The feat of the Real Academia Española’s first dictionary (part 2)

The dictionary lacked a general method and workflows were divided among the authors by combinations of letters. They took for granted that every academic was equally qualified, worked at the same speed, and was following the same criteria as the rest of the team – criteria which, incidentally, were not precisely established from the start. For instance, not all authors were using the same edition of a given work to find the quotes from authorities, so knowing the folio or page number is not particularly useful. The original intentions were too ambitious and some cuts in the plan were required. There was no room for adding the vocabulary of the arts and sciences. This task was postponed, with plans for an eventual separate dictionary dedicated to that vocabulary; a project never undertaken. Continue reading

The feat of the Real Academia Española’s first dictionary (part 1)

The Diccionario de la lengua castellana (1726-1739), later known as Diccionario de autoridades, was the first modern Spanish lexicographical work. The Real Academia Española (RAE) was founded in 1713 under the royal auspices and the first generation of academics decided to record the Spanish vocabulary following the example of the language academies in Paris and Florence. They considered that the Spanish language had achieved its zenith in the 17th century, so it was time to preserve it for future generations. This was a huge challenge, considering that the only Spanish precedent, the Tesoro de la lengua castellana, o española (1611) by Sebastián de Covarrubias, one of the first monolingual dictionaries in a vernacular language, was around one hundred years old. They did their job altruistically, “for the honour of serving the Nation”. The founder and first director, Juan Manuel Fernández Pacheco, Marquis of Villena and Duke of Escalona was an inspiring figure and played a major role in the institution. The purpose of the academy was reflected in its motto “Limpia, fija y da esplendor” ([It] cleans, [it] fixes, and [it] gives splendour). Continue reading

Catalan books and Spanish lyrical pieces in the Jonathan Gili collection

A few years ago, we announced the purchase of a collection of Catalan and Spanish books from the library of Jonathan and Phillida Gili. Our blog post featured some of the gems of this wonderful acquisition.

We are pleased to report that this collection is now fully catalogued. Continue reading

Juan Rulfo

16 May 2017 marks the centenary of Juan Rulfo, one of Spanish literature’s most revered and mysterious writers. Few other authors in any language have attained such mythic status on the basis of such a slim body of work. Rulfo is generally considered, along with Carlos Fuentes and Octavio Paz, to be one of the three most important figures of 20th Century Mexican literature. However, unlike the vast reams of prose and poetry written by his two compatriots, and their international standing as literary lions and esteemed intellectuals, Rulfo published very little and remained an ambiguous and elusive public figure.

Juan Rulfo by Ricardo Salazar

Portrait of Juan Rulfo by Ricardo Salazar, early 1950s

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The Cervantes prize, the most important Spanish literary award

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Portrait of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616) attributed to Juan de Jáuregui (via Wikipedia).

The Premio Miguel de Cervantes is the highest recognition that a Spanish-language writer can achieve. It is an acknowledgement of those whose work has notably enriched Spanish literary heritage. Thus, this prize recognises the career of an outstanding writer. It was created in 1975 in honour of the author of Don Quixote de la Mancha, the most universally known Spanish text and the first modern novel. This literary prize has been awarded annually by the Spanish Ministry of Culture since 1976.

Candidates are proposed by the Real Academia Española (founded in 1713) and all the National Academies of the Spanish language in the different Spanish speaking countries (23 in total). The jury is comprised of literary and academic authorities, in addition to the most recent awardees. Traditionally the prize is given one year to a Spanish author and the following to a Latin American, although this is not a rule. Continue reading