Here’s to a Couple of Ruff Characters

Four hundred years ago this weekend, two of the greatest geniuses in wordcraft this world has ever seen both died: William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes.

William Shakespeare

The Bard

Shakespeare’s plays still dazzle, written though they are in Elizabethan English and iambic pentameter; their story lines are still fresh enough to inspire endless straight-play performance worldwide, Broadway musicals (“Kiss Me, Kate”) and international covers such as the Japanese samurai-setting movies by director Akira Kurosawa (“Throne of Blood” and “Ran.”)

Miguel de Cervantes

El Principe

Cervantes is known among the Spanish-speaking as “El Principe de los Ingenios,” or “The Prince of Wits,” and is recognized worldwide as the father of the modern novel for his masterpiece “Don Quixote.” Spanish national television stopped by Friday to view rare editions of that classic held by the Library, including a 1605 Madrid edition, a pirated edition of that year printed in Portugal, and a beautiful recent limited edition in Galician, with art by Galician masters.  Cervantes also made it to Broadway, via “Man of La Mancha.”

The pirated 1605 edition of "Don Quixote"

The pirated 1605 edition of “Don Quixote”

It is fitting, in the light of their towering talents, that UNESCO declared April 23 World Book and Copyright Day. How amazing is it that the thoughts of two ink-stained men can be delivered to us through books—they still speak to us four centuries after they left this earth. As Shakespeare wrote in his Sonnet 55: “Not marble, nor the gilded monuments/ Of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme.”

The Bard and El Principe – here’s to the next 400 years.

Congas, Sambas and Falling Plaster

I was 15 years old, sitting cross-legged next to my friend Mascha on a cork-tile floor at Mammoth Gardens, a roller-skating rink built in 1910. Plaster, occasionally, was falling from the ceiling – because the band on the stage that night was the drum-heavy Santana, which had just released its 1970 album “Abraxas.” That’s the […]

Pic of the Week: Read Across America

“You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read with a child.” ~ Dr. Seuss On Wednesday, children gathered at the Library’s Young Readers Center for “Read Across America” day, which also coincides with the birthday of Dr. Seuss. The National Education Association’s signature program is now in its […]

A New Ambassador for Reading

(The following is a story written by Mark Hartsell, editor of the Library of Congress staff newsletter, The Gazette.) There’s something special, author Gene Luen Yang says, about the first time a reader encounters a literary character that shares the same cultural background. In his case, the character was Jubilation Lee, an X-Men comic-book figure […]

A Legacy of Librarians

(The following story, written by Center for the Book Director John Y. Cole, is featured in the November/December 2015 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM. You can read the issue in its entirety here.) Thirteen Librarians of Congress helped shape a legislative, national and international library. Today the Library of Congress is truly a […]

LC in the News: October 2015 Edition

In October, the Library of Congress celebrated a major milestone – Chronicling America, a free, online searchable database of historic U.S. newspapers, posted its 10 millionth page. To mark the milestone, the Library published a series of lists on its social media featuring interesting and off-beat content from the online archive. Several outlets picked up […]

The Importance of the Write Stuff

(The following post is written by Guy Lamolinara, co-director of the Library of Congress National Book Festival.) The ability to read and write is taken for granted by those who can read and write. But for the millions of people worldwide for whom the written word strikes fear and apprehension in their hearts, these skills […]

And the Word Was Made Beautiful

Pope Francis has moved among us, here in Washington, D.C., for a time—and one lasting result of his visit can be viewed, starting Saturday, at the Library of Congress: a breathtakingly beautiful Apostles Edition of The Saint John’s Bible, the first Bible entirely hand-made and illuminated in more than 500 years. The rare Bible was […]

The Joy of Reading

The following is an article, written by Jennifer Gavin of the Library’s Office of Communications, for the September/October 2015 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM. You can read the issue in its entirety here.) The Library of Congress promotes the pleasure and power of reading. Thomas Jefferson famously stated, “I cannot live without […]