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title-page of
Lope de Vega Carpio El testimonio (Scarfe 739)

The Scarfe-La Trobe Collection of Spanish Plays

This collection comprises nearly 2,000 items consisting of 1,068 plays by more than 200 different dramatists, with 904 duplicates. A large proportion are comedias sueltas, plays that were printed separately for sale in pamphlet form; a smaller number are desglosadas, that is, plays printed to form part of (mainly) seventeenth-century volumes; such volumes normally contained 12 plays, but they were also made available 'disbound' for sale as single items. Many of the collection's sueltas are eighteenth-century editions, but, like the desglosadas, are plays composed during the Golden Age of Spanish theatre by Lope de Vega, Cervantes, Calderón (over a hundred of his titles are included), Tirso de Molina, Francisco de Rojas Zorrilla, Agustín Moreto and numerous other playwrights. The earliest item in the collection is the 1604 Valladolid edition of El testimonio vengado by Lope de Vega, a desglosada. The collection also includes important rare texts by eighteenth- and nineteenth-century playwrights, of which one of the most famous is Ramón de la Cruz - a satirical observer, in numerous one-act comic plays known as sainetes, of Spanish society.

The Scarfe-La Trobe Collection provides a full repository of primary source material, indispensable to researchers on Spanish theatre, richly complementing the holdings of sueltas and desglosadas in Spain's National Library and major collections throughout the world. Comprising so many variant texts, this collection gives both theatre-historians and textual critics the means to compare different versions of the same drama and to decide why the different texts exist: whether the playwright concerned had himself produced more than one version; whether the original text had been altered by actors for performance - perhaps to suit their acting capacities or their public's preferences; or whether, perhaps, the printers, always concerned to save money on paper etc., had made textual cuts and changes on their own account.

The editions in this collection can provide, too, essential clues to resolve cases of disputed or confused authorship as well as problems of dating and uncertainties about performance and reception. The fact that a significant number were used, or were printed from manuscripts used by specific theatre companies, while many have wrappers on which the printers list titles of other plays being offered for sale, makes this collection additionally important to a thorough knowledge of Spain's theatre-history.

For more information (with further images) about this collection, see the April 2003 book of the month.

[Ann L. Mackenzie]

title-page of Rojas La Celestina (Bi7-l.19)

Fernando de Rojas La Celestina (Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea)
Madrid: Juan de la Cuesta, 1619
Old Library Bi7-1.19

A late edition of probably the most famous and influential work in Spanish literature, after Don Quixote. The first known edition appeared anonymously at Burgos in 1499. Entitled Comedia de Calisto y Melibea it contained sixteen acts, each preceded by an 'argumento'. Another version of the text appeared in Toledo (1500) and Seville (1501), with the addition of a letter entitled Del autor a un amigo, some acrostic verses, the incipit, and three stanzas written by the corrector Alonso de Proaza. In 1502 five further edtions appeared containing five new acts, inserted in the fourteenth act of the original. A further act was added in 1526.

The author was born at Puebla de Montalván (province of Toledo) in 1476, and died in 1541. He became alcalde mayor at Talavera. His Jewish parents had been forcibly converted and it has been argued that La Celestina is a roman-ŕ-clef on the conversos in Spain.


title-page of Vega Obras (Hunterian Db.3.35)

Garcilaso de la Vega Obras . con anotaciones de Fernando de Herrera
Seville: Alonso de la Barrera, 1580
Hunterian Db.3.35

Garcilaso de la Vega (1501-1536) was the most representative Renaissance gentleman whom Spain produced. Born of a noble family, he received a good education in Latin, Greek, French and Italian. He was early attached to the Emperor's household and served him in the most remote regions, fighting in Austria and Africa and being entrusted with delicate diplomatic missions. He died while attacking a fortified mill in Southern France. His literary production was slight; there survive only three eclogues, two elegies, one epistle, five odes and thirty-eight sonnets Herrera continued in a way the tradition of Garcilaso and his admiration for him appears in his Anotaciones.


Alonso de Ercilla y Zuniga Primera, segunda, y tercera partes de la Araucana
Madrid: en casa del Licencia do Castro, a costa de Juan de Montoya, 1597
Hunterian Db.3.30

This famous heroic poem on the fight of the Spaniards against the natives in Chile is considered to be the Spanish Iliad or Aeneid.

