Skip to content

Alexander S. Wilkinson and Alejandra Ulla Lorenzo, eds. Iberian Books Volumes II & III. Books Published in Spain, Portugal and the New World or Elsewhere in Spanish or Portuguese between 1601 and 1650

Alexander S. Wilkinson and Alejandra Ulla Lorenzo, eds. Iberian Books Volumes II & III. Books Published in Spain, Portugal and the New World or Elsewhere in Spanish or Portuguese between 1601 and 1650 / Libros Ibéricos Volúmenes II y III: Libros publicados en España, Portugal y el Nuevo Mundo o impresos en otros lugares en español o portugués entre 1601 y 1650. Vol. 1: A-E; Vol. 2: F-Z. Brill: Leiden, 2016. Vol. 1: xcii, 1246 p. ill.; Vol. 2: xliv, 2510 p. ill. ISBN 9789004292291. EUR 450.00.

This two-volume set follows the first repertoire in the series compiled by Alexander S. Wilkinson, titled Iberian Books: Books Published in Spanish or Portuguese or on the Iberian Peninsula before 1601 (Brill: Leiden, 2010). All three volumes are bilingual (English-Spanish) and contain  bibliographies that order the publications pertaining to the period in question alphabetically by author’s surname. The task is a difficult one to imagine, as the contributors to volumes 2 and 3 not only pursue the inventory of about 45,000 books published in the first half of the seventeenth century, but they also  indicate where about 215,000 copies of those books reside today. Both volumes commence with a list of library codes, which range from large to small collections housed across the world, where copies of books listed in the bibliography may be consulted. Each published book is assigned a 5-digit numerical identifier, which demonstrates the significant number of books that these two volumes describe.

Let us test the usability of the bibliography with an edition that I drew randomly from my own research materials without much thought about how common or rare it may be. For this purpose, I chose an edition of the adventure history about the Cid, which is a story that comes from several sources and thus involves numerous authors and editors. Titled La historia del valeroso y bien afortunado cauallero Cid Ruy Diaz de Biuar [The story of the valorous and well-fortuned knight Cid Ruy Díaz de Vivar] (Alcalá de Henares: En casa de Juan Gracián que sea en gloria, 1604), this prose version of the Cid has an author whose name is not indicated on the title page or in the text. I happen to know that the prose volume is attributed by some scholars to Juan de Escobar, but this information is not easily known. Lo and behold, there is an entry for a book by Escobar published that year, but note the title difference: La historia del valeroso cavallero Cid Ruy Diaz de Bivar; it was published by the widow [viuda] of Juan Gracián in 1604 (vol. 2, p. 529). Escobar’s Cid was a bestseller and appeared in many editions and languages. It is not in prose, however; rather, he tells the story through romances in verse.

We can observe that some common issues arose during my search. First, the title difference between the original book, whose title page I consulted as I undertook this search of the bibliography, and the entry cited in the bibliography, is noticeable. A little research may reveal that the inconsistency existed in the sources used for the bibliography, which is a second issue, because bibliographical studies like this one can unintentionally repeat errors. Another possibility is that two editions were published that year by Gracián’s publishing house in Alcalá; my edition does not contain an explicit attribution to Escobar and possibly the authors missed this edition in their otherwise fine research of Cidian editions. One way for us to navigate this problem, observe the authors in the introduction, especially when no clear author exists, is to look up a heading for the title or subject of the book (vol. 2, p. x). Unfortunately, my search for Cid and El Cid—which seem to be the most natural heading—produced no results for my edition.

While the bibliography appears to either exclude the edition I was seeking or provide inaccurate documentation in reference to its bibliographical data, it does overall comprise an authoritative record—which cannot be exhaustive, in my view—that Cid scholars and researchers of the Iberian book will appreciate. For this second 1604 volume, the authors provide, moreover, helpful references to other authoritative bibliographies. One detail that would have been helpful is to have indicated whether the edition was illustrated. I realize that requesting this category of information would entail an already enormous task that could easily become unmanageable, but it must be done by someone. Not describing the book’s visual repertoire leaves scholars to have to verify if an individual edition was illustrated. The authors nonetheless facilitate this legwork by pointing to the location where copies, in this case of the second 1604 edition, may be found: K07 (Copenhagen’s Kongelige Bibliotek) and P37 (Paris’s Bibliothèque nationale de France). Thus, we see the relationship between the city where the book resides and the institutional codes contained in each entry.

Returning to my initial search for the 1604 Cid edition, the authors provide an excellent index housed toward the end of the third volume. In forty-seven pages, this addendum provides a chronological breakdown year by year so that one may look up books published in a specific timeframe—in my case, 1604. Without a clear author attribution, this route seemed to be the most advantageous for locating my book. One frustrating aspect of this search, however, is that the books are not listed by author or title under each year; rather, they are listed by their 5-digit numerical identifier, which to me means little in terms of identifying the desired edition. The bibliography documents 601 books published in 1604 using their identifiers, rendering this index less than useful for locating a book by its year of publication. While I understand why the authors decided against using longer descriptors, given the length of this index as is, it is unfortunately not as useable as it could be. A similar index follows this one by publishers’ last name, and which points the reader to the 5-digit numerical identifier. These identifiers are listed in numerical order, so that I could view all the Cidian editions of Escobar in chronological order within the bibliography, as one might expect.

As the editors note in their introduction, this project is a significant undertaking and should be considered “ongoing” as a project (vol. 2, p. vii). The work is contextualised by a valuable essay by Wilkinson about book publishing practices during the period (vol. 2, p. xiii-xxi), followed by a co-authored introduction by both editors, and this material is provided in both English and Spanish. Despite the difficulties I encountered, which admittedly could have more to do with the rarity of the edition being sought, and some of the imperfections naturally found in such an expansive project, the overall value of the bibliography cannot be understated. As book historians know, revisiting and updating bibliographies is critical to the success of scholarly endeavour, and I congratulate the authors for taking on such a monumental task.

Lauren Beck

Mount Allison University

Published inBook review

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.