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Writing Literature for Publication, 1605–1637
Esther Villegas de la Torre
In 1604 the bookseller Francisco de Robles presented an application – a
memorial de petición addressed to the king before the Consejo Real for the
licence and printing of a text by Miguel de Cervantes. A great deal could
depend on the outcome of such petitions – not least the ability for publishers
to turn a profit, not to mention the potential impact on an author’s reputation.
It was a process that could last from a few weeks to a number of months. The
first lines of the petition read: ‘Most powerful lord. I, Miguel de Cervantes,
say that I have written a book, entitled El
later, Don Quijote de la Mancha
was published in Madrid by Juan de la Cuesta, under a royal privilege
granted on the grounds of personal effort and public utility, ‘which had
required much work from you and which was very useful
The Mercantilization of the Literary Product
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the presentation of a memorial de
petición, usually by a printer-publisher or bookseller, initiated the process by
which texts could be printed lawfully.3 In the case of Spain, this dialogue had
been shaped specifically by a royal decree of 1558, issued by Juana de Austria,
queen regent of Spain on behalf of her brother Philip II:
Fernando Bouza, “Dásele licencia y privilegio” Don Quijote y la aprobación de libros en el
Siglo de Oro (Madrid: Akal, 2012), p. 30.
Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quijote de la Mancha, Francisco Rico (ed.), (Madrid: Punto de Lec-
tura, 2010), p. 4; my translation.
I see this as part of Robert Darnton’s ‘communication circuit’, a general model for examining
how books come into being and spread through society. Darnton’s cycle moves from the act
of writing to the commissioning of texts, the printing house and its members, the business
of dissemination, and the reader and book-user. See Robert Darnton, ‘What is the History of
Books?’ in D. Finkelstein and A. McCleery (eds.), The Book History Reader, 2nd edn (London:
Routledge, 2006), pp. 9–26. More recently, Darnton has re-examined the andro-centrism of
his earlier model, underlining the possibility that both genders might take on such roles.
See Robert Darnton, ‘“What is the History of Books”, Revisited’, Modern Intellectual History, 4
(2007), pp. 496 and 502.
KON IN KLI JK E
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Writing Literature for Publication, 1605–1637 125
Those interested in securing a licence had to produce the originals
(manuscripts or printed texts), whose textual materiality would be con-
trolled […] by a court scribe. In the case that the licence was granted,
it was prescribed that, once printed, the text had to be checked for dis-
crepancies with the original by a court proof-reader. Similarly, the decree
established that the licence, privilege and, where applicable, the cost had
to be included in the front matter of the printed text.4
The growing mercantilization of literature across Europe that followed the ad-
vent of print sharpened questions of authorial representation and marketabil-
ity, most notably during the first decades of the seventeenth century. Authors
in the 1600s still depended on the support of patrons. However, in the period
to 1640, the monopoly enjoyed by court and aristocratic patrons over
literary production began to give way to the active intervention of libreros, who
commissioned, printed and sold books from their shops and workshops.5 The
commercial nature of the literary product could also be seen in the way texts
dealt increasingly with questions of literary self-consciousness, which might
be defined as denoting the various ways in which a text could foreground its
author’s creative investment in it – either by highlighting its process of elabo-
ration, its author’s identity, or its own linguistic value. That is, the emergence
of authorial self-consciousness may be traced to as early as 1400 within the
Hispanic context, but it was not until the turn of the seventeenth century that
discourses of professionalization and fame became an unmistakable reality.6
While many, usually short, literary works continued to be published anony-
mously or under a pseudonym, where the author’s reputation could encourage
sales, his or her identity was emphasised strongly.
Clearly, authority and its implications for the production and reception of lit-
erature is fundamentally related to the question of literary self-consciousness,
Bouza, “Dásele licencia y privilegio”, pp. 29–30; my translation.
Pedro Coello and Alonso Pérez are prime examples of the greater role played by booksellers
in this period. On the greater role of the bookseller as publisher in the seventeenth century,
see Anne Cayuela, Le Paratexte au Siècle d’Or: Prose Romanesque, Livres et Lecteurs en Espagne
au XVIIe Siècle (Geneva: Droz, 1996) and Alonso Pérez de Montalbán: un librero en el Madrid de
los Austrias (Madrid: Calambur, 2005).
