No Longer “Tilting at Windmills”: Spanish students adventure into Special Collections to demystify access to rare imprints of Cervantes’ Don Quixote

This entry was posted on Monday, February 15th, 2016

On February 11th, Special Collections staff had the opportunity to give a guest lecture on the history of printing and bookmaking to Professor Emily Beck’s Spanish 493 seminar focusing on Miguel de Cervantes’ masterpiece El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha. In addition to demonstrating how early printing presses functioned and the processes by which books were made in the 16th century, we also took the opportunity to showcase eleven separate imprints of Don Quixote, dating from 1755 to 1900, in Special Collections holdings. Several of the 18th century imprints were bequeathed to the College of Charleston by notable lowcountry intellectuals such as the Izard family and the Honorable Mitchell King. The presence of “the Quixote,” as one student referred to the work, amongst these early colonial and federal-era libraries is a testament to the importance of the innovative and influential novel in the literary culture and society of the Atlantic World.

During the session, students interacted with the books, several of which were published in Madrid and are written in Spanish, and many remarked on the varying qualities of paper, illustration, and size of each imprint.

The Special Collections department, located on the third floor of the Addlestone Library, offers year-round research and instruction services to complement and support curriculum across many disciplines. In addition to foreign languages, we have worked with students of biology, geography, history, anthropology, art history, African American studies, and more. To learn more about our services, visit our website at or contact Manager of Research Services, Mary Jo Fairchild at

Addlestone Library is open to the College of Charleston community and affiliates via card access. Visitors may access Addlestone Library Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm, and must present a government issued ID and sign in upon entry.