“The book as world and the world as book” at the Warburg Institute

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Alberto Manguel, picture by Fronteiras do Pensamento [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D via Wikimedia Commons

Last Friday 20th April the Warburg Institute in London organised an event that focused on books and readers in the Spanish speaking world, entitled The book as world and the world as book. The keynote of the event was a delightful -to say the least- conversation between the Warburg’s director, Bill Sherman, and Alberto Manguel, writer and Director of the National Library of Argentina. Coincidentally, Manguel’s book Packing my Library featured as “Book of the week” on BBC Radio 4 at the beginning of the month (the UL copy stands at C205.d.5241). Their discussion, of course, was all about books, writing, reading and libraries and also about Manguel’s experiences as a young man when he read aloud to an old and blind Borges. The book With Borges (a copy is held at Jesus College’s Quincentenary Library) offers memories of the encounter and of Borges’ life beyond his writings. The  Spanish edition of the work, translated by Eduardo Berti can be found at C202.c.5582. Alberto Manguel’s holdings at the University Library are reasonably complete, both in Spanish and English, and demonstrate his flair as a writer, editor and translator (click here to see all 62 titles). Continue reading

Mariano Fortuny y Marsal: a cosmopolitan 19th-century artist

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Mariano Fortuny in 1867 by Federico de Madrazo (Wikipedia)

This year marks the 180th anniversary of the birth of Spanish painter Mariano Fortuny 1838-1874 (not to be confused with his son Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo, the fashion designer). For the first time, Madrid’s Museo del Prado held a comprehensive exhibition devoted to Fortuny, showing 169 art pieces loaned by private collectors and major museums including the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya – MNAC (Barcelona) and Museo Fortuny (Venice).

Fortuny was internationally renowned and, after Francisco de Goya (see Glendinning’s donation post), considered one of the best Spanish painters and printmakers of the 19th century.  His take on genre painting was fashionable, and collecting his art was a sign of class for the bourgeoisie, as Carlos Reyero explains in his recent book (C205.d.4208).  Fortuny had great success painting genre scenes and Moresque-inspired paintings. But at the same time he was an innovator and enjoyed the rare privilege of creating the art he wished. He was very versatile artist; he mastered all the techniques he undertook: oil painting, with precise touch often compared with Ernest Meissonier’s, and especially watercolour and etching, advancing both techniques and achieving new results. He used watercolour in a more modern way, as an autonomous art technique, and not only for preparatory works. His etchings were influenced mainly by the work of Goya, Rembrandt and José de Ribera. As he was more skilful than his contemporaries, he aroused both their envy and admiration. Continue reading

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

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