Wednesday, October 14, 2015


A Suspected Book Thief

M.A. Buchanan, "Book Collecting," University of Toronto Monthly 31 (January 1931) 177-187 (at 183-184):
[Bartolomé José] Gallardo [1776-1852], in a nation of bibliographers, is the greatest of them all. It may be doubted indeed whether he has anywhere had his peer. He was interested in books largely for their contents which he transcribed accurately. His bibliophilism was vehement, his character irascible, his tongue and pen sharp. In consequence, he made many enemies for himself, and this may explain away the charges of book thieving laid against him. At any rate he has been the subject of an interesting sonnet and some anecdotes. The sonnet is by Estébanez Calderon and reads as follows:
Ha! cacus, cuckoo, bibliopirate, bat,
Pincer of volumes, filcher, magpie, rook,
Out of my papers get your sneaking crook,
You ferret, bookworm, borer, moth, and rat!
Weasel with sabre-claws, librivorous cat,
Loader of treasures with your crane and hook,
Algiers of libraries, galley of the book,
My shelves are shores that you depopulate.
Your belt can stow an archive: for a tie
You wear a Gladstone bag; your pockets hide
A Vatican, and never look awry.
A thirsty sponge you are; and if the wide
Atlantic were one sea of books, you'd sop
It dry within an hour, nor spill a drop.
                      —Trans. S.G. Morley, Sat. Rev., March, 1927.
The Colombina Library in Seville, the famous collection made by Christopher Columbus' bookloving son, Ferdinand, had a very rare manuscript cancionero, which Gallardo coveted. Gallardo, who used to study there, wrote marginal notes on the manuscript, and then spread the insinuation that the manuscript had been stolen from him and bought by the Colombina Library. The naive but honest librarian examined the copy, was convinced by Gallardo's marks of ownership and handed over to him the precious work.

According to another story, the keepers of the Chapter Library of the cathedral of Toledo became weary of watching Gallardo while working in their library, and as there were no other readers, decided to lock him up in the library each morning and examine him upon leaving in the afternoon. This method worked very well, until one day it was discovered that books were being thrown from a window and picked up by a boy who carried them to Gallardo's lodgings. According to Puigblanch, Gallardo was denied access to English private collections because of suspicions which he aroused. Gallardo, this unfriendly critic explained, believed that English libraries were rich in old Spanish books because Drake had carried them off in the sixteenth century, and felt justified in restoring them to his native land. Drake sacked Spanish cities like Cadiz and took away valuable loot, but one would like to have better evidence of his bibliophilism.
The original sonnet, from Poesías de D.S. Estébanez Calderón (El Solitario) (Madrid: A. Pérez Dubrull, 1888), p. 335:

                                  DE S. M.

Caco, cuco, faquín, biblio-pirata;
Tenaza de los libros, chuzo, púa;
De papeles, aparte lo ganzúa,
Hurón, carcoma, polilleja, rata.
    Uñilargo, garduño, garrapata,
Para sacar los libros cabria, grúa;
Argel de bibliotecas, gran falúa,
Armada en corso, haciendo cala y cata.
    Empapas un archivo en la bragueta;
Un Simancas te cabe en el bolsillo;
Te pones por corbata una maleta.
    Juegas del dos, del cinco y por tresillo;
Y al fin te beberás como una sopa,
Llenas de libros, África y Europa.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

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