographer, traveller and expert on the nomads of Türkiye and their textiles; Mithat Sertoğlu (1991-1995) who served as a journalist and worked as a consultant at Prime Ministry General Directorate of State Archives; and Salim Erel (1929-2014) who was Turkish politician and served as a mayor and the parliament member of the 17th term.
The following is an illustration of the tragic love story of Leylā vü Mecnún, (Layla and Majnun) included in a page of MS 06 dating back to 1489, written in Taʿlīq script. Leylā vü Mecnún is the story of these two young lovers who cannot be together because Layla’s father disapprove of their relationship, dooming them to be separated a lifetime before finally be united after death.
These time charts from 1288 and notes related to the horoscopes in the margins of the page are instead written in Naskh which is one of the first scripts of Islamic calligraphy to develop, commonly used in writing administrative documents and for transcribing books.
Interesting is also the drawings of a Luwian hieroglyphic inscription on a statue from the Iron Age transcribed by the Turkish archaeologist Hatice Gonnet-Bağana and part of the Hatice Gonnet-Bağana Hittite Collection.
Finally, also from the Hatice Gonnet-Bağana Hittite Collection is this basalt slab (circa 1,200 BC – 500 BC), representing an inscription written in neo-Hittite hieroglyphics.
Traces of Jean-François Champollion’s library: the interest for languages and the unlocking of the Egyptian hieroglyphs
Jean-François Champollion was a French philologist and Egyptologist who deciphered the Egyptian hieroglyphs in 1822.
Champollion became interested in languages and specifically in hieroglyphs and Egyptian studies at an early age. At the age of 16, he had already mastered several languages and had also given a lecture before the Grenoble Academy arguing that the language spoken by the Egyptians and, consequently, the Hieroglyphic texts were related to Coptic.
After years of closely studying hieroglyphs and the multilingual text found on the Rosetta stone, Jean-Francois Champollion succeeded in 1822 in deciphering the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs through the oval shapes (known as Kharratis) found in hieroglyphic texts, which include the names of kings and queens.
A copy of the inventory after death of Jean François Champollion is preserved at the Archives Nationales in France and available to view online here.
Among the many items enumerated in his inventory [Figures 1-3], the list of books included in his personal library reveal the keen interest that Champollion had for languages and cultivated throughout his entire life.
In the inventory [Fig.3] are listed for instance dictionaries in Arabic, Hebrew and Chinese, twenty-four volumes on the Coptic language; the list mentions also thirty volumes about the History of Egypt, books on the history of Latin Literature and many other tomes about the languages of Eastern Asia.
These books perfectly mirror the interests and the studies to which Jean-François Champollion dedicated his life and that led him to the discovery that enabled the unlocking of the Egyptian language and history.
Joseph de Maistre’s multilingual writing in his papers and notes
Joseph de Maistre was a philosopher, writer, lawyer, and diplomat who was a subject of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which he served as a member of the Savoy Senate (1787–1792), as ambassador to Russia for King Vittorio Emanuele I of Savoy, and was also minister of state to the court in Turin (1817–1821).
Joseph de Maistre made significant contributions to the history of social, political, and religious ideas.
He had also seemed to have an interest in linguistics as it is demonstrated to his contributions to the controversy over the origins of language. Moreover, together with French , his mother tongue (as well as almost all of the Piedmontese nobility), and Greek and Latin which he learned during his time with the Jesuits, de Maistre could also speak Italian, English , Spanish , Portuguese and a little German.
The extensive knowledge of many different languages inevitably reflected in his papers and diaries. In his multilingual writings include essays on linguistic matters and about the relationship between languages, sometimes using different languages within the same work.
There are also some notes on the “Hebrew language” and the “Oriental languages” (Cagliari, 1802, ms. a.), and “De antiquis litteris haebraeorum et graecorum” (Cagliari, 1802, ms.a.) followed by notes in Latin, Hebrew and Greek.
Papers on the Tocharian languages in the Antoine Meillet Archives
The Tocharian languages are an extinct branch of the Indo-European language family spoken in the Tarim Basin territory by its inhabitants, the Tocharians.
Also known as Arśi-Kuči, Agnean-Kuchean or Kuchean-Agnean, the existence of the Tocharian languages was documented in a group of fragments found towards the end of the 19th Century in the Chinese Turkestan, containing texts in different languages .
On Archives Portal Europe there is an interesting collection of documents related to Tocharians studies. In particular, the Collège de France preserves some papers and fragments of articles written by the French Linguist Indo-Europeanist Antoine Meillet who dedicated part of his studies to investigating Tocharian languages.
The full list of papers and documents related to Tocharian included in the Antoine Meillet archives are available here.
The defence of the Breton language: a flyer from 1960s
The Breton language is a Southwestern Brittonic language which is part of the Celtic language family spoken in Brittany (France) and it is the only Celtic language which is still in use in the European continent.
