A Scholarly Edition of Andrés de Li’s Thesoro de la Passion (1494) by Laura Delbrugge
Laura Delbrugge’s new publication crowns many years of hard work on Andrés de Li with the edition of the last of the three books written by him for Pablo Hurus’s printing shop in Zaragoza. She had already produced editions of his two previous works, the Reportorio de los tiempos and the Summa de paciencia, and [End Page 152] now adds the Thesoro de la Passion, the first printing of which was finished on 2 October 1494. Her pioneering work must be greeted as a major advance for our knowledge of a wrongly overlooked author and his troubled times, even if it is expected that further research by other scholars will complement or even call into question some of her ideas.
Delbrugge’s book offers a lengthy introduction in three chapters. The first is focused on the Thesoro de la Passion, and gives a brief account of the relationship between the author and the printer. Not much is known about Andrés de Li, though a handful of documents with valuable indications has survived. We do know that he was a converso wealthy merchant prominent in his community, and that he suffered persecution at the hands of the Inquisition, which imprisoned him in 1490. Indeed, the documents that have been preserved record him as Andrés Eli, a name changed to Andrés de Eli in those signed by him and to Andrés de Li in his printed books, probably a process of manipulation providing some disguise to an obvious Hebrew origin. He lived in Zaragoza in the parish of San Gil, the same one where Pablo Hurus, a native of Konstanz, established his printing office. The two men established a close and productive relationship, and there is some evidence that the momentum for their collaborative efforts came at first from the German printer (6-7). Delbrugge points out the commercial importance of devotional literature, which made for a large proportion of the book production of early Iberian printers. Nevertheless, the terms “popular” and “popularity” should be used with caution, since they are open to misunderstandings. The Thesoro de la Passion of 1494, with its 120 folios and 133 illustrations, was an expensive book, addressed to the well-off.
This becomes evident in the section where Delbrugge describes the editions of the work, focusing on the princeps. It was dedicated to the Catholic Monarchs, and we know that Queen Isabel I of Castile owned a copy (17). The marks and annotations in the surviving copies are not dealt with. This is an important aspect, since they usually give us valuable information about who read a book and sometimes even how it was understood. Delbrugge bases her work on a copy of the 1494 edition (Washington DC, Library of Congress, Incun. 1494.L.5) that has been digitalized and made available on the internet. It has the indication “Da Communidade” on the front cover, and a note including “foi da rainha dona lianor” at the foot of fol. 1r. These Portuguese words constitute important information to trace the history of this copy. A likely hypothesis is that it was originally owned by Isabel of Aragon, the eldest daughter of the Catholic [End Page 153] Monarchs, to whom Andrés de Li had dedicated the Summa de paciencia in 1493. At the time she was Princess of Portugal because of her marriage in Spring of 1490 to the infante Afonso, who died shortly afterwards in July 1491. Isabel mourned deeply for him and became a famously devout woman, but she agreed to marry Manuel I of Portugal after he accepted her request for the expulsion of Jews from his kingdom. The abovementioned copy of the Thesoro de la Passion is likely to have been part of her library when she moved to Lisbon in 1497. The following year the couple was called by the Catholic Monarchs in order to discuss succession arrangements. Manuel and Isabel, who was pregnant, departed, leaving as a regent his sister, Leonor, still known as “Rainha Dona Leonor” or “Rainha Velha” after her descent from the throne in 1495. Isabel died shortly after giving birth in Zaragoza in August 1498; eventually her library must have passed to Leonor, who founded the Convento da Madre de Deus in 1509 and was buried there at her death in 1525. This convent must have been the community which owned the copy kept today in the Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection housed in the Library of Congress.
The Thesoro de la Passion of 1494 is lavishly illustrated, and Delbrugge offers a study of its woodcuts in the introduction, later providing a description of all figures and a reproduction of sixteen of them in two appendices. I beg to differ with her analysis of the woodcut on fol. 1v, reused on fol. 106v. This is a depiction of the crucified Christ with the Virgin Mary and Saint John the Evangelist at the foot of the Cross. The inscription over the head of Christ presents the letters “INRI” in reverse, and the explanation given is that the engraver cut a new block for this figure copying a printed illustration (27, 351). This is a well-documented phenomenon, but an unlikely explanation in this case. There is no proof in its favor, since the alleged original is not produced, and it is difficult to think of such a gross mistake in a book manufactured with great care. If a reflection of the woodcut is looked at in a mirror, the whole composition falls apart. Moreover, the characters appear arranged as is to be expected: Mary to the right of Christ, and Saint John the Apostle, the only Evangelist who mentions Her presence at the Crucifixion, appears to His left. This is the order established by the iconographical tradition when the representation is limited to these three figures rather than being crowded by the presence of other people at the foot of the Cross. There are examples in the contemporary woodcut masters, such as Martin Schongauer’s “Christ on the Cross with Four Angels” (ca. 1475-80), Lucas Cranach the Elder’s “Christ on the Cross Between the Virgin and Saint [End Page 154] John” (ca. 1502), and several crucifixions by Albrecht Dürer (1493, 1510, 1516), all of which follow an arrangement with roots in the Middle Ages, as attested by many anonymous wall paintings and stained glass windows in churches and cathedrals, the Italian tradition of crucifixes (Alberto Sozio, Berlinghiero Berlinghieri, Giunta Pisano, Coppo di Marcovaldo, Cimabue, Giotto), etc. The use of reverse script for “INRI” in the decade of 1490 is better explained by the influence of the relic known as “Titulus Crucis”, featuring the inscription referred to by John the Evangelist in Hebrew, Greek and Latin, with all letters written from right to left. It was rediscovered in the Basilica di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome, at the time under the cardinal Pedro González de Mendoza, on or about 1 February 1492, and its cult became regularized with the bull Admirabile Sacramentum issued by Pope Alexander VI on 29 July 1496. The fame of the relic spread rapidly among artists, being an inspiration to Michelangelo for the crucifix of Santo Spirito in 1492-93 and to Gil Siloé for the main altarpiece of the Cartuja de Miraflores in 1496-97.
The second chapter provides a sketch of the religious literary tradition to which the Thesoro de la Passion belongs. Delbrugge prefers this approach rather than trying to identify the exact sources used by Andrés de Li. Nevertheless, she follows the authorities quoted by him for her outline of the Latin tradition. Andrés de Li alludes to several Church Fathers, but most likely he took such references from the two texts he used as main sources: the Meditationes vitae Christi and especially the Vita Christi by Ludolf of Saxony “the Carthusian”. It should probably be mentioned here that we have a letter of 10 December 1483 sent by Pablo Hurus to Basel in which he asks Johann Amerbach for six to ten copies of a Vita Christi printed by Michael Wenssler (most likely not Ludolf’s work). Delbrugge also deals with Passion literature in the vernacular. In all probability Andrés de Li knew some Castilian texts, and Pablo Hurus had already printed poems such as the Fray Íñigo de Mendoza’s Coplas de Vita Christi and Diego de San Pedro’s La Passión trobada. Perhaps it should be emphasized here that the Thesoro de la Passion is indeed the earliest known treatment originally composed in Castilian prose. Delbrugge also refers to Catalan Passion texts, though I feel that the evidence for Andrés de Li having used them is weaker than suggested. His Reportorio de los tiempos printed by Pablo Hurus in 1492 incorporated a work by the Barcelona physician Bernat de Granollachs known under the title of Lunari, first published in Catalan in 1485 and then in Castilian by Pablo Hurus in Zaragoza in 1488. Delbrugge thinks that Andrés de Li could [End Page 155] be the translator and therefore fluent in Catalan, but he simply states that he got hold of the book printed in Zaragoza in his prologue to the Reportorio. On the other hand, Pablo Hurus had been based in Barcelona in 1475, immediately before moving to Zaragoza, and could have sought to obtain a translation through his contacts there.
The third chapter considers the Thesoro de la Passion as a work penned by a converso. The Passion as a literary genre was a vehicle for anti-Judaism in the Middle Ages, and Andrés de Li conveys “the ferocity of his Christianity” (60). Delbrugge’s hypothesis that he was not a first-generation converso (79) should be complemented by the evidence in his last will of 1480 that his father had already been baptized: “en la yglesia de senyor Sant Gil, el padre de mi dito Andrés fizo una capilla en invocación de senyor Sant Leonart, en la cual todos los descendientes del tenemos enterratorio” (Manuel Serrano y Sanz, La Imprenta de Zaragoza es la más antigua de España [Zaragoza: M. Mañeru, 1915], 20). Delbrugge argues for a diversity of religious attitudes among Christians of Jewish descent; according to her, a text such as the Thesoro de la Passion supports the view that crypto-Judaism should not be seen as the general rule among conversos.
Finally, Delbrugge offers her edition of the text. As the title states, this is a scholarly rather than critical edition, i.e. it is based only on the abovementioned copy of the editio princeps, with no apparatus recording variants from other witnesses. There is a part on the left of fol. 100r which cannot be read in the copy used by Delbrugge, and she completes the text with one of the second edition, also printed by Pablo Hurus in Zaragoza ca. 1496-98 (Barcelona, Biblioteca de Catalunya, 1-VI-1), which has been digitalized and made available on the internet. For the sake of consistency, it would have made sense to resort to one of the other five known copies of the editio princeps (13-14), even if the differences between the texts were likely to be few, if any. Delbrugge’s editorial criteria are very conservative: she adds punctuation, regularizes the use of capitals and expands abbreviations, but she does not add accents, regularize word division or introduce any regularization in the spelling. As much as I have longed for this kind of edition in the past, when only heavy-handedly modernized editions for so many important texts were available, I have come to doubt the extent of their utility in the present circumstances, when witnesses have often been digitalized and made easily accessible on the internet. In any case, Delbrugge is very consistent in following her chosen criteria, and any reproach would be unfair in this respect. [End Page 156]
To sum up, much work remains to be done, and I have expressed my doubts about a number of details, but this does not detract from the fact that we ought all to feel indebted to Laura Delbrugge for her path-breaking work.