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Online exhibition with historic books

From th 19th of April to the 23rd of May

Exposición temporal

Biblioteca del marqués

For World Book Day, the Museo del Greco shows this online exhibition with a selection from the book collecion of the marquis of Vega-Inclan. Every year we search into our founder's library to travel back in time, get to know his time period and the fascination El Greco and Toledo sparked at the beginning of the 20th century.

This year, and with our Book Club, we go back to the 17th century. With the title "17th c. from Toledo to the world", in the Book Club we presented works that help us understand how other cultures were viewed in the 17th century by Castille. The works are: La judia de Toledo (The Jewish from Toledo) by Antonio Mira de Amescua, Viaje de Turquía (Journey to Turkey), anonymous, and, last but not least, Relacion del Japon (Account of Japan) by Rodrigo de Vivero. With these books we try to understand how Toledo's society at El Greco's time might have viewed him, a foreigner who partly used his exostism to sell his works. In the Museum's historic library we can find books that complement and give nuances to the works read in the Book Club, like the following ones.

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Noticia histórico-chronológica, de los privilegios de las nobles familias de los mozárabes de la imperial ciudad de Toledo (Historical-chronological account of the privileges of the noble Mozarabic families of the imperial city of Toledo)

  • Camino y Velasco, Pedro
  • 1740
  • 32p.

The first book we bring forward is related to Toledo's legend of the jewish from Toledo. At the start of 2021 the Book Club read one version of this legend: the play by Antonio Mira de Amescua.

The Mozarabic population was a cultural minority which, like the Jews, was an important part of Toledo's society during the Middle Ages. The name "Mozarabic" appears related to Christians who lived in Muslim territories and, at some point of the Middle Ages, ended up living in Christian kingdoms, but keeping customs and traditions of Muslim cultures. In Toledo the Mozarabics have a charter of privileges since the times of Alfonso VI, who gave them the so-called Carta firmitatis in 1101. Later kings confirmed or increased these privileges, and the Mozarabic population starts appearing in documents as "Mozarabic knights" and/or "Mozarabic noble families" implying that an important part of this group had a high social status. If we study the Toledo of Alfonso VIII, we would have to study the different social groups that made up Toledo's society, among them the Jews and the Mozarabics. But, despite the importance of this Mozarabic group, in Mira de Amescua's work there is no mention of them. As we discused in the Book Club, this play has very few medieval elements, in fact the few settings described seem to belong to the 17th century, when the work was written, more than the Middle Ages.

Likewise, the Account kept in our library, although with data about the Mozarabics of medieval times, is written in 1740, probably because the privileges of this group, now completely integrated in the castillian-latin culture, are about to dissapear. In 1740 Toledo's Mozarabics' privileges are confirmed for the last time and, in the same year, this Account is written and dedicated to the prince Luis de Borbon, archbishop of Toledo and the king's brother. Maybe in 1740 it was already clear that times were changing, and the old privileges, despite their historical tradition, were not going to continue as they were.

The Account as well as Mira de Amescua's play are both works that talk about the medieval past of specific groups, minorities, but from the perspective and for reasons related to the Early Modern times, not the Middle Ages they refer to.

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Rudimentos de arqueología sagrada (Rudiments for Sacred Archaeology)

  • Villa-almil y Castro, Jose
  • Lugo: Imprenta de Soto Freire, 1867
  • 218p.

This interesting book collects the works of Jose Villa-almil y Castro, one of the trailblazers in scientifically cataloguing and investigating religious objeccts, buildings, and decorations in our country. Jose Villa-almil (or Villaalmil) y Castro spent most of his live in Galizia, therefore his studies focus on the monuments of the area. His draftmanship side can be seen in the book, as well as in the five drawing keep in the Real Academia Gallega (Galizian Royal Academy).

The drawings and comments of Jose Villa-almil y Castro about religiuos buildings, as well as the objetcs and decorations of eastern churches, perfectly complement the anonymous novel El viaje de Turquía (Journey to Turkey) which we have just finished reading at the Book Club. Being dialogue novel, there are not any descriptions, nonetheless the author, through their characters' voices, mentions different types of walls and decorations of the hospital lining the Camino de Santiago, as well as relics, and even elements found in Greek churches or Italian hospitals. Maybe some of the churches and hospitals described by Villa-almil are the same ones the author of El viaje was thinking when creating the novel. For example, whichever hospital the author was thinking while writing Matalas Callando saying "... we found ourselves with three thousand escudos to wall the hospitals (...) and so all of it left our hands with ten porphyry and as many tiles." (Translated loosely by the Museum)

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Código de comercio para las Islas Filipinas y demás archipiélagos españoles de Oceanía (Code of commerce for the Philippine Islands and other Spanish archipelagos in Oceania)

  • Ministerio de Ultramar
  • Madrid: Imprenta de Ramón Moreno y Ricardo Rojas, 1888
  • 299p.; 23cm

In the book La relación del Japón, Rodrigo de Vivero recounts the vicissitudes he, as Governor and Captain General of the Philippines, underwent in 1609 while travelling back to New Spain, when his ship was shipwrecked in Japan. To contextualize the relations between Spain and the Philippines, we have rescued two key works: on the one hand, “Código de Comercio para las islas Filipinas y demás archipiélagos españoles de Oceanía” (1888); on the other, “Catálogo del Museo-Biblioteca de Ultramar” (1900).

