Miami University’s history is rich in interesting characters, legends, and traditions. Few will argue that André de Saint-Rat wasn’t one of them. His teaching methods acquired mythological qualities over the years and some still remember standing outside of his classroom window, listening, during his classes. Mr. De Saint-Rat was a unique and fascinating man. He was born in Lyon, France in 1918, educated in Château-Thierry, studied several languages, specializing in Russian in Paris in the 1930s, where he met his wife, American Catherine Astleford. After becoming engaged in France, they were parted by the war and did not see each other for six years. In that time André escaped from occupied France, joining General Leclerc’s Second Armored Division of the Free French Forces in Morocco, fought in Chad, Libya, Tunisia, Great Britain, Normandy, and finally back in France where he was wounded. Meanwhile Catherine, in her attempts to find André again joined the U.S. army and was assigned to a WAC unit, ending up in Paris in 1944. They were finally reunited and married in 1945. André and Catherine moved to Oxford, OH, in 1951, where he taught Russian courses for 30 years and where Catherine worked in the Walter Havighurst Special Collections. André was known for his strictness as a professor and many stories are still told of him locking the doors of the classroom at the beginning of class and of the consequences waiting for students, who failed to turn in their work. In addition to being a colorful instructor, André was an exceptional book collector. Together with Catherine he built a unique and exciting private collection, also lending their collecting talents to the Library. Catherine, whose expertise was in children’s literature was instrumental in developing the Edgar W. & Faith King Collection of Juvenile Literature. André’s passion was in Russian history and Russian avant-garde art of the beginning on the twentieth century. His influence in the development of the Russian collection at Miami University is unmistakable and very valuable.
It has been ten years since they both passed away, André in 2001 and Catherine in 2003, but their fascinating story did not end there. The University Libraries and the Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies acquired their personal collection from the estate in 2006. In addition to being a very unique and valuable collection, it gives voice to André and Catherine’s story, telling us about their opinions, perspectives, adventures, interests, and passions. André and Catherine de Saint-Rat Collection of Russian History, Literature and Art contains many rare nineteenth century children’s books, but the larger part of it is focused on different perspectives on Russian, Soviet and East European politics and arts, spanning the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. It covers a very important time period in Russian history, including the Great October revolution and the time preceding it, as well as the Silver Age of Russian arts. The materials represent a variety of perspectives and were published not only in Russia, but also in the United States, Latin America, France, Germany, China, Japan, and several Eastern European countries. The times of publication are also diverse, ranging from the late 19th century to the present. Although this collection is still being processed, even uncataloged items are used in classes and to help patrons with research. The items already in the catalog can be searched by title “André and Catherine de Saint-Rat Collection.”
Read more about André’s and Catherine’s amazing story.
Head, Cataloging & Processing