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22 posts categorized "Portugal"

08 April 2016

Portuguese Anagrammatic Nun Novelist

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If that title sounds like a cryptic crossword clue, so much the better.

Leonarda tpBrados do desengano contra o profundo sono do esquecimento. II. Parte. Escrita por Leonarda Gil da Gama, natural da Serra de Cintra. (Lisbon, 1739). RB.23.a.36813

An improving novel in the baroque style, interspersed with poems. The author (1672-1760?) was born Maria Magdalena Eufémia da Glória. When she entered the Franciscan order at the convent of Nossa Senhora da Esperança in Lisbon, she took the name in religion Magdalena da Gloria. She wrote under the pseudonym Leonarda Gil da Gama, an anagram of her religious name. Her convent was home also to Maria do Ceu (b. 1658), author of several baroque works. Sister Maria has been studied in recent years, but it looks as if Leonarda’s star has yet to rise again.

The reason for her affecting a pseudonym was not her sex (Maria do Ceu had no such problem) but presumably her vocation. One wonders how much of a secret this was: the Prologues recognise that her name is an anagram, and given the anagram-crazy culture of the Baroque it must have been child’s play to unmask her.

Leonarda preface 2
Leonarda’s use of an anagrammatic pseudonym as mentioned in the preliminaries to the book. 

The Spanish Jesuit Baltasar Gracián (1601-1658) hid his identity under that of his brother Lorenzo and the anagram García de Marlones.

Baroque style lived on in Portugal in prose and verse when it was rather in decline elsewhere. One indication of this is that most of the 17th-century poets are to be read in the anthology A Fenix renascida (‘Phoenix reborn’) of 1716-28 (we have a mixed set at 11452.a.23.).

In his bibliography, Innocêncio Francisco da Silva tells us she was much admired in her own time, dubbed the Phoenix of Wits (Phenix dos Ingenhos), although ‘today [1860] few would be able to bear reading her works, on account of her exquisitely conceptista style’.

This is a new acquisition. We have other works by her, all apparently acquired quite recently, an indication both of the long period of neglect which she has suffered and a sign that her fortunes may be rallying.

Should you wish to assist this process of reassessment, where better to start than the British Library?

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance language collections


Leonarda Gil da Gama, Aguia real, fenix abrazado, pelicano amante, historia panegyrica, e vida prodigioza do inclito Patriarca ... S. Agostinho ... (Lisbon, 1744). RB.23.a.8047

Leonarda Gil da Gama, Reyno de Babylonia, ganhado pelas armas do empyreo; discurso moral …
(Lisbon, 1749). Cup.407.n.4. (also available online) Illustrated with alegorical emblems.

Sóror Maria do Céu, Triunfo do rosário : repartido em cinco autos; tradução e apresentação de Ana Hatherly. (Lisbon, 1992). YA.1995.a.8273

Rellaçaõ da vida e morte da serva de Deos a veneravel Madre Elenna da Crus : transcriçaõ do Códice 87 da Biblioteca Nacional precedida de um estudo histórico / por Maria do Céu ; Filomena Belo. (Lisbon, 1993). YA.2000.a.29236

Walter Begley, Biblia Anagrammatica, or the Anagrammatic Bible: a literary curiosity gathered from unexplored sources and from books of the greatest rarity ... With a general introduction and a special bibliography. (London, 1904) 3129.e.77.

  Leonarda decoration
Decorative header from Brados do desengano contra o profundo sono do esquecimento


21 December 2015

World proverbs in speech, text and image

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All the world over, wise people say “Nobody knows his own defects” and “What the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve over”. 

You may find this an inspiring indication of the oneness of mankind, or alternatively depressing proof of the lack of originality of the human mind.

The current BL exhibition “West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song” includes some small figures which are thought to refer to popular proverbs.

  African proverbs weightAs described in the exhibition catalogue, “The gold-weight [above, from the collections of the British Museum] depicting two crocodiles with one stomach embodies the Asante proverb Funtufunefu, denkyemfunefu, won efuru bom, nso woredidi a na woreko, meaning that even though they have one stomach, they fight over food when eating.” (p. 123).

It’s from Ghana, and dated somewhere in the 18th to 20th centuries.

