Ticknor, George (1791-1871) Library of Spanish and Portuguese Literature

(Rare Books & Manuscripts) The Ticknor Library of Spanish and Portuguese Literature was bequeathed to the Library in 1871 by George Ticknor, Harvard professor of Spanish and French, and one of the founders of the Boston Public Library.

Ticknor began to develop his collection in 1818 while traveling through Spain. Intending first to form a library through which he could survey the history of Spanish and Portuguese literature, the collection would later come to serve as the intellectual foundation for his monumental History of Spanish Literature (first published in 1849).

Ticknor quickly established himself as the preeminent collector of Spanish and Portuguese literature and belles lettres in America. His renowned collection was at one time amongst the most comprehensive in the world. Ticknor continued his main collecting activities through 1852, procuring rarities from auction houses and book marts across Europe by way of his extensive network of connections. In later years, much effort was expended in filling the various gaps and voids within the collection as it already existed.

At his death in 1871, Ticknor left his collection of 3,907 books to the BPL, along with a $4,000 trust fund, the income from which was to be devoted to building and maintaining the integrity of the collection. Through acquisition and through the addition of several thousand books already held by the library, the collection today numbers approximately 10,000 volumes. It covers many aspects of Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American literature and history, including books on art, science, law, and theology. It is especially rich in every phase of Spanish literature, from early editions of Don Quixote (1605) to the manuscript of Lope de Vega's El Castigo sin Venganza, and the Obras of 17th-century Mexican poet Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz. The Ticknor collection contains comprehensive surveys of editions by authors such as Pedro Calderon de la Barca, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Benito Geronimo Feyjoo y Montenegro, Luiz de Camoens, Luiz Velez de Guevara, and Fernan Caballero. 

Information and online access

Further reading

An article on the history of the Ticknor Collection, before and after its acquisition by the BPL, was published in the Bulletin of the Boston Public Library in 1921, and can be read online through Internet Archive, opens a new window.

(Rare Books & Manuscripts)