THE first Shakespeare play to ever arrive in Spain has been discovered in Salamanca, experts believe.
John Stone, professor at the University of Barcelona (UB), says he has found the country’s first copy of a work by William Shakespeare, dating back to the early 1600s.
According to UB, the discovery was made while working on research in the 18th century philosophy and economics collection at the Royal Scots College of Salamanca.
Stone found among the old books a 1634 print of the tragicomedy The Two Noble Kinsmen, written together with John Fletcher, which is thought to be Shakespeare’s last work.
This first edition of Shakespeare’s play was included in a volume made up of a total of 19 English plays, mostly printed between 1630 and 1635.
“It is most likely that the works were acquired around 1635 by some English or Scottish traveller who, before leaving his country, wanted to take some theatrical texts published at that time in the British Isles, or at the request of the first rector of the Royal College of the Scots, Hugh Semple, who had more plays in his private library,” Stone said.
“Collections of English books were rare in 17th and 18th century Spain, and specifically those of English theatre were exceptional.”
Indeed, the Collective Catalogue of the Spanish Bibliographic Heritage does not record any copies of plays in English printed before 1720.
Historical data however, permits a reconstruction of how the play ended up in Salamanca.
The Royal Scots College was founded in Madrid in July 1627, by Scottish Colonel William Semple. By the 1630s English plays were increasingly associated with elite culture, and Rector Semple, due to his political ambitions, would have most probably requested them as a way to stay in touch with the cultural life of London.
The plays went from the original headquarters in Madrid to the building of the College of the Irish in Alcala de Henares, where they remained from 1767 to 1770.
They were later moved to the headquarters of the Royal College of Scots in Valladolid (1770-1985), and finally to the Royal College of Scots in Salamanca, where they have now been discovered.
The only copy that could dispute Stone’s discovery of being Shakespeare’s first work in Spain is a volume located in the Real Colegio de San Albano, in Valladolid, currently kept in the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington.
Scholars date the arrival in Spain of the Valladolid copy between 1641 and 1651.
If the work found by Stone arrived before 1640, it would indeed be the first printed work of Shakespeare to have circulated in Spain.