Ransom Center Receives Grant to Catalog Spanish Comedias Sueltas

Jan. 10, 2011

AUSTIN, Texas — The Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin, has received $137,015 from the Council on Library and Information Resources Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives for “Revealing Texas Collections of Comedias Sueltas.”

Comedias sueltas from the Harry Ransom Center's collection.Photo: Anthony Maddaloni

The Ransom Center holds more than 14,000 "comedias sueltas," a generic term for plays published in small pamphlet formats in Spain from the late 17th through the 19th century. Purchased in pieces, generally in collections of bound volumes, the materials have been described as one of the major collections of Spanish dramatic literature in suelta form in North America.

While portions of the collection are minimally cataloged, the grant will allow for the creation of individual database records for each suelta, making more extensive information about the collection available on the Ransom Center’s Web site. The grant will also support the cataloging of more than 600 sueltas at the Cushing Library at Texas A&M University.

"The records will be an excellent resource for scholars interested in the history of the Spanish book," said Richard Oram, Ransom Center associate director and Hobby Foundation librarian. "Literary and bibliographical scholars will find scores of unique but previously invisible titles, performing arts historians will discover arcane titles in all manner of theatrical genres and students of music history will find what are effectively libretti of musical works. Cross-disciplinary projects using the sueltas can certainly be foreseen."

Scholars may be surprised by the chronological scope and depth of the Texas sueltas holdings, which range from the classic period of the genre in the 18th century to the early modern era. Many provide a glimpse into popular Spanish theatrical and musical entertainment genres and some of the works overlap with the better known "zarzuela," a type of Spanish operetta.

Among the represented dramatists in the earlier sueltas is Pedro Calderón de la Barca, regarded as one of Spain’s foremost dramatists and one of the finest playwrights of world literature. The works of Lope de Vega, Matos Fragoso, Mirade Amerscua, Rojas Zorilla, Vélez de Guevara, Tirso de Molina, Leandro Fernández de Moratín and Ramón de la Cruz are also in the collection.

The project will be completed by February 2014.

For more information, contact: Jennifer Tisdale, Harry Huntt Ransom Humanities Research Center, 512 471 8949;  Alicia Dietrich, Harry Huntt Ransom Humanities Research Center, 512-232-3667.