I’m reminded of European  misericords, carvings under the seats in the choir stalls of medieval churches. These often show motifs which can  be matched to popular tales or sayings. The examples below from the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam show a man banging his head against a brick wall and another falling between two stools.  (These two images also occur in Bruegel).  

  Proverbs misericords 1            Proverbs misericords 2

 European popular proverbs are written down, in the context of Latin literature, as early as the 13th century. The most common contexts are sermons and grammar books.

Arabic proverbs (more properly learned than popular) made their entrance in the West in 13th-century Spain, and were printed in erudite bilingual Arabic-Latin collections from the early 17th century on.

African proverbs, at least in those parts which were occupied by Britain and France, were not printed until the 19th century (see Moll’s bibliography).

The BL recently acquired a book which I think is typical of the first printing of African proverbs:

Elementos Grammaticaes tp
Elementos grammaticaes da lingua Nbundu  offerecidos a S.M.F.O. Senhor D. Luis I por Dr. Saturnino de Sousa e Oliveira e Manuel Alves de Castro Francina (Loanda, 1864) YF.2015.a.25009

The context is a grammar of the Nbundu (Kimbundu) language, spoken in Angola. Early printed grammars of French (etc.)  for English (etc.)  speakers regularly included an anthology of proverbs.  And so it is in this book of 1864.

Here the Nbundu original is given followed by the literal Portuguese translation, and then the Portuguese equivalent.

  Elementos Grammaticaes proverbs
Elementos Grammaticaes proverbs

The monkey doesn’t look at his tail

Often the ant dominates the elephant

What the eyes see, causes envy

The rat is an expert in his hole

One who makes water often cannot lie down in a wet place

The witchdoctor starts with his own house and ends up outside


 Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Studies

References/further reading:

Walter S. Gibson, Figures of speech : picturing proverbs in renaissance Netherlands (London, 2010) YC.2010.a.7023

Otto E. Moll, Sprichwörterbibliographie (Frankfurt am Main, [1958]) Humanities 1 Reading Room HLR 398.9

Barry Taylor, ‘Los Libros de proverbios bilingües: disposición e intención’, in Corpus, genres, théories et méthodes: construction d’une base de données, ed. Marie-Christine Bornes-Varol and Marie-Sol Ortola (Nancy, 2010), pp. 119-29. YF.2012.a.22372

Barry Taylor, ‘Éditions bilingues de textes espagnols’, K výzkumu zámeckých, měšťanských a cirkevnich knihoven, ‘Jazyk a  řeč knihy’, Opera romanica, 11 (2009), 385-94. ZF.9.a.4837

West Africa : word, symbol, song / general editors, Gus Casely-Hayford, Janet Topp Fargion and Marion Wallace. 2015.


07 August 2015

Monkeys ahoy!

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In Lisuarte de Grecia, Book VII of the Amadis de Gaula cycle, what should heave into view but a ship crewed by monkeys, sent by the damsel Alquifa to summon Perion, son of Amadis, to her aid:

Amadis MonkeysThe ship crewed by monkeys, from Le quatriesme liure d'Amadis de Gaule (Paris, 1560). British Library RB.23.a.36495

The medievals knew well how good imitators monkeys were (Peter of Blois called wine “simia vini”, according to Curtius) and discerned a resemblance between man and monkey, but did not consider there was a genetic relationship.

Don Juan Manuel, among other things a keen huntsman, classified the animals according to their way of getting food: Some animals hunt each other, such as lions and leopards;

Et otras bestias [ay] pequennas que caçan caças pequennas, et de noche, a fuerça o con enganno, asy commo xymios et adiues et raposos et maymones et fuynas et tessugos et furones et gardunnas et turones, et otras bestias sus semejantes. Libro del cavallero e del escudero, ch. xl.

