Rare edition of Shakespeare’s last play found in Spain’s Royal Scots College

UNEXPECTED FIND: The volume could be the oldest Shakespeare work in Spain. CREDIT: Royal Scots College

A rare edition of Shakespeare’s last play has been found at Spain’s Royal Scots College.

THE 1634 volume of The Two Noble Kinsmen could be the oldest Shakespearean work in the country.

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The Jacobean tragicomedy, attributed jointly to John Fletcher and William Shakespeare, is believed to have been Shakespeare’s final play before he retired to Stratford-Upon-Avon and in 1616, aged 52.

The unexpected find at the Salamanca college library, was made by John Stone, while investigating the work of the Scottish economist, Adam Smith.

Stone has worked in Aberdeen and Edinburgh, and now teaches at the UB’s Faculty of Philology and Communication in Barcelona.

It was included in a volume made up of several English plays printed from 1630 to 1635.

“It is likely that these plays arrived as part of some student’s personal library or at the request of the rector of the Royal Scots College, Hugh Semple, who was friends with Lope de Vega and had more plays in his personal library”, said Stone.

He said it’s likely that these plays were acquired around 1635 by an English or Scottish traveller who might have wanted to take these plays – all London editions – with him to Madrid.

CREDIT: Royal Scots College

“By the 1630s English plays were increasingly associated in Spain with elite culture. This small community of Scots was briefly the most significant intellectual bridge between the Spanish and English-speaking worlds.”

“Collections of English books in Spain in the 17th and 18th centuries were rare, and English plays were exceptional,” said the Royal Scots College in a statement.

They added: “In fact, the Spanish union catalogue of pre-1900 imprints (Catálogo colectivo del patrimonio bibliográfico español) does not list any copy of an English play printed before 1720.

“The only volume that could compete with Stone’s finding as the first work by Shakespeare in Spain is a volume first found in the Royal English College of Saint Alban in Valladolid, which is now in the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington.

“However, several scholars date the arrival of this copy in Valladolid, Spain, between 1641 and 1651. Therefore, if the work found by Stone arrived in Spain before 1640, it would clearly be the first Shakespearean work to have circulated in this country.”

Delighted with the find, the college tweeted: “The exciting news that we may have the first copy of a play by Shakespeare to have come to Spain has sparked a lot of interest both here in Salamanca and back home.
Huge thanks to @JohnStoneBCN for his research!”

The Two Noble Kinsmen is described by the Royal Shakespeare Company as “Friendship turns to rivalry in this study of the intoxication and strangeness of love.”

It’s based on Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale, and features best friends, who are knights captured in a battle.

From the window of their prison they see a beautiful woman with whom they each fall in love.

They immediately turn from close friends to jealous rivals in a love story which sees absurd adventures and confusions.

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