Part 1, Chapter 6 Summary

Of the Pleasant and Curious Scrutiny With the Curate and the Barber Made of the Library of Our Ingenious Gentleman

The curate, the barber, and the housekeeper enter Quixote’s library and see more than a hundred large, neatly bound volumes in addition to many small ones. As soon as she sees them, the housekeeper runs to get a pot of holy water and sprinkler and brings it back to the library, begging the curate to purify them. She is convinced that these books contain nothing but evil and is afraid of them. The curate smiles at her simplicity before he and the barber look at the title page of each book to determine if any of them are worth saving.

There is disagreement over the first book, and it is saved only because it is believed to be the first book of knight-errantry ever written and thus has merit. Others are sent flying out the window by the housekeeper as soon as the men condemn each book to be burned. Great books of romance and history pass through three pairs of hands and are summarily dismissed as vile rubbish.

The process takes quite a long time, as the two men peruse and discuss, sometimes at length, each title. It is amazing that these two men know every title; in fact, judging by the depth and intensity of their discussions, they seem almost as fanatic about the books as Quixote.

It is decided that all of the books “treating of French affairs” will be placed in a vault until they can be looked at more closely. The housekeeper wants to destroy everything, but the barber is willing to defer to the curate’s pronouncements because he is a holy man, a lover of truth, and a Christian who would never lie. Despite that, he makes arguments for and against each book along with the curate. Some volumes represent the best work in one field or the finest work of a certain author, and these books are saved from the fire.

At last the curate grows weary of looking at each book and decides that the remaining books should just be thrown out the window with the rest. The barber opens one of them by chance and shows it to the curate; he is mortified at almost burning such a great book. It was written by one of the finest authors in Spain, a man who translated “with extraordinary success” many of the fables of Ovid.