(there are other small animals that hunt other small animals, and by night, by strength or cunning, such as monkeys and jackals and foxes and apes and weasels and badgers and ferrets and martens and stoats, and other animals like them)

The author of the Orto do esposo, the Old Portuguese  (14th century?) compilation of ascetic, exemplary and pseudozoological literature, was not a hunting man but he was a chauvinist: he classifies the animal kingdom by their human-serving function:

todalas geerações das animalias forom criadas pera bõo uso e proveito do homen, segundo diz o filosafo e Joaham Demaceno, doctor catolico mui grande.  Ca algūas animalias forom criadas pera comer e mantiimento do homem, assi como os gaados e os cervos e as lebres, e as outras animalias semelhantes a estas.  E outras forom creados pera serviço do homem, assi como os asnos e os cavalos e as outras taes animalias.  (IV, iii, p. 96)

(all the generations of animals were created for the good use of man, as the philosopher [Aristotle] and St John Damascene, a very great Catholic doctor, say.  For some animals were created for the eating and nourishment of man, such as cattle and stags and hares, and other animals like them.  And other animals were created for the service of man, such as donkeys and horses and other such animals.)

And he was also something of a poet:

E outras forom criadas pera solaz e prazer do homem, assi como as simeas e as aves que bem cantam e os paãos

(And others were created for the consolation and pleasure of man, such as monkeys and beautifully singing birds and peacocks.)

Monkeys and birds (Harley 3469)‘Consolation and pleasure’: Monkeys and birds in the border of a 16th-century German manuscript of Salomon Trismosin, Splendor Solis (Harley 3469)


Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Studies


Ernst Robert Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages [German original 1948] (Princeton, 1990) HLR 809.02

H. W. Janson, Apes and ape lore in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (London, 1952) Ac.4569/6.(20.)

Horto do Esposo; coordenação, Helder Godinho (Lisbon, 2007)  YF.2010.b.34

Don Juan Manuel, Obras completas, ed. J.M. Blecua (Madrid, 1982-83), vol. I.  X.0800/1790


24 July 2015

What European Studies owe to J. M. Cohen (1903-1989)

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We’re always hearing how the UK publishes a shamefully small number of  translations compared with other nations: 3 per cent?

This is probably true of new bestsellers, but is it true of long-sellers? In my formative years, and possibly yours, the sole locus of European literature on the high street was the Penguin Classics, much more visible than the World’s Classics or Everyman.  There’s a good history of the collection in the 1987 festschrift for Betty Radice. Founded in 1946, its first authors included Homer, Voltaire and Maupassant. The introductions were non-academic – Aubrey De Sélincourt’s  prologue to Herodotus is four pages – and the translations middle-brow (W.C. Atkinson translating Camões: “Venus is now Cytherea, now Erycina, now Dione, now the Cyprian goddess, now the Paphian.  It is in short a mark of erudition [...].  For such learning the modern term is pedantry, and it becomes a service to the reader of today [...] to call things by their names and ask of each divinity that he or she be content with one.”)  The translators were rarely university lecturers (unlike today): in fact they seemed to me mostly to be schoolteachers.

The series was edited by people with names whose pronunciation a London teenager could only guess at: Betty Radice I now assume is pronounced like Giles Radice MP; but what of E. V. Rieu:  ‘REE-oo’ or ‘ ree-YERR’?

Penguin Quixote 2

One of my school-leaving prizes was J. M. Cohen’s translation of Don Quixote (in print 1950-1999, my well-read copy shown above).  The biographical (as opposed to bibliographical) information on the half-title was meager: ‘J. M. Cohen was born in 1903 and has been writing and translating since 1946.’  As I read more Romance literature, again and again these works were translated by Cohen: Rousseau (in print 1953-), Rabelais (1955-1987),  Montaigne (1958-1993), Teresa of Avila, The Penguin Book of Spanish Verse, Bernal Diaz’s Conquest of New Spain, Columbus, Rojas.

These were reprinted again and again.

Whenever I was faced with the question from the man in the street, “Oh, is there any Spanish literature?”, my rock and refuge were the Penguin Classics, and Cohen the prophet.

But of Cohen’s translations, only Rousseau, St Teresa and Columbus, I believe are in print any more.  It’s a maxim of the translation industry that each generation needs its own Cervantes et al.  This may or not be true (it isn’t true, but I want to appear broad-minded) but that’s no reason to consign earlier translators of the callibre of Cohen to a damnatio memoriae: M.A. Screech never refers to Cohen in his Rabelais or Montaigne.

A project is now underway to catalogue Cohen’s  papers, which are in Queens’ College Cambridge.  But his true legacy is in the minds of people like you and me.

