Don Quixote, Illustrated
April 8, 2008 3:51 PM   Subscribe

Illustrated Quixote is a Brown University Library digital project--one of many inspired by the 400th anniversary of Don Quixote in 2005--that allows you to search/browse and view illustrations of Don Q produced between 1725 and 1884. There are a number of other excellent sites devoted to illustrations and paintings of the novels, as well as to the publishing history of the novel itself, notably The Cervantes Project, OSU's Digitized Historical Editions of Don Quixote, Georgetown U's Tilting at Windmills, and the Don Quixote de la Mancha digital exhibit.
posted by thomas j wise (8 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
The summer I skipped my required reading and read Quixote instead I'll always remember as one of the happiest of my life. But stay away from those old translations. There are many fine new ones out there since 1940.

Why did Nabokov hate it so?
posted by Faze at 5:27 PM on April 8, 2008

Holy crap, that's great stuff. I was, of course, drawn to the multilingual Digitized Historical Editions, but it's kind of a cheat, because some of them aren't digitized (Russian » In Linn Collection: Ostroumno-izobrietatel’nyi Idal’go Don’-Kikhot Lamanchskii. Petrograd : A.F. Marks, 1917? » ¦¦ Seeking digitized version) and others are part of Early English Books Online, which you have to be registered to use. But there's loads of stuff here to explore. Gracias doy por la merced que Vd. me hace, pues tan presto me pone ocasiones delante donde yo pueda coger el fruto de mis buenos deseos!
posted by languagehat at 5:31 PM on April 8, 2008

Faze: There's detailed discussion of that here; a bunch of interesting ideas are topped off with the teasing "Or perhaps the capping irony might be that Nabokov's criticism of Cervantes was meant to be ironic."

My rule of thumb is to pay attention to great writers' praise and ignore their condemnations. (I note that Nabokov also famously disliked Dostoevsky.)
posted by languagehat at 5:35 PM on April 8, 2008

As a Don Quixote lover, this is a jem. Thanks!
posted by octomato at 6:15 PM on April 8, 2008

Great post, thank you!

If any of you have wanted to read Don Quixote but haven't quite gotten around to it, drop me a line. On my personal website--that is, not the one in my profile--some friends and I have a "book club" and it just so happens we start Cervantes in a couple weeks. Don't expect the Algonquin Roundtable or anything--it's mostly just a reading schedule to keep us on track, a few stray thoughts every day, and a handful of snarky comments--but it can be better than reading alone. (Even though, with a lot of these books, it IS just me reading alone.)
posted by Ian A.T. at 6:20 PM on April 8, 2008

I'm not the first to state the Don Quixote shares with the Bible the distinction of being a book of which nearly everyone expresses a deep familiarity, but that nearly no one has actually read all the way through.

As I wrote my dissertation on Don Quixote in 18th-Century English literature, I kept this quotation taped to my computer monitor:
Don Quixote has been called the greatest novel ever written. This, of course, is nonsense.
Nabokov does a pretty good job of tearing apart the latter-day reverence for this violent and cruel book. It was only in 18th-Century England that the protagonist became a sympathetic vehicle for romanticism; before that, the Quixote character was seen as a dangerous buffoon. The reinterpretation (or, I would argue, misinterpretation) stems from the vastly different worldviews of our and Cervantes' age. We tend to admire rugged individualists, those who march to the beat of a different drummer. That wasn't so before the Romantics came about--before that, literature is full of stories about the necessity of reintegrating these folks into society where they can fulfill their duties to others.

From Henry Fielding to Dale Wasserman, authors have reinterpreted the story to suit their own purposes. That's not wrong, really, but one does have to look past these adaptations to see what Cervantes was really trying to to, which was to express scorn for the Don's absurdity.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:55 AM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

I read it for the first time, all the way through, about a year ago. I still remember coming up on one of the comic scenes: laughing softly at first and then exploding into full-on mania as the action unfolded. Not sure why*. In my ongoing read-the-entire-western-canon project, Don Quixote quickly moved to the top of my list of favorites.

* - Actually, I know why. The scene hinged on a fart joke. I'm simple like that.
posted by jquinby at 7:42 AM on April 9, 2008

Also: this collection has one of my all-time favorite Doré illustrations.
posted by jquinby at 7:47 AM on April 9, 2008

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