The Marquis of Cerralbo's fondness for books led him to becoming a great bibliophile in the broadest sense of the word: he meticulously classified, conserved and arranged the books he went about acquiring from auction houses and bookshops, whose bulletins he was subscribed to. He built his bibliographic collection based on two criteria: on the one hand, he needed a thematic library which would help him document the subjects he studied: numismatics, art history, archaeology and all the subjects that would allow him to acquire the necessary knowledge for his own research activity; on the other hand, his love for the book as an object of great artistic beauty led him to search for and acquire magnificent copies of indubitable value in Spain as well as in France and Italy. Thus, the Marquis of Cerralbos library became a place of reference not only for those interested in admiring the jewels he kept there but also for the educated who wanted to broaden their knowledge on the subjects which Enrique studied.
The library is surprising due to the variety of the collection that comprises it. Every phase of the written book is found there, from 15th century incunabula to those published at the beginning of the 20th century: a look around the shelves allows us to contemplate examples of the most important European typographic industries of the periods to which they belong, discover the bookish aesthetics of each century and admire the illustrations adorning the texts.
The first prints created by the typographic industry were from Germany, soon spreading to the rest of Europe. Nuremberg, Venice and Paris printed beautiful copies to which the Marquis did not remain indifferent. With the arrival of the 16th century, the book started to acquire the form known nowadays. The cover gained prominence and it became the main source of information when documenting. This is the century when the Antwerp-born printer Christophe Plantin quickly developed an important typographic industry, becoming famous throughout Europe for his great market capacity and for the quality of the copies he published. Besides Antwerp, printing houses from Venice, Paris, Lyon and the Spanish publishers Luís Sánchez in Madrid, Juan Joffré in Valencia and Jacome Cromberger in Seville left traces of their work on the shelves of this Museum.
In the 17th century, Belgium and Holland achieved absolute primacy in book production upon joining the wealth and most liberal attitudes of the time. It was the century of the Ezelvirs and the Moretos (descendants of the Plantinos).
The 18th century represents one of the greatest moments in the history of the book, both as far as the physical appearance and content. Interest in scientific, erudite and gallant subjects made illustration become the most important resource of the book. It is the century of the Diderots, of Buffons Natural History and of the Royal Printers in Spain.
With the rise of industrial society, the book would reach wider sectors of society. It is the century that saw the birth of the Marquis of Cerralbo and, during this time, libraries took on an intellectual character it had lacked before and fulfilled his interest in updating his knowledge, doing research for his archaeological writings and keeping “up-to-datea” on the issues closest to him.Salto de línea