Vincent Giroud, curator of modern books and manuscripts at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, has received the highest official honor in the arts from the Polish government for archiving what Polish officials called some of the most substantial papers on emigre Polish literature in the West.
Giroud received the Order of Merit in Polish Culture while visiting Warsaw for a conference on the centenary of Polish author Witold Gombrowicz, whose manuscripts appear in Giroud’s archive work. The award was give to him by Polish Minister of Culture Waldemar Dabrowski on March 19.
Beinecke Assistant Curator Timothy Young, who has helped Giroud archive modern books and manuscripts for the last two years, said Giroud deserves the award for his dedication in planning and setting up exhibits on topics ranging from the city of St. Petersburg to “Theatre and Anti-theatre in the 18th Century.”
“People who work with him, especially scholars, would agree that his dedication to building the collection and finding new research uses is unparalleled,” Young said. “He draws from the strengths in the collections but is very aware of directions in scholarship.”
Giroud was unavailable for comment Sunday.
Beinecke Curator of German Literature Christa Sammons said it was Giroud’s idea to bring the writings of Nobel Prize winner Czeslaw Milosz — Beinecke’s first substantial Polish literature archive — to the library in 1987. It was also his idea, she said, to bring a Polish archivist to help document the Polish archives.
“These kinds of international contacts with librarians from abroad are always interesting and fruitful,” Sammons said in an e-mail.
Slavic Languages and Literatures Professor Tomas Venclova said the archive on Polish literature allowed him to complete his novel on 20th century Polish writer Aleksander Wat.
“It would have been absolutely impossible to complete the book without the [Beinecke Library] collection,” he said. “[Wat's] entire archive is in Beinecke; it’s well arranged and quite accessible.”
Venclova said Giroud was “incredibly friendly” and helpful during the year he spent searching for manuscripts in the Beinecke Polish archive, where Venclova said he even found the manuscript for an entire unpublished novel by Wat. The novel, “Loth’s Flight,” was printed in Poland after it was found in Beinecke, Venclova said.
Sammons said the collection reveals correspondence exchanged by “a whole community of Polish writers.”
With a generous endowment for acquisitions, the library has purchased all of its additions to the Polish literature archive, Sammons said.
Sterling Memorial Library librarian Susanne Roberts, who has known Giroud since he came to campus in the mid-1980s, said she and other librarians admire the way Giroud has expanded the modern books and manuscripts collection, including the library’s musical collection.
Young said Giroud’s contribution to preparing last weekend’s French Opera conference, which was held in Beinecke Library and took several years to plan, exemplifies how Giroud has contributed to expanding the library’s collection of music. The conference concluded with a rendition of Charles Gounod’s “Le Medecin Malgre Lui,” an opera restored from manuscripts at Beinecke.
“It was an amazing collaboration between archival research and performance,” Young said.