Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra led a life as fascinating as the characters in his novels, poems, and plays. Having spent much of his early life in Rome, Italy, Cervantes became enraptured in a Renaissance dream of art, architecture, and poetry. It was during this period of his life that the author became obsessed with capturing the fierce romanticism of the Renaissance era with the net of contemporary Spanish language.
Cervantes soon awoke from his dream when his enrollment in the Spanish Navy Marines, stationed in Naples, became an active reality. Through life-threatening illness, Cervantes fought for his God and king until he was shot and 3 times and loss the use of his left, sword-wielding arm. The heroic virtues the young soldier displayed in war, including chivalry, selflessness, and honor, would eventually live on in his magnum opus, Don Quixote.
Printed by Tho. Hodgkin and translated by John Phillips, Don Quixote derives much of its inspiration from the actual events of Cervantes life. The novel tells a tale of a man who aims to live out the romantic literature of his life by adventuring around the world with farmer-turned-squire, Sancho Panza.
Don Quixote is generally recognized as the first modern novel. Over those years, it has had an incredible influence on thousands of writers, from Dickens to Faulkner, who once said he reread it once a year, “just as some people read the Bible.”
Don Quixote, available as a first edition of the first illustrated edition in English, captured many of the themes that later came up in contemporary literature, including realism, meta theatre, and literary representation. The book earned Cervantes the title “The Prince of Wits,” and became so influential after his lifetime that the Spanish language was often referred to as “la lingua de Cervantes,” the language of Cervantes.
Vladimir Nabokov is quoted describing the vitality and evergreen significance of this incredible novel:
Don Quixote is greater today than he was in Cervantes’s womb. [He] looms so wonderfully above the skyline of literature, a gaunt giant on a lean nag, that the book lives and will live through [his] sheer vitality… He stands for everything that is gentle, forlorn, pure, unselfish, and gallant. The parody has become a paragon.