European studies blog

16 posts from May 2016

31 May 2016

From Slapstick to Schlegel: Hamlet goes to Germany

Among the videos of performances in our current exhibition Shakespeare in Ten Acts is a puppet production of Der bestrafte Brudermord (‘Fratricide Punished’), a slapstick version of Hamlet. Its origins and its relationship to Shakespeare’s text are still matters of debate among scholars, but it seems to have been known and performed by travelling players in Germany from the early 17th century onwards.

German speakers who wanted to see Hamlet played in a formal theatre under Shakespeare’s own name had to wait until 1773 when the Court Theatre in Vienna put on a stage version by Franz Heufeld. This was based on Christoph Martin Wieland’s translation, the first attempt at a major translation of Shakespeare into German, covering 22 of the plays and published between 1762 and 1766 (8 vols, 11762.c.14.). However, although Heufeld’s Hamlet lacked the slapstick elements of Der bestrafte Brudermord, it still was hardly a faithful version of Shakespeare’s play.

Wieland’s translations were in fact not entirely complete or faithful. He made some cuts and, most notably, rendered the plays in prose, something that would give the young writers of the ‘Sturm und Drang’ generation an exaggerated idea of Shakespeare’s ‘naturalness’ compared to the formal verse of classical French drama. But Heufeld took much greater liberties cutting many characters and episodes and Germanising many of the names: Horatio becomes ‘Gustav’ and Polonius ‘Oldenholm’. The most surprising omission is the character of Laertes, leaving Hamlet nobody to duel with in the the final act. Instead, the Queen (neither Gertrude nor Claudius is named here) still drinks poisoned wine, but makes a dying confession of her own and the King’s guilt. Hamlet kills the King and is apparently left to become the new ruler of Denmark.

Cast list  from Heufeld's 1772 version of Hamlet
Heufeld’s abbreviated and Germanised cast list for Hamlet, from Hamlet, Prinz von Dänemark (Vienna, 1772) 1607/2063

For all its infidelities, Heufeld’s Hamlet helped to start a boom in German productions of the play. The actor and theatre director Friedrich Ludwig Schröder saw a production in Prague which inspired him to prepare his own version. His translation follows Heufeld in many ways, but he restored Laertes to the action, although there is still no duel and Hamlet and Laertes are reconciled.

Title-page of Schroeder's version of Hamlet, with a frontispiece portrait of Franz Brockmann in the title role
Title-page of the first editon of Schroder’s translation of Hamlet (Hamburg, 1777) RB.23.a.18775. The frontispiece shows Franz Brockmann as the Prince.

More radically, Schröder also restored the gravediggers’ scene, something generally frowned upon by critics and included only reluctantly by Wieland. However, although the scene appears in the first published edition of his translation, which is fleshed out to 6 acts in order to accommodate it, the gravediggers do not appear in the cast list printed there, so may not have made it into actual performances. Nor is the scene present in later published editions of Schröder’s translation.

  Opening of 'Act 6' of Schroeder's 'Hamlet' with the Gravediggers' scene
The opening of Schroder’s 6th act with the gravediggers

Schröder’s Hamlet was the sensation of the 1776 theatre season in Hamburg and made a star of Franz Brockmann who played the title role (Schröder himself played the Ghost). It added huge momentum to the interest in Hamlet sparked by Heufeld’s work. No doubt thanks to this early enthusiasm, as the German passion for Shakespeare grew over the following decades, a particular fascination for Hamlet and identification with the Prince himself became one of its hallmarks.

The British Library holds first editions of Wieland’s, Heufeld’s and Schröder’s translations. However inadequate they may seem today as renderings of the original, they played a key role in bringing Shakespeare and Hamlet to Germany, and helped to pave the way for Wilhelm Schlegel’s verse translation, first staged in Berlin in 1799, nearly a quarter of a century after Schroder's triumph in Hamburg.

Susan Reed, Lead Curator Germanic Collections


28 May 2016

And yet the time will come: Ivan Franko in Memoriam

Ivan Franko (1856-1916), together with Taras Shevchenko and Lesia Ukrainka, is one of the three pillars of classical Ukrainian literature. His extraordinary life and enormous creative output are well described by Marko Robert Stech and Arkadii Zhukovsky in the Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine with a very useful bibliography for researchers at the end:

With his many gifts, encyclopedic knowledge, and uncommon capacity for work, Franko made outstanding contributions to many areas of Ukrainian culture. He was a poet, prose writer, playwright, critic, literary historian, translator, and publisher. The themes of his literary works were drawn from the life and struggle of his own people and from sources of world culture: Eastern cultures and the classical and Renaissance traditions. He was a ‘golden bridge’ between Ukrainian and world literatures.