On the rise of literary self-consciousness, see Adrian Armstrong, Technique and Technology:
Script, Print and Poetics in France, 1470–1550 (Oxford: Clarendon, 2000), p. 7, and Julian
Weiss, The Poet’s Art: Literary Theory in Castile c. 1400–60 (Oxford: Oxbow, 1990). For a com-
parative, transnational perspective on the rise of discourses of professionalization and
fame, see Adrian Marino, The Biography of “the Idea of Literature” from Antiquity to the
Baroque, trans. by
V. Stanciu and C.M. Carlton (New York: State University of New York
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and this manifests most evidently in a work’s paratext – the interface where
the personal and public facets of a text, intention and reception, converge.7
None of this escaped the mind of the contemporary writer, or that of book pro-
ducers. In the seventeenth century, printed texts increasingly included plates,
authorial and laudatory stanzas, and much bolder authorial and editorial pos-
tures. In his prologue to the first part of Don Quijote, Cervantes calls attention
to the rising array of such paratexts, suggesting that they played a visibly com-
mercial role and one which could be laughed at, publicly: ‘I just wish I could
give it to you peeled and naked, unadorned by the prologue, or the endless
catalogue of the usual sonnets, epigrams and laudatory poems that are so often
placed at the beginning of books’.8 Nonetheless, even if symbolic, the relation
of reciprocity, of mutual interest, which paratexts established was not at all re-
dundant or perceived as such by contemporary writers. Lope de Vega remarked
that a dedication serves ‘either to celebrate the virtues of the dedicatee and
cause (by virtue of the writing) a degree of immortality to his or her name, or
so that, under their protection, the writers reach immortality, otherwise indi-
cating their mutual interest’.
That is to say, in the seventeenth century, writers could discuss the prag-
matic function of such paratexts openly with little fear of damaging the work’s
reception. It is true that Cervantes calls into question their benefit for the
writer. In the prologue to the first part of his Novelas ejemplares (Madrid, 1613)
(USTC 5038681) he ridicules the widespread authorial practice of including
a dedication. However, he does so on the grounds of protection only, ‘the
second [error] is saying that they place them under their protection so that
those who speak ill of others do not dare bite them and hurt them’.10
Furthermore, in the second part of Don Quijote, printed two years later,
Cervantes claims to have rejected financial help from a Chinese ambassador
on the grounds of health, but is also satisfied by the promotion of his
dedicatee, the Conde de Lemos, ‘in Naples i have the great count of Lemos,
who, without so much education, or so many titles and rectories, supports
me, protects me, and helps me much more
See Gérard Genette, Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation, trans. by J.E. Lewin (Cam-
bridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).
Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quijote, pp. 7–8; my translation.
This is from Lope’s dedication to Jorge de Tobar Valderrama for his comedia Quien ama
no haga fieros, included in Decimaoctaua parte de las Comedias de Lope de Vega Carpio
(Madrid, por Iuan Gonçalez, a costa de Alonso Perez, 1623) (ustc 5019114), ff. 236v-256.
I am citing from T.E. Case, Las dedicatorias de partes
de Lope de Vega, Estudios de
Hispanófila, 32 (Madrid: Castalia, 1975), p. 21, my italics and translation.
Miguel de Cervantes, Novelas ejemplares, I.H. Sieber (ed.), (Madrid: Cátedra, 2003), p. 54.
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Writing Literature for Publication, 1605–1637 127
than I am able to say’.11 A dedication to a noble in the early period therefore
had an ostensibly double function; it bestowed on the text a quality stamp, as
well as social prestige on the addressee.12 In short, the professionalization of
the author had arrived, the first major step towards the modern concept of the
author as autonomous artist and towards the consequent transformation of
the public sphere.
Gendered Perspectives and Print
All such changes in the literary field applied to texts published by men and by
women. The dawn of the sixteenth century saw many book producers as well
as female writers from across Europe emphasising female-authored texts being
‘the products of women’.14 Print publication made no distinction in granting
licences and privileges where the author was a woman.15 Adopting a female
authorial perspective made women’s works somewhat different from men’s
and this difference gave them originality and uniqueness, an essential part
of the captatio benevolentiae that was recommended by both Quintilian and
Cicero – ‘but we shall make our hearers attentive, if we show that the things
which we are going to say and to speak of are important, and unusual, and
incredible; and that they concern all men […] or the general interests of the
Cervantes, Don Quijote, p. 547; my translation.