Breton speakers are mainly located in Lower Brittany, but also, although in a more dispersed way, in Upper Brittany, and in small linguistic enclaves around the world that have Breton emigrants.
However, as the number of Breton language speakers has been declining over the centuries -reaching from a little more than one million speakers around 1950 to about 200,000 in the first decade of the 21st century, Breton is currently classified as “severely endangered” by the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger.
Due to government initiatives aiming to build a national culture, the usage of minority languages (including Breton) in official contexts and especially in state schools was limited to the point of almost being stamped out in the 19th century. Such practices prevailed until the late 1960s when this tendency was inverted in order to preserve Breton language.
In 1977, schools called Diwan in Britanny were founded to teach Breton by immersion, providing fully immersive education in Breton for thousands of students and contributing to the growing numbers of school-age speakers of Breton.
Moreover, many books and comics have been translated into Breton over the years, one example being The Asterix comic series, since, according to the comic, the Gaulish village where Asterix lives is in the Armorica peninsula, now Brittany.
Thank to all these efforts, the number of children attending bilingual classes has increased by 33% between 2006 and 2012.
Testimony of how hard Bretons fought to have schools in the local language, the cultural value of preserving and passing on the active usage of such language in 1960s is a small flyer for the defence of Breton preserved at the National Archives of France with a reference to the uncle of the then president of France, Charles de Gaulle.
The flyer recites: “Une politique de grandeur exige que l’on exploite et que l’on développe les richesses françaises : la langue bretonne en est une“. [ENG translation: “A politic of greatness requires the use and further development of French resources: the Breton language is one such resources.”]
The Leeds Archive of Vernacular Culture (LAVC), which is part of the University of Leeds Special Collections, constitutes a unique collection that comprises the combined multiple media holdings of the archives of the internationally renowned Survey of English Dialects (ca. 1946-1978) directed by Harold Orton, and the University of Leeds’ Institute of Dialect and Folk Life Studies (1964-1983) directed by Stewart Sanderson.
These contain printed, manuscript and photographic paper items, sound recordings held on gramophone disc, open reel and cassette audio tape formats, glass plate and plastic transparencies, video tapes, 16mm and 35mm films.
The subject areas covered include custom and belief, traditional narrative, children’s traditions, traditional music (vocal and instrumental), traditional drama and dance, material culture, crafts and work techniques, language and dialect.
Among the many interesting media and archival materials preserved as part of the LAVC collection, here are a couple of images capturing aspects of folklife and children’s traditions:
The LAVC holds a series of Questionnaire Response Books and Related Papers which are connected to the main collection of fieldwork data for the Survey of English Dialects (SED) and includes papers created and collected during the drafting, testing and publication of the Questionnaire; original and duplicate response books used by fieldworkers to record informants’ responses to the questionnaire.
Archives Portal Europe celebrates the 500th anniversary of the Magellan-Elcano expedition with an exhibition dedicated to travelling and expeditions across the world, with documents and curiosities from its network.
RMS Titanic, a British passenger liner operated by the White Star Line, was the largest ship afloat at the time. It had departed from Southampton on 10 April 1912, stopping at Cherbourg ( France) and Queenstown (Ireland), before heading west towards New York.
On the 15th April 1912, after striking an iceberg RMS Titanic broke apart and sank south of Newfoundland, in the North Atlantic Ocean. It was thought that the huge ship with 16 watertight bulkheads could not sink and the disaster shocked the world for the huge loss of lives, as well as for the regulatory and operational failures that led to it.
Of the approximately 1,339 passengers on board and its 885 crew members, of which 23 were women, only 710 survived. The ship carried some of the wealthiest people at that time, emigrants from Great Britain, Ireland, Scandinavia and other places across Europe.
The National Archives of Norway holds some documents related to the Titanic disaster as part of the collection of the White Star Line shipping company. In fact, the RMS Titanic had an office in Oslo for processing all those Norwegian passengers who wanted to travel to the UK or sail for America. In particular, the book in the picture below records the list of some of the emigrants that boarded the Titanic on 10th April 1912.
The National Archives of Norway also preserves a few other documents related to legislations, hearings and conferences mostly held in the US and UK about security on ocean traffic following the Titanic disaster. You can find the full list available on Archives Portal Europe here.
The Kon-Tiki expedition
On 28 April 1947, a crew of six sailed from South America, across the Pacific Ocean in a hand-built raft, reaching the Tuamotu Islands, in Polynesia, on 7 August of the same year.
During the 101 days of navigation, the crew manned a raft built with the materials and technologies available to South American seafarers of pre-Columbian times.
The raft was named Kon-Tiki after the Inca god Viracocha, for whom “Kon-Tiki” was said to be an old name. The expedition’s goal was indeed to demonstrate that people from South America could have reached Polynesia during pre-Columbian times, making a long sea voyage that might have created contacts between different cultures.
