"THE SPIRIT OF THE ORIGINAL": THOMAS SHELTON'S FIRST ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF CERVANTES' MASTERPIECE
CERVANTES SAAVEDRA, Miguel de. (SHELTON, Thomas, translator). The History of the Valorous and Witty Knight-Errant Don Quixote of the Mancha. London: Macmillan and Co., 1908. Three volumes. Large octavo, contemporary three-quarter red polished calf gilt, black morocco spine labels, marbled endpapers, top edges gilt. $1950.
"Library of English Classics" edition of Thomas Shelton's vigorous first translation of both parts of Don Quixote into English, originally published 1612-20—the first translation of Don Quixote into any language, which still captures "the spirit of the original." Handsomely bound.
"A universal classic and arguably the greatest book ever written in Spanish… Under the guise of a parody on romances of chivalry, Cervantes created a study of reality and illusion, madness and sanity, that links him with such acute 16th-century students of psychology as Erasmus, Rabelais, Montaigne and Shakespeare" (Folger's Choice 30). In 1607 Thomas Shelton, "acquiring a knowledge of Spanish, at the request of 'a very deere friend that was desirous to understand the subject,' translated the first part of the Historie of Don-Quixote. The task only occupied him 40 days. The first part of Cervantes' novel originally appeared at Madrid early in 1605… But after his friend had glanced at his rendering Shelton cast it aside, where it lay 'for a long time neglected in a corner.' At the end of four or five years, 'at the entreaty of friends, Shelton was content to let it come to light'… The book immediately achieved the popularity that Cervantes' work has always retained in [England]… In 1615 Cervantes published in Madrid his second part of Don Quixote and this appeared in English in 1620 for the first time, also translated by Shelton. "Though Shelton's version bears many traces of haste, and he often seizes with curious effect the English word that is nearest the sound of the Spanish in defiance of its literal meaning, he reproduces in robust phraseology the spirit of the original, and realizes Cervantes' manner more nearly than any successor" (DNB). The "Library of English Classics" edition first appeared in 1900.
A handsomely bound edition in fine condition.