On the benefits of acting as a patron in the literary field, see Anne Cayuela, ‘Adversa ce-
dunt principi magnanimo: paratexto y poder en el siglo XVII’, in M.S. Arredondo, P. Civil,
and M. Moner (ed.), Paratextos en la literatura española (siglos XV–XVIII) (Madrid: Casa
de Velázquez, 2009), pp. 379–392.
See Alain Viala. Naissance de l’écrivain: Sociologie de la littérature à l’âge classique (Paris:
Editions de Minuit, 1985), and Jürgen Habermas. The Structural Transformation of the Pub-
lic Sphere, trans. by Thomas Burger and Frederick Lawrence (Cambridge: Polity, 1992).
On this editorial practice, see Susan Broomhall, Women and the Book Trade in Sixteenth-
Century France (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002), and M.J.M. Ezell, ‘By a Lady: The Mask of the
Femi- nine in Restoration, Early Eighteenth-Century Print Culture’, in J.R. Griffin (ed.), The
Faces of Anonymity: Anonymous and Pseudonymous Publication from the Sixteenth to the
Twenti- eth Century, (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003), pp. 63–79.
On this respect, see José Simón Diaz, El libro español antiguo: análisis de su estructura
(Madrid: Ollero & Ramos, 2000: repr; first published Kassel: Reichenberger, 1983).
M.T. Cicero. De inventione, trans. by C.D. Yonge (Montana: Kessinger, 2004),
, p. 23. The
original Latin reads: “Attentos autem faciemus, si demonstrabimus ea, quae dicturi eri-
mus, magna, nova, incredibilia esse, aut ad omnes aut ad eos, qui audient […] aut ad
summam rem publicam pertinere”, M.T. Cicero. De inventione, E. Piccolo (ed.), (Napoli:
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The case of Christine de Pizan bears great significance for understanding
this increasingly frequent phenomenon. Pizan herself exploited the question
of gender difference in her authorial self-representation, managing to reach
professional status in the fourteenth century.17 But so did her publishers and
editors, within and outside France. One of her works, Livre des Trois Vertus,
the sequel to La Cité des Dames (1405), was translated into Portuguese on two
occasions, circulating both in manuscript and print across the Iberian Penin-
Interestingly, the Portuguese printed version, issued in Lisbon in 1518 by
Germão de Campos who printed O Cancioneiro Geral (1516), bore the title O Es-
pelho de Cristina, despite the fact that the title of the fifteenth-century manu-
script translation was O Livro das Tres Vertudes a Insinança das Damas and that
the two French editions circulating at that time (1497 and 1503) bore the title Le
Trésor de la Cité des Dames. Amongst Hélisenne de Crenne’s works, published
between 1538 and 1542 and reprinted nine times before 1560 – in individual
editions and in a collective work, Les Oeuvres (1543) – was the defence of
women’s speech in the Epistres and the more didactic guide to women, Le
Songe.19 Such cases of female literary success beg us to reconsider the
implications of difference, including here the author’s gender difference, in
the literary field. As Pierre Bourdieu states:
To ‘make one’s name’ [faire date] means making one’s mark, achieving
recognition (in both senses) of one’s difference from other producers […].
Words – the names of schools or groups, proper names – are so important
only because they make things […] in a world in which the only way to be
is to be different, to ‘make one’s name’, either personally or as a group.
, p. 16. See also Quintilian, The ‘Institutio Oratoria’, with an English Trans-
lation, H.E. Butler (ed. & trans.), Loeb Classical Library, 4 vols (Cambridge,
University Press, 1920).
Maureen Quilligan, The Allegory of Female Authority: Christine de Pizan’s “Cité des Dames”
(Ithaca, London: Cornell University Press, 1991), p. 15.
For a detailed discussion on Pizan in Portugal, see Christine de Pizan, O Livro das Tres
Vertudes á Insinança das Damas, M. de Lurdes Crispim (ed.), (Lisboa: Caminho, 2002).
