Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - September - 2007 Issue

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.

Rare Book Monthly

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