Constantin Pappia And His Library

The history of a country's libraries is made not only of facts and events related to large (or smaller) institutions, but also of phenomena that illustrate the taste for books and bibliophily of particular individuals, especially when such libraries come to be included in public collections. Romanian bibliophily may be said to date from the 19th century, if we don't take into consideration humanist libraries from the 17th and 18th centuries that belonged to the noble families of Cantacuzino, Brâncoveanu and Mavrocordat (as attested by Scurta Istorie a Bibliotecilor Române Short History of Romanian Libraries, Editura Enciclopedică, 2000, chapter 4: "The 19th Century, The Century of Libraries"). Just like the books belonging to large libraries, those of private, small ones get misplaced or lost, then get together again, travel through centuries; some are luckier than others. They reveal to a great extent the evolution of Romanian intellectuals, that is why information related to them is worth being written down.Such a private library existed in Bucharest (among other locations) in the house of Constantin (Dinu) Pappia (1923-2000). His family, of Romanian origin, keeps attestations from the 18th century and has a rich intellectual tradition. Constantin Pappia did not content himself to preserve the books he inherited from his ancestors, but he also gathered his own valuable collection. His almost 500 books, kept in elegant and well-maintained Second Empire window-bookcases, make up a genuine "treasure." Constantin Pappia was a knowledgeable collector of good taste, and he chose copies that illustrate the craftsmanship of printing and of bookbinding in Europe and Romania, for a period that spans from the 18th century to the interwar years. His library is not an encyclopaedic library but a literary one, an art collection in which French and Romanian copies prevail.The wonderful series of the Complete Works of Voltaire, Molière, Rousseau and Mably, dating from the 18th century, beautifully bound and printed in famous editions, reveal the history of French books. Some copies of bibliophilic books go back to what is called "la belle époque." Pierre Loti, Pecheur d'Islande, from 1893, is an edition on papier de Chine that has almost 3000 engravings and a blue morocco leather binding (from 1920); it is signed by G. Mercier, it has linear ornaments and an inner red cover. The volume is decorated with beautiful wood and aqua-forte engravings and it has a golden spine. A book from 1906 that belonged to Anatole France, Sainte Euphrosine, proceeding from Slătineanu's collection, a bibliophilist to whom the Pappias were related, has a marble-like, scarlet binding with a fly-leaf of purple moiré and the binder's signature on it: Rene Assourd.The Parisian bookbinding style is illustrated in Pappia's collection by an edition of La Briere, by Chateaubriant, a book that has colourful engravings by Henry Cheffer and is printed on papier Japon; it has also black and white engravings and original aquarelle drawings. The green-leather Knoll binding, with yellow silk fly-leaf, dates from 1932. Another Parisian, earlier binding, signed by Dupre, preserves an edition of Brises d'Orient (Oriental Breeze) of the Romanian poet D. Bolintineanu. Then again, another very beautiful edition is that of a copy of Pierre Loti's Madame Chrysantheme, from 1888, whose cover is of ivory-like cardboard, with a cameo thrown into relief and ribbons of fine reps.Pappia's collection, as it is preserved up to these days, contains rare copies from earlier centuries such as Discours deplorable du meurtre et assasinat (…) du feu Henry Lorraine, (Pitiful Speech on the Assassination of the Late Henry Lorraine) dating from 1589, printed on filigree paper, bound in brown leather. A French edition of Ovid's Ars Armandi, printed in Amsterdam in 1751, as well as a collection of 13 engravings by Adrien Collaret, chiselled after paintings of Martes de Voss around 1600, are bound in feuille morte morocco by Le Claessans. They all bring to this precious library the craftsmanship of European books from cultural spaces that are not necessarily French.Valuable, rare Romanian books are also present among the admirable copies of Constantin Pappia's collection. Here are some examples: an 1848 edition of the poetry written by the "great chancellor Iancu Văcărescu," printed by C.A. Rosetti and Erich Winterholder; Cântarea României (The Song of Romania) by Alecu Russo, printed on Dutch paper; Doine şi lăcrămioare (Ballads and Lilies of the Valley)by Vasile Alecsandri, the 1863 edition; Istoria…, by Petru Maior (1812); the Poetry of G. Sion, which has an exquisite leather binding; N. Gane's Short Stories, from 1886, which has the binding of Sorec publishing house, with floral ornaments.Another Romanian copy that is worth mentioning is Ion Heliade Rădulescu's Souvenirs d'un proscrit (Memories of an Outcast), published in Paris in 1850, with florets, engravings and an ex-libris autograph. Another beautiful collection item is a rare anthology of Romanian poetry, Fleurs de la Roumanie (Flowers of Romania) manufactured by Henry Stanley and published in London in 1856. The volume comprises the ballads Mioriţa and Meşterul Manole as well as works of the 1884 generation poets, printed in colourful frames, reproduced after miniature Byzantine manuscripts.There are other books worth mentioning, either because they are important from the historical perspective of Romanian printing (Ceasuri de odihna The Rest Hour by A. Vasilis, 1853 published by G. Asachi's Albina Printing & Publishing Institute) or because they contain great pictures (Versuri Poetry by Carmen Sylva, i.e. Queen Elisabeth of Romania, 1881-1914, translated into Romanian by George Coşbuc, whose cover is painted by V. Rola Piekarski, representative of the Art Nouveau style in Romania, at Minerva Publishing House, in 1906). The collection contains a rare item dating from the beginning of the 20th century, Scupcinarii, a volume with drawings by T. Mutzer, in 25 leather-bound, filigree paper copies. It is a periodical, a kind of "comical-heroic poem" that tells the gastronomic and Bacchic adventures of 25 hard-drinkers who wrote down their experience in bookish and bibliophilist style, in 1903.Constantin Pappia's collection also contains bibliophilic rarities from the interwar period when the craftsmanship of books was still flourishing and the refined artistic binding was still in vogue.

by Plural magazine