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Don Quixote de La Mancha: Reference Sources

Overview of print, electronic and film resources, on Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra and his masterpiece Don Quixote de la Mancha

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Find information in English and other languages on Miguel de Cervantes and his novel Don Quixote

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Reference Sources

This page provides selected print and online encyclopedias, dictionaries, bibliographies and other useful reference and research sources for the study of Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (b.1547-d.1616) and his remarkable novel Don Quixote de la Mancha.

I: Reference Books on Cervantes and Don Quixote

II: A short biography of Cervantes.

I. Reference Books on Cervantes and Don Quixote

How to find these books: click on each title to see the HOMER record, call number and library location. Books in the Cervantes collection must be consulted in the Doheny Library Special Collections reading room, Monday-Friday 9am-5pm and Saturdays 1-5pm. You may request your selections before your visit or make your request in person at the Special Collections reference desk.

For questions or an appointment with the subject librarian: email brobinso@usc.edu.

II. Cervantes: A Short Biography

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616) was born in the university town of Alcalá de Henares near Madrid, Spain.  He lived during the literary Golden Age, a period of immense cultural flowering that produced some of the finest drama, poetry and fiction ever written. In contrast it was also a period of military and religious conflicts, economic bankruptcy of the state under Philip II, censorship and the Inquisition, and the great plague. The few details we know about Cervantes' life, education, creative mind, ideals and philosophies have been pieced together over the centuries from records in Spanish archives and from his own in his publications. Cervantes' life story is novelesque, and somewhat  parallels that of  his tragic-comic character Don Quixote and the historic events of  the time-travel to Rome to serve in the household of a cardinal at 22, his heroic military service at age 24 in the great Mediterranean naval battle of Lepanto, a permanently wounded left arm, years of captivity by Algerian pirates, escape attempts and ransom, sundry jobs that often landed him in jail, a failed marriage, brief stints in jail for financial difficulties, excommunications by the Church, and denied posts in the New World. Literature was central to his life. During all his trials, tribulations and rejections he never ceased writing. It never brought him wealth nor recognition for military service from the King. He had given much to his homeland without reward.

Cervantes abilities as a great story-teller, coupled with a brilliant satirical mind were nourished by reading and travel. One of the most informed of his generation, his knowledge of and admiration for literature is well documented in his works. In one he writes "he who travels much and reads much, sees much and knows much." The most prolific innovative writer of his time, he created two new literary genre, the novel and the first short stories in Spanish. Cervantes was also an accomplished poet and playwright.  His first published works in 1569 were four poems from his youth, and his first attempt to earn a living by writing was the pastoral romance La Galatea (1585). He had modest financial success with his plays beginning in 1581, joined a literary salon in Madrid in 1586, and wrote poems in 1588 on the defeat of "invincible" Spanish Armada. A contemporary of the greatest writers and artists of the Renaissance, including two of the greatest playwrights of all time, Lope de Vega and Shakespeare, Cervantes probably never knew the English bard, but reference to Cervantes' creations appear in Shakepeare's plays.

After the remarkable success of Don Quixote Part I in1605 he received essential financial support from a benefactor Conde de Lemos, finally able to devote himself to his writing full time. In his remaining decade, in his sixties and in ill health, he produced an avalanche of his best works: in 1613, Ocho comedias y ocho entremeses/Eight Plays and Eight Farces, and short stories, Novelas Ejemplares/Exemplary Novels, followed in 1615 by the novel Don Quixote de la Mancha, Part II, writing the final preface to his enigmatic allegorical romance, Los trabajos de Pérciles y Sigismunda/The Trials of Persiles and Sigismunda, on his deathbed. He died on April 23, 1616.  He would have been gratified to know that even after four centuries his works are celebrated and studied even more than ever before. (2/2009BR)

Librarian, Special Collections/Boeckmann

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Barbara Robinson
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Doheny Memorial Library 250

(213) 821-2261