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Madame C/Mevrouw C - Mondothèque

Madame C/Mevrouw C

From Mondothèque

Femke Snelting

Madame C.01

EN When I arrived in Brussels that autumn, I was still very young. I thought that as an au-pair I would be helping out in the house, but instead I ended up working with the professor on finishing his book. At the time I arrived, the writing was done but his handwriting was so hard to decipher that the printer had a difficult time working with the manuscript. It became my job to correct the typeset proofs but often there were words that neither the printer nor I could decipher, so we had to ask. And the professor often had no time for us. So I did my best to make the text as comprehensible as possible.

On the title page of the final proofs from the printer, the professor wrote me:

After five months of work behind the same table, here it is. Now it is your turn to sow the good seed of documentation, of institution, and of Mundaneum, through the pre-book and the spoken word[1]


NL Toen ik die herfst in Brussel arriveerde was ik nog heel jong. Ik dacht dat ik als au-pair in de huishouding zou helpen, maar in plaats daarvan moest ik de professor helpen met het afmaken van zijn boek. Toen ik aankwam was het schrijven al afgerond, maar de drukker worstelde nog met het manuscript omdat het handschrift moeilijk te ontcijferen was. Het werd mijn taak om de drukproeven te corrigeren. Er waren veel woorden die de drukker en ik niet konden ontcijferen, dus dan moesten we het navragen. Maar vaak had de professor geen tijd voor ons. Ik deed dan mijn best om de tekst zo leesbaar mogelijk te maken.

Op de titelpagina van de definitieve drukproef schreef de professor me:

Na vijf maanden gewerkt te hebben aan dezelfde tafel is hier het resultaat. Nu is het jouw beurt om via het boek, het voor-boek, het woord, het goede zaad te zaaien van documentatie, instituut en Mundaneum.[2]

Madame C.02

EN She serves us coffee from a ceramic coffee pot and also a cake bought at the bakery next door. It's all written in the files she reminds us repeatedly, and tells us about one day in the sixties, when her husband returned home, telling her excitedly that he discovered the Mundaneum at Chaussée de Louvain in Brussels. Ever since, he would return to the same building, making friends with the friends of the Palais Mondial, those dedicated caretakers of the immense paper heritage.

I haven't been there so often myself, she says. But I do remember there were cats, to keep the mice away from the paper. And my husband loved cats. So in the eighties, when he was finally in a position to save the archives, the cats had to be taken care of too." Hij wanted to write the cats were written into the inventory.

We finish our coffee and she takes us behind a curtain that separates the salon from a small office. She shows us four green binders that contain the meticulously filed papers of her late husband pertaining to the Mundaneum. In the third is the Donation act that describes the transfer of the archives from the Friends of the Palais Mondial to the Centre de Lecture Public of the French community.

In the inventory, the cats are nowhere to be found.[3]


NL Ze schenkt ons koffie uit een keramieken koffiepot en serveert gebak dat ze bij de naburige bakkerij kocht. Herhaaldelijk herinnert ze ons eraan dat 'het allemaal geschreven staat in de documenten'. Ze vertelt ons dat in de jaren zestig, haar man op een dag thuiskwam en opgewonden vertelde dat hij het Mundaneum ontdekt had op de Leuvense Steenweg in Brussel. Sindsdien keerde hij daar regelmatig terug om de vrienden van het Palais Mondial te ontmoeten: de toegewijde verzorgers van die immense papieren erfenis.

Ik ben er zelf niet zo vaak geweest, zegt ze. Maar ik herinner me dat er katten waren om de muizen weg te houden van al het papier. En mijn man hield van katten. In de jaren tachtig, toen hij eindelijk een positie had die hem in staat stelde om de archieven te redden, moest er ook voor de katten worden gezorgd. Hij wilde de katten opnemen in de inventaris.

We drinken onze koffie op en ze neemt ons mee achter een gordijn dat de salon van een klein kantoor scheidt. Ze toont ons vier groene mappen met de keurig geordende papieren van haar voormalige echtgenoot over het Mundaneum. In de derde map bevindt zich de akte die de overdracht van de archieven beschrijft van de Vrienden van het Palais Mondial aan het Centre de Lecture Public van de Franse Gemeenschap (CLPCF).

In de inventaris is geen spoor van de katten te vinden.[4]

Madame C.03

EN In a margarine box, between thousands of notes, tickets, postcards, letters, all folded to the size of an index card, we find this:

Paul, leave me the key to mythe house, I forgot mine. Put it on your desk, in the small index card box.[5]


NL In een grote margarinedoos, tussen duizenden bonnetjes, aantekeningen, briefkaarten, en brieven, allemaal gevouwen op maat van een indexkaart, vinden we een bericht:

Paul, laat je de sleutel van mijnhet huis voor mij achter, ik ben de mijne vergeten. Stop hem in het kleine indexkaartdoosje op je bureau.[6]


Archives MundaneumDSC04639.jpg

Last Revision: 2·08·2016
  1. EN Wilhelmina Coops came from The Netherlands to Brussels in 1932 to learn French. She was instrumental in transforming Le Traité de Documentation into a printed book.
  2. NL Wilhelmina Coops kwam in 1932 uit Nederland naar Brussel om Frans te leren. Ze hielp het manuscript voor Le Traité de Documentation omzetten naar een gedrukt boek.
  3. EN The act is dated April 4 1985. Madame Canonne is a librarian, widow of André Canonne († 1990). She is custodian of the documents relating to the wanderings of The Mundaneum in Brussels.
  4. NL De akte is gedateerd op 4 april 1985. Madame Canonne is bibliothecaresse en weduwe van André Canonne († 1990). Ze is de bewaarster van documenten die gerelateerd zijn aan de omzwervingen van het Mundaneum in Brussel.
  5. EN Cato van Nederhasselt, second wife of Paul Otlet, collaborated with her husband on many projects. Her family fortune kept the Mundaneum running after other sources had dried up.
  6. NL Cato van Nederhasselt, de tweede vrouw van Paul Otlet, werkte met haar man aan vele projecten. Nadat alle andere bronnen waren uitgeput hield haar familiefortuin het Mundaneum draaiende.

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