European studies blog

07 December 2015

Spanish books in the library of Mary Queen of Scots

You’ll not be surprised to learn that Mary Queen of Scots had a good range of books in Latin, Greek, French (from five to eighteen she lived at the French court) and Italian (the most prestigious of the vernaculars) in her library, studied by Julian Sharman in 1889.

My eye was caught by two books in Spanish which appear in the inventory made at Edinburgh Castle in 1578:

Sharman’s note reads: ‘A collection of Spanish chronicles printed at Antwerp in 1571, under the title of “Los xe [=xl] libros d’el compendio historial de las chronicas de todos los  reynos de España.”  The author was Estevan de Garibay, who was librarian to Philip II.’

Mary Q of S Compendio
The British Library’s copy of Los xl. libros d’el compendio historial … (Antwerp, 1571) C.75.e.4.

Sharman comments: ‘The title proved somewhat puzzling to the Scotsman engaged in deciphering the various labels upon the backs or frontispieces of this polyglot collection of books.  It is, however, clearly intended for the “Cancionero de Romances,” a very popular Spanish ballad-book, printed about the year 1550 at Antwerp, and afterwards very frequently re-issued in different parts of Spain.’

Mary Q of S Cancionero C20a36
The British Library’s copy of the Cancionero de Romances (Antwerp, 1550). C.20.a.36.

Mary also had some translations from the Spanish: Amadis de Gaule in French (p. 37), Marcus Aurelius (or rather Antonio de Guevara) in Italian (p. 88), the Epistle of Ignatius [Loyola] in French (p. 114), the History of Palmerine probably in French (p. 136), the Horologe of Princis (Guevara again) in French (p. 141), and the Descriptioun of the Province of the Yndianis (Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo?).

This looks to me a familiar tale: like many British readers, Mary owned in Spanish only books which had not yet been translated.

And quite often the Spanish books in British libraries were histories: in Mary’s case, one book of chronicles proper and one book of ballads on historical themes.

It may also be significant that Mary’s two books are believed to be Antwerp editions.  Although Antwerp in the Spanish Netherlands was no freer than any town in Spain, it was a major centre for the printing and export of Catholic books.

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Studies

References/further reading:

Julian Sharman, The Library of Mary, Queen of Scots ... (London, 1889).  011902.h.18.

Cancionero de romances, ed. A. Rodríguez Moñino (Valencia, 1967).  YF.2008.a.7783

J. Peeters-Fontainas, Bibliographie des impressions espagnoles des Pays-Bas Méridionaux (Nieuwkoop, 1965)  Rare Books and Music Reading Room RAR 090.9493



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