Broomhall, Women and the Book Trade, p. 123. See also Leah L. Chang, Into Print: The Pro-
duction of Female Authorship in Early Modern France (Newark: University of Delaware
Pierre Bourdieu, The Field of Cultural Production: Essays on Art and Literature, R. Johnson
(ed.), (Cambridge: Polity, 1993), p. 106. Drawing, too, on Bourdieu’s sociology of culture,
Toril Moi stresses the dangers of ascribing to sex alone the effects of a much more com-
plex and interconnected web of factors in a woman’s public successes (e.g. sex, class, race,
and age): “In some contexts, ‘femaleness’ may even be converted from a liability to an
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Writing Literature for Publication, 1605–1637 129
Arguably, therefore, the continuity and greater recurrence of female gendered
perspectives in public texts after the 1558 royal decree and 1559 book index,
which prohibited anonymity, points to the rising authority of communities of
female readers. The increase thereafter in the number of named women au-
thors suggests the positive implications of gender difference.
With the arrival
of literary bibliographies, the social position of the writer, male and female,
was further authorized. Andreas Schottus’s four-volume Hispaniae Bibliotheca,
printed in Frankfurt between 1603 and 1608, acknowledged, supported and
promoted writers in Latin and Spanish, male and female, including Oliva Sa-
buco de Nantes, Luisa Sigea, and Santa Teresa
Popular Literature and Print
It is this social climate that explains the rise of discourses of professionaliza-
tion and fame in literary production by the seventeenth century, irrespective
of the author’s gender. In the prologue to his Novelas ejemplares, Cervantes
remarks, ‘I am the first to have written a novel in Spanish’.23 In a very simi-
lar fashion to Cervantes, the playwright Feliciana Enríquez de Guzmán also
proclaimed herself as a pioneer in the literary field, claiming to be the first
advantage”. See Toril Moi, What is AWoman? And Other Essays (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 1999), p. 293.
“Everything to be printed must bear the real date and time of publication so that produc-
tion can be ascertained. It must also bear the names of the author and printer, and no-
body identified as such, whether booksellers, amanuenses or any other person, must dare
to print, sell, or disseminate without the aforementioned information”. This is from the
1558 royal decree, as cited in Diaz, El libro español antiguo
, p. 27; my translation. Such
regulations have been
considered when discussing the anonymity of earlier works such as
Celestina and Lazaril- lo. See Eugenio Asensio, ‘Fray Luis de Maluenda, apologista de la
Inquisición, condenado en el Índice Inquisitorial’, in Arquivos do Centro Cultural
Portugués, 9: 1975, 87–100; and Lazarillo de Tormes, Francisco Rico (ed.), (Madrid:
Cátedra, 1998), pp. 31–44. For a recent study on anonymity in print, see Anonymity in Early
Modern England: ‘What’s In a Name?’ Janet Wright Starner and Barbara Howard Traister
(eds), (Franham: Ashgate, 2011).
Andreas Schottus, Hispaniae illustratae: seu, Rerum vrbiumque Hispaniae,
Lusitaniae, Aethiopiae et Indiae scriptores varii, partim editi nunc primum, partim
aucti atque emendati, III (Francofurti: Claudius Marnius & haeredes Iohannis Aubrii,
1608), pp. 336
Cervantes, Novelas ejemplares,
, p. 52; my translation.
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playwright in Spain to conform to Aristotelian precepts. Her only surviving
play, Tragicomedia los jardines y campos sabeos, was printed in Coimbra in 1624
by Jacomo Carvallo (USTC 5015142), and then again with authorial
revisions, in Lisbon in 1627 by Gerardo de la Viña (USTC 5039679). It is in
the prologue to the reader, included for the first time in the play’s second
edition that we find the parallel with Cervantes – ‘our female poet thinks
that she is the first in Spain to preserve the art and precepts of the ancient
comedy when imitating the ancient comedy writers, and that she is the only
one to have won the
Cervantes’s self-proclamation as the
first to novelar in Span
ish has been seen as a manifiesto literario, reflecting
the ways in which writing went on to be linked to developments in the
editorial market during the
That is, Cervantes’s literary
self-consciousness has been
linked to the question of literary authority, or
capital. Arguably, the same can be said of Feliciana Enríquez de Guzmán,
even if her play’s editorial success fell substantially short in relation to Don
Quijote’s. It should be noted that Feliciana Enríquez de Guzmán stresses that
she publishes – literally, she makes her authorship public – with full
knowledge of being part of a cultural group of lettered women, which
includes many of the lettered women in Andreas
Because if she was female, so were our dearest sisters the nine Muses [...].