The expedition was led by the Norwegian explorer and ethnographer Thor Heyerdahl (1914-2002), who had a background in zoology, botany, and geography. For Heyerdahl, the Kon-Tiki expedition was not an isolated experiment: He made four others oceanic trips in primitive vessels to demonstrate his theories that ancient civilisations may have spread from a common source through sea voyages.
His expeditions on primitive rafts and boats were documented in books, films, and television programs, generating large public interest in the possibility of travelling vast distances at sea in primitive vessels, and what this may represent for cultural exchanges and interconnections.
Heyerdahl received numerous praises for his work and was appointed a government scholar in 1984. But while he became more popular than any contemporary anthropologists, the scholarly reception of his ideas has been controversial, and the scientific community has rejected some of his theories.
An Attack Submarine
Since the Middle Ages, concepts for submarines or submersible boats have been designed without ever going further than a sketch. Only in the 17th century started to appear drawing and projects for functioning submarines such as those designed by Cornelius Van Drebbel, a Dutchman in the service of James I of England.
In the 18th century over a dozen patents for submarines had been granted mainly for military purposes in England, and some of them reached the planning and construction stage such as the famous Nautilus by Robert Fulton.
In Norway, during the Denmark-Norway war when Norway was under blockade by English ships, Mikkel Hallsteinsson Lofthus (1782-1850), a mechanic from Ullensvang submitted to the City Council of Bergen in 1808 drawing and plans for a submarine. He also made a model of the boat that he proposed to build.
The submarine was to be driven forward by three pairs of oars, and it would move up and down in the water by moving the weight inside the boat back and forth. The submarine would include air intakes and hooks that could seize enemy ships in order to drill holes.
While many appeared to be eager for the plan to be implemented, after advice from military experts, it was decided that the plan was unrealistic.
Nevertheless, Mikkel Hallsteinsson Lofthus was nominated Knight of the Dannebrog Order, a Danish Order of Knight, for his initiative and plans for the attack submarine.
Turkish nomads and the Josephine Powell Slide Collection
The Suna Kıraç Library in Istanbul holds a collection that documents the study of Anatolian textiles and ethnography that occupied the photographer Josephine Powell from the mid-1970s to the time of her death in 2007.
This beautiful collection contains over 35.000 of photographs, field and research notes, articles, photo essays executed at the beginning of Josephine Powell’s career, as well as personal correspondence, snapshots and other personal belongings.
Josephine Powell moved to Instanbul in 1974, when she was commissioned to write a book on kilims. Since not much research existed in this subject, she decided to go into the field to do research herself.
Between the 1970s and 1980s she visited nomads and villagers in Anatolia, photographing their daily activities and their handicrafts. During these years, Powell also became fascinated by the lives of rural women and by their artful weaving.
Throughout her research, Josephine Powell built a rich archive of photographs and field notes on flat-woven textiles made by nomadic, semi-nomadic, and settled weavers. These photos constitute a unique traces of a culture that has now disappeared.
“On the way back it rained for two days, but though they all suffered from the cold, it did not seem to matter. They have performed the most important religious duty; they have made a pilgrimage and are closer to the obtaining Moksha, the liberation from the cycle of rebirth.”
In the mid-1980s, Powell was also involved in a project whose aim was to revive the use of natural dyes among villagers in Western Turkey. Some of these early dyeing experiments were even done in Josephine’s own kitchen. She was also involved in the founding of an ethnographic section in the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art in Istanbul.
In her travels, Powell collected all kinds of artefacts used by Anatolian people for the purposes of agriculture and other daily tasks. The result of this tireless effort to collect ethnographic objects is a collection preserved at the Sadberk Hanım Museum, in Büyükdere, İstanbul. This collection of objects includes over 400 flatweaves and more than 1.000 wooden and metal artefacts.
La Boudeuse and Louis de Bougainville (1766-1769)
Our content provider, the French National Archives, holds the travel diary of Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, commander of La Boudeuse. Under his command, La Boudeuse left “La Rivière de Nantes” on 15 November 1766 for the first French circumnavigation of the globe.
In his travel diary, Bougainville noted down every detail of the expedition, accurately documenting information and observations about Polynesians and Melanesians.
After leaving Tahiti, La Boudeuse sailed west to southern Samoa and the New Hebrides , and after sighting Espiritu Santo turned west again in search of the “southern continent”.
On March 16, 1769, the expedition completed the circumnavigation and arrived in Saint-Malo.
Bougainville’s travel diary offers interesting and rich reports of his and his crew travel, detailing their journey every step of the way and registering every small change in the weather or curiosities about the places he visits. Moreover, this diary and all the data collected in it during the navigation contributed to the improvement of the cartography of the Pacific.
Particularly interesting are also the observations he makes about the small islands and shores he encounters during the expedition: he offers an accurate account of the plants, animals and fishes he sees, conveying a vivid image of the beauty and wildness of a nature that has not been yet contaminated by humans.
