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UCL Special Collections


Updates from one of the foremost university collections of manuscripts, archives and rare books in the UK


Many days in the Life of Nicholas Hans – translating and cataloguing Russian magazines

By utnvkh2, on 31 August 2017

It might be a repeat from my last post but I don’t think I can emphasise enough how much added value our volunteers bring to our archive collections and how much we enjoy having them working with us. We have been very lucky to have a volunteer, Sara Abou El Ella, working on a catalogue enhancement project with the Nicholas Hans Papers at UCL Institute of Education Archives. The Nicholas Hans Papers have been catalogued since 1999 but there were two boxes of additional papers that had been added at a later date.  These boxes included correspondence, photographs, postcards and some very special magazines written in Russian by Nicholas Hans.  I catalogued what I could and with some help from one of our researchers was able to write a brief overview for the Russian magazines but could not describe the content of them.   Luckily for us, and future researchers, Sara is fluent in Russian! Sara has written up her experience of translating and cataloguing these magazines.


Front page of the first issue, NH/10/8/1 ©UCL IOE Archives

Front page of the first issue, NH/10/8/1 ©UCL IOE Archives

Many days in the Life of Nicholas Hans

post written by Sara Abou El Ella

This title is very similar to a famous Russian author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn A day in the life of Ivan Denisovich. For me my Wednesdays were absorbed in the reading of Nicholas Hans magazines.
I started cataloguing a small part of the Nicholas Hans Collection in the Institute of Education at UCL. As a volunteer my task consisted in reading and then summarising the contents of five magazines written and hand drawn by Nicholas Hans ‘in 1920 while interned on the island of Principo in 1920 with other refugees leaving from Russia’ (quote from a note written by Grace Hans & included with the magazines).

NH/10/8/3 ©UCL IOE Archives

NH/10/8/3 ©UCL IOE Archives

All his magazines follow the same structure. Nicholas Hans rarely included articles or pieces from other authors. Hans hand-drew every single issue focusing on the front and back covers as well as adding decorations and other drawings inside the magazines. The issues would start with a letter from the editorial staff followed by a brief introduction of the issue’s topic. The main article would follow the topic of the introduction and discuss it in depth. In the final pages of the issue Hans would draw and write rebuses and charades. Moreover, in a couple of issues he also included fairy-tales or poems, for example: Cinderella.
Typically, I would start my work on the collection by reading the different articles and simultaneously translate and summarise them. Each section was divided according to its title. One of the biggest challenges was to decipher Nicholas Hans’ handwriting. Besides, the magazines required careful handling since they are very fragile. In some cases they were stained and the colours of the drawing faded, but it was still possible to discern both the words and the drawings.

It was extremely fascinating to be able to handle and work on such a fine archival specimen. I believe I was particularly stricken by the profound longing that Hans had for his country. This feeling was partially suppressed by the awareness that it was impossible for him to go back to Russia. In my opinion the ability to transpose these feeling through satirical articles and aggravating drawings was very enriching and interesting to analyse.


The catalogue records for these magazines are now online and there is more information about the collection on our libguide.

A Home Guard Christmas message

By utnvkh2, on 19 December 2016



Home Guard Christmas Card 1940, NH/4/3/26, UCL Institute of Education Archive

Home Guard Christmas Card 1940, NH/4/3/26, UCL Institute of Education Archive

NH/4/3 Inside of Home Guard Christmas card, 1940

NH/4/3 Inside of Home Guard Christmas card, 1940

We’re getting into the Christmas spirit here at UCL Institute of Education Archives and thought we’d share this historical Christmas greeting with you all!   This Christmas Card was sent to Nicholas Hans by the Home Guard, which he joined on its formation in 1939.  Nicholas Hans was born in Russia and came to London in 1920 where he started working at the Department of Education in Kings College. During the Second World War he worked as a civil servant in the Censorship Department of the Ministry of Information and, as we found out when cataloguing this material, he was also a member of the Home Guard.  In 1946 he was appointed as lecturer at King’s College, becoming a Reader in Comparative Education in 1948. During this time he collaborated with Joseph Lauwerys at the Institute of Education in supervising higher degree students and arranging overseas trips, and he continued these activities after his retirement in 1953. He wrote and published on a wide range of topics, including comparative education, educational policy in Russia, and the history of Russian and eighteenth century education.


The Papers of Nicholas Hans have been held, and catalogued, by UCL Institute of Education Archive since the 1970s but I have recently just added three boxes of material to the catalogue so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to highlight this interesting collection, and an excuse to use this Christmas card which we all really liked!  The additional three boxes of material includes some really fascinating material including: Visa application for Nicholas and Grace Hans to come to Britain from Russia in 1920; correspondence with other leading educationists including Friedrich Schneider, George Z F Bereday, Sergei Hessen, Edmee Hatinguais and H C Barnard; photographs of work trips abroad; letters sent to Grace from conferences abroad, family photographs and these Home Guard photos; hand-drawn magazines created by Nicholas Hans while waiting in Istanbul for entry to Britain in 1920; block printed Christmas  cards from Arcangelo & Eda Cascieri (Arcangelo and Eda were both artists & Arcangelo was Dean of Boston Architectural Centre); and notes and drafts of articles and books by Hans.  You can find out more about the Nicholas Hans collection on our libguide or through the archive catalogue.  There is also a Nicholas Hans Special Collection, which contains books bequeathed to the Institute of Education by Nicholas Hans, mostly on comparative education.  I’m sure I’ll be sharing more items from the newly catalogued material in 2017 as it was full of so much fascinating material!

So Compliments of the Season to you all and best wishes for a Happy New Year!