Ancient Poetry and Romances of Spain …

London, for Taylor and Hessey, 1824.

8vo, pp. xvi, 328; ink ownership inscription of Thomas Bowring, dated Brooklyn, 1879, to the front flyleaf; a good copy in 19th century green half morocco, upper edge gilt, the others uncut, spine gilt, lightly rubbed.


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First edition. Bowring had long had a soft spot for Spain (‘I love Spain as a country, and Spaniards as a people. In other lands I single out special objects for my regard … in Spain, my affections pervade and cling to the whole population’, London Magazine, 1823, quoted in Hitchcock). He first went there in 1813, aged 21, on business, and his first writings, beginning with ‘Some Account of the State of the Prisons in Spain and Portugal’ (Pamphleteer, 1813), are all about the Peninsula.

Bowring was an early translator of traditional Spanish romances. ‘The popular poetry of Spain is … especially interesting, because it is truly national. Its influence has, perhaps, served more than any other circumstance to preserve, from age to age, the peculiar characteristics of the Spanish nation. Their language, their habitual thoughts and feelings, their very existence, have all borrowed the hues of their romantic songs’ (p. vi).

Provenance: Thomas Bowring (1847–1915) was the grandson of Benjamin Bowring (a cousin of Sir John), who ran the New York office of the family shipping business.

Palau 34236. Richard Hitchcock, ‘John Bowring, Hispanist and translator of Spanish poetry’, Sir John Bowring 1792–1872: Aspects of his Life and Career. Papers delivered at a conference held at the University of Exeter on 16–17 October 1992 …, ed. Joyce Youings (1993), pp. 43–53.

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