Rare Book Monthly
Book Catalogue Reviews - September - 2007 Issue
Spain, Its Neighbors, and Latin America 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.