Historiography of Greek-Latin Literature in Spain 3 (HLGE3): Alfredo Adolfo Camús’ bequest

orla de camusHistoriography of Greek-Latin literature in Spain 3 (HLGE3): Alfredo Adolfo Camús’ bequest in the Historical Library Marqués de Valdecilla. A bibliographical and historiographical study, by FRANCISCO GARCÍA JURADO 

Since the nineteenth century, and above all, since the development of the discipline known as History of Greek and Latin literature, the study of the Classical Tradition is not possible without an appropriate historiographical approach, especially in relation to the institutions and the academic bibliography that enables a better knowledge of Antiquity. In this respect, the bequest of Alfredo Adolfo Camús (ca. 1817-1889), which is stored in the Historical Library Marqués de Valdecilla, is the perfect library collection for this kind of study, due to the exceptional nature of the bequest as well as of the compiler, who was professor of classical literature in the former Central University of Madrid. Setting aside the lost books, the bequest embraces more than one thousand works of a wide range of literary and historical topics, being especially significant the old and modern books dedicated to different aspects of classical Antiquity and Humanism. The date of publication of these surviving works spans from the beginning of the seventeenth century (but for an incunable of the end of the fifteenth century) to the end of the nineteenth century. In collaboration with the Historical Library Marqués de Valdecilla, we will carry out a systematic study of this rich bibliographical collection attending to these two aspects:

a) Its historical and bibliographical value, in order to study the collection as it is, as well as the different circumstances that determined its arrival to the university library.

b) Its historiographical value, in order to reconstruct the thought of this eminent professor of the Central University of Madrid, starting from his readings and his work, as well as other preserved documents.

Our aims can be summarized in the following sections:

1) Documentary reconstruction of the bequest and its history, from the first attempts to get it sold to its final registration in the library of MadridUniversity at the beginning of the twentieth century. Likewise, the characteristics of this bequest will be compared to others, such as Marqués de Morante’s, which is known thanks to the Catalogus librorum doctoris D. Joach. Gómez de la Cortina, March. de Morante, qui in aedibus suis extant (Matriti, apud Eusebium Aguado, 1854-1870). It is also mandatory the study of “Camús’ bequest” as an exceptional library of a scholar and bibliophile of the period from the eighteenth to the nineteenth century. We will also determine, as much as possible, the characteristics of the lost books.

2) A systematic study of the Greek and Latin literary works included in this bequest, from the Bodonian editions of the eighteenth century to the most modern ones. This study will allow us to define a “liberal” cannon of the Greek-Latin literature (particularly determined by the comedies or Aristophanes and Plautus) and the ancient Christian literature.

3) The analysis of the books related to the “Renaissance” and the historiographical coining of this term in the mid of the nineteenth century. In this sense, Camús’ bequest is essential in order to reconstruct the literary History of Renaissance developed by the professor in his lectures delivered in the Scientific and Literary Athenaeum. Three different lines of research will be established: (a) Humanism and Renaissance, (b) the Reformation, the Erasmism and the History of the Printing Press, and (c) the Spanish Golden Age and the Sacred Oratory.

4) The analysis of the modern literary works stored in the Library. This analysis will lead to determine in a very precise way Camús’ literary and aesthetical preferences: Manzoni, Goethe, Stern, Poe, Musset, etc. These preferences will have a great influence in his disciples –some of whom later became very well-known writers, such as Peréz Galdós or Clarín.

5) A systematic study of the academic handbooks included in his bequest: Histories of Literature and works of grammar. This study will allow us to establish a relationship between these books and Camús’ teaching work in the field of Rhetoric, History of Literature and Grammar. The analysis of the classnotes taken from his lectures, and in particular the notes taken by students such as Pérez Galdós and Canalejas, will be of great interest and may lead to the discovery of new classnotes.

6) The analysis of books related to erudition, which will be considered from the twofold viewpoint of erudite works in general (seventeenth and eighteenth century), the philological studies, the historical studies, and the studies of Orientalism developed in the nineteenth century. This analysis will allow us to identify the influences and transfers of thought and European philology in Camús’ work (i. e., the influence of the critic Sainte-Beuve and the studies of Humanism emerged in France). It will be also very important to examine the catalogue of philosophical, scientific and historical works written by authors such as Francis Bacon, Matías Gesner and Jules Michelet. Finally, we will focus on Camús’ fascination for Egypt and ancient Orient, as it is reflected in his bequest.

The project we apply for follows the most recent guidelines to study the origins of historical holdings of books, as well as those related to the reconstruction of authors’ lines of thought from the analysis of their personal collections. After many years of teaching in the Central University of Madrid and the Scientific and Literary Athenaeum, Alfredo Adolfo Camus became a key figure in the nineteenth century Spain in order to understand how the classics were disseminated among intellectuals, politicians and writers of that time. As a UCM Research Group, and in consistency with our previous historiographical studies (projects HLGE0, HLGE1 and HLGE2), the new project HLGE3 aims at defining the relationship between the classical studies and their intellectual history in modern times, by analyzing one of the most singular bibliographical bequest and a key author who is essential in order to understand the knowledge of classical literature in Spain during the nineteenth century.


Prof. Dr. Francisco García-Jurado

Catedrático de filología latina en la Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Dirige el Grupo UCM de investigación "Historiografía de la literatura grecolatina en España"

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