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Astarloa en el II centenario de la "Apologia de la lengua bascongada" (1803-2003).

Astarloa en el II centenario de la "Apologia de la lengua bascongada" (1803-2003). Coleccion Ilustracion Vasca, tomo XII. Donostia-San Sebastian: Real Sociedad Bascongada de los Amigos del Pais/Euskalerriaren Adiskideen Elkartea (with the collaboration of the Basque Government and the City of Durango), 2003.

In the Diccionario geografico-historico de Espana (1802), Joaquin Traggia questioned the antiquity and fonner extent of the Basque language, stirring the Basque cleric Pablo Pedro de Astarloa to produce his Apologia de la lengua bascongada, o ensayo critico filosofico de su perfeccion y antiguedad sobre todas las que se conocen (1803). The present volume commemorates the second centenary of the Apologia.

The bulk of the volume (11-140) consists of Antonio Astorgano Abajo's study, "Hervas, la Bascongada y los linguistas defensores del vasco-iberismo, en el marco del fuerismo," which explores the links between the ex-Jesuit Lorenzo Hervas y Panduro, "'el maximo estudioso espanol de temas filologicos del siglo XVIlI," and Astarloa, a leader in the field of Basque studies (14). Specifically, Astorgano publishes 22 letters from Ms. 22996 (Hervas, Cartas) of the National Library in Madrid. Most are addressed to Hervas; unfortunately, no related letters from Hervas or Astarloa seem to be extant.

As part of his encyclopaedic Idea dell' universo, Hervas produced a Catalogo delle lingue conosciute (1785), expanded in a six-volume Spanish version, Catalogo de las lenguas de las naciones conocidas (1800-05). His search for information about Basque brought him into contact with men interested in advancing Astarloa's linguistic projects, which developed in the context of what Astorgano calls an "ambiente de fuerismo reivindicativo" (26), i.e., of efforts to maintain and strengthen the traditional legal privileges of the Basque provinces in the face of Bourbon centralism.

Astarloa and Hervas approach the study of languages very differently. The former claims that Basque isa uniquely "perfect" language and the one imparted by God to Adam (Apologia, 6). For him and some of his patrons, language embodies the Volksgeist. Hervas, on the other hand, is an Enlightenment rationalist with encyclopaedic interests.

The letters here published date from 1799 to 1801. Their authors are clerics and members of the land-owning and commercial classes, defenders of thefi4erosand zealous apologists of the Basque language, though not separatists. Several of them appear sympathetic to the abolished Society of Jesus, and some are linked to the Real Sociedad Bascongada de Amigos del Pais. These correspondents supply Hervas with information about their language and are eager to connect him with appropriate experts, especially with Astarloa. They also seek the guidance of the renowned philologist for their protege and for his effort to obtain financial support. They invite Hervas to visit the Basque country and consider him for the directorship of the Seminario de Vergara, though both projects carne to naught.

Astorgano gives us a chronological narrative with explanation of the intellectual and political context (13-107), the text of the letters (107-32), and a list of sources and bibliography (132-40). The whole is the fruit of wide-ranging and thorough archival research based on intimate knowledge of the period and its leading figures, qualities that inform Astorgano's numerous earlier studies on eighteenth-century topics.

In the second part of the volume, "Contribucion de vasco-mexicanos a la edicion de la obra de Astarloa" (141-78), J. Ignacio Tellechea Idigoras publishes and comments on documents related to the efforts of Basques resident in Mexico to raise money in response to ah appeal from Astarloa.

Finally, Begona Sarrionandia Gurtubay, in "Pablo Astarloa a traves del Dr. Justo Garate" (179-95), surveys Astarloa's writings as explained in the 1930s by Garate. She comments briefly on Astarloa's influence on Wilhelm von Humboldt, Juan Antonio de Moguel (one of Hervas's correspondents), and Sabino Arana, the champion of Basque nationalism.

In combination, these studies illuminate the relationship, on a personal level, between linguistics and national consciousness at an important moment for the development of both.

John H. R. Polt

University of California, Berkeley (Emeritus)
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Author:Polt, John H.R.
Publication:Dieciocho: Hispanic Enlightenment
Article Type:Resena de libro
Date:Sep 22, 2004
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