Do you know why next 23rd April it is celebrated worldwide the World Book Day?
On this day, but in 1616 died three of the most important writers in history, William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. Actually, and as a fun fact, this is not completely true. Cervantes died on 22nd April 1616, but was buried on the 23rd.
On the other hand, Shakespeare really died on the 23rd April 1616, but only according to the Julian calendar (used in England in that time). This date, according to the Gregorian calendar (used in Spain then, and nowadays almost everywhere), is 3rd May. Anyway, UNESCO chose this date in 1995 to celebrate the World Book Day.
Since then, most countries celebrate the World Book Day in many different ways, but mostly with the same goal, spread literature and culture. One book can have different meanings depending on who is reading it. One book can even have different meanings for the same person depending on when they are reading it. It is very curious that someone wrote a book in a specific place and time, but it does not matter when you read it, because the idea that the author expressed there can be still understood.
Books can be a passport through countries, people and cultures. Usually, good writers are able to express on their works the social and political situation of their times. Currently, there is a “project” in which people leave books somewhere, and other person can take it and leave another one. Following the chain, one book can be read by many different people. It is very interesting because you can see how people exchange culture by leaving books spread around. You may even find one that has been traveling for quite a long time and has visited several countries. This is just one example of books building bridges between people.
In Europe, we have some outstanding libraries, such as the Trinity College Library (Ireland), Admont Abbey Library (Austria), Strahov Theological Hall (Czech Republic) and the Public Library from Stuttgart (Germany).
In Spain, we have also different libraries worth visiting:
- Close to Madrid, you can find the Royal Library in San Lorenzo de El Escorial. This was king Phillip II’s private library, and there you can find over 40,000 books and manuscripts in more than 12 languages, including Nahuatl, the original language of the Aztecs. Apart from books, you can find numerous baroque globes and armillary spheres.
- In Salamanca, we can find the Historical Library from the University of Salamanca, one of the oldest libraries in Spain. This place holds some codices, manuscripts, books, maps… from 13th C. on. The Library of Menéndez Pelayo in Santander is another interesting place, with one of the most important collections from 18th and 19th Centuries. However, the biggest and most important one is in Madrid, the National Library of Spain. There, there are stored one copy of all books printed in Spain, and also a valuable collection of manuscripts, illustrations, photographs, audio recordings…
If you are doing your Erasmus in Catalonia, you should know about St. George’s Day (Diada de Sant Jordi). This day is celebrated by giving people who you love a book and a rose. This tradition goes back to the 15th Century, when it took place in Barcelona a mass after Saint George, and outside there was a big market where men bought women roses. The book tradition appeared at the beginning of the 20th Century, when many book shops settled stalls at the same market as the roses one, in order to remember Cervantes and Shakespeare. Moreover, Sant Jordi is the celebration of love in Catalonia, it is like their Valentine’s Day. Anyway, in this day, it is also remembered and praised the Catalonian culture and tradition. More than 1,5 million books were sold last year in this day.
On the other hand, if you are in Madrid, you may be able to take a guided tour through the area known as Barrio de las Letras (Literary Quarter). In this tour, you can learn a lot about the history of this quarter in the capital city of Spain and the famous Spanish writers that lived there, such as Cervantes, Lope de Vega, Quevedo or Góngora.
Let’s celebrate this day starting reading that book you have been some time wanting to read, by visiting a beautiful library, or maybe even by writing yourself something. Who knows if you can become some well-known writer some day?