On Archives Portal Europe you can find the list of resources related to the nautical/travel journals of La Boudeuse and its expedition here.
Philibert Commerson and his research aboard La Boudeuse
When La Boudeuse sailed for the first French circumnavigation of the globe under the command of Louis de Bougainville, various scientists joined the expedition.
Among these was the naturalist Philibert Commerson (1727-1773) who was in charge of studying the flora of the new lands.
During the expedition he collected many plants from each land La Boudeuse touched during the journey, some of these plants and flowers were gathered in numerous herbaria.
He described in his herbaria hundreds of plants, such as the genus Bougainvillea, which was named after Louis de Bougainville.
Commerson joined the expedition together with his partner and assistant Jeanne Baré disguised as a man. Like in a novel, they managed to keep her gender secret for a while, but was discovered when the expedition reached Tahiti. Nevertheless, she was allowed to continue the expedition as Commerson’s personal assistant and nurse, since the botanist was often ill.
Commerson died at Mauritius in 1773. The numerous manuscripts and herbaria he produced during the expedition were brought to Paris after his death and are currently preserved at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris.
The Magellan and Elcano Expedition: The Beginning of the Expedition
The Magellan and Elcano expedition was a 16th century maritime expedition funded by the Spanish Crown and captained at the beginning by the Portugueses Ferdinand Magellan and, on his return, by Juan Sebastián Elcano, which completed the first circumnavigation of the Globe in history. The expedition aimed to open a trade route to the “Spice Islands” (today’s Moluccas) from the west, seeking a passage between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.
Ahead of the expedition, Ferdinand Magellan had to obtain permission for the discovery of the Route from King Charles I and various privileges for the voyage which are documented in a series of instrumenta preserved at General Archive of the Indies (Seville, Spain).
The royal confirmation of the seat and agreement was recorded in the books that the secretary Francisco de los Cobos had “of the dispatches and contracting of the Indies and of the discovery and contracting of the Espeçiería“.
According to this hypothesis, the document would have been probably written during the negotiations for the preparation of the Armada for the Spice Route.
The Magellan and Elcano Expedition: Passage through South America
The expedition sailed from Seville on 10 August 1519 consisted of five ships, and after finalising preparations, the ships left Sanlúcar de Barrameda for good on 20 September 1519.
After having explored the American coastline south of Brazil for months, the fleet managed to cross the Strait of Magellan on 28 November 1520.
The annotations of the route attributed to Francisco Albo begin in 1519 on “Tuesday the 29th day of the month of November […] being in the area of Cape San Agustín and at an altitude of 7 degrees on the south side, and 27 leagues southeast [sic] from the said Cape“.
After travelling through the Pacific, the expedition discovered the island of Guam, the Marshall Islands and reached the Philippine Islands. Here, on 27 April 1521, Ferdinand Magellan was killed in the battle of Mactan.
The expedition continued sailing to the Moluccas, the destination of their voyage, where they established trade relations and took on a large cargo of spices. Testimony of the establishment of such relations is included in a document traditionally cited as “Paces del Maluco“.
“Paces del Maluco” offers an account of the commercial and diplomatic activities of the Armada de la Especiería during the period in which was commanded by captains Gonzalo Gómez de Espinosa and Juan Sebastián Elcano, after the death of Fernando de Magallanes in Mactan. Among other things, it includes the agreements and transactions they made with several kings and local authorities of Borneo and the Molucca Islands.
It is in the Moluccas that Juan Sebastián Elcano was chosen to lead the return voyage with the ship “Victoria”. They quickly left the islands after having mistakenly understood that they were being attacked by their inhabitants. They sailed westwards across the southern Indian Ocean and around Africa, trying to avoid encountering with Portuguese ships so as not to be captured.
Among the many documents held by the Archivo General de Indias about the Magellan-Elcano expedition there is also a document listing the names of 103 crew-members of the expedition, in chronological order of death or other types of incident, from 20 December 1519, when the first death occurred (execution of Antón Salamón, master of the ship Victoria), to 14 July 1522 (death of the sailor Esteban Bretón).
The Magellan and Elcano expedition: The return to Spain and the fate of the Trinidad
The “Victoria” began its journey home sailing via the Indian Ocean commanded by Juan Sebastián Elcano. After rounding the Cape of Good Hope around May 1522, the Victoria managed to reach the Portuguese Cape Verde for provision, although twenty members of the crew had already died of starvation.
Having escaped the Portuguese in Cape Verde after they discovered the Victoria was carrying spices from the East Indies, on 6 September the “Victoria” managed to return to Sanlúcar de Barrameda, arriving two days later in Seville with its cargo of spices, becoming the first ship in history to circumnavigate the world.
Here, Elcano appeared before the Emperor to report on the expedition.
