From the Collection: Don Quixote

Mon, 12/03/2018 - 12:42pm -- baglio

From the Collection: Don Quixote

This Collections Blog is the second in a series of blogs from our Salve Regina volunteer, Clare Daly.


The Redwood Library’s copy of Don Quixote is one of two novels (The other being Henry Fielding's The History of the Adventures of Joseph Andrews, and his friend Mr. Abraham Adams. : Written in Imitation of the Manner of Cervantes, Author of Don Quixote.) included in the original collection.  It dates back to 1725, like the orginial held at the Redwood. The copy seen here, that resides in the Harrison Room of the library is an exact replacement of the original.

The handwritten notation in our original 1750 Catalouge for the library's copy of Motteaux's Don Quixote (photo courtesy of Michelle Farias)

When the British occupied Newport during the Revolutionary War, they deprived about half of the collection from the Redwood, including Don Quixote. The novel was a marker of the Spanish Golden Age and is often considered one of the best fictional works of all time. It was originally published in two parts in 1605 and 1615, written by Miguel Cervantes. The story takes place in Spain in towns called La Mancha and El Toboso and follows Alonso Quixano on his travels to complete his quest to become a knight and a vigilante despite his middle age. Cervantes wrote the novel in an older version of Spanish influenced by the Old Castilian language. The first known English translation was in 1612 by Thomas Shelton. Since then, it has been translated into over 50 languages. Don Quixote is responsible for one of English’s most-used idioms: “the proof is in the pudding”. Though it started out as a different phrase in the original novel, it has evolved to the one we use today.

In 1965, “Man of La Mancha” a play inspired by the book, opened on Broadway. It won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and has been revived four times since its original production. “Man of La Mancha” was made into a film in 1972 starring Sophia Loren and Peter O’Toole. Despite the legacy and success of the novel, Cervantes made very little money from it; it is was not customary for writers to paid during this time period.

The Redwood Library is home to many more 18th century texts, perfect for the history or literary buff in your life! Sign up for a reference appointment here to see some of these wonderful texts today!