Notable were also, in letters, the most respected marquise of Cenete, the
celebrated Isabelle Joya of Barcelona, the most erudite, Sigea Toledan, to
whom, with incredible admiration for her Latin and Hebrew letters, the
most serene Queen of Portugal received in her house and had as teacher
for her class of illustrious women; Lady Ángela Zapata, Lady Ana Osorio
from Burgos, and Lady Catalina de Paz, glory and honour of Guadalajara,
and endless other Spanish ladies, who have always honoured Spanish
lands, standing out in them throughout the periods.26
New forms of literary self-consciousness by seventeenth-century writers ex-
tended to the discussion of cost, the financial aspect of writing. Via the trans-
lator of Le bagatelle, Cervantes observed, ‘I do not print my books in order to
become famous in the world, for I am already widely known for my works;
Feliciana Enríquez de Guzmán, The Dramatic Works of Feliciana Enríquez de Guzmán,
L.C. Pérez (ed.), (Valencia: Albatros, 1988), p. 43, my translation and italics.
Anne Cayuela, ‘De reescritores y reescrituras: teoría y práctica de la reescritura en los
paratextos del Siglo de Oro’, Criticón, 79 (2000), p. 42.
Enríquez de Guzmán, The Dramatic Works, p. 259; my translation.
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Writing Literature for Publication, 1605–1637 131
I crave profit because, without it, good fame is worth nothing’.27 Again, it is
easy to link Cervantes’s acute literary self-consciousness with his growing au-
thority within the republic of letters because of Don Quijote’s traceable degree
of editorial success. However, it may also be argued that authorial comments
such as this would have been made only when there was little fear of discour-
aging sales. Public texts, irrespective of the author’s gender, are after all cul-
tural artifacts; they are the product of multiple personal motives, intentions,
but also conventions.28 In a newsbook entitled Contexto de las reales fiestas
del Retiro, printed in quarto format (with 43 pages of printed text) in Madrid
in 1637 by the ‘Imprenta del Reyno’ (USTC 5028002), the author, Ana Caro
de Mallén, wittily uses her identity to bring up the financial aspect of
writing in the prologue to the reader:
Caro reader: if this Contexto is so [caro = expensive] to you, more so for
the anger it can cause than for its cost, forgive this sin of my ignorance,
appreciating that what in it is badly reasoned is that it was written with-
out the intent of publication […]. I beg you to censure it as if it were
yours and to buy it as if it were by another person because, with that
alone, if you are not happy [contento = happy, fulfilled], I will still be paid
[pagada = paid, fulfilled].
Here is, therefore, a contemporary self-conscious female perspective support-
ing the claim that during the seventeenth century ‘the writer turns, in effect,
into a professional and […] is aware of it’.30 Another text worth recalling here
Cervantes, Don Quijote, p. 1033; my translation.
Marino, The Biography of “the Idea of Literature”, p. 135. I refer to texts as artifacts, as
used by McGann. See Jerome McGann, ‘The Socialization of texts’, in D. Finkelstein
and A. McCleery (eds.), The Book History Reader, 2nd edn (London: Routledge, 2006),
Ana Caro de Mallén, Contexto de las reales fiestas qve se hizieron en el Palacio del Bven
Retiro a la coronación de Rey de Romanos, y entrada en Madrid de la señora Princesa de
Cariñan. En tres discursos (Madrid: Imprenta del Reyno, 1637) (USTC 5028002), fol.
3r; my translation. For a detailed discussion of the work’s paratext, see Esther
la Torre, ‘Transatlantic Interactions: Seventeenth-Century Women Authors
and Literary Self-Consciousness’, in Identity, Nation, and Discourse: Latin American
Women Writers and Artists, ed. by Claire Taylor (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing,
2009), pp. 104–121.
On the theme of cost in prologues of the time, see Antonio
Porqueras Mayo, El prólogo
como género literario: su estudio en el Siglo de Oro español
(Madrid: Consejo Superior de
Investigaciones Científicas, 1958), pp. 143–144.
