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The oldest copy of one of Shakespeare's plays in Spain is found in Andalucía

The search for the oldest examples of Shakespeare's work in Spain ended in Andalucía. The Famous History of the Life of King Henry VIII, dating back to 1632, was found in Seville

ALEKK M. SAANDERS

Just a couple of years ago a volume of the First Folio (a collection of 36 Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies) from the Royal English College of St Alban (Real Colegio de San Albano) in Valladolid, was considered the first work of Shakespeare to arrive in Spain.

This centre was founded in Valladolid in 1590 by Robert Persons, an English Jesuit, for training English priests in Catholic theology to combat the Anglicanism and Protestantism in the United Kingdom. The library of the college housed the First Folio until the beginning of the 20th century. Nowadays it is preserved in the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington.

It might have been Shakespeare himself who brought his work to Valladolid. That visit has been the subject of speculation for centuries

It might have been Shakespeare himself who brought his work to Valladolid. The idea that the English playwright could have visited this Spanish city in 1605 has been the subject of speculation for centuries. William Shakespeare could have travelled to Valladolid in the spring of 1605 on a peace mission as a member of a royal delegation. There is even a story that the English dramatist met Miguel Cervantes, who lived in Valladolid between 1603 and 1606 and where he was completing his novel, Don Quixote.

Two Noble Kinsmen from Salamanca

In September 2020, Professor John Stone from the University of Barcelona was working on a research project on the 18th-century philosophy and economics collection of the Royal Scots College (Real Colegio de Escoceses) in Salamanca.

There he unearthed a 1634 copy of Shakespeare's tragicomedy The Two Noble Kinsmen. It was written together with John Fletcher and considered to be Shakespeare's last play. This discovery was immediately considered the first of Shakespeare's works in print to have circulated in Spain.

Its arrival dated back to between 1641 and 1651, most likely either as part of a student's personal library or at the request of the first rector of the college, Hugh Semple. He was a friend of Lope de Vega and kept plays in his private library. There is another, more plausible hypothesis. It is believed that his plays were acquired around 1635 by a Scottish or English traveller who took with him some theatrical texts published at that time in Britain.

Henry VIII from Seville

But now it is claimed that the oldest preserved edition of Shakespeare's works in Spain is in Seville. His play The Famous History of the Life of King Henry VIII was found in the library at the San Francisco de Paula International School of Seville (Colegio Internacional de Sevilla San Francisco de Paula) in November 2020. The library belongs to a private school that was founded in Seville in 1886 and, together with its archives, has around 60,000 volumes and documents from the 13th to the 18th centuries.

The bard's play in Seville is the second edition of The Famous History of the Life of King Henry VIII and has been hidden from public view for centuries. It seems that after John Stone discovered a copy of the play in Salamanca, the principal of the San Francisco de Paula School Luis Rey Goñi, decided to check the date of the edition that they held.

The principal was happily surprised to realise that it dated back to 1632, two years earlier than The Two Noble Kinsmen in Salamanca. It is thought that the Seville copy was part of the First Folio from Valladolid and was separated from the rest, and taken to the Andalusian capital.