Don Quixote

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by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616) was a Spanish writer most famous for his novel Don Quixote.[1]

Cervantes traveled to Italy as a young man, serving as a chamberlain and a solder. In 1571 he was shot three times in a battle with the Turks on the Mediterranean. Three years after this, he attempted to return to Spain, but was captured by Barbary pirates and sold into slavery in Algiers. He remained a captive until 1580, when his family was able to raise his ransom. This period clearly inspired some episodes in Don Quixote and his later plays.

In Spain, Cervantes settled into poverty and endemic unemployment, finally settling a job of selling oil throughout rural Spain. He began to publish his writing in 1585, with his pastoral romance La Galatea, which was well received in Spain. He wrote a number of plays in this period as well.

Don Quixote was first published in 1605, and was immediately successful across Europe. This novel, seen as the first modern novel, is about a man who believes he is a Romantic knight errant, and therefore embarks on a quest for adventure that leads to countless comical encounters.[2] A number of false sequels to the novel were published in the continuing years, but Cervantes published the second part in 1615.[3] This sequel further plays with the dichotomy of reality and Don Quixote’s idealized fantasy, as Don Quixote encounters characters that have read the first part of the novel, and play along with Don Quixote’s fictions.[4]

The History and Adventures of the Renowned Don Quixote is translated by Tobias Smollett, and is the most famous English translation of the novel.[5] This translation encompasses elements of earlier English translations and focuses on readability, translating Cervantes’ prevalent wordplay and parodic phrasing to retain his comic spirit.[6]

Bibliographic Information

Author: Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Title: The History and Adventures of the Renowned Don Quixote

Publication Info: 6th ed. London: Printed for F. and C. Rivington, T. Longman, B. Law, G.G.J. and J. Robinson, J. Johnson [and 12 others in London], 1792.


Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Bound in 19th century half-calf over marbled boards. Contains 12 copper-plate engravings. Each volume features the bookplate of George L. Davis on the front pastedown. Set includes Festivous Notes on the History and Adventures of the Renowned Don Quixote by Edmund Gayton (London: Printed for F. Newbery ... [and 5 others], 1771, 2nd ed.). Purchased from Strand Book Store.

View this book in William & Mary's online catalog.

External Links

Google Books: Vol I


  1. Anne J. Cruz, Edward C. Riley, “Miguel de Cervantes,” Encyclopedia Britannica Online (Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 2013), accessed October 28, 2013. All biographical information is from this source unless otherwise noted.
  2. Brenda Knox, Joe Main, Sayeed Choudhury, “Don Quixote de la Mancha,” George Peabody Library (Johns Hopkins University 1996).
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Julie Candler Hayes, “Tobias Smollett and the Translators of the Quixote,” review of The History and Adventures of the Renowned Don Quixote: Translated from the Spanish of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra by Tobias Smollet, by Martin C. Battestin; O.M. Brack, Huntington Library Quarterly, 64, No. 4 (University of California Press, Dec. 2004), p. 652.
  6. Ibid., at 662, 665.