Photograph of Ivan Franko in 1886

Ivan Franko in 1886 (From Wikimedia Commons)

The death of Ivan Franko on May 28 1916 was a great blow to the whole of Ukrainian society, then part of the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires. He died in his beloved Lviv, amidst the horrors of the First World War, when  Ukrainians from both empires were fighting each other.  Soon after his funeral, through the efforts of his friends and especially Mykhailo Vozniak, the League of Liberation of Ukraine in Vienna published a book Pamiaty Ivana Franka. 

Cover of 'Pamiaty Ivana Franka'
Cover of Pamiaty Ivana Franka (Vienna, 1916) 10790.v.6 (An electronic version of the work is available at:

This rare book is part of our significant collection of works by and about Ivan Franko. It describes his funeral in Lviv, with speeches and reactions from all over the world. Rare photographs of the funeral are part of the book.

  Photograph of Franko's Funeral procession
Franko’s funeral procession in Lviv on May 31 1916. From Pamiaty Ivana Franka, p. 67

In 1932 the Canadian priest and translator Percival Cundy, before presenting his translations of selected poems into English in A Voice from Ukrainia, wrote in the biographical sketch:

In his great epic Moses, Franko puts these words into the mouth of the prophet and nation-maker of Israel as he surveys their tents from Mount Nebo, on whose peak he was soon to die:

As thou shalt through the centuries march,
Thou’lt bear my spirit’s stamp on thee

Franko could justly apply these words to himself in the relation to his own people, the Ukrainians of Galicia, for no man in modern times so profoundly influenced, spiritually and culturally, a nation than did he.

Titie-page of 'A Voice From Ukrainia' with a frontispiece portrait of Ivan Franko in old ageThe title page of A Voice from Ukrainia (Roland, Manitoba, 1932) 10795.p.34.

“The spirit’s stamp” of Ivan Franko was indeed so great that it could not be ignored even by the Soviet authorities. During Soviet times most of his works were published, with special emphasis on his radical activities (Franko was imprisoned three times for political activities) and early interest in socialism. The title of one of his poems, Kameniari  (‘Stonecutters’ ), was widely used when talking about him. Yet the process of re-interpretation of Franko started as early as the mid-1980s, and continues to this day. In her two studies, the literary critic Tamara Hundorova concentrates on the artistic aspects of Franko’s works instead of the usual ideological ones. The famous modern Ukrainian writer Oksana Zabuzhko and literary scholar Volodymyr Mazepa looked at his philosophical works, and a historian from Lviv, Yaroslav Hrytsak,  re-evaluated Franko as a scholar and important political figure in Galicia. New insights about Franko as a writer of criminal stories appeared in the book Ivan Franko – maister kryminal'noho chtyva (‘Ivan Franko as master of criminal stories’; Lviv, 2006; YF.2007.a.19860).

Covers of three books about Ivan Franko
Some recent books about  Ivan Franko from our collections 

More books, articles and PhD theses will be published this year marking the centenary of Franko’s death and 160th anniversary of his birth in August this year. I hope the year will also be marked by new translations of Franko’s works into English.  The famous British translator Vera Rich translated the poem Moisei ('Moses'), beginning with its famous  Prologue :

And yet the time will come and, radiant shining,
You’ll shake the Caucasus; one of the free nations,
With the Carpathians as your girdle twining.

You’ll set the mighty sound of freedom racing
Over the Black Sea, free-holder, well-seated,
In your own house, in your own fields’ broad spaces!

It resonates with all interested in Ukrainian studies 100 years after Franko’s death.

Olga Kerziouk, Curator  Ukrainian studies


Iaroslav Hrytsak, Prorok u svoii vitchyzni: Franko ta ioho spilnota,1856-1886. (Kyiv, 2006). YF.2007.a.20769

Tamara  Hundorova,  Nevidomyi Franko: Hrani Izmarahdu (Kyiv, 2006). YF.2007.b.3067

Tamara Hundorova, Franko ne Kameniar, Franko i Kameniar. (Kyiv, 2006). YF.2011.a.12205

Volodymyr Mazepa, Kul’turotsentryzm svitopohliadu Ivana Franka (Kyiv, 2004) YF.2006.a.3593.
Oksana Zabuzhko, Filosofiia ukrains’koi idei ta ievropeis’kyi kontekst:  Frankivskyi period (Kyiv, 1993). YA.1998.a.5115


25 May 2016

All the World’s a Stage: Shakespeare in Europe and the Americas

No writer’s work has been translated, performed and transformed by as many cultures across the world as Shakespeare's. As part of the programme of events accompanying the current British Library exhibition Shakespeare in Ten Acts, the British Library is holding a seminar ‘All the World’s a stage: Shakespeare in Europe and the Americas’ on Friday 10 June from 10.15-17.15 in the Conference Centre.

Painting of travelling players in costume and carrying torches and props
A troupe of travelling players in 17th-century Germany. From the Album Amicorum of Franz Hartmann, MS Egerton 1222. 

This study day brings together leading specialists to explore Shakespeare’s global cultural presence from Europe to the Americas via the Indian Ocean. Themes include Shakespeare's source material; postcolonial adaptations; performance on stage and film; and the cultural politics of European Shakespeare.

