2015 December Spanish Antiquities


Varias Antiguedades de España Africa y Otras provincias / Por el Doctor Bernardo Aldrete Canonigo en la Santa Iglesia de Cordoba (Amberes, 1614). 4o

Title Page V.5.17

The Worth Book of the Month for December 2015 is the 1614 Antiquities of Spain Africa and other provinces by Dr. Bernardo Aldrete. This book was part of a set of two linguistics works where the author tried to demonstrate how the Spanish language was a corrupted form of Latin and how it was influenced by a wide range of other languages such as Chaldean, Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, Syrian, Phoenician, and Punic.


Aldrete’s other linguistic work, named Del Origen y Principio de la Lengua Castellana o Romance que oi se usa en España (1606) was one of the earliest published histories of the Spanish language. It is credited as being the first systematic treatise intended to demonstrate how Castilian was derived from Latin and enriched by the influence of other languages either pre-roman or post-romanization of the Iberian peninsula. It is a scientific essay on the origins of Spanish and it is considered something of a scholarly breakthrough by Spanish linguistics of all times.


Bernardo Jose Aldrete (Malaga, 1560 – Cordoba, 1641) Spanish antiquarian, theologian, historian, humanist and scholar of classical and Semitic languages is considered to be one of the most famous and erudite linguists of the Spanish late Renaissance and early Baroque period. Born in Malaga 21 August 1560 to Alonso Sanchez Pasadas (a well-off nobleman) and Maria Valles Peñuela, he had five brothers and five sisters. He was very close to his twin brother, Jose, so much that after his death in 1616 Bernardo added his brother’s name to his own, signing from that time onwards as Bernardo Jose Aldrete.


Aldrete studied theology and humanities at the University of Granada, and became a canon at the University of Osuna. He spent two years of his life in Rome, sent there by his archbishop. In 1593 he was named prebendary of the Cathedral of Cordoba where his brother Jose was canon. During his time as prebendary he undertook the works to remodel and redecorate the cathedral.


As a result of the publication of his first book Del Origen y Principio de la Lengua Castellana o Romance que oi se usa en España (1606) he was noticed by Seville’s Archbishop Pedro Vaca de Castro who appointed him as his ecclesiastical judge in 1609, starting a working relationship which lasted till Castro’s death in 1623. While working for Castro, Bernardo Aldrete completed his Varias Antiguedades de España Africa y otras provincias (1614), and the book is dedicated to Castro. A series of documents left by the author with his will give a lot of information about the details of its publication. These documents show us that the book laid finished for few years before it was published in 1614. The first licence to publish the book is dated from 27 November 1611 but the final licence and privilege are dated 27 January 1613; subsequently on 16 April 1613 the printing contract between Andres de Ayala, representing the author Bernardo Aldrete, and the printer Iuan Hasrey was signed in Madrid; and on the 20 December Aldrete signed in Seville the dedication text to Archbishop Castro.


Dedication V.5.17


The book is divided into four parts. In the first part [Libro Primero] Aldrete explains his reasons for writing the book and tells the reader about the origins of the Iberian Peninsula and the provenance of its inhabitants. In this way, he talks about the first inhabitants, the Tartesus, Iberian, Celtiberian, Lusitanian and the arrival of the Romans. He also speaks of the influences of the Jews, Arabs, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Syrians and how their languages affected the birth of Castilian.


Aldrete goes into much detail to prove how Castilian has evolved from Latin and had been influenced by other languages. In order to do that he gives us a complete account of Iberian Peninsula history and its inhabitants. He also illustrates his account with maps of the most important places in the peninsula where the first inhabitants were located before the arrival of the Romans. For example Numancia, land of the Celtiberians.


Map page 44 V.5.17


The second part [Libro Segundo] deals with the different alphabets used by the languages quoted in the first part, Syrian, Arabic, Phoenician and Punic. He explains the similarities and differences between them and also shows how some characters are reminiscent of others across the languages.


