A rare early edition of William Shakespeare’s last play, The Two Noble Kinsmen, has been recovered from Royal Scots College in Salamanca, Spain.
Dr John Stone, a University of Barcelona researcher working on the Scottish economist Adam Smith, recovered the volume in the Scots college library.
Royal Scots College is a seminary for the Catholic Church in Scotland which today provides preparatory courses for those discerning a vocation to the priesthood.
It was originally founded in Madrid by Colonel William Semple of Lochwinnoch and his wife Doña María de Ledesma in 1627.
The discovered printing dates back to 1634, making it possibly the oldest Shakespeare edition in Spain, predating a Shakespeare copy from the 1640s held by the Royal English College of Saint Alban in Valladolid.
Shakespeare had worked on The Two Noble Kinsmen with John Fletcher around 1613, just a few years prior to his death back in Stratford-upon-Avon.
An adaptation of The Knight’s Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer, it tells the story of two friends and fellow knights who soon become bitter enemies when they both fall in love with the same princess.
Eighteen other English plays from the period were also preserved in the original leather binding, with printings dating from between 1630 and 1635.
Dr Stone said that the volume probably “arrived as part of some student’s personal library or as at the request of the rector of the Royal Scots College”.
Speaking to the Catholic Herald, Dr Stone said the discovery was an important example of the “diasporic book history” of Scottish and English Catholics who “balanced ties to their homeland with plays for status” in Spain.
“It may be that no Spaniard read the nineteen early modern plays found in Salamanca around the time that they were imported; but they would have known who to turn to for knowledge of cultural and intellectual developments in England and Scotland,” he explained.
“Certainly, we have evidence that the Royal Scots College was called upon to play this role in the eighteenth century, and even to import British print on behalf of English-knowing Spaniards.”
The Rector of the Scots college, Fr Tom Kilbride, told the BBC of the seminary’s pride at hearing about the latest research: “It says a lot about the kind of education the trainee priests were getting from the foundation of the college in Madrid in 1627, a rounded education in which the culture of the period played an important part.”
FEATURED IMAGE: Photograph of Act 3, Scene 1 opening from 1634 edition of The Two Noble Kinsmen by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher – provided by John Stone, courtesy of the Royal Scots College, Salamanca.
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