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Literature / Europeana

Jules Verne, the master of science fiction

Today we are cel­e­brat­ing the 184th birth­day of Jules Verne, one of the found­ing fathers of sci­ence fic­tion and the sec­ond most trans­lated author in the world after Agatha Christie.

Portrait de Jules Verne

Born in the har­bour city of Nantes, France, the young Jules Verne spent a great amount of time watch­ing the ships nav­i­gate the Loire River. This expe­ri­ence sparked the boy’s inter­est for travel and adven­tures, which he would later express through his writing.

His lit­er­ary career started with writ­ing liberetti for operettas. In 1863, he pub­lished his first full-length book En luft­bal­longsresa genom Afrika (A Hot Air Bal­loon trip through Africa). How­ever, the suc­cess came to him after meet­ing Pierre-Jules Het­zel, one of the more impor­tant French pub­lish­ers of the 19th cen­tury.  Het­zel sig­nif­i­cantly influ­enced Verne’s writ­ings. He cor­rected the sto­ries, gave invalu­able advice on how to rewrite them and infused them with optimism.

Their fruit­ful part­ner­ship saw the pub­li­ca­tion of Verne’s most pop­u­lar novels:

Cinq semaines en bal­lon (Five Weeks in a Bal­loon) in 1863;

Verne's Cinq semaines en ballon

Cinq semaines en ballon

Voy­age au cen­tre de la Terre (Jour­ney to the Cen­ter of the Earth) in 1864;

Verne's Voyage au centre de la terre

Voy­age au cen­tre de la terre

De la Terre à la Lune (From the Earth to the Moon) in 1865;

Verne's De la Terre à la Lune

De la Terre à la Lune

Les Enfants du cap­i­taine Grant (Cap­tain Grant’s Chil­dren) in 1867–1868;

Verne's Les Enfants du Capitaine Grant

Les Enfants du Cap­i­taine Grant

Vingt mille lieues sous les mers (Twenty Thou­sand Leagues Under the Sea) in 1869;

Verne's Vingt mille lieues sous les mers

Vingt mille lieues sous les mers

Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours (Around the World in Eighty Days) in 1872.

Verne's Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours

Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours

Dis­cover more on Euro­peana and explore the unknown with Jules Verne’s books.

Charles Dickens

Today we are cel­e­brat­ing Charles Dick­ens’ 200th birthday.

Charles Dickens

Charles Dick­ens, the author of some of the most iconic nov­els and char­ac­ters in Eng­lish lit­er­a­ture, was born at Land­port, Port­sea, on 7 Feb­ru­ary 1812. There he spent per­haps the hap­pi­est time of his life. In 1822, the fam­ily moved to Lon­don due to finan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties, which were shortly fol­lowed by the impris­on­ment of Dick­ens’ father. At the age of 12, Dick­ens was forced to leave school and work at a tumble-down ware­house infested with rats. This expe­ri­ence became for­ma­tive for Dick­ens, and greatly influ­enced his works.

After his great-grandmother died and bequeathed some money to his fam­ily, Charles was able to con­tinue his edu­ca­tion. How­ever, the school’s run-down con­di­tion, inept teach­ing meth­ods and bru­tal­ity of the head­mas­ter would be later por­trayed in his David Cop­per­field.

Dickens' David Copperfield

David Cop­per­field (lan­guage: Hungarian)

Dick­ens’ work­ing career began at a law office, but shortly after he decided to ded­i­cate him­self to writ­ing.  Dick­ens became a reporter, and his sketches in peri­od­i­cals formed his first col­lec­tion of pieces Sketches by Boz that was pub­lished in 1836.  Dur­ing that time, he also pub­lished his nov­els Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nick­leby, The Old Curios­ity Shop and, finally, Barn­aby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of ‘Eighty, which were very well-received.

A Christ­mas Carol, Dombey and Son and David Cop­per­field that mark a shift in his oevre towards more seri­ous themes, his major works A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expec­ta­tions fur­ther rein­forced his lit­er­ary success.

Dick­ens wrote 15 nov­els, numer­ous short sto­ries, sev­eral plays and non-fiction books.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Claire Toma­lin, the author of Dick­ens’ biog­ra­phy Charles Dick­ens: A Life, pre­cisely expresses what one feels when read­ing Dickens:

“We are read­ing and reread­ing your nov­els, your jour­nal­ism and your story A Christ­mas Carol with its pointed mes­sage that a decent soci­ety depends on the rich learn­ing to be gen­er­ous and the poor being saved from igno­rance and want.”

“We are talk­ing about your heroes and your vil­lains: Peck­sniff, Squeers, Quilp, Murd­stone, Head­stone; your jokes and your pathos; your silly, pretty lit­tle women; your strong women – Bet­sey Trot­wood, Peg­gotty – and your glo­ri­ous comic women: Mrs Gamp, Mrs Todgers, Flora Finching.”

