04.07.2014

Author: Stefan Plesoianu

The history of the public reading at the sea coast - Part 1: The first trying

             The start of the modernization of the harbor, the economic development of the city drew to the former Tomis many young people (lawyers, teachers, soldiers, traders) came from all over Romania; these ones, animated by new hopes, will try to prove, for the first time after 1878, that the city from the sea shore is not just a place of exile, but also one where they can express their spiritual aspirations. For them, the creation of Ovidius will not be a pretext for lamentation, but an impulse and a flag: they will establish a generous cultural movement, with the name of the great antique poet. At the leading the movement was the young writer and publisher Petru Vulcan, an aromanian with studies in Craiova and Bucharest, a clerk at the prefect office. A council formed by P. Vulcan (president), two vice-presidents (Colonel G. Balaceanu and A. Caranfil), two assistants (Jean N. Fallon and C.P. Demetrescu) and a control committee proceeded to action; in December 1897 they decide to start a literary club and a magazine (both with the name “Ovidiu”), as well as a “universal library”. The organizers send invitations to some personalities of that time to be a part of the leading of that club. The positive answers start to come: Grigore Tocilescu (he will be a president of honor, knowing very well Dobrogea as he did archaeological researches), I.P.S.S. Gheorghian, the metropolitan of Ungro-Walachia, I.L. Caragiale, Spiru Haret, Ion Kalinderu, Iuliu Zane, Mihai Strajan, Zoe D. Sturdza, M.D. Ionescu-Dobrogeanu, Carol Scrob and others. Grigore Tocilescu writes to the young tomitans enthusiastically:
 
             “There is no other nobler mission; there is no more effective tool for the strengthening and coming together of the heterogenic elements from Dobrogea to Romania’s soul than the mission chosen and the tool used by the “Ovidiu” literary club”, while I.L. Caragiale (who will come to Constantza to conference) ensures the organizers that “with my powers I will not think twice to help growing the good and useful Romanian culture institution that you established in the former Tomis”.
 
             It is launched in the whole country an appeal for material support (money, books, magazines), “the library belonging to the whole nation, and from its resources will enjoy all the ones in the present and in the future”. Booksellers from all over the country send quickly book parcels: Socec, Steflea (Bucharest), Samitca (Craiova), D. Ionescu (Braila), I. Bracacescu (Calarasi); donations make also the booksellers from Constantza Grigoriu and Albert Hermely. A substantial donation did Ion Kalinderu, from the Romanaian Academy; mentionable is also the donation of the family of the poet Traian Demetrescu. The Queen of Romania herself had given, as writes in his memoirs C.P. Demetrescu, the amount of 300 lei, and “Her Majesty approve to be a member of honor of the “Ovidiu” literary club…” The members of the club, starting an amateur theatre troupe, organize shows in Constantza and the nearby communities for getting more money (the comedy “The duel” by Petru Vulcan and the one act comedy “Arvinte and Pepelea” – as we find out from “The family” magazine from Oradea). The universal library will have, after just one year from the setting up, around 3500 volumes, its own local and furniture; to all these add an important collection of periodic publications: “Literary talking”, “Blue flower”, “The family tribune”, “The peasant’s magazine”, “The bee”, “Courier de Roumanie” – all from the capital city; then “The future” – Iasi, “The family”, “The Transylvania magazine”, “The Orastie magazine”, “The tribune” – from across the mountains. Two club members (D. Simionescu and D. Stoianovici) were in charge with the organization of the publications fund and of its activity; the program of the library was daily from 9 to 11 and from 20 to 22 hours. To the reading offer had access not only the club members, but also all the citizens.
 
             The inauguration of the library took place at the 8 September 1898. The club members and the public gather at the statue of Ovidiu; the first one to speak is Petru Vulcan. He recites a self poem dedicated to the poet, declaring after that: “…When all the citizens will understand the importance of the idea that the “Ovidiu” literary club fight for, then we will succeed in having in Dobrogea a national cultural foundation, after the model of the Carol Foundation in the Capital…” After that came an exchange of telegrams with the major of Sulmona, Italy, the birth place of Ovidiu.
 
             At 15 September appears the first number of the “Ovidiu” magazine, subtitled “The first Dobrogean literary magazine”; in the programming article they said that: “First it’s a legitimate wish for us, the Romanians, to see blooming in the new province the arts and the literature together with the commerce and the industry…” This magazine will be published just until 1910.
 
             This cultural movement quickly disappeared (because of the misunderstandings of its members), and the library collections were lost. The idea of spreading good books and of starting the spiritual life in the small city by the sea remained alive.
 

Bibliography:

  • “The book and the reading at the Pontus Euxinus” – Constantza, Ex Ponto, 2006
  • “The Romanian sea coast at 1900” (C. Cioroiu, M. Moise) – Constantza, Europolis, 1997
  • “Communications and essays of bibliology” – Constantza, 1999

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