The programme for the study day is:

10.15-10.45 Registration; Tea/Coffee

10.45-10.55 Welcome: Janet Zmroczek (Head of European and Americas Collections, British Library)

10.55-11.40 Keynote: Presentation and Interview (Chair: Aleksandra Sakowska, Worcester)
Jerzy Limon (Gdańsk), ‘“The actors are come hither” - 400 years of English theatrical presence in Gdańsk’

Photograph of the Gdansk Shakespeare theatre
The Gdánsk Shakespeare Theatre 

11.40-11.45: Break

11.45-12.35 Panel 1: European Sources and Settings (Chair: Line Cottegnies, Sorbonne Nouvelle)
Stuart Gillespie (Glasgow), ‘Shakespeare’s European Sources: Epics, Essays, Romances, Novellas'
Graham Holderness (Hertfordshire), ‘Shakespeare and Venice’

Title-page of 'De gli Hecatommithi' with the printer's device of an elephant
Giovanni Battista Giraldi, De gli Hecatommithi (Mondovì, 1565), G.9875-6, a collection of stories including sources of Othello and Measure for Measure, from our Discovering Literature Shakespeare site

12.35-13.00 Julian Harrison (British Library) ‘“Our Shakespeare” exhibition at the Library of Birmingham’ (Chair: Janet Zmroczek, British Library)

13.00-14.00: Lunch.  A sandwich lunch will be provided.

14.00-14.50 Panel 2: Translating The Tempest: Postcolonial Adaptations (Chair: Charles Forsdick, Liverpool/AHRC)
Philip Crispin (Hull), ‘Aimé Césaire’s Une tempête’
Michael Walling (Border Crossings), ‘Storm-tossed in the Indian Ocean - from Indian Tempest to Mauritian Toufann’

14.50 – 15.40 Panel 3: Shakespeare in Performance (Chair: Ben Schofield, King’s College London)
Paul Prescott (Warwick), ‘Bard in the USA: the Shakespeare Festival Phenomenon in North America’
Mark Burnett (Queen’s University Belfast), ‘Shakespeare on Film: Europe and Latin America’

15.40-16.00 Tea/Coffee

16.00-17.15 Roundtable: The Cultural Politics of European Shakespeare (Chair: Erica Sheen, York)
Short presentations followed by a roundtable discussion with Keith Gregor (Murcia), ‘Shakespeare in post-Francoist Spain’; Nicole Fayard (Leicester), ‘Je suis Shakespeare: The Making of Shared Identities on the French Stage’; Emily Oliver (King’s College London), ‘Shakespeare Performance and German Reunification’;  Aleksandra Sakowska (Worcester), ‘Shakespearean Journeys to and from Poland’

17.15- 18.00 Wine reception sponsored by the Eccles Centre for American Studies

The study day has been organised by the European and Americas Collections department of the British Library in partnership with the AHRC ‘Translating Cultures’ Theme, The Polish Cultural Institute, and the Eccles Centre for Americas Studies at the British Library.

You can book by following the link to our What’s On pages or by contacting the British Library Box Office ( +44 (0)1937 546546; Full price is £25 (concessions available: see ‘What’s On’ for full details).


22 May 2016

‘All happy families are alike…’? The memoirs of Ilya Tolstoy (1866-1933)

On 22 May 1866 a third child and second son was born to Leo Tolstoy and his wife Sophia. The little boy, christened Ilya, joined his elder brother Sergei and sister Tatyana in the nursery at Yasnaya Polyana, and was followed by ten more siblings, five of whom survived to adulthood.

Photograph of Tolstoy surrounded by his family
The Tolstoy family in 1884; Ilya is kneeling on the left. From Ilya Tolstoy, Moi vospominaniia (Moscow, 1933) X.989/28774

In a letter to a relative, written in 1872, Tolstoy described the characteristics of his six eldest children with objective frankness and unsparing attention to detail. He notes six-year-old Ilya’s robust good health, inventiveness and tender-hearted sensitivity, but also his indolence (‘fond of eating and lying still doing nothing’), hot temper and poor performance in the schoolroom. He records with foreboding, ‘Everything forbidden delights him; he recognizes it at once… If I die Ilya will come to grief, unless he has some stern guardian whom he loves to lead him by the hand.’ Tolstoy’s comments on his son’s lack of ability may well have arisen from his own efforts to teach him mathematics, Latin and Greek; later the Tolstoy children were also educated by tutors until 1881, when the family took a house in Moscow and Ilya was sent to a private gymnasium. His father had refused to sign the declaration of Ilya’s loyalty to the Tsar which was mandatory for admission to a state-run school, and his premonitions were fulfilled when Ilya left without graduating.

