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Letter from Merimée (1846)

Research at the ACA (19th century) Pulse para ampliar Research at the ACA (19th century)
Research at the ACA (19th century) Pulse para ampliar Research at the ACA (19th century)
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Pròsper de Bofarull

The archive as a research centre

Próspero de Bofarull (1777-1859), archivist and director of the Archive of the Crown of Aragon between 1814 and 1849, marks a turning point in the institution's seven centuries of history. He is responsible for the completion of its transformation, from an administrative body to a scientific and cultural centre at the service of history.

He introduced changes in the regulatory practice of the archive, which until then had been closed to literati and historians, which in his opinion was a policy “unbecoming of an enlightened and just government,” as he said in 1820, proposing that “any person of known integrity may enter the Archive during office hours to do research on the subject or item made available to them, but, with the corresponding permission of the archivist. And for the handling of the originals, the king's permission will be requested through the Ministry of the Interior.” He was ahead of the Spanish government itself, which did not even adopt any timid opening measures for the national archives until 1844. Bofarull advocated for greater liberalization of consultations. And, with the legal limitations of his time, he opened up the archive to research and culture.

Manuel de Bofarull

He was also an intellectual that was knowledgeable about the main historiographic and scholarly currents of the time, which enabled him to correspond with some of the most prominent national and international researchers.

His son, Manuel de Bofarull (1816-1892), who succeeded him in office in 1850, followed the standard of scientific curiosity and of treating visitors well. In the letters from users, they praise the friendly studying atmosphere created by the second Bofarull, with the ACA even being defined by a French scholar as the “archive of courtesy.”

Correspondence with great scholars

In the 19th century, the ACA gained international fame and began to be consulted, both in person and by correspondence, by researchers from all over the world, especially from France, Germany and Italy. The list of historians who consulted or wrote to the archive includes the great names of scholarship at the time: Tomás Muñoz y Romero, Adolfo Bonilla, Marcelino Menéndez y Pelayo, Pascual Gayangos, Francisco Codera, Francisco Danvila, Julián Ribera, Roque Chabás, Jaume Massó y Torrents, Antonio Rubió y Lluch, Eduardo Hinojosa, Josep Sanchis Sivera, Andrés Giménez Soler. The list also includes foreign personalities such as Prosper Mérimée –who maintained correspondence and friendship with Prospero de Bofarull–, Morel Fatio, Desdevises du Dezert, Joseph Calmette, Emilio Huebner, Heinrich Finke, Rudolf Beer, Carini, La Mantia, and many others. For all of them and many others, the archive preserves scholarly and personal correspondence with their directors.

Prosper Mérimée

Prosper Mérimée

Prosper Mérimée (1803-1870) was a French novelist, playwright, historian and archaeologist, best known for his novel “Carmen”, which Georges Bizet transformed into one of the most famous French operas. In 1846, after finishing the novel, Mérimée had begun to write the history of King Peter I of Castile, whose figure impressed the romantic author, publishing it in 1848. He researched in various Spanish archives and libraries until he was informed that in Barcelona there was an important repository of medieval documentation. The archivist sent him valuable information for the novel, such as a copy of the autograph pact signed in Monzón in 1361 between Pedro IV of Aragon and the Count of Trastámara, the future Henry II of Castile. Mérimée travelled to Barcelona, where he was well received by the Bofarulls, with whom he maintained a long intellectual and personal friendship.

Among the letters preserved by the Archive of the Crown of Aragon, there is one of friendship and recognition addressed to Prospero de Bofarull, with the details of some mutual consultations and recounting his return from Barcelona to Paris.

ACA,Secretaría,127 (1) Pulse para ampliar ACA,Secretaría,127 (1)
ACA,Secretaría,127 (2) Pulse para ampliar ACA,Secretaría,127 (2)
ACA,Secretaría,127 (3) Pulse para ampliar ACA,Secretaría,127 (3)
ACA,Secretaría,127 (4) Pulse para ampliar ACA,Secretaría,127 (4)


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Bibliography: J. Ernesto Martínez Ferrando, Próspero de Bofarull y Próspero Mérimée (una amistad ejemplar), Reus, 1954.