The average American reader might think that the bullfighting theme in American literature is a subject that was monopolized by Ernest Hemingway, since it is well known that this genial author wrote DEATH IN THE AFTERNOON as well as other books dealing with bullfighting. It is not common knowledge, however, that before and after Hemingway, many other English-speaking authors wrote books in which bullfighting was the central or secondary theme.
Some of those books with taurine content have been written by famous authors such as Michener and Barnaby Conrad, a specialist on the subject, and some of them have enjoyed a fairly degree of success in the book market, and they have also found room on the shelves of American public and private libraries. Nevertheless, most of the English language literary production dealing with taurine themes received little notice from the general public, and most of those books would possibly have ended up in landfills. However, an American organization came to the rescue, finding and cataloguing books and placing them on the library shelves of the taurine bibliophiles.
The rescuing organization is the Taurine Bibliophiles of America ---TBA---, which celebrated its 40th Anniversary last year and now, in its maturity, seems to have the vitality to continue celebrating anniversaries for many more years to come.
A few years ago the origin and the nature of TBA was described to me as follow by Don Conover, a TBA past President:
Bob Archibald died recently having had the satisfaction of seeing his beloved TBA, which he founded and of which he became the first president, flourish. The organization at the time of its founding includes only ten members, who were dedicated to collecting taurine books. Since these members resided in different parts of the United Stares, in order to share information about their books and their activities they started to use mimeographed newsletters that they named "La Busca", which in Spanish translates to 'the search'. Today TBA has close to 100 members spread all over the world, who keep informed about taurine literature not by newsletters, but by their well edited magazine LA BUSCA.
LA BUSCA is published quarterly. The contents include reviews of new and old books, and essays about authors, book collecting and other taurine subjects as well as information and discussions of TBA matters. Most of the material published is contributed by TBA members, some of whom are talented writers such as Hugh Hosch, Rosario Cambria, Gil Arruda, Don Conover, Jane Hurwitz, Ray Turner, Dave Tuggle or Jim Verner, and others who are professional authors such as Barnaby Conrad, Muriel Feiner or Allen Josephs. An exchange section is also a significant part of the magazine. It is provided as a free service to the members to facilitate the buying, selling and exchanging of books, magazines, films and taurine memorabilia. For the selection and quality of published material due credit should be given to the dedicated past and present editors who have given generously their time and efforts. They were Bob Archibald (1964-5), Allan Zirlin/Roger Burgos (1966-9); Nancy Slayton/George. Smith (1970-5); Nancy Slayton (1976-82); Don Conover (1982-9); Ray Turner (1990-3); Jane Hurwitz/Don Conover/ Ray Turner (1994-7); Jack Bona/ Jane Hurwitz (1998-9); Jack Bona/David Tuggle (1999-2000); and David Tuggle (2003-present).
As mentioned, the interest in collecting bullfighting books brings the TBA members together. They first do the same most American bullfighting aficionados do, buy the few taurine books that occasionally are published in English to expand their knowledge about the subject. Additionally, most TBA members search actively for old and new books containing complete or partial toreo content in used book stores, at book fairs, garage sales, and of course in the pages of LA BUSCA, and more recently on the Internet. The bibliographers value not only the content of a given book but also the intrinsic unique or rare qualities of that item.
Some members have world class book collections that include rare and unique valuable books, like Jim Nieto, who is one of the ten original TBA members, and Gil Arruda, current TBA President. When I was writing an article in Spanish for BURLADERO.COM, I contacted Jim Nieto and he informed me that his collection contains about 4,000 books with some taurine content written in several languages, of which about 1000 of them are in English. He said that his oldest book is a travelogue written by Edward Clarke in 1760, and the most valuable one is an issue of the original edition of Hemingway's DEATH IN THE AFTERNOON. When gathering information for this article I called Gil Arruda, and he enthusiastically talked about his taurine book collection. Gil commented "On the shelves of my library I have about 1,100 books related to toreo, of which about 400 are in English… the oldest book in my collection is TO CUBA AND BACK, in which Paul Preston related his experiences on a trip to Cuba in 1850."
Of course TBA also has room for members like me. I have gathered close to 100 taurine books here and there just for the pure curiosity of knowing what their authors have to say about the subject, but without great concern about the edition, cover or any other details which interest the true collector.
An important function of TBA is the cataloguing of the books that its members possess in their private libraries. Ross Phelps, who was the fourth president of TBA (1980-9), has been the official Bibliographer from 1979 until 2004. In 2005 Farrell Brody, who has been collaborating with Ross for several years, took over the position of primary Bibliographer. When members acquire a book, new or old, they report it to the TBA Bibliographer; whose job consists of recording the new titles so the TBA Catalogue is kept updated.
TBA published his first bulletin in 1965 and in it listed about 100 titles of books in English in possession of its members. Later, in 1989, to commemorate the 25 years of its existence, the organization published its first official catalogue LA BUSCA-25th ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL EDITION 1964-1989, compiled by Ross Phelps. It listed 1,274 titles. The second catalogue appeared in 1999, and it listed 834 more titles than were indexed in the 1989 inventory. The publication was titled LA BUSCA-35TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL and was authored by Ross Phelps, Farrell Brody and David Tuggle. So, at the beginning of the new century the record showed that there were at least 2,108 books in English dealing totally or partially with bullfighting. But there is more, Gil Arruda asserted that "By January 2005 the number of titles of books with some taurine content in the collections of our members is reaching 3,000 tittles."
Many TBA members also share an interest in films with a taurine theme. This is a natural progression, since many movies are the graphic expressions of the concepts written on the pages of books. David Tuggle, the Editor of LA BUSCA, is also a connoisseur and collector of this type of film. Therefore, from time to time, he shares his knowledge by including information about films in the magazine. He also added a very complete "Taurine Filmography', which he compiled, to the LA BUSCA-35TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL.
Bullfighting in the Anglo-Saxon World is not a popular subject, therefore it is surprising that, as TBA records show, many authors have found the inspiration in bullfighting to write close to 3,000 books that deal totally or partially with toreo. The endurance and growth of the Taurine Bibliophiles of America is also a surprise. This organization that started 40 years ago with barely ten aficionados of bullfighting literature, and which today includes about 100 members who, as Gil Arruda says, "Keep on buying new books and searching and finding hidden taurine books, to preserve and treasure them."
(To obtain more information about TBA, call or write to Gil Arruda, 59 Pearl Avenue, North Providence, RI 02904. Tel. (401) 353-6326, or e-mail at Gka43@aol.com.)