My Photo
Blog powered by Typepad

Currently reading...

Personal favorites

Search my library

Library Thing

Victorian Studies


Fine Arts

Buy Books!



« This Week's Acquisitions | Main | On the road again »

February 18, 2012



"The first village at which I made an attempt was Cobenna, about three leagues from Madrid. ... I had the appearance of a person between sixty and seventy years of age, and drove before me a borrico with a sack of Testaments lying across its back. On nearing the village, I met a genteel-looking young woman leading a little boy by the hand: as I was about to pass her with the customary salutation of vaya usted con Dios, she stopped, and after looking at me for a moment, she said: “Uncle (Tio), what is that you have got on your borrico? Is it soap?”

“Yes,” I replied: “it is soap to wash souls clean.”

She demanded what I meant; whereupon I told her that I carried cheap and godly books for sale. On her requesting to see one, I produced a copy from my pocket and handed it to her. She instantly commenced reading with a loud voice, and continued so for at least ten minutes, occasionally exclaiming: “Que lectura tan bonita, que lectura tan linda! What beautiful, what charming readings!” At last, on my informing her that I was in a hurry, and could not wait any longer, she said, “true, true,” and asked me the price of the book: I told her “but three reals,” whereupon she said, that though what I asked was very little, it was more than she could afford to give, as there was little or no money in those parts. I said I was sorry for it, but that I could not dispose of the books for less than I had demanded, and accordingly, resuming it, wished her farewell, and left her. I had not, however, proceeded thirty yards, when the boy came running behind me, shouting, out of breath: “Stop, uncle, the book, the book!” Upon overtaking me, he delivered the three reals in copper, and seizing the Testament, ran back to her, who I suppose was his sister, flourishing the book over his head with great glee."
(George Borrow, "The Bible in Spain")

I think there is also a passage in "The Bible in Spain" in which Borrow explains why his Bibles have to be sold, and not given away, but I can't find it at the moment.


There was a long-running debate about the dangers of giving away Bibles, on the grounds that they might be considered valueless--so selling them, even for a pittance, was often considered preferable. I don't have the citation to hand, but Leslie Howsam has written about this.

The comments to this entry are closed.