Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - July - 2008 Issue

Spain and Hispanica from Paul Orssich

Orssich66

Catalogo 66 from Paul Orssich.


By Michael Stillman

Paul Orssich has issued his 66th catalogue, or Catalogo 66. Although a London bookseller, Orssich's specialty is Spain and Hispanica (along with some Portuguese material). As such, the catalogue is written in the Spanish language. However, the London location also plays a significant role, as a great many of the works are from Britain and are written in the English language. Many are accounts of travels, primarily from the 19th century, where Englishmen visited Spain and wrote about what they saw for the benefit of their fellows back home. Here is an admittedly scattered sample of the books available in this latest Paul Orssich catalogo.

An example of an English traveler's account is Henry Blackburn's Traveling in Spain In The Present Day. That title is a bit dated, "present day" being a century and a half ago. A critique from Public Opinion describes Blackburn as having "...genuine humour, and a light and withal graceful gossiping style..." Sounds like it might still be popular if written today. Item 12, published in 1866. Priced at £150 (or US equivalent of $295).

Item 47 is a later traveler's guide with some interesting observations. Cook's Traveller's Handbook to Spain & Portugal was written by Roy Elston and published in 1930. Among his descriptions, Elston says, "Iviza is one of those spots which can afford little justification for its existence." Perhaps the inhabitants of this small Spanish island in the Mediterranean would disagree (or maybe they feel the same). Speaking of Mahon, Elston observes, "...the chief occupation and delight of the women is cleaning houses." Undoubtedly this must have set many Englishmen off to the city to seek wives. £20 (US $39).

The year 1930 may have still been a time for such whimsy, but there would be little joy in Spain in the years ahead. The Spanish Civil War would soon tear the country apart, and end up with a Fascist takeover that would last until the 1970s. Item 72 is a pamphlet by Dolores Ibarruri and Jose Diaz entitled For the Independence of Spain. For the Republic. For Liberty. Union of All Spaniards! Ibarruri and Diaz were leaders of the Communist Party, and this item was published at a most difficult time for those who supported the Communist movement, as well as those who wished for independence and liberty from both Nazi and Soviet domination. The pamphlet was published in 1939, and before the end of that year, both authors were forced to flee to the Soviet Union. Diaz, who became seriously ill, died within a couple of years, but Ibarruri, known as the "Passion Flower," outlived Franco and finally returned to Spain to be elected to the Cortes in 1977. £40 (US $79).

H. Pemberton took A Winter Tour in Spain which he recounted in this 1868 book. His most memorable occurrences centered around his laundry. Writes Pemberton, "The two worst things in Spain are her government and her laundresses; it is hard to say which does their work worst, both are so abominably bad..." Item 103. £220 (US $433).

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