Dickens' The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club

The Posthu­mous Papers of the Pick­wick Club (lan­guage: English)

“We are enjoy­ing the way you bring Lon­don to life before our eyes: streets, river, bridges, shops, dust heaps, mar­kets, pris­ons. … Nov­els and let­ters give us a panoramic view of 19th-century Eng­land.“
“Mr Dick­ens, you are still, and always will be, the Inim­itable. Many happy returns”.

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Charles Perrault’s fairy tales

Charles Per­rault is a name that is famil­iar to the young and old all over the world.  Who doesn’t know his Lit­tle Red Rid­ing Hood, Cin­derella or Sleep­ing Beauty?

Little Red Riding Hood

Per­rault was born on 12 Jan­u­ary 1628 to a wealthy Parisian fam­ily. After study­ing law, he pur­sued a career in gov­ern­ment ser­vice. When the Académie des Inscrip­tions et Belles-Lettres -  an insti­tu­tion devoted to human­i­ties —  was founded in 1663, Charles Per­rault was appointed its sec­re­tary for life.

Cinderella Sleeping Beauty

His lit­er­ary pro­duc­tions over the years were few, but included the famous Par­al­lèle des Anciens et des Mod­ernes, where Per­rault tried to prove the supe­ri­or­ity of the lit­er­a­ture of his cen­tury over the lit­er­a­ture of Antiq­uity. Inter­na­tional recog­ni­tion came to Per­rault when he was almost 70, after pub­lish­ing His­toires ou Con­tes du Temps passé. Les Con­tes de ma Mère l’Oye, or Tales of Mother Goose. It laid the foun­da­tions for a new lit­er­ary genre, the fairy tale, and became an insep­a­ra­ble part of our childhood.

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Understanding Pessoa through his library

Con­tributed by our Prod­uct Devel­oper David Haskiya:

I’ve recently dis­cov­ered a col­lec­tion in Euro­peana that quickly has become one of my favourites: the digi­tised library of the Por­tuguese author Fer­nando Pes­soa. Check­ing out his library gives me that same feel­ing I get when I visit someone’s house or apart­ment and study their book­shelves in an attempt to get to know them as per­sons! I’ve never read Fer­nando Pes­soa,  but look­ing at some of his books I’d really like to — his inter­ests are focused and include Eng­lish and clas­si­cal poetry, the sci­ence of evo­lu­tion, astrol­ogy and the occult. Judg­ing from his books he pre­ferred read­ing in Eng­lish and French and may have stut­tered. So which famous author’s per­sonal library would you like to have a look at?

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  • October 19, 2011
  • By Aisulu
  • In News
Venice and famous Venetians

On this day in 1866, after Aus­tria lost con­trol of Venice, the city was ceded to the newly cre­ated United King­dom of Italy.

Venice is known not only for its splen­did beauty, but also for being home to some of the most renowned peo­ple in history.

View of Venice: The Church of Il Redentore

Accord­ing to UNESCO, “[t]he whole city is an extra­or­di­nary archi­tec­tural mas­ter­piece in which even the small­est build­ing con­tains works by some of the world’s great­est artists such as Gior­gione, Tit­ian, Tin­toretto, Veronese and oth­ers.”  Espe­cially dur­ing the Renais­sance, Venice was an impor­tant cen­tre of art.


How­ever, Venice also played a great role in music. Anto­nio Vivaldi, Gio­vanni Gabrieli, Clau­dio Mon­teverdi and Gio­vanni Legrenzi are some of the most cel­e­brated com­posers of Venice.

The con­tri­bu­tions of Venet­ian Marco Polo and Gia­como Casanova to Europe’s cul­tural her­itage are also immense.

World map based largely on travel narratives such as Marco Polo's. L'oeuvre de Casanova de Seingalt

Dis­cover more on Europeana!

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French philosopher and writer Denis Diderot

A promi­nent fig­ure of the Enlight­en­ment, philoso­pher and writer Denis Diderot was born in Lan­gres, France, on 5 Octo­ber 1713.

Denis Diderot

After receiv­ing his degree in phi­los­o­phy and briefly study­ing law, he decided to become a writer. Because of his refusal to enter one of the learnt pro­fes­sions, Diderot was dis­owned by his father.

In 1745, Diderot accepted a job offer that would result in pro­duc­ing one of the great­est works of the Enlight­en­ment — Ency­clopédie.

Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers

Orig­i­nally he was hired by the Parisian book pub­lisher André Le Bre­ton to trans­late Ephraim Cham­bers’ Cyclopae­dia into French after two other trans­la­tors had with­drawn from the project. Together with the dis­tin­guished math­e­mati­cian and philoso­pher Jean Le Rond d’Alembert as his co-editor, Diderot com­pletely changed the nature of the pub­li­ca­tion. Instead of merely trans­lat­ing the book, Diderot turned it into a hub for rev­o­lu­tion­ary ideas. He col­lected con­tri­bu­tions of lead­ing intel­lec­tu­als, such as Voltaire and Rousseau, “to change the way peo­ple think”.

His other renowned works include Le Neveu de Rameau (Rameau’s Nephew) and Le Fils Naturel (The Nat­ural Son).  You can also see com­plete works by Diderot on Europeana.

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