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Texas collection of Comedias Sueltas and Spanish Theater available for research and in online database
Comedias sueltas from the Harry Ransom Center's collection. Photo by Anthony Maddaloni.
AUSTIN, TX.- The Texas Collection of Comedias Sueltas and Spanish Theater is available for research at the Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin. Individual records for each suelta are also available in an online database, providing extensive information about the collection.

The collection includes more than 15,000 “comedias sueltas,” a generic term for plays published in small pamphlet format in Spain from the early 17th century through the early 20th century. The materials at the Ransom Center have been described as one of the major collections of Spanish dramatic literature in suelta form in North America.

Within the collection, more than 2,500 authors were identified, publishing sueltas and related works from 1603 to the late 1930s. Nearly 600 sueltas at the Cushing Library at Texas A&M University were also cataloged as part of the project.

The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) funded the cataloging project “Revealing Texas Collections of Comedias Sueltas” under its “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” initiative. CLIR is a nonprofit organization that works with libraries, cultural institutions, and communities of higher learning to enhance research and teaching.

The funding allowed for the creation of a database with individual records for each suelta, making extensive information about the collection available on the Ransom Center’s website.

Within the database, works are searchable by author, title, composer, place of publication, publisher, printer, keyword and date. Dimensions of the works, stamps or markings, handwritten notations, added text and the presence of musical and illustrative content are also noted.

Researchers will discover the vast chronological scope and depth of the Texas sueltas holdings. Many provide a glimpse into popular Spanish theatrical and musical entertainment genres, and some of the works overlap with the better known genre of “zarzuela,” a type of Spanish operetta.

The majority of these plays were published after the mid-19th century, originating in Madrid or Barcelona. Several hundred were published in smaller cities throughout Spain and Latin America. The collection’s more than 2,000 translations into Spanish originate predominantly from French, Italian and English, with some from German and Catalan.

Within the collection are the 1,119 sueltas described in Mildred Boyer’s bibliography “Texas Collection of Comedias Sueltas” (1978), covering the second half of the 17th century until 1833.

“The collection and database will be excellent resources for scholars interested in the history of the Spanish book,” said Richard Oram, Ransom Center associate director and Hobby Foundation Librarian. “Literary and bibliographical scholars will find scores of unique but previously invisible titles, performing arts historians will discover arcane titles in all manner of theatrical genres, and students of music history will find what are effectively libretti of musical works. Cross-disciplinary projects using the sueltas can certainly be foreseen.”

The cataloging project revealed a previously unknown copy of a comedia suelta, examples of zarzuelas, works by Spanish caricaturist Manuel Tovar and illustrated sueltas.

Among the represented dramatists in the earlier sueltas is Pedro Calderón de la Barca, regarded as one of Spain's foremost dramatists and one of the finest playwrights of world literature. The works of Lope de Vega, Matos Fragoso, Mira de Amescua, Rojas Zorilla, Vélez de Guevara, Tirso de Molina, Leandro Fernández de Moratín and Ramón de la Cruz are also in the collection.





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