This is a letter from Juan Sebastián Elcano narrating the incidents of his expedition around the world: the discovery of the Strait of Magellan, arrival at the Molucca Islands and collection of quantities of spices, belonging of the islands to the zone of Spanish expansion and confirmation of the sphericity of the earth. He requests for the survivors of the expedition the grant of the “fourth part and twenty of their boxes” (1522, September, 6. Sanlúcar).
Elcano had also to provide details about the losses of the crew and accounts were settled with the crew and the relatives of those who died on the voyage – including Ferdinand Magellan.
As for Juan Sebastián Elcano, he died a few years later in 1526 after planning a new expedition that would secure the new trade route to the Moluccas.
While the Victoria managed to return safely to Spain, different was the fate of another ship, the Trinidad. While the expedition was in the Moluccas, it was decided that the Trinidad would try to return to Spain’s possessions in America by sailing east across the Pacific.
Unfortunately, the Trinidad did not find the right sea route and had to return to the Moluccas, where it was seized by the Portuguese. This letter from Gonzalo Gómez de Espinosa to Charles I, narrates the vicissitudes of the solo voyage of the Trinidad through the North Pacific, and its imprisonment by the Portuguese.
You can browse more documents related to the expedition here.
Salvador Fidalgo and the road to Alaska
Among the numerous Spanish explorations and the many archival documents related to them, there is the voyage captained by Salvador Fidalgo whose expedition reached Alaska in the 18th century.
Salvador Fidalgo was a Spanish explorer who in 1790 was sent by the Viceroy of New Spain, to San Lorenzo de Nootka (near Vancouver island).
In May of that same year, Fidalgo left Nootka reaching some weeks later Alaska.
After finding no signs of Russian presence on that territory, he traded with natives in the area conducting in June 1790 a ceremony of sovereignty, which involved erecting a cross and, then, naming the area Puerto Córdova.
Fidalgo continued his voyages along the Alaskan coast, reaching today’s Gravina Point, followed by Puerto Valdez and, in July, after an encounter with the Russians, he celebrated another ceremony of sovereignty near today’s English Bay or Nanwalek, Alaska.
Finally, Fidalgo led the expedition back to San Blas, arriving on 15 November 1790.
Among the documents related to the Fidalgo expedition preserved as part of the General Archive of Indes (Archivo General de Indias) there is a copy of the letter sent by Salvador Fidalgo to the Count of Revillagigedo, Viceroy of New Spain, in which Fidalgo reports on the expedition. The letter was written from San Blas on 13 November 1790.
The letter reports how the expedition, under the command of Commander Francisco de Eliza, together with the frigates “Concepción”, the packet boat “San Carlos, alias the Filipino” and the sloop “Princesa Real”, went to the land of Prince William Sound and Ribera de Cook and consolidated the establishment of Nutka.
The letter is followed by a series of copies of testimonies in which it is provided a list of discovered lands, seas, rivers, and bays adjacent to the new territories, such as the newly named Bahía de Córdoba (no.3), Ensenada de Menéndez (no.4), Puerto de Gravina (no.5), and Puerto de Revillagigedo (no.6).
Austen Henry Layard and the exploration of Nimrud
Sir Austen Henry Layard was an archaeologist, politician, and diplomat, who, beginning in 1845, worked on excavations at the archaeological sites of Nimrud and Nineveh.
In 1839 he decided to leave England for Sri Lanka (Ceylon) with the prospect of obtaining a post in the Civil Service, starting a series of travels across Asia. However, he never reached Ceylon. Instead, after spending some time in Mosul, he became interested in locating the ancient cities mentioned in the Bible, starting a series of excavations and archaeological campaigns for which he is renowned.
In 1845, Sir Layard began exploring the ruins of Assyria which led to important discoveries essential to gaining a better understanding and shedding light on the ancient civilisations of Mesopotamia and their culture.
The expedition with which his name is mainly associated is that concerning the ruins of Nimrud on the Tigris.
Among the numerous and detailed sketches included in the Layard Archives, probably one of the most famous is the one depicting the beautiful Winged Bull/ Lion from Nimrud.
The Layard Archives also contains fragments of Assyrian pottery and other archaeological objects collected or gifted to him during his travels, alongside letters, papers, engravings and other sketches often stained and creased as they had been created while he was working and researching on-site.
Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell (14 July 1868 – 12 July 1926) was an English writer, traveller, political officer, administrator, and archaeologist.
Gertrude Bell was educated at Queen’s College, London and at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford where she obtained a first class in modern history in 1888. In the years immediately following her graduation, she travelled in Europe and visited Persia. Her travels continued with two trips around the world, in 1897-1898 and in 1902-1903.
Gertrude Bell spent much of her life exploring and mapping the Middle East, learning Arabic, investigating archaeological sites in this area, and travelling into the desert accompanied only by male guides. She also learned to speak Persian and wrote extensively about her archaeological findings and her travels.
The knowledge she gained over the years about the Middle East led her into service with the British Intelligence during the First World War. In 1915 she was appointed to the Arab Bureau in Cairo, which was involved in gathering information useful for mobilising the Arabs against Turkey.
