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Spanish Gastronomic Humor Transplanted to the United States

Droll New Orleans Lithographs


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232.     [HUMOR]. La Risa Enciclopedia de estravagancias. Obra Clásico-Romántica, de costumbres, de literatura de sana moral, de gastronomia y de carcajadas. Escrita en prosa y verso por varios poetas de buen humor y un habilísimo cocinero. Edición Americana. Publicala la Sociedad Literaria Española [Esaañola (Vol. II)] de N. Orleans. New Orleans: Alemán & Gómez & Alemán, Gómez y Ca. editores. Establecimiento tipográfico de J.L. Sollee, 1848-1849. [2], [1]-2, [i] ii-vi, [3] 4-504 pp., lithograph title page (La Risa. Enciclopedia de estravagancias. Litho X. Magny. Exchange Alley, No. 35 N.O.), 30 lithograph plates (1 folded; portraits, humorous scenes). 3 vols. in one, with continuous pagination. 4to (26 x 19.5 cm), contemporary brown half sheep over brown and blue mottled boards, spine with raised bands, gilt lettered and decorated. Spine rubbed and lightly chipped at extremities, boards moderately rubbed, corners bumped, moderate shelf wear, front hinge open but holding. Front flyleaf and Vol. I printed title page separated, a few other leaves somewhat sprung; overall good, with the interior fine and the plates excellent. Vol. I printed title page with purple ink rubber stamp of Filosofado Salesiano Bibliotheca Chapalita, which recurs on pp. 24 and 125.

     First U.S. edition. Palau 269405: “Se publicaba por entregas semanales de 8 páginas cada una, menos la última con 24 p. La primera entraga corresponde a 25 octubre de 1848 y la última a 26 mayo de 1849.” Raymond R. MacCurdy, A History and Bibliography of Spanish Language Newspapers and Magazines in Louisiana, 1808-1849 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico, 1951), p. 38. MacCurdy, “A Tentative Bibliography of the Spanish-Language Press in Louisiana, 1808-1871,” The Americas, 10:3 (January, 1954), #59.

     A partial reprinting of the Madrid, Spain, periodical of the same name that appeared April 2, 1843-September 15, 1844, edited by Wenceslao Ayguals de Izco (Palau 269404; see also Item 406 herein). The plates were drawn by Jovannis and printed by either Dominique Theuret or X. Magny; all are dated 1848 or 1849. The U.S. editors state that this periodical is appropriate for New Orleans because half the population there is crazy and the rest are half crazy. Although some articles are rearranged from their place in the original magazine, the New Orleans publication in general is true to its source, including the reproduction of some of the original lithographs. The publication enjoyed readers as far away as Texas and Cuba. As Jefferson Rea Spell, “A New Orleans Edition of La Risa,” Hispania, 23:1 (February, 1940): 81-84 points out, the publication must have enjoyed considerable popularity given its widespread circulation.

     The U.S. publication, however, left out some of the culinary recipes and articles for which the original was famous both in Spain and in its Mexican reprint. Thus, the bent of this edition tends to be literary and satirical, omitting the cultural feature of cuisine, which the New Orleans editors might well have found of little interest given the established cuisine already in the area. Nevertheless, because the original actually included various literary works with culinary themes, items are included that used food as a basis, such as Juan Martínez Villegras’ “Oda a las patatas,” which begins:

     No las lides pretendo

     celebrar de Austerlitz y de Lepanto,

     ne de Roma el estruendo;

     y que de eso no entiendo

     la gloria y prez de las patatas canto.

One will immediately recognize the oblique reference to the opening lines of Homer’s Iliad and other standard poetical invocations to the Muse. He follows that ode up with another, “A los ajos,” which he deems “del mundo vegetal principe augusto” (pp. 269-270). Vicente Sainz Pardo entitled his poem, which might serve as a summation, “No hay cosa como comer” (pp. 451-453). Such culinary articles are liberally mixed with others by some of the most prominent nineteenth-century Peninsular humorists and authors.

     The chief editors were apparently Eusebio José Gómez, Victoriano Alemán, and José Segundo Flores, although little is known about any of them; the first two gentlemen are shown in lithographs in La Risa itself. All were apparently members of La Sociedad Literaria Española de Nueva Orleans, an organization devoted to promoting Spanish language and culture. When the original Spanish publishers became aware of the pirated publication, they promptly began to offer the original publication and others at a substantial discount, thereby undercutting and apparently killing off their American rival. As Spell concludes, “From this it seems fairly conclusive that the New Orleans editors were not co-operating with the Madrid group” (p. 84).

     Lithographer Louis Xavier Magny (1800-1855), a native of France, is first recorded as a lithographer in New Orleans in 1847. His lithograph of the destroyed St. Charles Hotel is considered “one of the most dramatic prints published in the pre-Civil War period.” See Jessie J. Poesch (editor), Printmaking in New Orleans (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi & The Historic New Orleans Collection, 2006), pp. 130-132.

     Despite its short life, La Risa was an important Spanish-language New Orleans publication, especially significant for its lithographs and the republication in America of works by important Spanish authors.


Sold. Hammer: $1,000.00; Price Realized: $1,200.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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