As some of you will have gathered, I’m spending much of my time at the moment editing translations of Karl Heinrich Ulrichs’ Latin newspaper Alaudae, which he published with considerable, perhaps surprising, success, from 1889 until his death in 1895.
Somewhat late in the day it occurred to me to investigate what my local Bodleian Library possessed in the way of original Alaudae material. I had an idea it held original copies of Ulrichs’ Latin newspaper, but I only got round to calling them up from the stack two days ago. What I found, bearing in mind I’ve been working through the 33 issues of Alaudae since September, was rather special.
First the disappointing news, though. The Bod doesn’t seem to have a full run of issues, 1-33, but rather 1-15 and then 25. As we’ll see, what the Bodleian has depends on what Ulrichs thought to send it.
Issues 1-15 are bound together in the Bodleian copy, with Issue 25 loose and tucked in the same volume. Glued in the front of the volume is a postcard (front and back in the photos below) with a handwritten note from Ulrichs in Aquila, the Italian town (now L’Aquila) where he spent his final years, and where he composed all those issues of Alaudae:
You have had the kindness (the 20 May) to thank me for having sent my little journal périodique Latin Alaudae I & II. With the present lines I would ask, the Bodleian library might accept an abonnement gratuit of Alaudae and, in consequence, accord me the honour to send, in quality of donum auctoris, also the following numbers.
Yours very sincerely,
Carlo Arrigo Ulrichs
Aquila degli Abruzzi
31 May 1889.”
Most of the readers of Alaudae were paying subscribers: the terms of subscription (in Latin, like everything else) precede every issue. What Ulrichs is offering the Bodleian here is a free subscription, a gift of the author, and he is committing himself, if the offer is acceptable, to sending “the following numbers”, which I take to mean all the issues to come.
I shan’t show all my workings, as that might get a bit dull, but from a combination of postmarks, accession notes added by Bodleian librarians, and in particular Ulrichs’ own elegant autograph inscriptions on some numbers, it emerges that Ulrichs fulfilled his generous offer up to a point, sending issues periodically in batches. Thus a postmark and half of a five-cent stamp (and all of King Umberto I’s substantial moustache) at the end of 2, plus the fragment of what I think is a newspaper wrapper (there’s another fragment of a newspaper wrapper attached to Ulrichs’ note; more on wrappers below), testify to Ulrichs’ posting of Issues 1-2 as mentioned on the postcard. (King Umberto was a bit of a philistine, incidentally. But Queen Margherita subscribed to Alaudae, as well as allegedly lending her name to a pizza.)
At the end of Issue 4 we find the same postmark, AQUILA (ABRUZZI), and in the newspaper itself, in Issue 3, there is a personal communication (Ulrichs likes to include such communications to subscribers & sim. at the end of his issues) to “E. B. Nich.” at the “Library of the University of Oxford”: Verba tua benevola accepi. Ecce hic, quod obtuleram, “I have received your kind words. Find here what I had offered.” Ulrichs seems to refer back here to his own note and its offer quoted above, while “Nich.” is Edward Nicholson, Bodley’s Librarian at the time, who has evidently replied to Ulrichs’ postcard. At the end of Issue 6 there’s another address and postmark, and accession notes by the library indicating that 7-8 arrived along with 5-6 (in Issue 10 Ulrichs records the Bodleian’s thanks acceptis lib[ellis] 5-8, “for the receipt of Issues 5-8”); at the start of 9 a very elegant address including Nicholson’s name (image at the top) accompanies issues 9-13; and again at the start of 14 (below) there is an indication that 14-15 are being sent, though accession notes indicate that 14-15 were sent before 9-13. Finally, 25 (also below), not bound with the rest, was apparently sent individually.
Were the other issues ever sent by Ulrichs? The accession of these issues was so meticulous at the Bodleian end (judging by the accession dates) that I doubt it. I can also understand why he might not have done. Ulrichs struck up productive relationships with readers in Spain, the US, Britain, Finland, Egypt, the Ottoman Empire and the Russian Empire, and much of his content is generated from material shared or sent by these contacts. There’s no evidence that I’ve yet encountered of anything similar with Nicholson or the Bodleian, so perhaps no strong reason for Ulrichs to keep the library in mind, more’s the pity.
One thing I have to develop in the next few months is a greater understanding than I can currently claim of postal habits at the end of the nineteenth century. (I seek the Bozi Mohacek of circa 1892 self-sealable pre-paid postcards.) I already know much more than I once did about newspaper wrappers, the means by which newspapers reached their intended destination, thanks to this video, and I was more delighted than I would ever have expected to be to find traces of such wrappers among these Bodleian issues.
Ulrichs has a special interest in matters postal, having written in the past about the postal service in his native Hanover, and being faced with a pressing need to despatch to the four winds a Latin newspaper on which, he calculated, the sun never set, so remarkably far-flung was its readership. This generates some exceedingly tricky passages as he translates contemporary postal realities into Latin, but also some excellent content. He recounts, for instance, the peregrinations of some Romanian newspapers sent him from Constanța, Ovid’s place of exile (he contrasts the existence of a statue of Ovid in Constanța with the lack of any such statue, in his day, in Ovid’s hometown of Sulmona, not far from Aquila, the regrettable neglect of Latin in contemporary Italy being a regular theme in Alaudae). The Romanian newspapers had been bound in two newspaper wrappers, with the address to “Aquila” written across both. When the wrappers became separated, and “Aqui” from “la”, the parcel went to Acqui (Terme), which is a very long way from Aquila.
We also hear of the wrapper for issue 17-18 (a single issue) arriving in Lima, New York without the newspaper, and then of the postcard sent to Ulrichs by the subscriber in Lima reaching Aquila via Bombay, having somehow been misdirected to the Indian Mail. That card had taken 68 days to get from New York State to Aquila, but in general the speed of the post from Aquila to Oxford at this time, and also the efficiency with which the Bodleian accessioned the material it received, if I’m interpreting correctly what I’m looking at, was impressive.
Ulrichs’ Latin addresses in full:
6: Alaudarum auctor: Carlo Arrigo Ulrichs, “The author of Alaudae, Karl Heinrich Ulrichs”;
9: Viris clarissimis bibliothecae universitariae Bodlejanae curatoribus, ad manus Viri Clarissimi Eduardi Nicholson, bibliothecarii, “To the most esteemed gentlemen, the curators of the Bodleian University Library, for the attention of the most esteemed gentleman Edward Nicholson, Librarian”;
14: Bibliothecae Bodlejanae universitatis Oxfordiensis; Misit D(ono) D(edit) D(edicavit) hasce duas Alaudas Alaudarum moderator, auctor, “To the Bodleian University Library of Oxford”; “These two issues of Alaudae have been sent, given and dedicated as a gift by the editor and author of Alaudae”;
25: Misit Alaudarum auctor, “Sent by the author of Alaudae“.
Do I need to add that encountering Ulrichs’ handwriting, both informal and calligraphic, and recognising in it that glorious eccentricity and charm that emerges from every issue of Alaudae; tracing in detail his dealings with Nicholson and the Bodleian; and gaining some sense at least of how he managed to broadcast his Latin newspaper from a tiny garret in Aquila to Mexico City, Madras and a remarkable number of places in between, is simply the kind of thing I became an academic to do?