European studies blog

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

References:

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

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