Her first love, however, was always for archaeology, so much so that between 1923 and 1926, as Honorary Director of Antiquities in Iraq, she established the Iraq Museum in Baghdad.
She documented her travels in detail through photography, capturing snapshots of far away countries and populations. From the photos included in Gertrude Bell’s Archive – currently preserved as part of the Newcastle University Special Collections and Archives – clearly emerges her passion for archaeology and ancient civilisations.
Here are a few examples of the beautiful pictures taken mostly by Gertrude Bell during her travels around the world.
Gertrude Bell’s Archive also includes letters sent home to her family whilst on her travels, the diaries she kept when abroad, and albums of photographs taken whilst she was away.
You can browse the content of Gertrude Bell’s Archive on Archives Portal Europe: here.
On the occasion of the bicentenary of Louis Pasteur’s birth and of the first injection of insulin, Archives Portal Europe celebrates #medicalsciences and the medical profession with an online exhibition showcasing medical events and achievements from its network.
Our first stop in #medicalsciences history is NORWAY:
For Centuries, while royals and the wealthier social strata had access to good levels of professional medical care, the vast majority of the population relied on the assistance provided by religious institutions, as a form of charitable service, or by popular healers.
In the early modern period, however, with the progressive establishment of more centralised forms of government in the whole Europe, new forms of public health assistance began to emerge.
The public healthcare system in Norway can be traced back to the 17th century, when King Christian IV appointed the first public doctor, Villads Nielsen Adamsen [Vilhadius Adamius] (ca.1564 – ca.1616) in Bergen, in July 1603.
The King nominated Adamsen as ordinario medico in Bergen, with the letter displayed below. This meant Adamsen would be paid from the public purse, as he was now allowed to dispose of some of the church’s income. Adamsen was the son of a Danish parish priest; he had studied in Padova, Rostock and Siena, focusing particularly on questions related to epidemics and public health.
In 1599 he arrived in Bergen, where he established himself and started medical practice. At this time, Bergen was the most populous city in the Nordic region, with approx. 15,000 inhabitants served by only three doctors. In the year of Adamsen’s arrival, a plague broke out in the city. With the assistance of his collaborators, Adamsen helped and valiantly served Bergen’s citizens as the plague raged in the city for two years. It is not certain whether Adamsen was the first doctor in the country to be paid as a public doctor, but he is certainly the one about whom historians know the most, and for this reason he is usually associated with the origin of the public healthcare system in Norway.
Treating Leprosy in Norway
Today’s stop on the #medicalsciences exhibition tour is dedicated to the achievements related to the treatment of a very contagious disease: Leprosy, which is still affecting many people in various parts of the World.
Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease (HD), is a long-term infection by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae, that has been a part of human history for at least 3,500 years.
Leprosy has been often associated with degraded living conditions and lack of hygiene throughout the centuries. And for this reason, Leprosy also frequently came with a certain degree of moral judgement and its transmission was often attributed to hereditary factors, with many being estranged from society when suspected to be infected or, especially, when the disease manifested itself with painful and physical deformations.
In the 19th century, leprosy was discovered in some areas of the coast of Norway, in the western and northern parts of the country. Norwegian authorities tried to tackle the disease since its first cases appeared, with many physicians being quickly trained at the University of Oslo in 1816.
Leprosy soon became the focus of Norwegian medical science studies, with the city of Bergen playing a key role in international leprosy research during the 19th century. Thanks to a doctor in Bergen, Dr. Gerhard Henrik Armauer Hansen (1841-1912), in 1873, the Mycobacterium leprae was identified as the main cause of the disease.
This discovery was a major achievement, as it proved that leprosy was an infectious disease caused by germs, and therefore unrelated to hereditary transmission or other miasmic origins.
Hansen’s discovery was the scientific breakthrough that paved the way for the understanding and the development of future treatments of the disease. In fact, despite the initial opposition and even some lack of recognition, this discovery had a vital impact in fighting the disease.
The Leprosy Registry provided Dr. Armauer Hansen with the necessary scientific data that enabled him to support his discovery, proving the importance of isolating patients in order to stop the infection from spreading. His discovery had a huge impact all around the world, helping also to reduce the stigma around those who were affected by leprosy.
Documents related to the discovery are preserved at The Leprosy Archives of Bergen.
You can browse all the search results about Leprosy and Dr. Armauer Hansen provided by many institutions in Europes on Archives Portal Europe, here.
The Koç Üniversitesi Suna Kıraç Library in Turkey preserves the history of the Admiral Bristol Nursing School. The American Hospital Nursing School was established in Instanbul on 20 May 1920 as part of the American Hospital, and today is part of the Koç University Faculty of Nursing.
Founded by Admiral Mark Lambert Bristol, the American Hospital Nursing School created as part of the American Hospital began offering a two-and-a-half-year education program.