In fact, for the rest of his life Ilya Tolstoy proved to be something of a rolling stone, trying his hand at one career after another. After military service as an officer in the Sumy Dragoon regiment and marriage in 1888 to Sophia Filosova, he worked in a bank and then for an insurance company to support his family of five children before going in for journalism and founding the newspaper Novaya Rossiia in 1915. His assistance with his father’s relief work during the famine of 1891-92 developed his social and humanitarian conscience, and during the First World War he worked for the Red Cross. However, it was after leaving Russia for the USA in 1916 that he developed the new career for which he was to be remembered – as a writer and lecturer on his father’s life and writings.

Leo Tolstoy reading, watched by his adult son Ilya
Ilya and his father in 1903. From Moi vospominaniia

After an initial lecture tour he went back to Russia, but quickly left again when the Bolsheviks gained power in 1917, divorced in 1918, and returned to the United States by way of Paris, settling in Connecticut with his second wife Nadezhda Perchina. Despite the popularity of his lectures, he was never solvent, and was reduced to pawning family heirlooms to keep afloat. However, he was in demand as a literary consultant and adaptor when in 1927 a film was made of Tolstoy’s novel Resurrection,  in which he even made a cameo appearance in the character of the Old Philosopher.

Tolstoy had died in 1910, and the bizarre circumstances of his death in the railway station at Astapovo after fleeing the family home in a final act of rejection, together with the unhappiness which marred his 48-year marriage, might lead readers to expect a chronicle of bitterness and discord from his son’s memoirs. In fact, though he includes descriptions of less than idyllic episodes from his childhood and adolescence, Ilya balances these with memories of his father performing as a dancing bear at a Christmas party, disguised in a coat with a fur lining turned inside out, taking his children riding and fishing, getting left behind by the steamer on a visit to Kazan, training his horses and dogs, and compiling case notes on the ‘patients’ at the ‘Yasnaya Polyana Lunatic Asylum’. He comments on the relatives and friends who provided features of various characters in Tolstoy’s novels, and describes the devotion with which his mother repeatedly copied out her husband’s frequently illegible manuscripts.

Cover of Ilya Tolstoy's memoir 'Moi vospominaniia' in a 1933 editionCover of the 1933 edition of Moi vospominaniia

The memoirs, Moi vospominania, first appeared in 1914, and were translated shortly afterwards by George Calderon as Reminiscences of Tolstoy (London, 1914; 010790.g.50), the first of several versions in the British Library’s collections, which also include an edition of the Russian text published in Moscow in 1933, the year of Ilya’s death. He died in poverty on 11 December in New Haven, perhaps fulfilling some of his father’s misgivings about his lack of staying-power and application. However, he left behind an absorbing account, remembered when his other writings had lapsed into obscurity, which counterbalances Tolstoy’s claim in Anna Karenina that ‘all happy families are alike, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way’, and recalls scenes from family life like those of many other parents and children, less famous than the Tolstoys but united by similar experiences and emotions.

Susan Halstead, Content Specialist (Humanities and Social Sciences), Research Engagement

20 May 2016

Seminar on Textual Bibliography for Modern Foreign Languages, Monday 6 June

The annual Seminar on Textual Bibliography for Modern Foreign Languages will take place on Moday 6 June in the Eliot Room of the British Library Conference Centre. As ever, we have a varied programme covering a range of countries, themes and periods. The full programme for the day is:

11.00   Registration and Coffee

11.30  CARLO DUMONTET (London) Some thoughts on format identification, or Cataloguers vs Formats.

12.15  Lunch (Own arrangements)

1.30  CARMEN PERAITA (Villanova), War of Readers: Territorial Licensing and Printing of the First Editions of Quevedo’s Política de Dios (1626)

2.15 ALESSANDRA PANZANELLI (London) Illustrations in Early Printed Books From Perugia: Imitation, Re-Use and Original Production.

3.00 Tea

3.30 DAVID PAISEY (London) Peasants, Fragments of the Reformation in Germany and England, and Peter Schoeffer the Younger, Printer in Mainz, Worms and Strasbourg 1512-1538

4.30 KATYA ROGATCHEVSKAIA (London) ‘A Beautiful Tremendous Russian Book and Other Things Too’: An Overview of Rare Russian Books from the Diaghilev-Lifar Collection in the BL

The Seminar will end at 5.15 pm.

The Seminar is free and open to all, but please notify us if you are planning to attend.

Barry Taylor (; tel 020 7412 7576)
Susan Reed (; tel 020 7412 7572)

Woodcut of a man with glasses and a fool's cap surrounded by books

18 May 2016

Personal is Political: Eurovision 2016 and the Crimean Tatars

When Crimean Tatar singer Jamala  won Eurovision 2016  for Ukraine this weekend with a song about her people’s tragedy, she was following a tradition of telling the Crimean Tatar experience of exile through verse and story.