Marino, The Biography of “the Idea of Literature”, pp. 185–187.
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is Novelas amorosas y ejemplares, whose author María de Zayas, published in
print in Zaragoza in 1637 (USTC 5022533) – the same year as Ana Caro
published Contexto de las reales fiestas del Retiro in Madrid. The original
manuscript (which may have contained only eight short stories) might
have been presented first in Madrid, since one of the two licencias is dated
Madrid, 4 June 1626; the other is dated Zaragoza, 6 May 1636. The eleven
years that took for it to appear in print and in a different city may suggest that
Zayas only managed to secure the ecclesiastical licence in Madrid; she also
needed the legal licence, or ‘Licencia del Ordinario’. The ban on publication in
Castile between the years 1625 and 1634 may explain the delay, since it
concerned works of fiction and
At any rate, of all the approved works
of prose fiction published during
the ban only one bore the word novela in the
title, and this concerned the last
year of the suspension.
Much has been written about the real (non-rhetorical) foundation of Za-
yas’s pro-feminist stance, not least without or barely touching on the work’s
physical properties and the fact that women were the intended readers in the
business of prose fiction.33 Conversely, a comparative approach, in terms of
language and gender, attentive to her text as a whole, reveals Zayas as a self-
consciously career-driven author. The work’s paratexts include the customary
legal texts, several complimentary stanzas, and two prologues. Amongst those
who contributed laudatory pieces are the professional writers, Ana Caro de
Mallén, Alonso del Castillo Solórzano, and Juan Pérez de Montalbán.
customary, the work’s paratexts included a laudatory composition in Portu-
guese, in order to appeal to the widest readership possible.35 The expression
of the modern idea that only print endows writing (and implicitly, the writer)
Jaime Moll, ‘La primera edición de las “Novelas amorosas y exemplares” de María de Zayas
y Sotomayor’, dicenda: Cuadernos de Filología Hispánica, 1 (1982), pp. 177–179.
See Cayuela, Le Paratexte au Siècle d’Or, p. 43.
On the role of women in prose fiction, see Cayuela, Le Paratexte au Siècle d’Or, p. 101.
The other laudatory pieces are by Isabel Tintor, Francisco de Aguirre Vaca, Alonso Ber-
nardo de Quirós, Diego Pereira, Ana Inés Victoria de Mires y Arguillur, and Victorián Josef
de Esmir y Casanate.
“From Diego Pereira, in Portuguese / Sonnet / During the time in which rosey spring /
shows herself happier and more delighted, / like a pink laurel wreath, / I saw fame de-
scending from the high sphere. / Longing to know the cause, / I asked her: where are you
going so full of care? / – Off to crown Minerva, new goddess, / close to Manzanares I go,
where she awaits me. / – What work does she offer, I say, to your altar? / – Novellas of love
– she responds, / suspended, she adds, and some fantasies. / If Manzanares waters Ma-
drid, / if the one who enjoys such favours is a woman, / who can it be if not lady María?”.
See María de Zayas y Sotomayor, Obra narrativa completa: Novelas amorosas y ejemplares /
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Writing Literature for Publication, 1605–1637 133
with authority can also be found in Zayas’s prologue to the reader, ‘because not
until writing touches lead letters does this have real value’.36 Furthermore, in
the publisher’s prologue, ‘Prologo de vn desapassionado’, Zayas’s status as an
author is promoted through the claim to women’s participation and acclaim in
literary academies, as well as the invested morality within the novela tradition:
Lady María de Zayas, glory of Manzanares and honour of our Spain –
whom the learned academies of Madrid have so much applauded and
celebrated – by virtue of her quill, gives to the press these ten births of
her fertile brain under the name of Novelas. The morality which they
contain, the artifice which they have, and the grace with which they are
written, all are traces of her lively wit.