The school was established to meet the healthcare needs of Americans in the Near East as well as the need to fill the shortage of nurses in Turkey, providing health care to all regardless of their nationality or religion.
Since 1920 the school has gone through numerous institutional changes and different names. In 1957 the school was registered by the Ministry of Education with the name Admiral Bristol Nursing School, becoming a 4-years vocational high school education that was equivalent to the Nurse Health High School.
In 1976 the school changed first name to the Admiral Bristol Nursing High School and, then, in 1981 it became the Admiral Bristol Nursing Vocational High School. In 1995 was further transformed into a School of Health affiliated to Koç University. The education program of the School of Health was designed in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing and followed international standards.
The collection preserved by the Koç University Library contains various documents related to the activities and history of the school, including many photos across time showing instances of the life and practices within the school.
The nursing education at the Admiral Bristol Nursing School
Inspired by the nursing practices carried out by Florence Nightingale based on knowledge and compassion for the patients, the Admiral Bristol Nursing School was the first nursing education established in Istanbul in 1920. As part of the American Hospital, the Nursing school had a ‘private teaching institution’ status and offered courses as caregiver.
The training period was initially two and half years, then it was increased to three years, becoming finally four years in 1957. In order for the diplomas to be approved by the Ministry of Education and Health, students at the Admiral Bristol Nursing School had to take additional courses at other state-affiliated Nursing schools until 1957.
The beginning of the training period was celebrated with the suggestive Candle Lighting ceremony, which commemorates Florence Nightingale’s nighttime aid to wounded soldiers by candlelight.
During the Candlelighting ceremony, the aspiring nurses receive the traditional nurses cap as a badge of honour, and then they light a candle as a symbol of the lamp that Nightingale famously carried while caring for soldiers in field hospitals.
As part of their education, nurses at the Admiral Bristol Nursing School would take classes, for instance, on Diet and nutrition or anatomy, and they would also participate in different activities such as Gymnastic, Volleyball, and Theatre.
The collection preserved by the Koç University Library contains many, beautiful photos showing instances of life, education and other activities carried out at the Admiral Bristol Nursing School across time. You can browse the full list of documents related to the Nursing School preserved at the Koç University Library on their website.
Louis Pasteur’s will: A loving tribute to his wife
Our content provider, the French National Archives holds the holographic testament of Louis Pasteur dated 25 August 1880 and registered by the notary Jean André Lindet on 22 October 1895.
The holographic testament, which was preserved until it was registered in the envelope enclosed in the ledger, is dated “Paris, 29 March 1877. Arbois, 25 August 1880” and contains the last wills of Louis Pasteur.
It is a very short text lacking any list of goods and properties that one can expect in a will.
In fact, Louis Pasteur’s last wishes were all for his wife, Marie Pasteur, the woman that had been by his side during his whole life and a fundamental support throughout the course of his research and discoveries.
The will read: “This is my testament. I leave to my wife as much as I am allowed to leave her under the law. May my children never stray from their duty and continue to give their mother the tenderness she deserves. L. Pasteur”
Louis Paster (27 December 1822 – 28 September 1895) is known for his discoveries of the principles of vaccination, microbial fermentation, and pasteurization. His groundbreaking research helped to understand the causes and preventions of diseases, and the importance of hygiene and its connection to public health.
The Pasteur Institute and the production of serums
Our content provider, La Contemporaine, preserves some interesting pictures that document the processes behind the preparation of serums such as the diphtheria serum at Garches, a facility of the Pasteur Institute outside Paris.
The serum for the immunisation from the Diphteria bacteria was developed at the Pasteur Institute, where the serum was then produced at the Pasteur Institute’s facility at Garches on a large scale.
The first step in the production of the serum involved the immunisation of horses.
Once a sufficient amount of toxin had been produced, the bacteria was killed or filtered and then it was injected again into the horses, producing the antitoxin.
Once horses were immunised, they could be bled in order to separate the serum out from the red blood corpuscles. The serum was then transferred into phials, which were then distributed to pharmacies and hospital ready to be inoculated.
Later, the Pasteur Institute also set up their own system of distribution, delivering the serum everywhere across France and abroad.
Browse more pictures of the Pasteur Institute at Garches on our Portal, here.
Charles Nicolle and the discovery of Thyphus transmission
Charles Nicolle (Rouen 1866 – Tunis 1936) was a French bacteriologist known for his discovery about the transmission of epidemic typhus and for identifying lice as the transmitter of the disease.
For his discovery, he received the Osiris Prize – awarded by the Institut de France – and the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1928.
He was for over 30 years the director of the Institute Pasteur in Tunis which under his guidance became an international centre renowned for the production of vaccines against infectious diseases and for outstanding medical research.
As a notable Rouen citizen, the local newspapers – Journal de Rouen – followed the medical achievements and discoveries made by Charles Nicolle over the years, honouring him with various mentions. The fully searchable digitised archive of the Journal de Rouen is currently preserved by our content provider Archives départementales de la Seine-Maritimeand it can be consulted online here (Archives départementales de la Seine-Maritime also holds Charles Nicolle’s personal papers).