Photograph of Jamala
Jamala at a "meet & greet" appearance during the Eurovision Song Contest 2016 in Stockholm (From Wikimedia Commons. Photo by Albin Olsson License: CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Here is an earlier example:

Hey, swallow, swallow! Spread your wings wide!
If you get caught by the enemy on the ground,
You may be deprived of a homeland, like the Tatar!
Sorrowful people, great people! People with stunted lungs!
I was born amidst you, I am one of you. I am a weed in your garden,
I am a weed in your garden.
(From Kollar Demir, Bas Emen, Budapest, 1919)

The author, Bekir Çobanzade (1893-1937), was a Crimean Tatar linguist and academic who studied and taught in Crimea, Turkey, Hungary and Azerbaijan. His poems and stories express a lyrical, personal grief at the fate of the Muslim Turkic Crimean Tatars, the indigenous people of Crimea. Under repressive Russian Imperial rule thousands emigrated to seek better lives. Soviet authorities, after a brief period of supporting national minorities, completed the exodus by forcibly deporting the entire nation in 1944 – the subject of Jamala’s winning song.

Photograoh of Bekir Photograph of Bekir ÇobanzadePhotograph of Çobanzade, first published in his poetry collection Boran (1928) From: D.P. Ursu. Bekir Choban-Zade (Simferopol, 2013), YF.2015.a.1408

Çobanzade did not live to see this final atrocity, which wiped out an estimated 46 percent of his nation. In 1937 he was executed for separatism, involvement in terrorism, and working as a foreign agent. He was rehabilitated in the 1950s.

The lyrics to Jamala’s song ‘1944’ begin:

When strangers are coming...
They come to your house,
They kill you all
and say,
We’re not guilty […]

Yaşlığıma toyalmadım
Men bu yerde yaşalmadım
[I could not spend my youth there/ Because you took away my land]

In the light of Eurovision rules that songs be apolitical, Jamala has said the song is not political but personal, telling the story of her grandmother who was deported. Every Crimean Tatar family living in Crimea at that time has this same story. When I was researching Dream Land (2008), my novel about the deportation and return home of Crimean Tatars almost fifty years later, I heard it again and again. I was fortunate to be able to interview many people who remembered the deportation, and Crimea before it – a land of roses and sunshine, but also of war and state-sponsored cruelty.

This generation is fast disappearing: one story recounted in Dream Land, of Seit-Amet who fought in the Russo-Japanese war and the First World War in place of his two brothers, was told to me by Seit-Amet’s son before he died in 2011. But the stories are passed on to those who were born in exile, or back in Crimea after Perestroika which allowed them to return. I was struck by the incredible vividness of this collective memory; often younger generations can recite their parents’ or grandparents’ experience as if they had lived through it themselves. Greta Uehling explores this phenomenon in her 2004 book Beyond Memory: The Crimean Tatars’ Deportation and Return.

The deportation, or Sürgünlik, was a nation-defining event. People were sent away on the basis of their national identity which the Soviet authorities then tried to obliterate, claiming that there was no such national group as the Crimean Tatars. During exile much Crimean Tatar culture and language was lost, but at the same time a campaigning National Movement was born, uniting a whole generation which defined itself by the determination to return to a lost homeland – and therefore, in opposition to Soviet authorities. Thus, while for every Crimean Tatar the deportation is a personal family story, it is also political, and the shared memory of this event informs current Crimean Tatar opposition to Russian annexation of Crimea.

Painting of deported Tatars crammed into a wooden train truck
Death Train-2.
Painting by Rustem Eminov (From

On 18 May 1944, when the bewildered Crimean Tatars – the majority women and children, as the men were fighting in the Red Army – asked the Soviet soldiers why they were forcing families from their homes, they reportedly replied “It’s not our fault – it’s Stalin’s orders.” The 2008 book and BBC series World War Two: Behind Closed Doors by Laurence Rees includes interviews with some soldiers who participated in wartime Soviet atrocities, including the deportation of the Crimean Tatars. Many repeat that they were just following orders. “I understand that it was cruel because I’m more experienced now,” says one now elderly man. “Now, we have democracy.” The implication is that they had no choice in or awareness of what they were doing, and thus what happened was not personal. It was political.

Writing in times of upheaval and repression reminiscent of Crimea today, Bekir Çobanzade’s ambitions for his works are touchingly modest. In a 1919 preface to a collection of poems unpublished in his lifetime he wrote “If history turns its attention to Crimea someday, and if one Crimean Tatar searches for another, my writings may surface. It is quite all right, if this does not happen. Crimean Tatars lost their flag, their glory, and their land. What if I were to lose a few nights without sleep and days in grief …”

Thanks to Russian annexation, history has indeed turned its attention to Crimea. And a Eurovision song is the unlikely vehicle whereby an international audience encounters the Crimean Tatar story, culture and threatened language which Çobanzade wrote “embodies my people's centuries-long sorrow, their anxious and yet brave voice.”

Lily Hyde, writer and journalist


Lily Hyde, Dream Land. (London, 2008) YK.2009.a.30188

Greta Uehling, Beyond Memory: The Crimean Tatars’ Deportation and Return. (Basingstoke, 2004) YC.2006.a.8885

Laurence Rees, World War II: Behind Closed Doors; Stalin, the Nazis, and the West. (London, 2008) YK.2009.a.30180

Ismail Otar, Bekir Sidki Çobanzade: Kirimli Türk Sair ve Bilgini. (Istanbul, 1999) ITA.2000.a.608 (English translations from the International Committee for Crimea.