Public participation and moral value are therefore used as strong arguments
by a publisher for recommending a female-authored text, whose material and
discursive properties overtly position it within the novela tradition, one of the
three more commercially-driven textual forms of the time.
yas’s text is here promoted on the very grounds she famously complains about
in the prologue to the reader, which are gender, class, and erudition, ‘for being
a lady, for being witty, for being learned, you must – oh, reader – look at her
sharp thoughts with respect, unaffected by the envy with which you censure
other writings that do not carry this licence, owed to the ladies’.39 As previ-
ously noted, the appeal to favour the reception of a woman’s work for being
‘by a lady’ was a recurrent authorial and editorial strategy during the sixteenth
century.40 On this occasion, such an appeal is made by the bookseller himself,
and one whose coat of arms is displayed in the title page, the place customar-
ily occupied by the dedicatee’s identity.41 Last but not least, the publisher also
Desengaños amorosos, Estrella Ruiz-Gálvez Priego (ed.), (Madrid: Fundación José Anto-
nio de Castro, 2001), p. 14; my translation.
Zayas y Sotomayor, Obra narrativa completa, p. 17; my translation.
Zayas y Sotomayor, Obra narrativa completa, p. 21; my translation.
The other two were theatre and news. See Don W. Cruickshank, ‘“Literature” and the
Book Trade in Golden-Age Spain’, Modern Language Review, 73 (1978), pp. 799–824, Henry
Ettinghausen, (ed.). Noticias del siglo XVII: relaciones españolas de sucesos naturales y
sobrenaturales (Barcelona: Puvill, 1995), and Andrew Pettegree, The Invention of News: How
the World Came to Know About Itself (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2014).
Zayas y Sotomayor, Obra narrativa completa, p. 22; my translation.
Ezell, ‘By a Lady’, p. 79.
On the identity of the publisher, Pedro Esquer, see Moll, ‘La primera edición de las “Nove-
las amorosas y exemplares”, p. 177.
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brings up the question of cost, ‘and you must not only do this, but wish, on
account of its female author, for your study room to not be without her book,
not by borrowing it but by costing you money, for, although it might be much,
you will think of it as having been money well spent’.42 In fact, the reference to
the work’s justified cost poses a close parallel with the also unsigned prologue
of Quevedo’s El Buscón (1626):
You know who the author is and what the cost is, for you have it in your
house, unless you are passing through the pages at the bookseller’s, which
is a pain to him and which should be stopped with great rigour because
there are book scroungers […] and such is a real shame because this type
of reader gossips without spending any of his or her money.43
Didactic Literature and Print
In the seventeenth century, ambitious authors could also make their name by
portraying themselves as teachers and scholars, rather than as professional au-
thors.44 To be sure, the preconception that it was ‘shameful to make verse for
money’ was still strong and widespread across Europe.
Just a year before Cer-
vantes published his masterpiece, a biography in verse of St Catherine of Si-
enna by a widow, Doña Isabel de Liaño, appeared, explicitly addressing women
readers. The text was published in Valladolid in print under a royal privilege,
dated Pardo, 22 April 1602, by Luis de Salazar. The author’s status as a widow is
disclosed in the licencia, dated Valladolid, 15 March 1604, by Cristóbal Núñez
de León, ‘escrivano de Camara de su Magestad’. The printer was Luis Sánchez,
who then held the title of ‘impresor del Rey’, and who had printing opera-
tions in both Madrid and Valladolid.46 In brief, Liaño’s case offers yet another
example of the ways in which writing went on to be linked to developments in
the editorial market during the seventeenth century.
Zayas y Sotomayor, Obra narrativa completa, p. 22; my translation.
Francisco de Quevedo y Villegas, ‘Al Lector’, La vida del buscón llamado don Pablos,
D. Ynduráin (ed.), (Madrid: Cátedra, 2001), p. 92; my translation. The attribution of this
piece to Quevedo’s publisher, Roberto Duport, is made on the same grounds: “because of
the ostensible preoccupation with the selling – rather than reading – of the book in the
last section of the prologue”. See Quevedo, La vida del buscón, p. 83; my translation.
Christoph Strosetzki, La literatura como profesión: en torno a la autoconcepción de la exis-
tencia erudita literaria en el Siglo de Oro español (Kassel: Reichenberger, 1997), p. 204.
Marino, The Biography of “the Idea of Literature”, p. 187.
Antonio Rojo Vega, Impresores, libreros y papeleros en Medina del Campo y Valladolid en el
siglo xvii (Salamanca: Junta de Castilla y León, 1994), p. 195.
