While working through our miscellaneous backlog, we came across a stack of unbound short dramas printed in Barcelona. This small collection (about 70 items) turned out to be a group of Spanish Romanceros, or ballads, printed by two different printing families. The ballad was a popular form in Spain from the 15th century, and often featured heroic themes and would be accompanied by music. Many of the popular ballads drew from historical sources or dealt with the tension between Spain and the East. Often called vulgars or romances morisco, these ballads were written as pulp entertainment for the public, and feature interesting and sometimes grotesque illustrations. The ballad fell in and out of public favor, but found a new renaissance during the Romantic period of the 18th century.
This collection of ballads was printed by the families of Juan Jolis and Bernardo Pla, both located on the Calle de Cotoners (or Calle de los Algodoneros) in central Barcelona. Both of these printing houses used a very similar format, and the same woodblock illustrations were reused for different imprints. Most of the items in this collection are undated, but can generally be dated from the first quarter of the 18th century to mid-19th century. All of these ballads are 22 cm high and most are 4 or 8 pages, printed on a rag paper, and are designed for popular consumption. Most of the items in this collection are referenced in Palau y Dulcet’s Manual del librero hispano-americano, a standard bibliography for Spanish material.
The majority of this collection is in very good condition; in fact, most of the 8-page items are uncut. This collection provides a unique resource for students of popular culture of the 18th and 19th century.