Monday, November 10, 2014

How Don Quixote Got Published

Featuring Henry Edward Watts

Previously on Cervantes' "Don Quixote" Reforms Literature. And now Henry Edward Watts

Time: 1605
Place: Spain

In 1601 Philip III, at the instance of the Duke of Lerma, removed the court to the old capital of Castile, Valladolid--by nature far better situated for a metropolis than Madrid, which had been the choice of his grandfather, Charles V. Thither Cervantes repaired, in 1603, doubtless with some hope of gleaning some crumbs of the royal favor. He was no more fortunate with the new King than he had been with the old. Despairing of place or patronage, he turned, with his brave spirit unquenched as by the record sufficiently appears, to completing this new thing among books.

Don Quixote was probably finished by the beginning of 1604, though some further time elapsed, as it seems, before the author had courage to go to print. His genius had lain fallow for twenty years. He was now old, and had written nothing, or at least published nothing, since Galatea. What fame was left to him he had earned as a poet among many poets. As an author, if he was remembered at all, it was in a line wholly different from that which he now essayed. There is reason to believe that the manuscript of the new book was in circulation among those who called themselves the author's friends, as was the custom of the age, before he found a patron and a publisher.[6] The publisher was got at last in Francisco Robles, the King's printer, to whom the copyright was sold for ten years.[7] The patron appeared in the person of the Duque de Bejar, a nobleman described by a writer of that age--Cristobal de Mesa--as himself both a poet and a valiant soldier. The choice was not altogether a happy one, for the Duke of Bejar might be said to have an ancestral claim to be regarded as a patron of books of chivalries. It was to his great-grandfather that one of the silliest and most extravagant of the romances had been dedicated by the author, Feliciano de Silva, who is the writer specially ridiculed by Cervantes--the very book which is the subject of a parody in the opening chapter of Don Quixote.[8] The Duke of Bejar was noted, moreover, for his own uncommon affection for the books of chivalries then in fashion, and it is probable that he at first understood Don Quixote to be one such as he was in the habit of reading. Learning of his mistake, he refused, it is said, the dedication, and withdrew his patronage from the author. Then, according to the pleasant story first told by Vicente de los Rios, was enacted that scene which has been so favorite a subject with modern artists. Cervantes begged of the Duke to give him a hearing before deciding against his book; upon which he was permitted to read a chapter, which the Duke found so much to his taste that he graciously readmitted the author into his favor and consented to receive the dedication. There is another tradition which imputes to the Duke's confessor--an ecclesiastic who must have had a cleaner nose for heterodoxy than most of his fellows--the original rejection of the dedication by the Duke, the alteration in its wording, and the subsequent neglect of the author.[9] The dedication which now does duty at the opening of the First Part of Don Quixote I have shown to have been tampered with by someone bearing no good-will to Cervantes.

The privilege of publication is dated September 26th, and the Tasa December 20,1604. The book itself, the First Part of Don Quixote (it was not so called in the first edition, of course), was printed by Juan de la Cuesta during 1604, and published at Madrid in January, 1605.[10] The impression was very carelessly made, and swarms with blunders, typographical and otherwise, showing that it was not corrected or revised by the author. The press-work, however, is quite equal in execution to that of most books of that age.


[6] There are two curious pieces of evidence in proof that Don Quixote was known before it was printed. In the first edition of the Picara Justina, composed by Francisco de Ubeda--the license to print which is dated August, 1604--there are some truncated verses, like those in the beginning of Don Quixote, in which Don Quixote is mentioned by name as already famous (Catalogo de Salva, vol. ii, p. 157). Also in a private letter from Lope de Vega to his patron, the Duke of Sessa, there is a malignant allusion to Cervantes, speaking of poets. "There is none so bad as Cervantes, and none so foolish as to praise Don Quixote." The letter is dated August 4, 1604.

[7] That seems to have been the usual period for which a book was licensed in that age. The sum which Cervantes received for his copyright is not recorded.

[8] The Third Part of Don Florisel de Niquea was dedicated to a former Duque de Bejar. See Salva's Catalogo, vol. ii, p. 14.

[9] Cervantes is supposed to reflect on this meddlesome ecclesiastic in Part II, chap, xxxi, of Don Quixote, where there is a passage against those of the religious profession who "govern the houses of princes," written with a bitterness most unusual in our author.

[10] Those who are fond of dwelling on coincidences may find one here of singular interest. The year during which Don Quixote was being printed was also the year in which, according to the best authorities, Shakespeare was producing his perfected Hamlet. The two noblest works of human wit, their subjects bearing a curious affinity one to another, each the story of a mind disordered by the burden of setting the world right, were thus born in the same year.

Continued on Wednesday, November 12th.

More information here.
Read the book here.

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