From the spoken word to the written word
From the end of the 18th century to the beginning of the 20th century
most improvisers were ordinary people who did not know how to read or write.
However, some of their verses have remained in the collective memory.
There was a time when, on the initiative of educated people,
certain improvisations celebrating love, nature, the family or the Basque
Country were copied by someone who was able to write.
The manuscripts were sold at church entrances or left at the gate of each
farm. Later on, verses were printed on loose sheets and distributed in
public places, sometimes by the improviser himself, or, most often, by a
"professional" who travelled to the different villages where he would sing
them in a beautiful voice in order to sell them more easily.
Thanks to these printed verses, many bertsularis made a name for
themselves. This tradition continued until much later since Félix Iriarte
from Banca used this method to distribute his verses entitled "Hitlerren
amentsa"("Hitler’s Dream") in 1946.
When, at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century,
the first newspapers and magazines appeared, some accepted or even proposed
publishing verses, which is why these "fliers" disappeared little by little.
There was even a specialised magazine "Bertsulariya" ("the versifier") which
for one year (1931-1932) published verses and the biographies of
improvisers. All of its issues were published together in the form of a book
by the "Sendoa" publishing house.
The magazine "Argia" and the newspapers "Herria", "Berria", as well
as many others, also regularly publish articles accompanied by
There are also verses present on the web, many of which have been
There is a wide selection of improvised verses at the following web