In 1837, George Borrow, the brilliant polyglot and future author of best-sellers, arrived in Madrid as agent of the British & Foreign Bible Society with the assignment to print and distribute a Protestant version of the New Testament in a staunchly Catholic land.
In the first months of the year he saw through the press an edition of no fewer than 5,000 copies. He then spent the next three years selling the book, against tremendous opposition from the Catholic Church and hostile conservative authorities, in all the nooks and corners of the land and to all classes of Spanish society.
Thrice imprisoned, a dozen times nearly killed by bandits, firing-squad, disease or accident, Borrow persisted where saner men would soon have yielded. When at last he returned to England, the greater part of his Scio New Testament had been duly sold to noblemen, donkey-drivers and jailbirds, to ‘muleteers, carmen, and contrabandistas’, to city bourgeois, village peasantry and intellectuals craving for a look at Europe’s most fundamental text.
A Daring Game – which the author himself qualifies as ‘a narrative reference-work’ - gathers together everything we know about the printing, distribution and adventures of the Scio New Testament. The book does not repeat the entire story of Borrow’s exploits as told in his sensational 1843 travelogue The Bible in Spain. Instead, it investigates the conditions and circumstances under which Borrow’s New Testament was produced and distributed, and for the first time in two centuries calculates the exact numbers of sales attained by a bookseller of genius in a land plagued by war, pestilence, ignorance and hatred.
Next to this numerical tour de force, A Daring Game offers a wealth of information on Spanish printing practices in the 1830s, on horse-travel and popular literacy, on contemporary methods of bookselling and the profound spiritual controversy which accompanied the edition. Finally, it reproduces for the first time in 175 years the all-important expense accounts which Borrow sent to his employers in the course of his Peninsular years.
A table of contents and some sample chapters are availble here.
A Daring Game may be ordered from Amazon UK or Amazon US using these links:.
Those who prefer to acquire the book from a classic bookshop may contact Graham York Rare Books, 225 High Street, Honiton, Devon, EX14 1LB England. Tel: 01404 41727; email email@example.com; fax: 01404 44993; website www.gyork.co.uk.
Price: ₤7 (US$11; €8.15; dependent on changes in exchange rate) + postage.
This edition is a 208 page 6"x9" paperback, ISBN 978-1-905946-04-4
Peter Missler was born in 1959 in Amersfoort (The Netherlands) from two formidable parents. At age 20 he briefly studied Philosophy at the University of Utrecht before moving to Paris, where he mainly exercised as bohemian. After four years as bookseller, house-cleaner, electrician, hotel attendant and metro-busker, he returned to Holland to earn a degree in Egyptology from the University of Leiden. In 1993 he moved to Granada, Spain, and two years later to Santiago de Compostela. He is a member of the George Borrow Society and a regular contributor to the George Borrow Bulletin. He publishes in Dutch, English and Spanish upon themes related to the First Carlist Civil War, Spanish magic, Paris busking and English travellers in the Peninsula. Peter Missler presently lives in Brion, west of Santiago, with his wife Palmyra, their son Yasin and the Homeric sheep-dog Argos.
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Last updated Tuesday, 29 September, 2009