Portuguese writer Camilo Castelo Branco (1825-1890), is considered one of the most important writers of his generation. His unmistaken style granted him an avid readership and a place in the heart of bibliophiles interested in lusophone literature. Castelo Branco lived as intensely as he wrote. His 1862 novel Amor de perdição (Doomed Love: a Family Memoir), famously inspired by his love affair with a married woman, was written during his imprisonment for adultery and became a bestseller. He was one of the few able to live off of his craft in his time. Castelo Branco wrote novels, plays, essays and poems. He also worked as a translator, translating French and English books to Portuguese. The irresistible force of love is a constant subject of his works, as much as social prejudice and the many forms of moral corruption, leading to stories that often end up in tragedy. Not all of them, though. There is also redemption, achieved through a great deal of suffering, and plenty of comedy.
As a writer and translator, Castelo Branco had a prolific career, producing over 260 books until his death in 1890. Although not entirely confined by the canon of Romanticism, he remained a stark critic of the Realist style represented by Eça de Queiroz. The two men were the most prominent examples of the main literary trends in the 19th century. The importance of Castelo Branco in that context can not be overstated.
No collection of literature of the Lusophone world worthy of its name is complete without the presence of Camilo Castelo Branco. Manoel de Oliveira Lima, passionate bibliophile and book collector since the early age of 14, was very aware of that. Educated in Lisbon, he undoubtedly read and studied Castelo Branco’s works during his formative years. Later, an already seasoned scholar and book collector, he decided to build his very own Camiliana which would become part of the Oliveira Lima Library. Comprising more than 300 volumes, including original works, translations, catalogues from book sellers, Camiliana catalogues, compilations of correspondence, anthologies, and even books that belonged to Camilo Castelo Branco, is still a treasure to be unveiled.
The idea of revealing Oliveira Lima’s Camiliana to the world had already been in my plans for quite some time when a serendipitous encounter with Fabiano Cataldo, Professor of the School of Librarianship at the Universidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (UNIRIO) in Brazil, transformed it into a project. Prof. Cataldo researches and teaches on the management of Special Collections in Libraries and has extensive experience organizing specialized catalogues. More recently, he has been interested in the study of book provenance. That interest prompted him to start a project in 2018 with colleagues from Brazil, Argentina, the United States and the United Kingdom, to map other similar projects, carry out an extensive review of concepts, and to study forms of identification and description of provenance marks. Ever since becoming a member of the Projeto “A Eloquência dos Livros: marcas de proveniência Bibliográfica”, the plan to organize a specialized catalogue of the Camiliana took a more defined shape. With the collaboration of Prof. Cataldo, we developed a plan to study the collection within the framework of the field of provenance studies. The final product will be a printed catalogue of our Camiliana, possibly accompanied by an electronic version. The bibliographic records will also be accessible via our online catalogue.
We are currently in the early stages of the project, which consists of the inventory of the collection. In completing this phase of the project, the aid of our team at the Oliveira Lima Library has been unvaluable. Cataloguing and the itemized description of the books will follow, with a special focus on the provenance marks, of course. Unfortunately, our work schedule has been affected by the ongoing pandemic. We are doing our best to keep working while being safe. Although we are working exclusively from home and Prof. Cataldos’ visit will not be possible in the summer as previously planned, we are aiming to come up with creative solutions and keep the work going. We hope to be able to announce updates soon. Stay tuned for news on the project!