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.