The relations between both countries come into existence when the Philippine islands were discovered by Magellan in 1521, initiating a process that would end abruptly in 1898, within the framework of the Spanish-American war, and that would lead, after the signing of the Treaty of Paris, December 10th, to the loss of the colonies of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. During almost four centuries, the Philippines become an important Spanish stronghold in Asia, ruled at the beginning from the viceroyalty of New Spain and granting the islands the rank of Captaincy General. The communication and trade of exotic products was established through the Manila Galleon, which served as a link between American, Asian and European cultures, through the ports of Acapulco, Manila and Seville, merging and spreading ideas, materials, techniques and styles.

The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 allowed large-scale trade, shortening time and distance, compared to the routes that previously forced the passage through the Cape of Good Hope. Given the characteristics of the eastern colonies, basic rules were established and were compiled in the “Código de Comercio para las islas Filipinas y demás archipiélagos españoles de Oceanía”. This work specifies that the above-mentioned codes “are only variants required by the geographical position, the diverse nomenclature of positions and official publications and by the special nature of the titles or credit documents that circulate in the Philippines”. The title includes other archipelagos, mainly Jolo, Mariana islands, Palau and Caroline islands, all which from an administrative point of view were controlled from Manila.

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Museo-Biblioteca de Ultramar: catálogo de la biblioteca (Overseas Museum-Library: Library catalogue)

  • Madrid: Sucesora de M. Minuesa de los Ríos, 1900
  • 350p.; 28cm

The following work, also rescued from the Marquis’s library and published in 1900 is “Museo-Biblioteca de Ultramar: catálogo de la Biblioteca”. The Ministry of Overseas was established in 1863, with the need to regulate and administer the territories beyond the seas, both in America and in Asia. A few years later, in 1887, the Museum-Library was created with a double objective: on the one hand, to publicise the history, culture and products of overseas; and on the other, to promote the organization of exhibitions, while strengthening commercial ties. When this cultural institution disappeared, the funds were distributed among the Museo de América, the Biblioteca Nacional and the Museo Arqueológico Nacional.

Among the exhibitions that took place within the framework of the Museo de Ultramar, we must mention the Exposición General de Filipinas, that was held in 1887 in the Crystal Palace of the Retiro Park. The importance of this event was such that in 2017 the Museo Nacional de Antropología decided to commemorate it with a new exhibition, presented from a very different perspective, in order to assess and also reflect on the realities presented, the different cultures and the relations between Spain, as a metropolis and mother country compared to the Philippines, a rich colony in resources and materials, but remote, largely unknown and backward.

Obviously the political, religious and cultural development of the Philippines is, to a very large extent, the result of the relationships established with Spain. We would like to think that both nations nurtured in a cultural exchange that began in the 16th century and endures today.

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Catálogo general de la exposición histórico-americana de Madrid (General catalogue of the historical-american exhibition in Madrid)

  • Madrid: Est. Tip. Sucesores de Rivadeneyra, 1893
  • 23cm

Although in the Book Club we don't have enough time to read about America, we can't forget this continent when talking about the view of the "other" by Castille. So, in this virtual exhibition, we make a small homage to this continent with two books.

The exhibition of the General Catalogue is the well-known exhibition of 1892, celebrated in what is now the MAN (National Archaeological Museum) for the 400th Anniversary of Colon's journey. If you want to know more about this exhibition, the MAN created an online catalogue about it.

The Catalogue is also online through Cervantes Virtual.

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Crónica de la expedición Iglesias al Amazonas (Chronicle of the Iglesias expedition to the Amazon)

  • Iglesias y Brage, Francisco
  • Madrid: Centro de Estudios Históricos, 1933
  • 57p.

This Chronicle falls within a different historical period. The Iglesias expeditionw as a proyect by Iglesias Brague with the Sociedad Geográfica (Geographical Society) and backing of the II Republic. Its objetive was the geographical, cartographical, botanical, zoological, and ethnographic study of the Amazon. At last, this expedition never happened, but the information collected for it was published in the Anteproyect, as well as in this Chronicle. The Chronicle was written when the expedition, seemingly about to start, is ground to a stop while the last finishing touches are being made, and while Iglesias Brague is mediating, in behalf of the UN, in the conflict between Peru and Colombia for the Letizia territories, one of the areas where the expedition expected to travel.

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