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Adam Collection

The Adam Collection was the personal library of the literary journalist Miron Grindea (1909-95).

Miron Grindea: an outline of his life

Title page from an 1840 edition of 'Le diable boiteux' by Alain René Le Sage, held in the Adam Collection.

Grindea was born into a working-class Jewish family in the Moldavian region of Romania. In 1918 his family moved to Bucharest, where, from the mid-1920s, he began to write and was introduced to Bucharest literary circles by his schoolfriend Mircea Eliade, who was later to become a distinguished scholar of comparative religion. At this time, Grindea began developing his interests in the arts (particularly in classical music and in French literature) which were to be so significant in shaping the character of the periodical which he edited from the 1930s until 1988: Adam international review.

His continuing involvement with the world of Romanian letters is reflected in the collection, which includes Romanian literature from the 1930s until the 1980s, and autographed copies of books by EM Cioran, Tristan Tzara and Eugene lonesco. The collection holds a significant number of monographs of Romanian literature, literary criticism and history, several of them inscribed by the author.

Miron and his wife, Carola, emigrated to the United Kingdom at the outbreak of the Second World War. Although Adam did not appear between 1939 and 1946, Grindea developed a network of contacts in the British intellectual and cultural communities as a result of his wartime work in the Ministry of Information and his membership of PEN and the International Arts Guild.

Adam international review

When Grindea started editing Adam he was still living in Bucharest. Adam was at first devoted to Jewish cultural matters; not until 1946 did it cover the arts in general. The increasing (and officially sanctioned) anti-semitism of Romanian politics and society and its collaboration with Nazi Germany directly affected Adam, as it was one of the very few periodicals in which Jewish intellectuals in Bucharest could publish. The periodical inevitably reflected the concerns of Jews in Romania. When Adam re-appeared in 1946, the networks which Grindea had fostered during the war provided both the inspiration and the connections which would help to sustain Adam intellectually until it ceased publication in 1988.

The critic Cyril Connolly (1903-74) was a major influence, in his Francophilia, his advocacy of Modernist literature and his editing of the literary magazine Horizon during the adverse years of the war. Grindea agreed with Connolly that literary culture needed to be actively defended in an age when many tendencies were hostile towards it. Throughout its career Adam’s finances were precarious (partly due to Grindea's idiosyncratic management style) and the task of editing it was a labour of love. Although Adam had an editorial board (comprising Connolly, JB Priestley and others) its publication depended entirely on Grindea's efforts, and was a reflection of  his own enthusiasms. Adam was increasingly produced at irregular intervals: an issue tended to be produced when Grindea felt that he had gathered enough material for it.

The collection

Green leather binding, with gilt title and monogram, from a copy of 'The crown of wild olive' by John Ruskin held in the Adam Collection.The Adam Collection holds many items which are of interest for anyone concerned both with the history of the book and with the history of literary culture in the 20th century. The collection of monographs and serials (approximately 3,000 monographs and 4,000 periodical parts held at King’s) reflects the nature of the connections which he formed from the 1930s onwards. Authors who are well represented in the collection invariably tended to be contributors to Adam or members of its editorial board.

Unlike most other collections, which were systematically developed by collectors to reflect their interests in a particular area, the Adam Collection grew in an unplanned way. The most important part of the collection comprises autographed copies of books which were presented to Grindea and review copies of books for Adam. The monographs demonstrate vividly Grindea’s wide range of acquaintance and include inscribed copies of books by TS Eliot, Robert Graves, Iris Murdoch, Arthur Koestler, Arnold Toynbee, Bertrand Russell, Michael Foot, Marshall McLuhan, Yehudi Menuhin, Michael Redgrave and Octavio Paz. Notable French writers whose autographed works appear in the collection include André Gide, François Mauriac, André Maurois, Raymond Queneau, Georges Duhamel, Louis Aragon and Jules Supervielle.

The holdings are significant in ways other than the intrinsic interest of inscribed copies to historians of the book and to anyone concerned with the history of 20th century publishing. The collection is particularly noteworthy for its holdings of 20th century poetry published in limited runs or by small presses. The holdings of first editions include a signed copy by Peter Ackroyd of his critical essay Notes for a new culture (1976) and other works by lesser-known poets which are not widely held in university libraries.

One feature of the Adam Collection which is of special interest to those pursuing courses in War Studies or in Middle East Studies is a collection of monographs, including ephemera dating from the 1940s and 1950s, on Israel, the Middle East and the history of Zionism. It includes inscribed copies of books by Teddy Kollek (the former mayor of Jerusalem), Yael Dayan (the daughter of Moshe Dayan) and Yitzhak Navon (the president of Israel in the 1970s.)

The extensive holdings of periodicals in the Adam Collection reflect Grindea’s interests closely, with a heavy emphasis on literary, Romanian and Jewish periodicals.  As the runs of these periodicals in the collection are often incomplete it is worthwhile taking a close look at the online catalogue record in order to ascertain whether we have a particular issue.

Because the vast majority of the books in the collection date from the 20th century, a significant number pose conservation problems. Many of the French and Romanian books in the collection suffer from advanced acidification of the paper, which in several cases has led to the disintegration of the book. After the 1940s standards of Romanian book production seemed to have improved and a better quality of paper was used. A similar change appears to have occurred in France around 1960.

Most of the collection is now catalogued, and the records are available online.

Several items, particularly those which have suffered from paper acidification, have been conserved.

Other related collections elsewhere

The archive of Adam international review is housed in the College Archives.  These papers have not been catalogued. A collection description is available in the Archives catalogue.

Other university library special collections which cover a similar area to the Adam Collection include the following:

The Plomer Collection (the library of the South African writer William Plomer) at Durham University contains signed copies of works by 20th century authors. Further details are available at Durham University Library Special Collections.

The James Parkes Collection at the University of Southampton covers the same subject area as part of the Adam Collection (Judaica and Middle Eastern Studies). Further details are available at Southampton University Library Special Collections.

The personal library of the art historian, Sir Herbert Read, who, like Grindea, was a devotee of Modernism, and whose library contains presentation copies of works by TS Eliot and James Joyce, forms part of the Brotherton Collection at the Special Collections at Leeds University Library. Included in the Brotherton Collection are significant holdings of 20th century French printed books. Further details are available at Leeds University Library Special Collections:

The Arthur Koestler Collection in the Archives at Edinburgh University may be of interest, as Koestler, a Hungarian Jew, had a similar background to Grindea.

Bibliography

Vanessa Louise Davies. Adam International Review: a short publishing history, 1941-1991. London: Adam Archive Publications, School of Humanities, King’s College London, 1992

Vanessa Louise Davies. Adam International Review: a thematic and contextual study. London: University of London, 1987. PhD thesis, King’s College London  

Rachel Lasserson (ed.)  Art, drama, architecture and music: an anthology of Miron Grindea’s ADAM editorials.  (2 vols.) London: Valentine Mitchell, 2006


Images: Title page from an 1840 edition of Le diable boiteux by Alain René Le Sage [Adam (Grindea) Collection PQ1997. D5 LES]   

Leather binding from The crown of wild olive by John Ruskin. London: George Allen & Sons, 1912 [Adam (Grindea) Collection PR5255 RUS]   

 

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