Antoni M. Alcover i Sureda was born on February 2nd, 1862, in Santa Cirga, a large country house in Manacor. He was the fourth son in a family of farmers. His parents, Antoni Alcover and Catalina Sureda, had six children. All of them became farmers, with the exception of Antoni, who became a Catholic priest, and Miquel, who joined the Society of Jesus. The family was deeply religious, traditionalist and they were Carlist supporters of the royalist movement in favour of Don Carlos’ claim to the throne. Probably Alcover attended a state school and received private lessons in Physics and Latin. Thus, he lived his first years in a traditional, rural and very religious society. Often, he visited his uncle, Father Pere Josep Alcover, who exerted a very important influence in his life.

In 1877, when he was fifteen years old, he decided to join the Diocesan Seminary to begin his ecclesiastical studies. For this purpose, he moved to Palma, where he shared accommodation with other students. Immediately, he stood out for his remarkable ability to write and, also, for his hard work. The seminarians read the newspaper El siglo futuro and shared its illiberal ideology. Also, they read L'ignorància­, a humorous and costumbrist weekly founded in 1879.

In 1878, Alcover travelled for the first time away from Mallorca, to Rome, the first year of Leo XIII’s pontificate. The following year, in 1879, at the age of seventeen and after he had read the folktales of Antonio de Trueba, he decided to adapt his stories to the Majorcan context in Spanish. However, he soon decided to switch to Catalan, in order to sound closer to the reality he intended to portray.

Alcover also established relationships with the main intellectuals of the period. In 1880, he met the poet Miquel Costa i Llobera. Not long afterwards, he was introduced to the professor and poet Tomàs Fortesa, who awakened his philological curiosity and spurred his interest in popular literary materials (folktales, songs and legends). His first studies related him to other writers of a cultural and literary movement known as “Renaixença” in the Catalan-speaking countries. They instilled the love for the language into him. In 1833, he travelled to Lourdes and, on his way through Barcelona, he met Marià Aguiló. Aguiló had undertaken a fight for the language and he had collected different linguistic materials. He was considered a myth of the Renaixença and, as such, he enlightened the young Alcover. This steered Alcover towards fields of research such as the philological investigation, and the collection of Majorcan folktales, old songs and “gloses” (brief, improvised, oral songs).

Furthermore, Alcover collaborated with the main journals of his time. He wrote a pile of pages about religious and historical topics, often, polemical. He travelled through Europe to learn about philology with the objective of creating an extensive dictionary of the Catalan language. This was the first step of a major undertaking: the Catalan-Valencian-Balearic Dictionary. It was with the Dictionary that Alcover showed his drawing power as many collaborators took part in the project.

Along these lines, he promoted the First International Congress of the Catalan Language, which took place in 1906. In 1911, Father Alcover was appointed president of the Philological Section at the Institut d'Estudis Catalans.

In sum, Antoni M. Alcover was a folklorist who collected a lot of folktales in Mallorca, an enthusiastic polemicist, a historian interested in Mallorca and its great figures, and an architect. In addition, he was canon and vicar in the Diocese of Mallorca. He was also the promoter of great cultural ventures like the First International Congress of the Catalan Language, the Catalan-Valencian-Balearic Dictionary and the creation of the Philological Section at the Instituts d'Estudis Catalans. He devoted his whole life to church and language, research and the study of words. He died on January 8th, 1932 in Palma. He was then moved to Manacor, where he lays to rest.


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