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Collections

Penguin classics editions translated by J.M. Cohen:

Miguel de Cervantes, The Adventures of Don Quixote (1950) W.P.513/10a.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Confessions (1953) W.P.513/33.

François Rabelais, The Histories of Gargantua and Pantagruel (1955) W.P.513/47.

St Teresa of Ávila, The Life of Saint Teresa of Ávila (1957) W.P.513/73.

Michel de Montaigne, Essays (1958) W.P.513/83.

Blaise Pascal, The Pensées (1961) W.P.513/110.

Bernal Díaz del Castillo, The Conquest of New Spain (1963) W.P.513/123.

Fernando de Rojas, The Spanish Bawd. La Celestina (1964) W.P.513/142.

Benito Pérez Galdós, Miau (1966) W.P.513/181.

Agustín de Zárate, Discovery and Conquest of Peru (1968) X.708/3888.

The Four Voyages of Christopher Columbus (1969) X.808/6013.


‘J. M. Cohen, Gifted translator of foreign prose classics’ (Obituary), The Times (London), 22 July 1989

‘Obituary of JM Cohen: An opener of closed books’, Guardian, 20 July 1989

The Translator’s Art : Essays in Honour of Betty Radice, edited by William Radice and Barbara Reynolds (Harmondsworth, 1987).  YC.1988.a.329

Vladimir Alexander Smith-Mesa, ‘Making Our America Visible.  J. M. Cohen (1903-1989): El Transculturador’, Aclaiir Newsletter, 23 (2014), 14-17.  P.525/398; a version of the article as a blog post can be read here

19 June 2015

Lisbon, 20 June 1647: assassination of king of Portugal foiled by miracle

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John, Duke of Bragança, came to the throne of Portugal in 1640, putting an end to sixty years of Spanish rule under Philips II through IV, the ‘dominação filipina’.  Alongside his political life, he was also a composer and musicologist.

Luso-Hispanic relations remained tense for a good while, and when an attempt was made on the King’s life in 1647, Father Francisco Brandão had no doubt who the culprits were: Castile.  

The opportunity was the King’s attendance at the Corpus Christi procession at Lisbon cathedral on 20 June 1647.  The culprit, Domingos Leite Pereira, “unworthy of having been born in the noble and loyal town of Guimarães”, set out for the capital armed with a musket (“espingarda”) with twelve bullets and two phials of poison to make the shots even more deadly.  He set himself up in a good position to fire, and had two horses ready for his escape.  But at the sight of the pious monarch, he was overcome with “a happy stupor”, threw down his weapon and escaped.

Espingarda 1420.c.3 The potential murder weapon, from Cesar Fiosconi and Jordam Guserio, Espingarda perfeyta e regras para a sua operaçam (Lisbon, 1718). British Library 1420.c.3.

Brandão’s account has been digitised by the Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal.

The British Library has just acquired another pamphlet on the assassination attempt, a self-styled Mercurius gratulatorius (celebratory newsheet):

RB23a36385Lucas Velloso, Pro Ioanne IV rege serenissimo Portucalensium: quem proditor auro corruptus occidendum suscepit in communi pompa celebritatis Eucharisticae … (Lisbon, 1647).  RB.23.a.36385.

Velloso is not narrative but elegiac: though he gives the detail that the traitor was corrupted by gold (“proditor auro corruptus”) he does not name him or give the date of his attempted crime.  He describes the criminal as being not happily stupefied but terrified, either by the majesty of God apparent in the king, or by the king’s majesty itself.  Brandão in contrast describes in great detail  the route of the Corpus procession through the streets of Lisbon.  If challenged, Velloso would doubtless have quoted Aristotle: “poetry is more philosophical and more elevated than history, since poetry states more universal things whereas history states particular things” (Poetics IX).

This is a rather modern concept of the miraculous: a sudden change of heart is a more subtle miracle than the speaking babies and reattached limbs of medieval tradition.

Stop press: while working on this post I discovered that the BL has another pamphlet on this topic:

Antonio de Sousa de Macedo. Panegyrico sobre o milagroso sucesso, con que Deos livrou a el Rey nosso senhor da sacrilega treiçaõ dos Castelhanos ([Lisbon?, 1647]) 1444.g.4.(3.)