In 1554, Ercilla y Zuniga (1533-1595) joined the Spanish expedition to Southern Chile and fought the militant Indian tribe of the Araucans (Aucas). In the night after the battle, he wrote down the events of the day in octave rhymes, thus creating the first eighteen cantos which form the first part. After his return to Spain in 1562, Ercilla added two more parts, including visions and romantic incidents, discussions on war and political matters.

The first complete edition of the Araucana appeared in 1590. The poem was very popular: it received the praise of Cervantes and, later, of Voltaire, and it went through numerous editions and translations up to the nineteenth century.


plate 8 of Van Veen Historia septem infantium de Lara (S.M. Add. 14)

Otto van Veen Historia septem infantium de Lara
Antwerp: Phillipp Lisaert, 1612
S.M. Add. 14

The legend of the Infantes of Lara, who lived in the tenth century, relates how these seven brothers were betrayed by their uncle and slain by the Moors but were afterwards avenged by their half-brother, the Bastard Mudarra, son of the Lord of Lara and a Moorish lady. In view of its semi-legendary nature it ranks as a romance of chivalry, though many of the facts were recorded in the Cronica general.

The illustrations, which are proofs before letters, are from the collection of Sir Peter Lely.


Fernando de Herrara Versos
Seville: Gabriel Raaos Vejarano, 1619
Hunterian Dc.2.14

Fernando de Herrera (1534-1597), known as 'el divino', was born in Seville and spent his life there. By about 1565 he was the holder of a small lay benefice in the church of San Andrés and was a member of a literary and artistic circle which met at the palace of the Conde de Gelves, and which included many of the best-known figures of the cultural life of the city. His fame was great in his own day, not only as a poet but as a historian and literary arbiter. Among his works are a Relación de la guerra de Chipre y batalla naval de Lepanto and Tomás Moro. His best poetry was his love poetry, whose language he drew from Petrarch; the Condesa de Gelves, Dońa Leonor de Milán, was his inspiration. He also wrote a number of heroic and patriotic odes, of which one of the best known is the Canción on the battle of Lepanto.

Herrera's poems were published at Seville in 1532 with the title Algunas obras. This enlarged and 'corrected' edition of 1619 was brought out by Francisco Pacheco, but the authenticity of the changes he made is disputed. This copy is from the famous library of Jean Baptiste Colbert (1619-1633), chief Minister of Louis XIV.

title-page of Quevedo Obras (Bn7-g.8)

Francisco de Quevedo Obras
Brussels: Francisco Foppens, 1661
Old Library Bn7-g.8-9

Quevedo, arguably the greatest and most prolific writer that Spain has produced, was born in Madrid in 1580 of a noble family. He studied at Alcalá and became one of the most learned Spaniards of his day. He took service with the Duque de Osuna in Sicily and Naples but when Osuna fell in 1620, Quevedo was banished. He was restored to favour on the accession of Philip IV in 1621, but eventually incurred the enmity of the Conde Duque de Olivares and was imprisoned in 1639. He was released in 1643 but his health was broken and he died in 1645. His works can be classified as philosophical, ascetic, political, critical, satirical, and poetical, while he also contributed one picaresque novel, Historia de la Vida del Buscon, and several satrical works to the literature of Spain.



title-page of Cervantes Don Quixote (Hunterian Dc.2.26)

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra El ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha
Madrid: Juan de la Cuesta, 1605
Hunterian Dc.2.26

After ten years of struggling to make a living as an author, Don Quixote brought Cervantes instant fame. Often cited as the first modern novel, this celebrated work ostensibly parodies chivalric romance while exploring the nature of storytelling and questions of truth, history, madness, the imagination, and the relation of life and art. Its undying humour has survived the literary fashion of every age.

