Published in Journal of Hispanic Philology, 6 (1982 ), 163-164.
Daniel Eisenberg. Castilian Romances of Chivalry in the Sixteenth Century. Research Bibliographies and Checklists, 23. London: Grant & Cutler, 1979. 112 pp.
Eisenberg's bibliography fills an important need in an area that has seen a remarkable growth of interest over the last two decades, particularly among younger scholars in North America. Previous bibliographies treating the subject--those of Clemencín, Gayangos, and Simón Díaz--are now rendered virtually obsolete insofar as the sixteenth-century Castilian romances are concerned, although, as Eisenberg explains in his Introduction (p. 8), some nineteenth-century and other minor secondary items are omitted if found in Simón Díaz or in Henry Thomas' Spanish and Portuguese Romances of Chivalry. Eisenberg organizes his bibliography in logical fashion: a listing of his principal sources, general works on the subject, the individual romances themselves (manuscripts and imprints, modern editions, and critical studies), followed by a selected list of texts and studies concerning the subject of chivalry with special reference to Spain (including Catalonia), and a similar but shorter, two-page list of works treating chivalric elements in Spanish drama of the period, in particular Gil Vicente. An index of names rounds out the volume.
The longest and most valuable section is that of the individual romances, arranged in alphabetical order by short title. Here Eisenberg rightly excludes sentimental and allegorical works, even though some have been characterized in the past as romances of chivalry (e.g. Núñez de Reinoso's Historia de los amores de Clareo y Florisea y de los trabajos de Ysea). Also excluded are translations of foreign romances such as those of the Arthurian and Carolingian cycles, the Italian Guerrino il meschino or the Catalan Tirant lo Blanch, although Palmerín de Inglaterra (from the Portuguese original by Francisco de Morais) is included because of its place in the Spanish Palmerín cycle. Within the Amadís series, the fifteenth-[p. 164]century Spanish manuscript fragments, now at the Bancroft Library at Berkeley, properly receive the first entry (p. 28). Translations of the Castilian romances into other languages fall outside the limits of the volume.
Extremely useful to the specialist are the seemingly comprehensive listing of library locations with call numbers and the extensive remarks on lost, phantom or alleged-to-exist texts. One cannot fail to admire Eisenberg for his patience and tenacity in sorting out the often erroneous and jumbled information handed down by earlier investigators. One regrets, however, the absence of the name of the printer, if available, for sixteenth- and seventeenth-century editions. Also, in his Introduction (p. 7) Eisenberg states that due to time and financial limitations he generally examined (either directly or on microfilm) just one copy of an edition, usually the earliest printing. Such a procedure is understandable and certainly justifiable, but the use of a symbol (secondary materials not seen are preceded by an asterisk) to indicate the copy or copies he actually did examine would have been helpful. For example, in a recent article P. E. Russell cites three copies of Policisne de Boecia (Valladolid: Herederos de Juan Íñiguez de Lequerica, 1602) in the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid, R-10867, R-28840 and R-31567, referring to the first as the only perfect one; he also cites a copy (apparently unknown to Eisenberg) in a private British library ("The Last of the Spanish Chivalric Romances: Don Policisne de Boecia," in Essays in Narrative Fiction in the Iberian Peninsula in Honour of Frank Pierce, ed. R. B. Tate [Oxford: Dolphin Book Co., 1982], p. 142, n. 2); Eisenberg, on the other hand (p. 86), gives call numbers of two copies in the Biblioteca Nacional, R-869 (not cited by Russell) and R-10867. Did he examine either of these (he also mentions others in London, Paris, Cleveland, and Barcelona), or did he base his information on one of his general sources, such as Simón Díaz (cf. Bibliografía de la literatura hispánica, III, 2nd ed., Pt. 2, p. 517b)? Are there actually four copies in the Biblioteca Nacional? One of the advantages of the Research Bibliographies and Checklists series is that the resolution of such apparent discrepancies, together with the revelation of new discoveries and the updating of other materials, is allowed for by the periodic publication of supplements.
Among the secondary materials cited in the various sections of the bibliography, Eisenberg includes books, articles, unpublished theses, dissertations, important lectures and conference papers, as well as much information on work in progress. For some items he provides insightful critical evaluations as well as commentary on subjects worthy of future study (e.g., the need to reevaluate the influence of the Spanish romances of chivalry in Sir Walter Scott). The total absence or paucity of studies on many of the books of chivalry also shows that much remains to be done.
With this volume Eisenberg has clearly demonstrated his vast knowledge of the Castilian romances and chivalric literature in general. He is to be lauded for producing an invaluable reference tool, one that should stimulate new research in a fascinating if still frequently misunderstood area of study.