Previously wrongly dated to 1642 in our catalogue, it has now been corrected to 1647.

Macedo is light on facts but knows his Scripture: he ranks the miracle of the king’s deliverance with the sacrifice of Isaac, David’s victory over Goliath and the conversion of Saul to St Paul.  

Barry Taylor, Curator Romance Collections

27 March 2015

The Growth of the Beard

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All the media assure us we are living in a new age of the beard.

A landmark in pogonology is the pioneer study A Barba em Portugal. Estudo de etnografia comparativa [The Beard in Portugal.  A Study in Comparative Ethnography] (Lisbon, 1925; British Library 10009.t.29) by  José Leite de Vasconcellos  (1858-1941).

Beards - Leite de Vasconcelos                                    José Leite de Vasconcellos (with beard). Image from Wikimedia Commons

Beards - Barba em Portugal tp                                                    Title-page of Leite’s A barba em Portugal.

Leite (1858-1941) was a distinguished professor of Latin and Medieval French at the University of Lisbon and editor of the journal Revista Lusitana, but the bulk of his publications are ethnographic studies of topics such as the “figa” gesture: in this respect his work prefigured much 20th and 21st-century research on the body.  The figa’s opposite number in British culture is the V-sign, now sadly depleted to the single finger.

Beards - Figa tp José Leite de Vasconcellos,  A Figa : estudo de etnografia comparativa, precedido de algumas palavras a respeito do ”sobrenatural” na medicina popular portuguesa. (Porto, 1925). Ac.3709.d.

Like many Portuguese men of letters (Júlio Dinis and Trindade Coelho  among them), Leite studied medicine although he practised for  only a year on account of his own ill health.

The chapters of A Barba em Portugal cover: The beard anthropologically, the making of the beard, beard forms and cuts, the beard through the centuries, the symbolism of the beard, and the beard in vocabulary and literature; in an appendix Leite edits the ordenances of the guild of barbers from the 16th century.

Beards - Effigies
A selection of historical Portuguese beards from A Barba em Portugal

A habit which 21st-century hipsters seem not to have adopted is swearing on the beard.  The Cid did it, and Leite was told by an old man of A Beira that he had heard in his youth that in olden times the oath was “Juro por estas minhas barbas” [I swear by these my beards], accompanied by the appropiate gesture.  

Perhaps its time has come again, by my beard!

Barry Taylor, Curator Hispanic Studies

Beards - Herod                                  Beards - Ancient
Ancient beard ideas for the hipsters of today? King Herod (left) and an Bronze Age figurine (right) from A barba em Portugal

09 January 2015

European rivals in South Asia

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As is fairly well known, the British Library has inherited the surviving archives of the British East India Company, and this vast resource provides researchers with a rich and unique mine of information about all aspects of Britain’s relations with South Asia in the early modern period through to 1858. What is almost certainly less well known is that the archive includes one series bringing together documentation from and about the other European powers that were the Company’s rivals in the 17th and 18th centuries.

East India Chandernagore WD 269
View of the former French colony of Chandernagore (modern-day Chandannagar). Watercolour by Stanley Leighton, 1868. British Library WD 269

The ‘I’ series includes more than 200 volumes, arranged in three sub-series, of memoranda and correspondence between Europe and Asia. The first 17 of these (ref. I/1/1-17) are concerned with the Company’s relations with the French in India between 1664 and 1820, and I/2/1-32 is similar, dealing with the Dutch in India and Southeast Asia from 1596 to 1824. The subjects broached within are alas only hinted at by the frequent use in the relevant handlist of that tantalising word ‘Miscellaneous’, although there are four volumes identified as being about ‘Disputes with the French, 1773-1786’ (ref. I/1/7-10), and as a testament to the difficulties in mid-eighteenth century Anglo-Dutch relations there are no fewer than seven volumes of ‘Disputes with the Dutch’ from 1750 to 1764 (ref. I/2/14-20).

