In this blog, I pay tribute to Spain and our Spanish visitors and shed light on treasures from our collection that demonstrate powerful bonds between Spain and Shakespeare.
The first treasure I would like to introduce is a rare book entitled The History of the Valorous and Wittie
Knight-Errant Don-Quixote of the Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes
and translated into English by Thomas Shelton. The novel tells the story of a
man called Alonso Quixano who is so obsessed with tales about chivalry and
romantic ideals that he decides to cast himself as a knight and to defend the
weak and fight off the wicked. Together with a farmer, his companion Sancho
Panza, they roam the streets of Spain in search of adventures. Hailed as the
first modern novel, it has inspired countless writers, including Shakespeare.
Not only were Shakespeare and Cervantes contemporaries, they also died around
the same date, the 23rd April 1616. About a year after Shelton’s first
translation appeared in print, 1612, Shakespeare and Fletcher co-wrote The History of Cardenio, which was based on a section from Don Quixote.
Our edition of this book, published in 1652, is the first single volume. Still bound in its original leather binding, it is embellished with gold tooling on its spine and is without doubt, a very rare and precious book.
The second book is an 1879 translation of Hamlet into Spanish. The translator, Guillermo MacPherson, was the son of Scottish immigrant Donald Macpherson who settled in Spain. Educated and bilingual, Guillermo had a plethora of talents and interests: He was not only a translator but also a diplomat, naturalist and archaeologist. Contributing to the literary life of the city of Cádiz, where he lived, he was the first to translate Shakespeare’s works in their entirety. His translations are still published today.
We’re lucky to have a letter by Guillermo MacPherson, which is pasted inside the front of our Hamlet translation. The letter is addressed to the librarian of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre Library. MacPherson asks the librarian if he can recommend editions of Shakespeare's works since the one he uses is lacking in “copious notes.” It seems that the librarian encouraged him to continue translating Shakespeare and Guillermo reveals that he has already “translated portions of Othello and after this, Richard the third will probably follow.”
The third highlight of this blog is probably the most unusual book in the Trust Library. It’s a 1930 Hamlet in Spanish printed on pure cork and is so fragile, just turning the pages is headache-inducing as page-turning can damage the sheets. It contains seventy-eight extremely thin and light leaves that have decorative borders illustrated by Anthony Salo. Only one hundred copies exist worldwide of which three are listed on the library catalogue WorldCat and two of them are printed on linen. The publisher and printer was a German immigrant in Barcelona called Reinhold Wetzig, who had a passion for producing books printed on unusual materials.
I hope this blog has given you a flavour of Spanish treasures. They are just a few examples of collection items that show how interconnected we all are.
Los Angeles Times. "The secret connection between Cervantes and Shakespeare," 14th April 2016. [https://www.latimes.com/books/la-ca-jc-cervantes-shakespeare-connection-20160417-story.html] [Accessed 1st April 2020]
Shakespeare, William; MacPherson, Guillermo (translator). Hámlet, Príncipe de Dinamarca. Madrid: publisher not identified, 1879.