Spain, Its Neighbors, and Latin America from Paul Orssich
Catalogo 64 from Paul Orssich.
By Michael Stillman
We have received our first catalogue from London bookseller Paul Orssich. However, it is his Catalogo 64. As the title implies, Orssich specializes in Spanish works, despite the London location. While the focus is on Spain, material extends to its Iberian neighbor, Portugal, Mediterranean islands such as Gibraltar, nearby Northern African lands such as Morocco, and the once Spanish lands of Latin America and the southwestern United States.
Familiarity with the Spanish language will be helpful in reading this catalogue, though it is not a requirement. Descriptions are most often in Spanish, so it will be a challenge to read about books that are themselves in Spanish. However, many of the books reflect Orssich's English location, that is, they are written in English. Often, there are quoted bibliographic descriptions that are also in English. The result is that English-speaking collectors of Spain and the New World (which is to say Americana) will easily be able to navigate many of the titles offered. There are also several books in French, particularly relating to the era of Charles V who ruled as Spanish King and Holy Roman Emperor, and continually argued with France, which lay in between his home in Spain and his not-so holy possessions to the east. Here are a few items among the 200+ offered.
A logical starting point, especially for those who do not complete the reading of this review, is Gatherings from Spain, by Richard Ford. This is because Thomas J. Hamilton, writing almost a century after this book was published in 1851, says, "For the reader who has time for only one book on Spain, the work to be recommended above all others is Richard Ford's Gatherings from Spain." Ford had traveled through Spain in the 19th century and noted the sufferings of the people brought about by mismanagement and war. Hamilton was looking back from another bad era, the early years of Franco's Fascist rule, pointing out that Ford's "...account of misery which bad government brought to a superb people is as valid today as it was when it was published..." Item 57. Priced at £150 (British pounds, or approximate U.S. equivalent of $302).
Speaking of Franco, item 84 is an account of journalist and writer Arthur Koestler of his days with Franco's troops during the Spanish Civil War. He was reporting on the war when captured by Franco's forces in 1937. Writes Koestler, "I was captured by General Franco's troops and held for several months in solitary confinement under sentence of death, witnessing the executions of my fellow prisoners and awaiting my own." Fortunately for Koestler, British authorities were able to negotiate his release. His book is Dialogue with Death, published in 1954. £20 (US $40).
Item 5 is a 1796 French edition of Lettres Portuguaises, attributed to Mariana Alcoforado, a 17th century Portuguese nun. These are love letters to a French officer who deserted her, and you can already see the problem, what with Miss Alcoforado being a nun. The story is that the young nun spotted the French officer from her window, fell in love, and whatever...we don't know. Sadly, the officer returned to France without her.
Spain, Its Neighbors, and Latin America from Paul Orssich
The British welcome Spanish King Alfonso XIII in 1905.
She wrote five letters between 1667 and 1668, passionate, first filled with faith and hope, later with sorrow and despair as realty set in. The letters somehow made their way into the hands of a French publisher, who printed them anonymously in 1669. These were most moving and passionate letters, and immediately became very popular with the public. However, there is some question about their authenticity. The supposed writer was not named until some digging over a century later. That is when Alcoforado, who did exist, was named, although some believe the letters were not her work, but that of some man faking it. Others have said that even if the nun wrote them, the publisher, who "lost" the originals, may have embellished the writing when he translated the letters from Portuguese to French. Still there are others who believe these letters are exactly what they claim to be. Miss Alcoforado died in obscurity in 1723 at age 83, and with her went the secret. £320 (US $645).
Item 17 is a look at an ethnic/religious group by an outsider, The Jews, by Hilaire Belloc, published in 1922. Belloc was a devoted Catholic, Member of Parliament from 1906-1910, and a very prolific British writer. Some have labeled him anti-Semitic for comments about the influence of Jews, though he also defended individual Jews on numerous occasions and was virulently opposed to the Nazis and their anti-Semitism. In his book, Belloc describes Jews as aliens in other societies, and aliens can be removed by destruction, excretion, or absorption. In anticipation of the Nazis, he describes destruction as "abominable" and absorption as the "most moral." However, he also notes there remains the option of segregation, as absorption had not worked in the past. £40 ($81).
Spain and England were incessantly at war with one another for centuries on end, with brief respites of friendly relations. This was evidently the case in 1905 when a Programme and Souvenir of the Visit of the King of Spain was printed. This describes the planned festivities ("If the weather be fine") honoring a visit by King Alfonso XIII. Alfonso, who became king upon his birth in 1886, was forced from the throne in 1931, officially abdicating a decade later, but with the restoration of the monarchy, his grandson, Juan Carlos, is currently King of Spain. Item 124. £160 (US $322).
Item 213 is a recent book (1990) by George Parker Winship recounting The Journey of Coronado 1540-1542. Francisco de Coronado led one of the earliest expeditions into what is now the American Southwest. His men were the first Europeans to see the Grand Canyon, and his travels took him all the way from Mexico to today's Kansas. However, despite the pioneering explorations, the expedition was a miserable failure. Coronado was searching for the mythical cities of gold, which he hoped to plunder, but all he found were poor Indian villages. £15 (US $30).
The website for Paul Orssich is www.orssich.com, telephone 44 + 20 7787 0030.