Pet Book #1: Don Quixote

The Pet Book, or perhaps books, that I have chosen is El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quixote de La Mancha by Miguel Cervantes Saavedra. Admittedly, I have encountered this text before, albeit briefly. However, I have definitely not worked extensively with it. At most, I have read maybe three chapters from it. Considering that the entire story of Don Quixote spans about 1000 pages depending on which edition one is reading, three chapters still leaves me with plenty of unfamiliarity.

One thing that I am interested in is the way a story develops across such a gargantuan length. Questions that I have are: are there multiple climaxes? Do main characters rotate in and out as the story goes on? Also, does the fact that this particular edition is split across six separate, physical books affect the way the reader perceives the story? Would one walk away with similar feelings if the story was read in one bound book?

Another factor that influenced me when choosing a book is the language that the text is in: Spanish. I am curious to find out whether or not I can bring in some personal insight when analyzing the book. I am also eager to find out if there is another language here besides Spanish.

In this 1787 edition of Don Quixote, the story is split across six volumes.  Each volume is of similar length, which makes me wonder what the basis was when deciding where to split each book. Each book has a plain, brown cover with no text on it; however, the titles on the spines are covered with either fake gilding or real gilding that has not aged well. Perhaps these volumes were meant to be sold or displayed together in a pack that did not allow for inspection of the individual books. In their prime, the rows of fake gilding would make for an impressive scene similar to the books sold on train stations that were shown in class. When the books are closed the pages stacked on top of each other are red. The beginning and ending of each book contains marbling. Also worth noting is the crest in the beginning of each book. It reads, “Limpia, Fija, y Da Esplendor.” A rough translation of this is, “Clean, Fixed, and Creates Brilliance.” For now this is all I am willing to reveal about the crest. I hope to explore it further in future postings!

Volume 1 is the most peculiar one out of the six. First of all, over half of it is dedicated to a biography of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. Furthermore, the biography contains the only colored illustration in all six volumes (the illustration is a colored portrait of the author). The rest of the illustrations are in black and white, and from what I can tell they are all of scenes described in the novel; they appear about every 70 pages or so. In my opinion, the coolest thing about Don Quixote also lies within volume 1. The third to last page contains a map, presumably of Don Quixote’s journey, with marks of ownership; Don Quixote’s path seems to have been outlined with red watercolors. So far, this is the only sign of ownership that I have found.

I am looking forward to getting familiar with this book. For the longest time I have wanted to read Don Quixote de La Mancha. Being able to research a book from the eighteenth century is the cherry on top.

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