“THE FIRST EUROPEAN NOVEL”: FIRST ENGLISH EDITION OF LA CELESTINA, 1631
ROJAS, Fernando de. (MABBE, James, translator). The Spanish Bawd, Represented in Celestina: or, the Tragicke-Comedy of Calisto and Melibea. London: Robert Allot, 1631. Small folio, early full sheep, renewed endpapers.
Rare first complete edition in English of this classic tragicomedy of the Spanish Renaissance.
Fernando de Rojas’ novel written entirely in dialogue is a classic of Spanish literature and is generally considered to mark the beginning of the Renaissance in Spanish letters. “Often considered the first European novel, La Celestina was profoundly influential in the development of European prose fiction and is valued by critics today as much for its greatness as literature as for its historical significance” (Encyclopedia of Literature, 222). The author Rojas was a converted Jewish lawyer about whom little else is known. La Celestina was originally published anonymously in 1499; only the 1500 second edition acknowledged Rojas as the author. Translator James Mabbe lived for several years in Madrid as secretary to Sir John Digby, the English ambassador to Spain. In addition to this translation of La Celestina, Mabbe also translated Mateo Alemán’s The Rogue, or the Life of Guzmán de Alfarache, and the Exemplary Novels of Miguel de Cervantes. John Rastell published an “adaptation” of the first four acts only in 1535—Mabbe’s is the first complete translation into English of the entire 21 acts of Rojas’ work. Leaves Q2 and Q3 bound out of order, but present; text complete. STC 4911. Engraved bookplate of the Skene Library of the Dukes of Fife.
Last leaf torn, with part of the final 12 lines of text on the recto supplied in neat handwritten facsimile on the recto; verso with border only supplied, text intact. Two ink smudges to title page. Light wear to early sheep. An extremely good copy of this influential work.