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  • A Possible Influence on the Burgos 1499 Celestina Illustrations:The German 1486 Translation of Terence's Eunuchus
  • John T. Cull

Nullum est iam dictum, quod non dictum sit priùs1

In his provocative and erudite study, "A la vanguardia del libro ilustrado: El Terencio de Lyón (1493) y La Celestina de Burgos (1499)", David Rodríguez-Solás posits that the inspiration for the illustrations in the Burgos 1499 edition of Celestina may have been the early Lyon illustrated edition of the works of Terence (which he calls "la primera edición ilustrada de las obras de Terencio" 3), printed by Johannes Trechsel in 1493 and edited by Josse Badius, as well as the engravings for the Strasbourg 1496 edition.2 [End Page 137]

The search for the sources of any literary masterpiece is a truly perilous and Sisyphean task. Celestina is no exception, and I take to heart Clive Griffin's prudent caveat, "We therefore need to preserve a healthy degree of scepticism when attempting to draw conclusions from the illustrations found in the early editions of Celestina, but this does not mean that as literary critics we can afford to ignore the evidence that they provide" ("Celestina's Illustrations" 79). I would like to suggest here that a rare illustrated 1486 German translation of Terence's Eunuchus may have served as an even earlier model for some aspects of the illustrations for Celestina's 1499 Burgos edition.

Terence (Publius Terentius Afer) was brought to Rome as a slave by the Roman senator Terentius Lucanus. He was educated in Rome and later freed because of his extraordinary abilities. His six plays, which were adapted or perhaps even translated from Greek models, were performed around 170-160 BC. Terence's works became popular in Europe when Fernando de Rojas was a young boy: they first appeared in print in Strasbourg in 1470, and the play Andria was performed in Florence in 1476. The proliferation of texts by Terence throughout Europe after their first appearance in print is quite astounding. Edwin J. Webber asserts that "by 1520 some 175 complete and 8 partial editions of the plays bore witness to an extraordinary vogue" and that a "libro escripto de molde en papel en latín, que es Terencio" formed part of the personal library of Queen Isabel ("Manuscripts" 34). It is clear that Terence enjoyed his first "modern" recognition and popularity during the formative years of Fernando de Rojas.

Critics have long noted the influence of Terence and the humanistic comedy on Celestina. One of the earliest and most prominent was Marcelino Menéndez y Pelayo, who addressed the relationship in his four-volume Orígenes de la novela (3: xlvi-xlvii),3 but the most systematic analysis of [End Page 138] the influence of Terence on Rojas is that of Florentino Castro Guisasola in his Observaciones sobre las fuentes literarias de La Celestina. In addition to formal considerations, such as the use of dialogue, the division into acts and scenes, and numerous textual parallels, Castro Guisasola concludes that Rojas learned from Terence "la concepción dramática y técnica escénica, el arte de las situaciones, la infinidad y variedad de recursos artísticos para animar la escena, la expresión de los afectos; en suma, ese aliento vital que, transfundido en las venas de la Tragicomedia, da vida a todos los personajes" (86).

In the introduction to his edition of Celestina for Clásicos Castalia, Peter E. Russell asserts that Rojas first enrolled at the University of Salamanca at the age of fifteen or sixteen, and that before his specialized studies in the law he was required to study the arts for three years, like all law students at Salamanca. In these readings in the humanities, he would have had his first exposure to the comedies of Terence, frequently utilized as the textbook for the study of Latin grammar (32-33). He further observes that Rojas, in the preliminary acrostic verses, judges the work of the anonymous author of the first act as superior to Terence's comedies (38).

In his chapter on Salamanca and its university at the time when Fernando de Rojas was a...