This website offers a collection of resources for the study of comedias sueltas, Spanish plays published in inexpensive quarto editions from the seventeenth to the early nineteenth centuries. It is aimed at scholars engaged in research on Spanish theater, on book history, and on print culture in Iberia before the machine press period.
The heart of the website is its database of comedias sueltas printed before 1834 and held by academic and research libraries in the United States. It is a searchable union catalog to which new records are constantly being added. It seeks to locate all known copies of comedias sueltas in major libraries as well as in many smaller collections. The records that participating institutions have generously contributed to this database are gradually being improved upon with the addition of new data seldom traced by library catalogers, including dedicated fields for printers, publishers and booksellers, caption titles, physical description (format and collation), provenance, and the presence of typographic ornaments. Additionally, when available, records include high-resolution images of title pages and last page(s) in order to aid scholars in confirming that they are dealing with the specific copies they wish to locate and study.
In addition to the main database, this site includes the following resources:
- a database of typographic ornaments (a tool for potentially identifying publication information about sueltas that lack imprints and as a way of tracing printers’ use of type). For some time yet, this page will be a place holder. Software to create a taxonomy of printers’ ornaments is evolving;
- an authority file of authors, translators, and adaptors, and of printers, publishers, and booksellers;
- an extensive bibliography that includes publications needed by the scholars investigating in this field. One that includes: comprehensive bibliographic sources for literature, always with some references to comedias sueltas, studies that focus on specific sueltas or groups of them, and books on printers and printing history closely related to this subject and needed as a reference;
- a collection of printed catalogs of sueltas in North American libraries that serves as a reminder of what existed before a database such as this was possible;
- a list of institutions whose collections are represented in the database, with a map and other locating information as well as links to the entire set of records from each institution and to those institutions’ online catalogs;
- a growing collection of short essays by recognized scholars in the field, regarding diverse aspects of comedias sueltas studies;
- a regularly updated news feature (“ZARZUELA”) announcing additions to the database as it expands and other events happening in the field, such as conferences or publications.
The impetus behind this website was the difficulty involved in locating comedias sueltas in academic and research libraries’ online catalogs. Studying the corpus of suelta editions, which constitutes a important dimension of the history of publishing in Spain, presents a significant challenge when one must search one author at a time. Advanced search capabilities in standard library catalogs offer little help when sueltas lack a date, and it is difficult to search by printer or publisher when dedicated search fields with that information are lacking; typographical features like ornaments and woodcut illustrations are rarely if ever traced in library records.
Simply put, the only solution was to create a dedicated portal where the researcher knows that all items listed are comedias sueltas printed before 1834.
We hope that this resource enables scholars to locate hard-to-find copies and that it can contribute not insignificantly to furthering the study of this worthy field of investigation.