Medals Page 179 V.5.17


The third part of the book [Libro Tercero] and the fourth part [Libro Quarto] are dedicated to the study of Africa; its history, geography, inhabitants; mythology and languages. He also tries to explain how the languages used in different parts of Africa by its diverse population have had an influence on the development of Castilian in Spain.


Map page 528 V.5.17


This book was published in 1614 by the printer and book importer Juan Hasrey in Amberes [Antwerp]. Juan Hasrey came from an important merchant family of Flanders (some sources give his place of birth as Brabant others as Antwerp) his father was Gaspar Van Hetsroy and his mother was Heleren Van den Huevel. We do not know when Juan moved to Spain but we know he died in Madrid on 6 September 1615. The earliest information we have of him is a certificate of baptism for 4 July 1610 when he appears as godfather to Paula, daughter of the printer Antonio Rodriguez.


The son of a merchant, Juan was a merchant in the most extensive meaning of the word. He was a big scale importer of typical products of his home country (Flanders) like upholstery materials; laces; art and, of course, books. However, he was not only an importer of books but also a printer and an editor. He had two printing houses one in Madrid and one in Antwerp and amongst his disciples in Madrid are Baldouin Vichi; Cornelio Martin; Baltasar Beelaert; Juan de Leon and Francisco de Alcober; most of them important printers themselves.




Bound in the early eighteenth century, perhaps at what van Leeuwen has tentatively called the Fleuron Bindery, in Dutch sprinkled calf; spine compartments gold-tooled to a centre and corner design; red goat label; board edges gold-rolled; edges sprinkled red and brown; red-plain end bands.




Agullo y Cobo, M. (1991) La imprenta y el comercio de libros en Madrid (siglos XVI – XVIII). Madrid, Universidad Complutense de Madrid. [Internet]. Available from: http://eprints.ucm.es/8700/1/H0006301.pdf [Accessed 10/11/2015]


Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes http://www.cervantesvirtual.com http://adrastea.ugr.es/tmp/_webpac2_1097230.16061 [Accessed 10/11/2015]


Biografias y Vidas http://www.biografiasyvidas.com/biografia/a/alderete_bernardo.htm [Accessed 10/11/2015]


Blumel, M. (2002) Las ideas linguisticas de Jose Bernardo de Aldrete, Munich, GRIN Verlag [Internet]. Available from: http://www.grin.com/es/e-book/46461/las-ideas-lingueisticas-de-jose-bernardo-de-aldrete [Accessed 10/11/2015]


Nieto, Lidio. (1975) Nuevos documentos sobre Bernardo José de Aldrete. Anales de la Universidad de Murcia [Internet], 1975, 33 (1) pp. 233-274. Available from: https://digitum.um.es/xmlui/bitstream/10201/21870/1/07%20Nuevos%20documentos%20sobre%20Bernardo%20Jose%20de%20Aldrete.pdf [Accessed 10/11/2015]


Rodriguez Mateos, Joaquin (Ed.) (2009) Un Epistolario de Bernardo José Aldrete (1612-1623), Sevilla, Junta de Andalucia. Consejeria de Cultura. [Internet]. Available from: http://www.juntadeandalucia.es/culturaydeporte/archivos_html/sites/default/contenidos/archivos/aga/biblioteca/documentos/EPISTOLARIO_Aldrete2.pdf [Accessed 10/11/2015]


Universidad de Sevilla– Fondo Antiguo http://fondosdigitales.us.es/fondos/libros/2904/8/varias-antiguedades-de-espana-africa-y-otras-provincias/ [Accessed 10/11/2015]


Woolards, Kathryn A. (2003) Bernardo de Aldrete, Humanist and Laminario. Al-Qantara [Internet], 2003, XXIV (2) pp. 449-476. Available from: http://al-qantara.revistas.csic.es/index.php/al-qantara/article/view/167/160 [Accessed 10/11/2015]


Worth Library Catalogue http://worth.soutron.net/Catalogues/Results.aspx [Accessed 10/11/2015]


Text: Ms Susana Cobos Ruiz, Librarian Assistant at the Worth Library.

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