View of Batavia
View of Batavia (modern-day Jakarta), the capital of the Dutch East Indies. Aquatint by JohnWells, 1800. P494

These are dwarfed, however, by the size of the third sub-series, which consists in all of 165 volumes. Its existence is due entirely to Frederick Charles Danvers (1833-1906). A man of wide-ranging interests, Danvers joined the East India Company as a writer in 1853, and five years later transferred to the India Office after the Company’s abolition. After spells in the Revenue, Statistics & Commerce and Public Works Departments, he was appointed Registrar and Superintendent of the India Office Records in 1884, a post he held until 1898. In what must rank as a major feat of international archival co-operation, between 1891 and 1895 he oversaw the transcription of volumes of documents from repositories in Lisbon, Evora and The Hague; besides this, he enhanced their long-term value to scholars and researchers by supervising the translation of 35 of these volumes into English. The Dutch records cover the whole of the 17th century, whereas those from Portugal date from as early as 1475 and extend into the early 19th century. The series thus contains a range of primary sources on many aspects of the European engagement with South and Southeast Asia both before and during the colonial era.

East India, Goa 1434.e.2
Map of the City of Goa in Portuguese India, from Denis L. Cottineau de Kloguen, An historical sketch of Goa, the metropolis of the Portuguese settlements in India ...( Madras, 1831.) 1434.e.2

All these volumes are located at St. Pancras, and can be delivered to the third floor Asian & African Studies Reading Room for consultation within seventy minutes of ordering.

Hedley Sutton, Asian & African Studies Reference Team Leader


F.C. Danvers Report to the Secretary of State for India in Council on the Portuguese records relating to the East Indies contained in the Archivo da Torre do Tombo, and the public libraries in Lisbon and Evora (1892), OIR354.54

F.C. Danvers, Report on the records relating to the East in the state archives in The Hague (1945), OIB325.349.

30 June 2014

Early Photography in Spain

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The Spanish National Library in Madrid (Biblioteca Nacional de España; BNE) has mounted a small, but representative exhibition drawn from its photographic collections, entitled ‘Fotografía en España (1850-1870)’. In that period, demand for photography grew rapidly as a means of documenting events and of capturing images of landscape, famous buildings, city landmarks, and art works. Photography also became a new medium for portraits of leading contemporary figures and of the family. It was also important for recording infrastructure projects.

Several of the photographers who worked in Spain were foreign. One of them was a Welshman, Charles Clifford (1819-1863), who set up business in Madrid in late 1850. He produced a considerable body of material over a short period of time, including the album Voyages en Espagne (1856), consisting of some 400 images of famous civil and ecclesiastical buildings and monuments.

Spanish Photos (GW) BNE CharlesClifford1
 Charles Clifford. Palacio de la Reina, Barcelona (1860).  BNE.

Clifford’s success brought him the patronage of the Queen Isabel II. He recorded some of the construction projects being undertaken in her reign, notably that of the canal which brought a secure supply of fresh water to Madrid and which bears her name.  In fact ‘Canal de Isabel II’ is still the name of the water utility of the Madrid region. He also accompanied the Queen on her royal journeys around Spain.

Another leading photographer, the Frenchman Jean Laurent (1816-1886), began his career in Madrid before Clifford. He too specialised in city views, buildings and monuments, and also in photographing works of art. The BNE exhibition includes his photograph of the Congreso de los Diputados  and also of Velázquez’s Las Meninas.  

Spanish Photos (GW) BNE Laurent1
Jean Laurent. Congreso de los Diputados, Madrid (1855-60). BNE.

Both Laurent and Clifford produced images of the Alhambra, considered probably the most picturesque (in the literal sense) site in Spain and an undoubted draw for the growing number of travellers in the second half of the 19th century. Another favourite destination was Santiago de Compostela, and the exhibition includes a photograph of the Pórtico de la Gloria by another British photographer, Charles Thurston Thompson (1816-1868).

The exhibition includes a number of other subjects. There are portraits, e.g. of Pedro Antonio de Alarcón (author of The Three-Cornered Hat), the actress Adelaida Fernández Zapatero and the painter José María Castellanos; a female nude; and various ethnographic scenes.

