This week I had the pleasure of having one of my questions that came up at the beginning of this assignment answered. When I first visited “Don Quixote” in the Special Collections, I wondered what the significance of it being in 6 separate books was and if the reading experience would be different if the story was delivered in less volumes. The preface that is present in first book is an assurance delivered by the RAE that this novel is up to its standards. In addition, it also points out that Cervantes originally published Volume1 in 1605 and later published Volume 2 in 1615 alongside Volume 1. This separation of the novel when it was originally written seems to be honored in this case (the version of “Don Quixote” in our Special Collections was published in 1787) despite there being six physical books. This is apparent because books 1-3 have “Part 1” in Spanish at the top of every page, and books 3-4 have “Part 2” at the top of every page. With this in mind, I think “Don Quixote” was split into six books for aesthetic and practical purposes. I personally think working with 6 small books is easier than working with one gargantuan beast of a codex. And I suppose the gilding and leather-like appearance of the spines make the six petite books a sight to behold.
This leaves the question: What is the RAE? This is where my research coincides with our readings in class! In the Gaskell readings regarding print, it states that fidelity to proper spelling, punctuation, and original manuscripts was not always guaranteed. Apart from the manuscripts themselves containing errors, it was up to the printers to ensure the quality of each book. While “larger businesses employed professional correctors,” smaller businesses were often left to their own devices (111). This means that there was no dedicated organization that oversaw major printing endeavors. This is where the RAE comes in. A visit to the official RAE website reveals that it stands for Real Academia Espanola; it is the official royal institution overseeing the Spanish language. This means that any novel that is affiliated with this organization will have above average quality. And indeed, in the back of every one of the six books at the Special Collections there is a catalog of every correction that has occurred since “Don Quixote” was published.
Another quirk of “Don Quixote” is that I find it to be almost the exact opposite of Hamlet. Hamlet’s publication history is shrouded in mystery (the Q1 is vastly different from Q2, and the F1 is a combination of the Q2 and various other sources. Furthermore, the Q1 has been dubbed “The bad quarto” in earlier years despite being an authoritative source.) Well, recently the Norton has printed the Q1 alongside the Q2, the F1, and a version of Hamlet that encompasses all of its authoritative sources. The issue with Hamlet is that no one is sure which one is the “true” Hamlet. I put “true” in quotations because I personally believe (thanks to our professors) that all three versions we have are equally authoritative. Back to “Don Quixote.” The REA gives ensures a surprisingly thorough history of Don Quixote’s publication history by listing all of its alterations in the back of the 1787 version. I am super excited to find out more about the RAE’s role in the book in our Special Collections. As a final note, I would like to say that I am enjoying working on this project immensely. I find it very fulfilling that I can read the Spanish I encounter with relative ease. I hope I can do “Don Quixote” justice.