  Logo of Deportation of the Crimean Tatars memorial day: a swallow superimposed on a red map of Crimea

16 May 2016

One that got away. Daniel Urrabieta Vierge’s illustrations of Don Quixote (1906)

Curating an exhibition inevitably involves a process of selection or, better maybe, de-selection. Items are chosen to support a coherent narrative, but practical considerations inevitably supervene. The copy of a particular book may be in poor condition, too tightly bound to open safely, or its dimensions prevent the inclusion of other books, as one simply has too many. In the case of the edition of Don Quixote illustrated by Daniel Vierge and first published by Scribner’s in New York in 1906-7, this could be included in the British Library’s exhibition ‘Imagining Don Quixote’ only at the expense of two smaller volumes. This was regrettable as his illustrations are highly original and stand out from many of those produced in the 19th century.

Daniel Urrabieta Vierge (1851-1904) was born in Madrid, but spent all his working life in France. He had an active early career illustrating events in the Franco-Prussian War and the third Carlist War. He also produced illustrations for works by Victor Hugo. However, in 1881 he suffered a paralysis to the right side of his body, which also affected his speech. He then taught himself to draw with his left hand and his career resumed.


Self-portrait sketch of Daniel ViergeDaniel Vierge. Sketch by Himself, engraved by Clement Bellenger.

Vierge’s involvement with Spain and with Don Quixote extended over some 30 years and culminated in the Scribner’s edition of Thomas Shelton’s 17th-century translation two years after his death (the British Library holds an edition published in London in the same year by Unwin). His earliest illustrations of the novel appeared in an incomplete part-work edition, published in Paris in 1875. None of those illustrations appear to have been re-used in the 1906 edition.

Vierge travelled to Spain in 1893. In this he was following in the footsteps of Gustave Doré, who had been in Spain in 1855 and 1861 before producing his highly successful illustrations for the 1863 editon of Viardot’s French translation of Don Quixote. Vierge executed a number of watercolours that were then used to illustrate the account of the Spanish journey of his friend, August F. Jaccaci.

Some of Vierge’s many watercolours and ink wash drawings were re-worked in pen and ink as a basis for the engravings of his edition of Don Quixote. The use of the new photogravure process permitted greater fidelity to the artist’s original and a finely detailed result. This is especially evident in the image of the preliminaries of the joust – which then never actually took place – between Don Quixote and the Duke’s lackey, Tosilos (Part II, ch. 56).

Two knights galloping at each other in a tournament

 Preparing for the joust, Vierge’s illustration from Miguel de Cervantes, The History of the Valorous and Witty Knight-Errant Don Quixote of the Mancha … (London, 1906-07). Tab.538.a.9

Another feature of Vierge’s illustrations is the impression that they create of a real, lived-in world, as in the drawing that appears in the preface of the Scribner’s edition (below).

Don Quixote stepping into a yard where his niece and servants are at work

The picture shows Don Quixote at home, with his housekeeper, his niece and the odd-job man (Don Quixote, I, ch. 1). His greyhound can be seen behind the curtain.

Vierge’s travels in rural Spain gave him access to a world which had changed little from the time of Cervantes.

Geoff West, former Curator Hispanic Collections


Daniel Urrabieta Vierge (1851-1904), creador de imágenes, ilustrador gráfico (Madrid, 2005). LF.31.a.2458.

Miguel de Cervantes, The History of the Valorous and Witty Knight-Errant Don Quixote of the Mancha, translated by Thomas Shelton; the illustrations by Daniel Vierge… (London, 1906-07). Tab.538.a.9

August F. Jaccaci, On the trail of Don Quixote: Being a Record of Rambles in the ancient province of La Mancha (London, 1897.), and available online

13 May 2016

The Spanish Books of Sir Thomas Browne

When Borges concluded his story Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius, ‘I continue to revise an indecisive Quevedian translation, which I do not intend to publish, of Browne’s Urn Burial’,  he probably didn’t know that Sir Thomas Browne (1605-82), physician of Norwich and poster-boy of English baroque prose, owned a number of Spanish books. (You’ll remember Quevedo from blog posts of 25 June 2014  and 30 September 2015.)

Engraved portrait of Sir Thomas Browne
Sir Thomas Browne, from The Works of the Learned Sir Thomas Brown… (London, 1686) British Library C.118.g.1.]

The classic work on the subject is Finch, who reproduces and annotates:

A Catalogue of the Libraries of the Learned Sir Thomas Brown, and Dr. Edward Brown, his Son ... which will begin to be sold by auction ... on Monday the 8th day of January, 1710/11 ... By Thomas Ballard.

This sales catalogue is an early example of the genre, and, as was common,  is divided by language and then format in decreasing order of size.

