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  • A Tale of Two Book Histories
  • Elizabeth R. Wright
key words

book censorship, early modern Spain, Bouza, Fernando de, Cardenio (lost play by William Shakespeare), Chartier, Roger, Cervantes, Miguel de, Don Quijote, publication history, history of the book, Shakespeare, William, Spanish literature, reception in England., twentieth century, surrealist publications, literature

fernando bouza álvarez. “D ásele licencia y privilegio”: Don Quijote y la aprobación de los libros en el Siglo de Oro. Madrid: Akal, 2012. 256 pp.
roger chartier. Cardenio between Cervantes and Shakespeare: The Story of a Lost Play. Trans. Janet Lloyd. Cambridge: Polity, 2013. 238 pp.

The long-running scholarly dialogue between Fernando Bouza and Roger Chartier has immeasurably enriched our understanding of early modern communications practices. Chartier’s prologues to Bouza’s Imagen y propaganda: capítulos de historia cultural del reinado de Felipe II (1998) and to his Communication, Knowledge, and Memory in Early Modern Spain (2004) attest to their many points of convergence. Yet, this review examines two contributions that stand in an inverse relationship to one another. Bouza unpacks a single archival dossier that tells the story of how Cervantes received permission to publish Don Quijote in 1604, paving the way for the princeps to appear in Madrid in 1605. Chartier, in contrast to this story of one great book’s survival, builds an expansive story of international literary transmission around the lost Cardenio play attributed to William Shakespeare. In conjuring a canonical work that does not exist, the esteemed French historian honors the great Latin American literary tradition charted by Roberto Bolaño, Ricardo Piglia, and of course, Jorge Luis Borges. Below, I examine each book in turn, though they pair nicely, whether for early modernists, Hispanists focused on other periods, or general readers. I begin with Bouza’s study, since his earlier point of departure (1604) yields information relevant for a consideration of the later periods Chartier covers.

A stunning archival discovery launches Bouza’s study: he found the Council of Castille dossier prepared in order to license “‘un libro llamado El yngenioso hidalgo de la mancha compuesta por Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra”’ (11). Colleagues familiar with the Archivo Histórico Nacional in Madrid will know this is no minor feat, nor is it a lucky find. Such a document would be a needle in a bewildering array of haystacks. On-site and online finding aids list files by the names of escribanos (scribes or notaries), rather than by date or topic. Though [End Page 91] the Portal de Archivos Españoles offers a growing number of digitized documents from Spain’s state archives, there remain vast troves of uncatalogued papers.1 Bouza’s study, in effect, explains and contextualizes the information gleaned from the one 1604 dossier to reveal a previously unknown editorial history of Don Quijote. But perhaps more significantly, the one case serves as a road map with which to explore book publishing and censorship at a high water mark of Spain’s literary Golden Age. In 1604, the year Cervantes was granted a license, the major Siglo de Oro poets, playwrights, and novelists—with the notable exception of Lope de Vega—had flocked to Valladolid, where the court had relocated for what would be a temporary hiatus away from Madrid (see Narciso Alonso Cortés). The crown officials who sought to regulate this literary ferment—with notoriously uneven results—played a role in this literary Golden Age.

Though the story Bouza pieces together is a document-driven exploration of book licensing, it makes for a surprisingly brisk read thanks to his talent for making archival and bureaucratic arcana comprehensible. The reader also benefits from the willingness of editors at Akal to include an appendix with high-resolution images of the archival documents discussed, followed by explanatory annotations. This suggests one model for academic monographs in the era of digitization. Together, the book’s two tiers—explanation and exposition within chapters, plus the annotated appendix—add a depth of context and nuance that a facsimile edition of the source or online digital access could not provide, except with a painstakingly crafted and meticulously maintained website. Before moving on to an outline of the individual chapters, it bears mention that...


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