Monday, February 24, 2014

Newnham's Renouf collection

Cover of E.T.A. Hoffman's Meister Floh (Frankfurt, 1822) from the Renouf Collection

Sorry we haven't posted for a while.  But we have plenty to share with you in coming months.  We thought we'd begin by telling you a bit about a guest blog we were invited to contribute back in November 2013. This was for Cambridge University Library's European Languages Across Borders blog, and we were honoured to be the first College library to participate with a blog about our Brentano-related collections at Newnham.

There's a link to the blog here:

Writing the blog reminded me how useful it is to index donor and provenance details when cataloguing books from special collections. We had always known we had an interesting collection of books relating to the German Romantic writer, Clemens Brentano (1778-1842). But it was when we were able to show through our catalogue all the books given by their donor, Miss Renouf, that we were able to demonstrate most effectively the size and significance of our holdings.

Magdalen Mary Edith Louisa Renouf studied at Newnham between 1881 and 1884. She studied Classics at Newnham, and then went on to study Medicine at the University of Rome and the Royal Free Hospital in London. Miss Renouf's grandfather, on her mother's side, was Christian Brentano, brother of Clemens, and the books Miss Renouf gave to the College reflect the writings of the Brentano family and their literary connections. The collection contains a number of early editions of the works of Clemens Brentano and his circle, including works by Achim von Arnim,  Bettina von Arnim (née Brentano), Joseph von Görres and Ludwig Tieck, as well as several  books by the eighteenth-century writer Sophie von La Roche (1730-1807), who was the grandmother of Clemens, Christian and Bettina Brentano. 

After an exhibition of the material in 2007, the scholarly community was made aware of two manuscripts held within Newnham's Renouf collection. The first was written around 1817 in the hands of Clemens Brentano and Luise Hensel (1798-1876) and is a collection of poems by Luise Hensel. The second is a manuscript of Clemens Brentano's poetic work Romanzen von Rosenkranz, one of a number of copies of the manuscript now known to be in existence. Brentano worked on the Romanzen between 1804-12. It remained an unfinished, abandoned work, (the manuscript is not in Brentano's hand, but was made by a friend, J.F. Böhmer), and was published posthumously in 1852. Prior to the 2007 exhibition, this particular copy of the manuscript, although known to the editors of the Frankfurt Brentano edition (it was written and bound as a presentation copy), was thought lost. Its rediscovery in Newnham College Library excited the interest of researchers from the Freies Deutsches Hochstift at the Goethe-Museum Frankfurt, who visited the College to study the manuscripts and other books in the collection.

We're grateful to the memory of Miss Renouf, and to the University Library's European Collections team for inviting us to blog about the collection, and to explain how Newnham came to be on the map of institutional libraries with significant holdings in German Romanticism.

Deborah Hodder

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