Onassis Foundation Launches Digital Collection of Cavafy Archive Open to All

A photograph of the poet Constantine P. Cavafy from the Cavafy Archive. (Photo: Cavafy Archive Onassis Foundation)

NEW YORK – The Onassis Foundation announced on March 28 the launch of the digital collection of the Cavafy Archive – manuscripts of poems as well as prose literary works, studies and notes by the poet, all set alongside his personal archive rich in correspondence, texts and photographs – at cavafy.onassis.org.

Cavafy’s universe can now be explored from your computer or mobile phone. by downloading The Cavafy script typeface can also be downloaded from Onassis.org, allowing anyone to write his or her own personal “Ithaca.”

Having digitized more than 2,000 archival documents, the Onassis Foundation is now making them available to everyone as part of the digital collection of the Cavafy Archive. The Foundation will also soon be opening a dedicated space in the center of Athens to house the Alexandrian poet’s library, creating a complex at the intersection of culture and education that will bring together the Cavafy Archive, the Onassis Library, and the Onassis AiR building.

The Cavafy Archive was acquired by the Onassis Foundation at the end of 2012, thus safeguarding the archive’s continued presence in Greece and preventing a potential fragmentation. Their mission has always been to provide free and open access to both researchers as well as the general public, and to further promote Cavafy’s work and the international character of his poetry through the digitization and complete documentation of the Archive’s materials in both Greek and English.

In addition to distributing printed pamphlets of his poems, C.P. Cavafy also took the trouble of sending handwritten copies to friends. His handwriting provides the world of Greek letters with a unique legacy, since it preserves the dying art of calligraphy. The design of the C.P. Cavafy typeface was based on the Singopoulo Notebook, and was undertaken by the Greek Digital Type Library in collaboration with the graphic designers Yiannis Karlopoulos and Vassilis Georgiou (www.fonts.gr).

The handwritten text of Cavafy’s Ithaca from the Cavafy Archive. Photo Cavafy Archive Onassis Foundation

At the special event presenting what is a new dawn for the Cavafy Archive, the President of the Onassis Foundation Anthony S. Papadimitriou said, “The Onassis Foundation will soon be moving the Archive into a new setting that meets its every need. This specially-designed space in the center of Athens will house the poet’s library, the manuscripts of Cavafy’s poems, his hand-compiled printed editions, his prose literary works, studies, articles and notes, and the personal archive of C.P. Cavafy, rich in correspondence, texts and photographs.”

Papadimitriou continued, “We have for some time now been investing in the material and intellectual resources necessary to be able to present and promote the Archive in a cultural and educational setting freely open to everyone. Its construction, under the patronage of the Onassis Foundation, will create a complex at the intersection of culture and education bringing together the Cavafy Archive, the Onassis Library – known for the rare editions of its Hellenic Library, its Travel Accounts Collection, and its collection of artworks by major Greek artists – and the Onassis AiR building, whose residency program is aimed at international artists. It is an investment that concerns not only the past and present of Athens’ cultural development, but also its future. The construction of a building this city needs will add yet another international cultural heritage site to the urban fabric, one open to locals, scholars and visitors.”

Effie Tsiotsiou , the Onassis Foundation’s Executive Director and Director of Education, spoke of the joy and emotion to be giving access to the archive of “a great poet, whose value goes beyond his Greek dimension. A poet with a voice marked by his roots and memories that nevertheless reverberates around the world.”

She concluded by saying, “At the Onassis Foundation, we are still uncovering the enduring mystery that is Constantine Cavafy on the terms he himself set out in his poetry – ‘From all I did and all I said let no one try to find out who I was. […] From my most unnoticed actions, my most veiled writing — from these alone will I be understood.’” (Poem excerpt translated by Edmund Keeley and Phillip Sherrard.)

Prodromos Tsiavos, the Onassis Foundation’s Head of Digital Development, noted that this opening up of the Cavafy Archive is a genuine and major contribution to the digital and cultural commons: “Through the use of Creative Commons licenses, anyone can download, distribute, copy and share works with the public. They can also change, improve or remix works so long as they credit the licensor (rights holder) and author, and offer any resultant works under the same terms and conditions. As long as these conditions are met, the value of the Archive increases and is not diminished through the reproduction and dissemination of its works.”

More information is available online: https://cavafy.onassis.org.

THE ARCHIVE’S HISTORY

The Cavafy Archive consists of manuscripts of poems, hand-compiled printed editions, prose literary works, articles, studies and notes by the poet. The digital collection invites you to discover all of the above, along with C. P. Cavafy’s personal archive rich in correspondence, texts, and photographs.The Alekos and Rica Singopoulo Archive – which consists of materials relating to the poet – forms a distinct archival unit, as does the archive of the literary and art periodical Alexandrini Techni (“Alexandrian Art”), edited by A.G. Symeonidis and Rica Singopoulo under the regular guidance of C.P. Cavafy.

The core of the Archive was bequeathed by C.P. Cavafy to Alekos Singopoulo in 1933; the poet left no literary will indicating how he wanted his estate to be managed. Singopoulo initially managed the Archive together with his first wife, Rika Singopoulo (née Agallianou); after his death, he bequeathed the Archive to his second wife, Kyveli Singopoulo (née Trechantzaki). In 1948, the Cavafy scholar Michael Peridis attested the existence of the Archive in his book The Life and Work of Constantine Cavafy.

In 1969, control of the Archive passed to G. P. Savvidis, a leading Modern Greek literature researcher who restored its unity to a large extent, retrieving manuscripts and other materials that had been separated from the collection, and who undertook the gradual publication of the material with the help of other scholars (he had already set about photographing the archive in 1963, in collaboration with V. P. Panayiotopoulos). As of 1995, the Archive was managed by Manolis Savvidis, who incorporated it into the collections of the Center for Neo-Hellenic Studies and enriched it with both print and digital publications.

The nine members of the Cavafy Archive’s Academic Steering Committee currently are:

Michalis Chryssanthopoulos, Professor of General and Comparative Literature at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

Karen Emmerich, Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature, Princeton University

Stathis Gourgouris, Professor of Comparative Literature and Society, Department of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University

Constanze Güthenke, Associate Professor of Greek Literature, Faculty of Classics, E.P. Warren Praelector, Corpus Christi College, University of Oxford

Takis Kayalis, Professor of Modern Greek Literature at the University of Ioannina

Amalia Pappa, Deputy Director of the General State Archives (G.S.A.), Head of the Library & Reading Room Department

Diomidis Spinellis, Professor in the Department of Management Science and Technology at the Athens University of Economics and Business

Erasmia-Louisa Stavropoulou, Professor Emerita of Modern Greek Literature and former Head (2014-2016) of the Department of Philology, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens

Gonda Van Steen, Professor, Koraes Chair of Modern Greek and Byzantine History, Language and Literature, Kings College London.

1 Comment

  1. WE have to do the same to the libaries of AThens and Thessalonike Universities as well as the Patriarchate. ATLA has had the Moscow Patriarchate archives online since the 1990s.

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