January 16, 1605: First publication of the novel Don Quixote.
On this day, a literary masterpiece was first assembled as a novel. Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes’ epic masterpiece, “The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote de la Mancha” was originally written in two parts.
Cervantes wrote the first part of Don Quixote and sold it to the publisher Francisco de Robles in July 1604. Published just over five months later, the first printing produced only 400 copies, most of which were lost in a shipwreck.
The 70 remaining copies reached Lima, Peru. From there, the novel’s success grew exponentially. New printing presses started all over Europe as people couldn’t get enough of the novel. In fact, Cervantes’ novel was so popular that a copycat novelist published a fake second part of the original in 1614.
The fake sequel prompted Cervantes to write his own sequel, which was released in 1615, a year before his death.
Cervantes wrote the book in early modern Spanish and is considered a major influence on contemporary Spanish. Despite many references to earlier medieval Spanish, the book is still readable in its original form by modern Spaniards.
The story has also been incredibly influential. The comic novel follows an inferior nobleman as he becomes consumed with the idea of life as a knight. He renames himself Don Quixote de la Mancha, welcomes a farmer as his squire and roams the earth like the knight he would like to be.
The phrase “tilt against the windmills” meaning to fight imaginary enemies comes from a section where Don Quixote jousts against the aforementioned building.
The artists inspired by Don Quixote are legion. Everyone from Flaubert to Dostoyevsky to Rushdie sees themselves as debtors.
The novel is also the inspiration behind tons of songs and has spawned countless adaptations.
A notable recent Terry Gilliam adaptation, ‘The Man Who Killed Don Quixote’ was a passionate project by the American-British comedian and filmmaker. Gilliam has struggled for nearly 30 years to make a Don Quixote film, a dream that came true in 2018 when his story of a modern-day marketing executive taken back in time was released.
Even on this day…
Historical horror hits
A few centuries later, January 16 would mark the birth of one of cinema’s greatest influences. John Carpenter was born on this day in 1948.
Celebrating his 75th birthday today, Carpenter is pretty much the definitive name in cinema for cult horror classics.
That Halloween horror streak with endless reboots began when Carpenter directed the first one in 1978.
And Halloween that was not where it stopped.
Among incredible titles such as The fog, Big trouble in Little China, They live and naturally The thing; Carpenter is recognized for making some of the most politically astute, wryly intelligent and witty films to ever grace our screens.
Happy birthday John!