We can’t be precisely sure which of these books belonged to the father and which to the son, but the catalogue lists  twenty titles under ‘Libros Espannolos’ [sic], Folio, Quarto and Octavo & Duodecimo  (pp. 41-42).

Thomas Browne books SC.354
Spanish books in Quarto, Octavo and Duodecimo from the sale catalogue of Browne’s library (London, 1711) S.C.354. (Sir Hans Sloane’s copy)

Finch makes the important point that until this catalogue was brought to light the common opinion was that Browne wasn’t much interested in contemporary literature.

Finch strives to identify the books listed, but strangely has no notes on the Spanish books.  This blog might fill the gap.  The records below are based on the British Library catalogue, with shelfmarks for the copies we hold.

Juan de Pineda, Los treynta libros de la Monarchia Ecclesiastica, o historia universal del mundo ... (Barcelona, 1620).  216.b.6-9.

Pedro Mexía, Historia imperial y Cesarea: en la qual en sum̃a se contienē las vidas y hechos d' todos los Cesares ... Emperadores de Roma: de Julio Cesar hasta ... Maximiliano. (Basle, 1547). 587.i.1.

Juan de Pineda, Los treynta libros de la Monarchia Ecclesiastica, o historia universal del mundo ... (Salamanca, 1588). 1562/125.

La Biblia, que es, los sacros libros del Vieio y Nueuo Testamento. Trasladada en Español. ([Basle], 1569).  Browne has an edition of 1622

Luis de Urreta, Historia de la Sagrada Orden de Predicadores en los remotos reynos de la Etiopia.  (Valencia, 1611).  493.g.2.(1.)

Tacitus, Las Obras de C. Cornelio Tacito. Traduzidas de Latin en Castellano por E. Sueyro. (Madrid, 1614). 587.g.13.  Browne had an edition in 2 vols, 1630

Sebastián de Covarrubias Horozco, Emblemas morales de Don S. de Covarrubias Orozco ... (Madrid, 1610).  637.g.22.

Title-page of 'Emblemas morales', with a woodcut coat of arms

Pierre Goudelin, Las Obros de Pierre Goudelin, augmentados d'uno noubélo Floureto. Le Dicciounari Moundi ... Dictionaire de la langue tolosaine...  (Toulouse, 1647-48.)  11498.f.39.  Goudelin of course is not in Spanish but Occitan. 

Lope de Vega, Doze Comedias de Lope de Vega Carpio sacadas de sus originales. Quarta parte. (Barcelona, 1614).  11726.k.7.

Lope de Vega,  El Fenix de España, Lope de Vega Carpio, Septima parte de sus Comedias. Con Loas, Entremeses y Bayles (Barcelona, 1617). 11726.k.10.

Flor de las Comedias de España, de diferentes Autores. Quinta parte. Recopiladas por F. de Auila.  BL has edition of Alcala, 1615.  11726.g.27.

Antonio de Nebrija, Dictionarium latino-hispanicum et hispanico-latinum (Antwerp 1560). 12943.e.7.

Giacomo Vittorj, Tesoro de las tres lenguas española, francesa y italiana. Thrésor des trois langues espagnole, françoise et italienne ... (Geneva, 1644).  1560/1922.

Josephus, Los siete libros de Flauio Iosefo, los quales contienen las guerras de los Iudios, y la destrucion de Hierusalem y d'el templo: traduzidos ... por J. M. Cordero. (Antwerp, 1557). 294.b.20.

Pedro de Cieza de León, Parte primera de la chronica del Peru. Que tracta la demarcacion de sus prouincias: la descripcion dellas. Las fundaciones de las nueuas ciudades. Los ritos y costumbres de los indios. Y otras cosas estrañas dignas de ser sabidas. (Antwerp, 1554). 1061.b.20.

Pedro Nuñez, Libro de Algebra en Arithmetica y Geometria. (Antwerp, 1567). 530.b.15.

Juan de Luna, Arte breve, y conpendiossa para aprender a léer, escreuir, pronunciar, y hablar la Lengua Española ... = A short and compendious art for to learne ... the Spanish Tongue ... (London, 1623). C.33.a.45.

Bilingual title-page of 'Arte breve, y conpendiossa para aprender ... la Lengua Española'

Lorenzo Franciosini, Dialogos apazibles, compuestos en Castellano y traduzidos en Toscano = Dialoghi piacevoli, composti in Castigliano, e tradotti in Toscano … (Venetia, 1626). 1568/3917.

Plautus, La comedia ... Milite glorioso ... y Menechmos  (Antwerp, 1555) [Not in BL and rare: Beardsley no. 71 knows only two copies)

Alonso Gerónimo de Salas Barbadillo,  El Sagaz Estacio marido examinado (Madrid, 1621). C.63.a.31.

These of course are a small percentage of the whole library of 2,500.