The British Library does not systematically collect photographs. However, a number of special collections are held. Among these is a relatively little-known collection of photographs of Spain by British photographers. There are 230 photographs by Clifford, gathered in three albums, two of topographical and architectural views and the other of images of armour from the Real Armería  in the Royal Palace in Madrid. It is probable however that some of the photographs contained in this last album were the work of his wife, Jane, although they are generally attributed to Charles Clifford. Jane Clifford was an accomplished photographer in her own right and maintained the studio after Charles’s death. One of the albums of views (shelfmark 1785.c.1) was part of the bequest to the British Museum in 1900 of Henry Spencer Ashbee, the noted collector of works both of Miguel de Cervantes and of erotica.

Spanish Photos (GW) Madrid
Charles Clifford. Calle de Alcalá, Madrid , with the Cibeles fountain (ca. 1857). BL, 1785.c.1, no. 57.

Spanish Photos (GW) Salamanca
Charles Clifford. West door of Salamanca Cathedral (ca. 1858). BL 1704.d.9, no. 65.

The Library also holds 39 photographs by Charles Thurston Thompson, some of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the rest of the monastery church of Santa Maria da Vitória, Batalha, in Portugal. These are held in two albums. Thompson held a post as photographer of art works at the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A). In 1866 he travelled to France, Spain and Portugal on a photographic expedition on behalf of the Department of Science and Art.

Spanish Photos (GW) Portico 2

Charles Thurston Thompson. Pórtico de la Gloria, Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, with the statue of the Saint (1866).  BL 1811.a.18, no. 4.

Geoff West, Lead Curator Hispanic Studies


Lee Fontanella, La historia de la fotografía en España (Madrid, 1981). LB.31.b.6876

Lee Fontanella, Clifford en España. Un fotógrafo en la Corte de Isabel II (Madrid, 1999). LF.31.b.5746

See also the British Library’s historic photographs feature: and the  online catalogue of photographs:

13 June 2014

St Anthony of Padua, alias Fernando of Lisbon

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13 June is the feast day of St Anthony of Padua.

This charismatic saint, born circa 1195 in Lisbon, where you can still see his house, first joined the Canons Regular of St Augustine at the age of 15; in 1220 he took a level transfer to the newish Ordo Fratrum Minorum (Franciscans to you and me), taking his name from the house of St Anthony Abbot.

The Franciscans, like the Dominicans, were primarily preachers, and although Anthony performed a portfolio of healing miracles – he re-attached the foot of a man who had cut off it off in remorse at kicking his mother – perhaps his most memorable act was to preach to the fishes.

Anthony’s attempt to preach in Rimini to two-legged heathens having resulted in rejection, he addressed a school of fishes. Many traditions merge here. We all know that St Francis, founder of the Order, preached to the birds, and Anthony was doubtless inspired to follow his lead. The Portuguese are a maritime people, and perhaps Anthony was recalling his childhood on the strand at Lisbon. Perhaps too he was invoking Christ’s recruitment of Peter and his fishermen to be fishers of men. Another element is the idea that when a mixed audience hears a charismatic preacher each person is convinced that he spoke to them in their own language: Anthony’s sermons are preserved in Latin; he might not have spoken fish, but that was surely what the fishes heard.

 St Anthony preaching to the fish.

Some four hundred years later, Portugal’s most famous preacher of the early modern period paid homage to the Saint. Father Antonio Vieira, SJ (1608-97) divided his long life between metropole and periphery, as missionary to the Indians (with the formidable linguistic skills instilled by the Society, he learned Tupi for the purpose of preaching) and as counsellor to King John IV. As much a courtier as a voice in the wilderness, he preached to Queen Christina of Sweden in her Roman retirement.

On the saint’s day in June 1654, three days before he left Maranhão for Portugal, he spoke to the people of Brazil. Addressing his human audience as ‘fishes’, his is partly a political message: the big fishes eat up the little ones. By praising the virtues of fishes (they were spared by the Lord from the ravages of the Flood), he castigates the vices of men. And in true baroque style he draws some somewhat whimsical analogies between land- and sealife. A splendid new edition of his works is in preparation.

Antonio Vieira
Antonio Vieiera preaching in Brazil. Frontispiece from André de Barros, Vida do apostolico padre Antonio Vieyra da Companhia de Jesus (Lisbon, 1746) British Library 689.eee.22.]

