The text presented here, which has never before been reprinted, has claims to be the founding document of Don Quijote scholarship--on the topic, still debated after two centuries, of how the work should be edited. This Letter appeared in 1777 as an announcement of John Bowle's edition of Don Quijote, published four years later. Bowle's edition, still valued by Quijote scholars, was not only the first annotated edition. It was also the first for which multiple editions were collated, the first to annotate emendations to the text, the first with numbered lines, and the first to have an index.
In the interests of accessibility and readability, this Letter has been modernized throughout, and errors--whether typographical or misspellings by Bowle--have been corrected, usually tacitly. The texts he quotes have been modernized as well. Bowle writes "shews," "cotemporary," "justs," "Dutchess," and "Quixote"; these become "shows," "contemporary," "jousts," "Duchess," and "Quijote." Feijoo's Theatro critico has become Teatro critico. The use of capitals, punctuation, italic, and division into paragraphs are also modern, as are the subheadings at the beginning of many paragraphs. The English translations of quotations in Spanish have been omitted, but I have supplied what Bowle believed superfluous, translations of the quotations in Latin. I have suppressed as unnecessary Bowle's use of "folio" and "quarto" in bibliographical descriptions. References to the text of Don Quijote have been standardized, supplying part and chapter number.
In some cases I have added information in footnotes, or clarified Bowle's bibliographical references. My material in notes is marked with brackets: [ ].
For information on the Hispanist work of Percy and Bowle, see the following:
Bowle, John, and Thomas Percy. Cervantine Correspondence. Ed. Daniel Eisenberg. Exeter: University of Exeter, 1987.
Cox, R. Merritt. An English "Ilustrado": The Reverend John Bowle. Bern, Frankfurt am Main, Las Vegas: Peter Lang, 1977.
Cox, R. Merritt. The Rev. John Bowle. The Genesis of Cervantean Criticism. University of North Carolina Studies in the Romance Languages and Literatures, 99. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1971.
Deyermond, Alan. "Sanchez's Coleccion and Percy's Reliques: The Editing of Medieval Poetry in the Dawn of Romanticism," Spain and its Literature. Essays in Memory of E. Allison Peers, ed. Ann L Mackenzie (n.p.: Liverpool University Press-Modern Humanities Research Association, 1997), pp. 171-209.
Rico, Francisco. "Historia del texto." Don Quijote, ed. Francisco Rico, segunda edicion revisada (Barcelona: Critica, 1998), I, cxcii-ccxlii, especially pp. ccxvi-ccxviii.
For their assistance with editorial questions, modernization, and proofreading, I would like to thank Dan Clouse, Steve Soud, and Gloria Allaire.
A LETTER to the Reverend Dr PERCY, concerning a new edition of Don Quijote.
At length, Dear Sir, I take the liberty thus publicly to acquaint you with the result of my labours on our favourite writer CERVANTES. I particularly address myself to you, as you are so conversant in every branch of polite literature, most especially that which has engrossed so much of my time and attention.
Don Quijote a classic. The creation of indexes.
From the commencement of my intimacy with the text of Don Quijote, I was induced to consider the great author as a classic, and to treat him as such. With this view I had the courage to begin and, what is more, the perseverance to finish two most copious verbal indexes to both parts of that celebrated work, on transcribing which it seemed altogether right to sever the proper names of men, places, and other remarkable things, and to make them distinct parts. This has also been done, with this farther addition, that where the name occurs in both parts, the whole is to be found in the former, so that every particular respecting any person, city, mountain, or whatever else is mentioned by the author from ancient and modern history, may be perused together. …