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Poznań. The Brothers Grimm's book collection has been found, with their notes inside

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Scientists from the University of Warsaw found 27 books from the private library of Jakub and Wilhelm Grimm. Adam Mickiewicz in Poznań at the University Library. Previously, the volumes were considered lost during the war. Many of them contain handwritten notes by the authors of famous fairy tales.

It has been known for 22 years that part of the Brothers Grimm's book collection is in Poznań. This came to light during research conducted by the University Library in Poznań. They track the fate of works from the moment of their creation. Also when transferring titles from the card catalog to the digital one, the collections are carefully examined and described.

– We read the notes of the former owners, examine the stamps on the works, and describe their bindings. We have known that we have works previously belonging to the Brothers Grimm in our collection since 2002, when we identified the first six volumes. At that time, a catalog of incunabula was created, prepared by Professor Wiesław Wydra, which contains their description – explains Renata Wilgosiewicz-Skutecka from the University Library.

How did books once owned by Jakub and Wilhelm Grimm get from Berlin to Poznań? In the years 1898-1899 they were transferred to the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Bibliothek in Poznań, which was being established at that time, as doubles. Their task was to “propagate German culture in the east.” Subsequent books probably found their way to the University Library in Poznań after the war, when abandoned book collections were secured.

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Signal for the translator

About these books from prof. Anna Loba, a colleague from the Faculty of Modern Languages ​​at Adam Mickiewicz University, heard from prof. Eliza Pieciul-Karmińska, who has been researching the works of the Brothers Grimm for years and translating their fairy tales. Responsible for, among others: for translating texts from the first edition of “Fairy Tales for Children and Home”. These, despite the title, are not intended for children at all. Murders in the family, suicides, incest – it's all there.

Prof. Eliza Pieciul-Karmińska with the found booksTVN24

– After the first publication, the Brothers Grimm received letters from angry mothers who said that they could not give this book to their children. They were surprised that someone would give it to children, but they realized that they could not avoid it and from that moment on, Wilhelm Grimm took he took over the editorial work and adapted these texts to children's users – he explains.

They were looking for lost works

During 60 years of scientific work, the Brothers Grimm collected over eight thousand books. After their deaths, most of them went to the library of the University of Berlin. Currently, they are a separate special collection in the Humboldt University Library in Berlin.

Ludwig Denecke undertook the reconstruction of the Brothers Grimm's private book collection. – He spent decades cataloging their books. He also described works that he marked as “lost”, says Prof. Pieciul-Karmińska.

They started looking for books marked this way. How? – We spent several months of work examining Deneck's catalog and extracting from our collections those books that had the same titles and their provenances – explains Renata Wilgosiewicz-Skutecka.

The basic identification element is the donation ex libris of the University Library in Berlin, which states that they come from the Grimm brothers' book collection. – Not all books have this bookplate. Some books are re-bound, their bindings have been changed, and therefore this bookplate has been lost. Then we compared the underlining and characteristic notes of the Grimms, says Wilgosiewicz-Skutecka.

Bookplate from the Berlin libraryTVN24

Now they can easily recognize their handwriting and are able to indicate which notes are James's and which are William's. One of the books had neither a bookplate nor notes. Nevertheless, it was selected as one that could come from this book collection. This was confirmed. – I asked the conservators if they could peel off our bookplate so we could see what was underneath, and it turned out to be a bull's eye – says Wilgosiewicz-Skutecka. Underneath there was a bookplate from the Berlin library.

As a result of their work, it turned out that in Poznań there are not six, but as many as 33 works that previously belonged to the Brothers Grimm. – Books that we thought were irretrievably lost exist, and they also hide huge secrets that we will decipher – rejoices Prof. Pieciul-Karmińska.

A total of 33 books from the Brothers Grimm collection were found in the libraryTVN24

Decipher their thoughts

The most important thing in the books are the brothers' notes. This is an invaluable resource for anyone currently researching their business. Jakub and Wilhelm treated their library primarily as a work tool, so they often wrote notes directly in books. While reading, they underlined fragments of the text and made notes in the margins. Then they wrote down their comments on loose pieces of paper, and finally copied everything carefully on the endpaper of the book. Thanks to this, researchers can now follow the brothers' work, reconstruct their way of thinking and possible sources and motifs used, e.g. in fairy tales or legends.

We won't find a new “Little Red Riding Hood” here, but – as Prof. argues. Pieciul-Karmińska – there are clues that may indicate that the Grimms were working on another fairy tale based on these books.

Notes of one of the Brothers GrimmTVN24

– Sometimes one word written in the margin is enough to find out what was important to them – says prof. Pieciul-Karmińska. – But first you have to decipher these notes, which is not always easy. The brothers wrote for themselves, they used mental abbreviations and initials. You also need to check what inspired them to write down a given word – maybe they wanted to mark their name this way, or maybe they were thinking about a specific fairy tale motif? It is worth remembering that at the beginning of the 19th century, when the Grimms began collecting fairy tales, today's Germany was not a single country, but was divided into many smaller ones. Therefore, where a given version of the fairy tale came from, whether it was a processed French tale or perhaps a Hessian variant, or whether it came from the Paderborn area, for example, was important information for the Grimms, recorded in handwritten notes and later in footnotes.

The Grimms are not just about fairy tales

The average Polish reader associates the Brothers Grimm mainly with fairy tales, and we treat them as writers on a daily basis. Meanwhile, in German culture they are special figures, outstanding scientists, creators of the foundations of German philology.

– Developing fairy tales was only part of their activity, they also researched the history of the German language and its grammar. They were also the authors of the fundamental Dictionary of the German Language. The scope of their research was truly impressive – emphasizes Prof. Pieciul-Karmińska.

The found works will now be carefully scanned so that everyone can see what is inside them.

– The library holds enormous treasures and it will take decades to research them. I am convinced that these books would also be published, the question is whether in my lifetime – concludes Prof. Pieciul-Karmińska.

Main photo source: TVN24

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