Most of St Anthony’s life was spent in Padua, and in the Basilica del Santo  (which outshines the cathedral there) you can view from a respectful distance his chin, his larynx and – what could be more medieval and simultaneously baroque? – the charismatic preacher’s tongue.

Barry Taylor, Curator Hispanic Studies


António Vieira, Obra completa; direção, José Eduardo Franco, Pedro Calafate ([Lisbon, 2013- ]) YF.2014.a.2754 (and passim)

Michel Zink, La prédication en langue romane avant 1300 (Paris, 1982). X.200/42780

Anthony, of Padua, Saint, Obras completas : sermões dominicais e festivos; introduçao, traduçao e notas por Henrique Pinto Rema ; prefácio de Jorge Borges de Macedo. (Porto, 1987)

20 January 2014

Portuguese revolutionaries in Plymouth: politics and the classics

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José Bento Said, Remedio d’amor, e queixumes de Dido contra Eneas: traducções livres das obras de Ovidio. Trez sonetos, e garantias dos direitos civiz e politicos dos cidadaõs portuguezes, outorgados na Carta Constitucional de 1826.  (Angra: Imprensa do Governo, 1831).  British Library RB.23.a.17999(1).

The year 1826 saw political turmoil in Portugal, when the decades-long struggles of liberals and reactionaries opened up a new front in the Azores, the island group in the Atlantic which had been part of the empire since the fourteenth century.

This small publication prints the Carta Constitucional which established a new liberal regime in Portugal.  It also has some to-the-minute political odes: unsurprisingly, as in the romantic period verse was still thought a fitting medium for current affairs.

But what I find striking is that even at moments of high politics authors did not forget their Classics: the volume begins with translations of Ovid’s Remedia amoris and Dido’s complaint against the perfidious Aeneas (Heroides, VII) rendered in five odes. Poetry by a poet dead 1800 years, and on the theme of love (albeit concentrating on its downside).

The tenacity of classical culture as a point of reference for political writing is paralleled by one of the first books printed in Brazil: 

Monumento á elevação da colonia do Brazil a reino, e o estabelecimento do Triplice Imperio Luso. As obras de Publio Virgilio Maro, traduzidas em verso portuguez, e annotadas por Antonio José de Lima Leitão … (Rio de Janeiro : na Typographia Real, 1818-1819). RB.23.a.18324.

The Portuguese, unlike the Spanish, had repressed the printing press in their American colonies, so early Brazilian books were never common. As Borba de Moraes shows, Brazilian authors published in the old country.  It was the flight of the Portuguese court to Rio before the advance of Bonaparte which transferred the power base to the new Empire of Brazil.

But again, the Brazilian patriots were so immersed in Graeco-Roman culture that they celebrated their new status with an edition in the original Latin and facing Portuguese of the founding of an earlier Empire: Virgil’s account of the birth of Rome in the Aeneid.

The first of our two publications includes what at first sight seems a cuckoo in the nest:

“Ajunta-se a esta obra a Descripção das tres magnificas Cidades Plymouth, Ston-House, e Devonporth, a qual o Auctor offerece gratuita aos Illms. Snrs. Academicos, Officiaes Militares, Ecclesiasticos, e mais Snrs. que subscrevêrão” (p. 76)

Plymouth RB.23.a.17999(1)

Why should the good people of the Azores wish to read a description, in verse indeed, of ‘the three magnificent cities of Plymouth, Stonehouse and Devonport?’

The reason is that a group of Portuguese liberal exiles took refuge in Devon in 1829. They managed to get printed a small number of pamphlets and, true as ever to the classics, put on a performance in Portuguese of Addison’s Cato.

Wherever these political activists went, they took their classical education with them. And in modern Britain still some of our most gifted politicians make proud display of their knowledge of Greek and Latin.

Barry Taylor, Curator Hispanic Studies


Rubens Borba de Moraes, Bibliographia Brasiliana : rare books about Brazil published from 1504 to 1900 and works by Brazilian authors of the Colonial period  (Los Angeles, 1983).  RAR 090.981

Barry Taylor,  ‘Un-Spanish practices: Spanish and Portuguese protestants, Jews and liberals, 1500-1900’, Foreign-language printing in London 1500-1900, ed. Barry Taylor (London, 2003), pp. 183-202 (p. 190).  2708.h.1059