Rare Spanish plays on display

Theatregoers, from the cover of ‘Una cabeza de ministro!’ (1847)

The Library has recently acquired a remarkable collection of 1,852 comedias sueltas; these are short plays printed in Spain between the seventeenth and the nineteenth century, generally on poor-quality paper, and mostly unbound. A selection of these is currently on display in the Library Entrance Hall cases.

In Spain, the term comedias was used for full-length plays, both serious and comic. The new collection contains works by major playwrights of the eighteenth century (such as Luciano Francisco Comella, José de Cañizares and Gaspar de Zavala y Zamora), re-workings of Golden Age classics (featuring Pedro Calderón de la Barca, Lope de Vega and Tirso de Molina), plays by authors of the canon (including Leandro Fernández de Moratín, Francisco Martínez de la Rosa, Juan Eugenio Hartzenbusch, Bretón de los Herreros, José Zorrilla, Manuel Tamayo y Baus, and López de Ayala), some translations and adaptations of European plays, and a number of plays by minor dramatists, whose works are very rare. Most of the sueltas are in Spanish, the majority belonging to the nineteenth century.

This new collection of sueltas makes an important addition to the recently digitized collection of over 2,500 pliegos sueltos, which can be viewed on the Cambridge Digital Library. It will be invaluable to scholars interested in drama production, the study of social history of theatre, the literary trends of the period, and modern Spanish popular culture more broadly. The collection is also important from a bibliographical perspective, as it provides scope for the study of publishing and printing in Spain in the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries.

This exhibition complements our major exhibition Read all about it! Wrongdoing in Spain and England in the Long Nineteenth Century, which includes a selection of pliegos sueltos and Spanish broadsides discussing morality, crime, punishment and society. The Entrance Hall display can be viewed during Library opening hours, and runs until Saturday 16 November.

Guest author: Sonia Morcillo-Garcia, Hispanic Specialist

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.