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Licenses for printing the Novelas Ejemplares by Cervantes (1613)

ACA, Cancillería, Registros, núm. 4.894, fol. 249v
ACA, Cancillería, Registros, núm. 4.894, fol. 250r
ACA, Cancillería, Registros, núm. 4.894, fol. 250v
ACA, Cancillería, Registros, núm. 4.894, fol. 251r

Year 1613, Cervantes in the Supreme Council of Aragon

The irruption of the printing press transformed the business of the book, motivating the appearance of new measures of control. The Crown, with the pragmatics of the Catholic Monarchs of 1502, already required the previous royal license and had fixed the price of the book with fees. The Church, on the other hand, guaranteed the adaptation of the texts to Catholic morality with the inquisitorial censorship, which began with a decree promulgated by the Valencian pontiff Alexander VI in 1501. These are the beginnings of a copious legislation on the elaboration and circulation of the book, which during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries was different in each of the territories that formed the Hispanic monarchy.Salto de línea The authorization to print books changed according to each jurisdiction. A broad legislative apparatus, which began in 1544 and shaped itself in 1558, ordered the book trade in Castile centralizing it through the Council of Castile. The original texts, which were censored and copied after printing, were handed over to be approved and allow the printing of the cover and the preliminaries, where were copied the real license, the fee, the name of the printer, the author's name and the place of printing. In the Crown of Aragon, on the contrary, it was the Real Audiencia [=Royal Court] who were responsible for granting these licenses, with a prior control of the Church.

Salto de línea Licenses for the printing and sale of books in the Archives of the Crown of Aragon

It will not be until the reign of Emperor Charles that printing privileges become frequent. With royal privilege, we read in the imprint of the covers. Indicating that the edition has been authorized and recognizing that the property of the edition was guaranteed to such bookseller or such printer. The author is seldom mentioned as a beneficiary of the privilege, which is why it is very unusual for Miguel de Cervantes to appear as an applicant for the printing privilege, recognizing the rights of the writer as the author of the work. In the Crown of Aragon are the series Diversorum of the Registers of the Royal Chancery and Royal Chamber of the Council of Aragon which contain the different privileges for the printing and sale of books or loose leaflets granted for any city of the kingdoms and manors of the Crown of Aragon. They were granted for a period ranging from four months to twenty years, being the most common that limited the license to ten years. As it is the case of the real license granted to Miguel de Cervantes, 1613 August 9 (ACA, Cancillería, Registros, 4894, ff. 249v-251v).

The case of the Novelas Ejemplares de hosnestíssimo entretenimiento [=Exemplary Novels of Honest Entertainment]

The document of request of privilege of impression did not differ from other petitionary memorials to the monarch, reason why they are conserved along with other requests of regal licenses of the most different subjects. The issuance of the license or privilege was in favor of Cervantes himself or of the person or persons "whose your power have", expressly prohibiting that no other person or persons "may have printed and sold the said book" in these realms of the Crown of Aragon during those ten years, also prohibiting that any person without his permission could sell in another kingdoms of the Crown of Aragon copies of the same book printed in other peninsular territories.Salto de línea The offenders of this privilege will be punished with a pecuniary penalty of five hundred gold guilders of Aragon, "dividing into three parts, namely, one for our royal coffers, another for you, the said Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, and another for the accuser". The penalty increased if the delinquent was a printer, then the fraud was paid with the loss of the molds and the work done, that is, of all printed books.Salto de línea It is obvious that this privilege wanted to prevent the fraudulent editions, nevertheless we can not stop thinking that we are before one of the oldest testimonies of the will to protect the copyright of our literature.