This is a copy of the first edition of Part I. The precise printing chronology of Don Quixote has been a matter of bibliographic confusion for some three hundred years, and remains a subject for debate. Cervantes first obtained the privilege to print the work on 24 September 1604 in Valladolid where he then lived; he ceded this privilege to Francisco de Robles, the King's bookseller, who received the work's tase, or price certificate, from the Council of Castile in Valladolid on 20 December 1604. The first edition was printed in Madrid by Juan de la Cuesta, the work being carried out throughout October and November 1604: it was possibly rushed through in time to catch the Christmas and New Year market in Castile. Certainly, Cuesta's work was somewhat careless and there are consequently numerous variant states of the princeps as a result of the resetting of several gatherings during its printing. In our copy, the second quire (often missing) is present, while signature S3 is mis-signed as P3. This first edition is known to exist in at least one other issue which boasts a unique variant Tasa page, although only one example of this is now known to survive. There is speculation that there was actually an earlier version of the work published in spring or early summer 1604, but there is little evidence for this and Ian Michael suggests that references to it could point to the work circulating in manuscript, probably among university students.


itle-page of Cervantes Don Quixote (Hunterian Dc.2.25)

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra El ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha
Madrid: Juan de la Cuesta, 1605
Hunterian Dc.2.25

Such was the book's popularity that the first edition quickly sold out. A second edition, of which this is a copy, was produced in a print run of approximately 1750 copies, once Cervantes obtained on 9 February 1605 a new privilege extended to cover all of the Iberian peninsula (apart from Navarre). This edition had an additional passage added to explain the robbery of Sancho's ass, although the incompetent Juan de la Cuesta inserted it in the wrong place. Meanwhile, as the book was being reset in Madrid throughout February and March 1605, the work was published in no less than three unauthorised editions in Lisbon. Further pirated editions appeared from Valencia in 1605 (twice), from Brussels in 1608, 1611 and 1617, and from Milan in 1610. The third authorised Madrid edition appeared in 1608. The first English translation by Thomas Shelton, The history of the valorous and wittie knight errant, Don Quixote of the Mancha, appeared in 1612, and the first French translation in 1614.

Inscriptions in our copy suggest that the book was in French hands before Hunter purchased it.


title-page of Cervantes Don Quixote, Part II (Hunterian Dc.2.28)

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra Segunda parte del ingenioso Cavallero Don Quixote de la Mancha
Madrid: Juan de la Cuesta, 1615
Hunterian Dc.2.28

This is a copy of the first edition of Part II of Don Quixote. The second part appeared in 1615, following the publication of a spurious sequel published under the pseudonym of Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda in 1614. An even greater success, Cervantes continued to explore the processes of composition in the narrative: ironic self-referential touches include key characters in Part II having read Part I, while Don Quixote himself leafs through the 'false' second part of his own adventures in a visit to a printing shop.



title-page of Cervantes Novelas exemplares (Hunterian Dc.2.23)

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra Novelas exemplares
Madrid: Juan de la Cuesta, 1613
Hunterian Dc.2.23

This publication contains twelve short stories which variously explore the concepts of narrative realism and idealism. Along with Don Quixote, this is the work upon which Cervantes' literary fame rests. Although not collected together and printed until 1613, the stories were composed over a span of years, the earliest - El licenciado Vidriera - dating from about 1597. 'I am the first,' wrote Cervantes, 'to write novelas in the Castilian tongue, for the many which here circulate in print are all translated from foreign tongues.'



title-page of Cervantes Ocho comedias... (Hunterian Dc.2.1)

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra Ocho comedias, y ocho entremeses nuevos
Madrid: Juan de Villarroel, 1615
Hunterian Dc.2.1

One of the disappointments of Cervantes' life was his inability to win fame as a dramatist. His chief period of productivity as a writer for the stage lies between the years 1583 and 1587 when some twenty of his plays were performed with relative success. But with the dramatic début of Lope de Vega, Cervantes' old fashioned methods lost favour and he could no longer find managers who would put on his plays. It was not until 1615 that Cervantes accepted an offer from Juan de Villarroel to publish the eight best plays.

The Entremeses are much more successful than the Comedias. Cervantes could create character and write sparkling dialogue, but he was unable to sustain dramatic tension for any length cf time, nor could he develop a plot logically. But in these short satirical sketches where character and witty dialogue are more important than plot he succeeds brilliantly.



title-page of Behar La famia misteriozo (Bb8-b.8)

Yakim Behar La famia misterioza: teatro in 4 aktos en poezia
Trieste: Avraham ben Altabev, 1 Tammuz 649 [1889]
Bourgeois Bb8-b.8

Ladino dramatic literature appeared as a new genre at the close of the nineteenth century, largely developed around Jewish themes, in contrast to the more enlightened complexion of general literary activity in the language. Yakim Behar was one of a small group of writers who distinguished themselves.



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