1 June 2021 Susannah

Meet A Book Addict – Dr Ben Haneman

I know that many of my readers can easily visit the State Library of NSW. Do you know about the collection there amassed by Dr Ben Haneman over the course of 30 years? He collected editions of Cervantes’ Don Quixote and gathered together over 1000 different editions of that great novel. The oldest was published in 1620 (translated by Thomas Shelton), and every other significant English translation is represented in the collection. The novel has been translated into more than 60 languages, so you can find the book in Finnish, Armenian, Japanese and French editions.

Artists have long been attracted by the foolish knight and his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, not to mention the bony horse Rozinante and Panza’s Dapple. There are many fabulously illustrated editions in the collection – from William Hogarth’s, to Salvador Dali’s. The novel also of course inspired other writers – Charlotte Lennox wrote The Female Quixote in 1752 – such works were also collected by Dr Haneman.

The collection was gifted to the State Library in 1997 and it lines the walls of the beautiful Friends’ Room. And what a wonderful ‘Friend’ to the library this generous collector was! Ben Haneman (1923 – 2001) was a doctor who had a passion for Spain, its literature and culture, and he firmly believed that Don Quixote is “a book central to living and being”. He was actually in the State Library in 2001 when he collapsed and was rushed to hospital. He died the following day without regaining consciousness – I think there are quite a few avid collectors who would like their last sight in life to be of books.

Have you seen his magnificent collection in the State Library Friends Room? Do you share a love of Cervantes’ novel or have any favourite artistic representations of Don Quixote? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

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Featured image credit- Dr Ben Haneman, https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2002/176/6/benedetto-ben-haneman-am-mb-bs-fracp and Don Quixote 1620 Edition, https://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/collection-items/don-quixote
Body image credit- Don Quixote 1880 English translation by J. W. Clark, illustrated by Gustave Dore, https://gutenberg.org/ebooks/5921
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Comments (4)

  1. Jennifer Gray

    Hi Susannah. I am a member of the State Library “Friends “ reading group, unfortunately in limbo at the moment. We meet in the “Friends Room” lined with the fabulous collection of Cervantes novels which you have mentioned. Our reading group (pre-Covid) would meet bi-monthly, and concentrate mostly on contemporary Australian novels. I have been introduced to many authors and novels which I would not normally have read.
    We are so lucky to have this wonderful facility in the middle of our city, and so close to my home! Currently on show (free to the public) is the World Press Photography Exhibition, finishing 13th June.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Isn’t it a gorgeous room! I have been to several events there. I do hope your reading group can soon meet in person – have you discussed ‘Don Quixote’?

  2. Malvina Yock

    I love the Friends Room, and have often marvelled at the wonderful collection in there. I’ve also been to a few sessions of the book group, and hope it will recommence soon. Such a lovely part of the State Library.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, a gorgeous room and collection. Let’s hope all libraries can soon return to normal events and numbers.

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