Massimo Aresu is a Brotherton and Leeds Humanities Research Institute Postdoctoral Fellow studying our Romany Collections. Here he offers an insight into the important Spanish documents in the Angus Fraser Collection. These are almost unknown to scholars of Romany studies.

The Spanish collection consists of around 150 documents, printed and manuscript, from the 17th and 18th centuries. They were assembled by Sir Angus Fraser (1928-2001), who became fascinated by Gypsies in his youth, and published articles in academic journals from the 1960s. After retiring from the Civil Service, he wrote his most famous book ‘The Gypsies‘ (1992).

Fraser divided the Spanish documents into six sections on these subjects:
(1) Spanish (mainly Castilian) decrees etc. of general application, affecting Gypsies, (2) Sanctuary, (3) Dance, (4) Conscription for armed forces, the galleys and other forced labour, (5) Individual cases, (6) Other matters

He added a seventh section (G), of a single envelope, which contains photocopies, notes, and receipts relating to the six sections, A-F. The Spanish documents are available in Special Collections, catalogued and distributed in five boxes (A1-A25), (A 25-A54), (B, C, D), (F, G).

A list of 130 Spanish documents filed chronologically and entitled ‘Oferta sobre Gitanos’ (box F, G: envelope G) shows that the majority of the manuscripts and printed documents in the Spanish section were bought from a Sevillian bookseller, Antonio Castro. A handwritten note by Fraser explains that they relate mainly to the South of Spain, especially Andalusia. It adds that they were “collected by Colonel Benigno Gonzalez Garcia, a nationalist with a strong interest in Gypsies”.

We don’t know how and when Fraser purchased the collection. The earliest date could be the death of Colonel Gonzalez Garcia in 1993, after which the documents were probably acquired by Castro. The Fraser Collection contains a copy of the facsimile of ‘Libro de la Gitaneria de Triana’ (F6), published by Castro in 1995, after the original manuscript was discovered by Gonzalez Garcia. The facsimile’s dedication suggests that the relationship between the bookseller and Fraser wasn’t only motivated by business reasons, as it reads: “Para sir Angus Fraser con sincero afecto. Antonio Castro”.

Thanks to the list ‘Oferta sobre Gitanos’ we know that three printed documents from the original sale are no longer with the other Spanish documents, but they are in the Brotherton Library. These are:

To show the richness of the Spanish documents in the Fraser Collection, in future blogs I will comment on some of the most original and curious texts. I aim to publicise and give new life to them.