Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - December - 2008 Issue

Spanish and Portuguese Related Material from Paul Orssich

Orssich67

Spanish and Portuguese related material from Paul Orssich.


By Michael Stillman

Paul Orssich has recently published his Catalogo 67. Orssich is the London bookseller who specializes in Spanish and Portuguese works, including the various islands and other lands connected to those two European countries. While there is a mix of several languages, most books are either in English or Spanish (with some French). The Spanish works are mainly from people native to the lands about which they wrote. The English ones tend to divide between translations of Spanish works and books by travelers from England. The travelers divide into three subsets - soldiers, diplomats, and tourists. Many of these visitors from the 18th and 19th centuries returned with stories to tell, pictures or drawings to show, and impressions of the land. Some were impressed, others not. Both types often felt compelled to put their experiences to paper.

Orssich's catalogue is primarily in the Spanish language, including descriptions of the works written in English, so some knowledge of that language is certainly helpful. However, bibliographic descriptions of items originally written in English are presented in English. Here are a few of the works we found in this latest Orssich catalogue.

Item 34 (pictured on the catalogue's cover) is Voyage d'Espagne Curieux, Historique, et Politique. This is a 1655 work by travelers Antoine de Brunel and Francois van Aerssen. They depict the sights they saw, including a bullfight in Madrid. The voyagers describe the decline that occurred in Spain through the long reign, now ending, of Philip IV. Priced at £850 (British pounds, or roughly $1,259 US dollars).

Item 3 is a polemic from 18th century Portugal: Anecdotes du Ministere de Se'bastien-Joseph Carvalho, Comte d'Oyeras, Marquis de Pombal, sous le Regne de Joseph I, Roi de Portugal. The gentleman had a lot of titles, so we will refer to him by his last one, Marquis of Pombal. The Marquis served in the government of King Joseph I from 1750-1777. He was very popular with the King, who appointed him Prime Minister in 1755. Pombal became the effective ruler of Portugal until Joseph's death. He instituted important reforms in economics and education, abolished slavery, and achieved much good. He also antagonized many others, notably the nobility and the Jesuits. He was dictatorial and prosecutorial, showing little sympathy for his opponents. He expelled the Jesuits from the country and confiscated their assets. His merciless treatment of opponents went over well with Joseph, but not his eldest daughter. When Joseph died in 1777, the new Queen, Maria I, quickly removed him from all authority. Pombal was forced into retirement (luxurious, though), where he remained until his death in 1782. This book is highly critical of Pombal, finding him oppressive and tyrannical. It was published in 1783, a date safe from retaliation as Pombal had died the year prior. £350 (US $518).

Item 91 is a travel tale by Englishman Henry Matthews: The Diary of an Invalid being the Journal of a Tour in Pursuit of Health in Portugal Italy Switzerland and France in the Years 1817 1818 and 1819. Matthews suffered from some unknown disease, and while the tour didn't seem to cure him, it did give him an opportunity to visit, and comment upon, many locations. Matthews can be entertaining and humorous, while feeling no constraints in expressing his opinions. Among his biting comments are, "the abominations of Lisbon are incapable of exaggeration," and, "here Christianity exhibits a system of idolatry much more revolting than the old Pagan worship." £150 (US $222).

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