For instance, on 20 July 1899 the newspaper reports that researchers and student from all over the world travelled to France to join Dr. Charles Nicolle’s course on microbiology at the Medical School in Rouen.
On 28 February 1903, followed by another short piece published on 16 July 1903, the Journal de Rouen mentions the work Nicolle was doing on the Typhoid fever, reporting also his words about the assumption that the epidemic could be related to microbes that can be found in the water, opening a local discussion about the improvement of the quality and pureness of freshwater springs in Rouen and its surroundings.
The newspaper of Rouen kept following the development of their concitoyen Dr. Charles Nicolle’s research and in 1909 promptly reported how the bacteriologist understood how the bacterium responsible for the typhus infection lived in the blood of the human host. Nicolle arrived at the conclusion that for the bacterium to be introduced in the bloodstream of a healthy person it required a parasite. The problem was to determine what type of parasite was the carrier.
After further research, Nicolle found that the transmission was caused by louse’s excrement: the infection occurred when a small quantity of this is rubbed on the skin or eye.
To the details of the discovery and the impact it had on containing the typhus epidemic that occurred in North Africa and the Mediterranean Basin was dedicate a full article in 1927 (soon after receiving the Osiris Prize) of one column and a half long, which appears to be longer than the space allocated to other similar articles.
You can browse the search results about Charles Nicolle on our portal here.
Notes and fragments of research in Claude Bernard‘s personal archival collection (1838-1895)
Claude Bernard was a French physiologist who among his many accomplishments studied the functions of the pancreas and the glycogenic function of the liver, shedding light on the causes of diabetes mellitus.
Our content provider the Archives du Collège de France keeps Claude Bernard’s personal archival collection. This collection includes notebooks and handwritten notes mainly written by Claude Bernard.
Around 1850, Claude Bernard started to record his projects and results of experiments, observations of physiology and philosophical reflections in his many notebooks, continuing to note down experiments and thoughts for his whole life, constituting an exceptional collection. Although his laboratory notebooks and notes were created only for personal use, Claude Bernard expressed in his will the wish to have them kept and preserved.
Claude Bernard’s laboratory notebooks and journals help shed some light on his research and his research processes, offering a unique insight on the development of his studies and published work and an invaluable source for historians of medical sciences.
For instance, Fascicle 25b contains accounts of experiments and reflections on sugar, its formation, its destruction and its role in the organism, as well as reflections on glycemia and on diabetes mellitus.
Among the notebooks included in his personal collection there are cahièrs full of sketches and drawings that Bernard used to visualise and reproduce the structure of parts of the body or cells.
There are also autograph manuscripts and reprints of various works preserved among Claude Bernard’s papers, often including notes added to the margins by Bernard himself.
Unlike many scientific writers of his time, Bernard wrote in his notebooks and journals about his own experiments and thoughts using the first person, such as in Manuscript no.11.
The so-called “Cahier rouge” (Manuscript no.11 – the red notebook for the colour of its cover) was written between August 1850 and December 1860 and to its pages Claude Bernard confided his thoughts about his many projects and more.
Browse Bernard’s personal papers, notebooks and his whole personal collection preserved at the Archives of the Collège de France here.
The establishment of the healthcare system in Serbia (1920s)
The national healthcare system in Serbia was established in the early 1900s is often associated with the work of Andrija Štampar (1888-1958) who held the position of Ministry of Public Health until 1924.
The first health ministry of the then newly formed Yugoslavia, worked to take care of healthy children and their further proper development, to take care of population health, to build institutions for the prevention and treatment of diseases, to carry on epidemiological surveillance and to educate the population on health issues.
During this time, he managed to create many social and medical institutions across the then Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.
Thanks to the establishment of a well-interconnected network of public health homes, health and antimalarial stations, and anti-tuberculosis health services the Republic of Serbia developed one of the finest health systems in the world after World War I.
The Historical Archives of Belgrade holds some very interesting photos from the mid-1920s in their Photo Collection. In particular, the two photos above show the investment of resources and the attention demonstrated by the newly formed healthcare system in the territory of Serbia to children’s health, for instance, with vaccinations campaigns against tuberculosis and proper dental hygiene.
The Automated Topic Detection tool developed by Archives Portal Europe is now entering a new phase – an open testing was carried out on the 11th February to present and check the new functionalities that it offers – you can see the presentation on Youtube:
Through APE Digitise & Upload Grant, the military history collections were made available on the portal, at this link. The collections relate in particular to Muzaffer Ergüder, a military statesman who assumed important civil and military duties in the late Ottoman Empire and the Early Republic; and the Kuraner Collection, which includes documents from the Balkan War to the War of Independence
The full report on the work conducted by the Suna Kiraç Library is available here: