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  • El Índice de libros prohibidos y expurgados de la Inquisición española (1551–1819) by Jesús Maetínez de Bujanda
  • William J. Callahan
El Índice de libros prohibidos y expurgados de la Inquisición española (1551–1819). By Jesús Maetínez de Bujanda. Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos. 2016. Pp. xxxii, 1227. ISBN 978-84-220-1883-4.

This study of the wide ranging censorship of the Spanish Inquisition is divided into two parts. Two-thirds of the text is devoted to a catalogue of the authors and titles (where no author is attributed) censored in whole or in part from the first index to the last. One-third takes the form of a detailed introduction to every aspect of the preparation of each of the indices. The author, a recognized authority in the field who has worked extensively in the Inquisition's archives, discusses the membership of the drafting committees, their debates over individual publications as well as the complex and often cumbersome procedures to enforce their prohibitions. The Spanish Inquisition censored works prior to 1551, but the surge of perceived heretical books and pamphlets produced by the Protestant Reformation created a sense of [End Page 806] urgency demanding a more systematic approach. The mid-sixteenth century saw the proliferation of indices in Catholic lands throughout Europe. The Spanish Inquisition differed from its counterparts elsewhere in an important respect. It was not a purely ecclesiastical body but a royal council that always insisted on its right to decide what works should or should not be forbidden or expurgated. The Roman or papal Inquisition, for example, banned the works of Galileo and Copernicus. The Spanish Inquisition never did so, although this by no means indicated that it approved of such theories as the author point out. It also took measures to prevent the Spanish bishops from engaging in any form of censorship.

Each of the indices established diverse categories ranging from the complete prohibition of a work to modest expurgations. Many of Spain's prominent literary works fell under the Inquisition's scrutiny from Miguel de Cervantes, whose celebrated Don Quijote had several passages expurgated as were the works of a leading figures in the eighteenth-century Spanish Enlightenment, the Benedictine, Benito Feijóo. In general, Spanish writers were treated with "benign ambiguity" according to the author. He has also ably described broad changes over time in censorship patterns. The obsession with heretical works receded by the eighteenth century to a new concern, the threat posed by the writers of the French Enlightenment, such as Voltaire and Diderot, whose works were duly banned. The emphasis shifted again following the outbreak of the French Revolution when the Inquisition became a kind of political police obsessed with stopping the flow of revolutionary publications into the kingdom and yet again in the last phase of its existence when it used its censoring powers to defend the absolutist King Ferdinand VII against the attacks of Spanish liberals following the overthrow of their 1812 constitution.

This brief overview cannot do justice to this major work. Its depth of research, its range of analysis and its mastery of the complex operation of the Inquisition's censoring will be of interest to historians of the institution, literary scholars and to students of the intellectual history of early modern Spain.

William J. Callahan
University of Toronto Emeritus


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