Half of Browne’s Spanish books did not come from Spain, but from the Low Countries (a Spanish possession) and to a lesser extent Italy, both countries which were much better integrated into the European book trade: cf the Spanish books printed in Antwerp owned by Mary Queen of Scots.

Four are language tools; three are classical translations; four are lighter reading in the form of plays; five (excluding Tacitus and Josephus) are history.

Browne writes in Religio Medici, ‘I have often admired the mystical way of Pythagoras, and the secret magic of numbers’.  Moltkenius took this to be a reference to algebra.  It was more likely number divination, but in the light of Pedro Nuñez’s Libro de Algebra en Arithmetica y Geometria in his library, who knows?

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance language collections


Theodore S.  Beardsley, Hispano-Classical Translations Printed Between 1482 and 1699  (Pittsburgh, 1970). X.0972/19b.(12.)

Jeremiah S. Finch, A Catalogue of the Libraries of Sir Thomas Browne and Dr Edward Browne, His Son (Leiden, 1986). 2719.e.2467

Sir Thomas Browne’s Works, II, 17,  ed. Simon Wilkin (London, 1835-36) HLR 828.409 BRO

11 May 2016

Curiosity Helps a Lot

In another Q&A post with a writer featured in tonight’s European Literature Festival Writers’ Showcase event, we meet Bulgarian author Alek Popov whose novel Black Box is published by Peter Owen 

  ELN Alek Popov
Alek Popov

How did you become a writer?
I started by recording a dream many, many years ago.
Do you have a favourite character in your fiction? If so, who? And if not, why not?
I like very much my secondary characters. They come to life so spontaneously and sometime even contest the leadership of the protagonists.
You’re coming to London for European Literature Night. Is there a British author you particularly admire?
Joseph Conrad  if he counts. I admire both his talent and his personal strength. What he managed to achieve in a language which was not his native was highly remarkable and could serve as an example of how national barriers and cultural prejudices could be overcome.
Other than reading literature in translation, how else can we break down barriers between people of different nationalities and cultures?
There will be always barriers between universes, otherwise there will be only one universe. Transcending these barriers either natural or stereotypical always requires efforts, ability to change and learn, and is often marked by internal growth. Curiosity helps a lot. Some degree of generosity too. If you are determined only to sell and not to buy anything from abroad barriers will remain for obvious reasons. Self-indulgence in your own culture and the sense of self-sufficiency can make things even more claustrophobic.
Is there a book you wish you’d written? If so what is it?
Unfortunately I don’t have the guts and the patience of Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote

What advice would you give to anyone just starting out?
If you don’t like loneliness, don’t start this journey.
What are you reading now?
A piece of fiction that irritates me on almost every possible level… But sometime you can learn a lot from such a book. And I am curious to see how far it will go.
Can you tell us anything about your next book?

Well, I am working on the sequel of my latest novel Snow-White and Partisan-Red. The story is set in turbulent times – World War II and the subsequent Cold War. I follow my characters’ steps through bombed Sofia, guerilla trails in Yugoslavia and the streets of London in the 1950s. Two girls from an affluent family taken by dreams of freedom and social justice finally find themselves on the opposite sides of the Iron Curtain. It’s a story of survival, delusion and excitement told in a humorous way, challenging the clichés of history and ideology.

Cover of 'The Black Box'

My Way of Looking/Breathing

Our latest Q&A post with a writer featured in tonight’s European Literature Festival Writers’ Showcase event introduces Belgian Flemish novelist, poet and dramatist Peter Verhelst, whose story The Man I Became is published by Peirene Press

Photograp of Peter Verhelst
Peter Verhelst

How did you become a writer?

I’m not sure I became a writer. I’m sure I didn’t become a painter. I wanted to become Jan Van Eyck, but wasn’t able to paint very well. I've written every day since I was 15. That's my way of looking/breathing.

You’re coming to London for European Literature Night. Is there a British author you particularly admire?

I love (to hate) James Joyce. No one can irritate me the way he does and at the same time: witty!
I love Julian Barnes. His elegant way of thinking and finding words for all human emotions.
I love Samuel Beckett VERY MUCH.
I would love to love Tom McCarthy: I only read fragments of his books. Didn’t have the time yet to read full texts. But I'm sure I will love his books.

Other than reading literature in translation, how else can we break down barriers between people of different nationalities and cultures?

Talk to each other. Visit each other. Eat with each other.

Is there a book you wish you’d written? If so what is it?

Alice in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll): it’s a book about the pleasure of writing. The pleasure of ‘making things up’.
(But I don't like the songs.)

What advice would you give to anyone just starting out?

Don’t try to be loved. Don’t believe compliments. Never mind the haters. Do exactly what you think you have to do (and don’t hesitate to contradict your own opinions).

What are you reading now?

Books about art. Preparing for my new novel.

Can you tell us anything about your next book?

It’s a novel about grief, trauma. Is it possible to talk about ‘what you can't talk about’? (Of course it is)

Cover of 'The Man I became' with a design showing a fingerprint