Pascual de Gayangos: A Nineteenth-Century Spanish Arabist

By Cristina Álvarez Millán; Claudia Heide | Go to book overview

9
Pascual de Gayangos:
A Scholarly Traveller

Miguel Ángel Álvarez Ramos

In 1889, Pascual de Gayangos y Arce, aged eighty, edited the second and last volume of El pelegrino curioso y grandezas de España, a travel account by the sixteenth-century Valencian author Bartolomé de Villalba y Estaña. It was Gayangos’s last collaboration for the series Sociedad de Bibliófilos Españoles. With this publication, initiated three years earlier, Gayangos rescued an important work from oblivion, since it is considered the first travel narrative of Spain by a Spaniard.1 The strains brought upon by old age, twenty years after retiring from his Chair, and thirty years of widowhood obviously did not prevent Gayangos from pursuing his scholarly tasks and travelling. On the contrary, in good health and still full of energy, he continued to travel back and forth between Madrid and London. The title of the sixteenth-century travel account, El pelegrino curioso (The curious pilgrim) applies easily to Gayangos himself. A thorough study of his correspondence shows him as an extremely well-travelled polyglot, visiting North Africa, England, Scotland, Austria, Italy, Belgium and France. The purpose of this essay is to analyse Gayangos’s fruitful relationship with the world of travelling from different vantage points. First, we shall consider Gayangos’s interest in historical travel literature, which led him to study and edit a number of historical travel narratives. We shall then consider Gayangos’s identity as a travelling researcher and collector by discussing his travel plans and the trips he made. This will help us to understand not only the development of his historical research and the formation of his private collection of books, manuscripts and objects, but, most importantly, Gayangos’s contribution to the recovery of Spain’s national bibliographic and archival heritage.

Gayangos’s interest in narratives by travellers can be detected early in his career. In parallel with his intellectual endeavours, he initially focused his attention on travel accounts throughout Islamic lands and the orient. In 1834 Gayangos made some inquiries about the manuscript of the travel account by the Catalan adventurer Domingo Badía y Leblich (1766–1818), known as Alí Bey, presumably with the intention of obtaining a copy of it. This included a description of Domingo Badía’s travel through Morocco,

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