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Writing Literature for Publication, 1605–1637 135
Isabel de Liaño begins her prologue to the reader by commenting that her
authorship had been disputed and attributed only on financial grounds. That
is, in her dialogue with the potential reader / book-user, the female author
bestows on her gender difference a double pragmatic function; it serves as a
concession – for the captatio benevolentiae – and as a promotional point – for
confirming the text’s financial worth:
I gave my work to the press, casting shadow on my justice through the in-
credulity of our detractors, who said that I stole this poetry and that who-
ever wrote it attributed to me so that he could encourage sales, since
such a discredited named authorship would cause everybody to
see it, out of curiosity and for seemingly being an impossible
Such is indeed the reading, if we consider her first-person authorial statements
in the context in which they appear – in relation to the material and discursive
properties of the text.48 After the title page came the usual legal and literary
texts, where it was clear that the text’s royal privilege was conceded on the
grounds of the author’s personal effort and public utility, as was the case for
Cervantes’s Don Quijote: ‘which was very useful and profitable for the pious, in
which you had put in a great deal of work’. The work’s paratexts also include
two plates, reaffirming Liaño’s literary self-consciousness, as well as the text’s
ideological function, in the manner of the publication of Santa Teresa’s col-
lected works in print: one is of the author dressed in religious attire; the other
resembles Michelangelo’s La Pietà (1499). This is all the more interesting, if
we consider that authors themselves ordered the illustrations.49 Lope de Vega
stands as a prime example in this regard, not least because many of the illustra-
tions he ordered elicited authority via his religious status.50
Isabel de Liaño, Historia de la vida, mverte, y milagros de Santa Catarina de Sena, diuidida
en tres libros (Valladolid: Luys Sanchez, 1604) (
5026453); my translation.
Ernst R. Curtius, European Literature and Latin Middle Ages, W.R. Trask (trans.), (Princ-
eton: Princeton University Press, 1990), pp. 83 and 85.
Víctor Mínguez, ‘Imágenes para leer: función del grabado en el libro del Siglo de Oro’, in
Gómez Castillo (ed.), Escribir y leer en el siglo de Cervantes, (Barcelona: Gedisa, 1999),
p. 267. In Santa Teresa’s collected works, the plate of the author underlines her status as
founder of the Order of the ‘descalços Carmelitas’. See Santa Teresa de Jesús, Los libros
de la madre Teresa de Iesvs fundadora de los monasterios de monjas y frayles Carmelitas
Descalços de la primera regla (Salamanca: Guillermo Foquel, 1588) (
For a detailed study of Lope’s self-promotional strategies, see Alejandro García Reidy,
‘Lope de Vega frente a su escritura: el nacimiento de una conciencia profesional’, (doctoral
thesis, València: Universitat de València, 2009). See also Cayuela, ‘Adversa cedunt principi
magnanimo’, pp. 379–392.
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The authority elicited by Liaño’s text is also evoked through the eight lau-
datory poems (by various juristas), in Spanish and in Portuguese, included in
the work’s paratext, thus confirming Liaño and her book producers’ intention
to appeal to the widest readership possible. It is noteworthy that none of the
preliminary pieces, not even the laudatory poems, discussed the author’s al-
legation that her authorship had been disputed. Instead, all praise Liaño’s liter-
ary skill and text’s public utility; some compare her to Minerva and call her the
‘Décima Musa’, a worthy title (it had, after all, been accorded by Plato to the
Greek woman poet Safo), which would also later be accorded to many other
The degree to which Isabel de Liaño aimed to stand out within the literary
field may be seen in that she repeatedly gives her female gender crucial the-
matic and marketing relevance. In the prologue to the reader, she describes her
literary skills as being noticeably ‘female’, while at the same time boasting that
she could make use of male auctoritas if she so wished. This apparent concern
of hers, that she might be criticised for her choice of literary materials, is also
what ultimately informed her appeal for patronage – ‘if heavens had not given
rh such a devoted heart, accompanied by such legal authority and grandiosity,
this book would have been made an orphan of such high favour for lacking the
variety of fabulous fictions which are usually chosen to adorn the stories, most
likened by the common taste’.
Reina Margarita de Austria (1598–1611), the
chosen dedicatee, was an important literary patron, and the dedicatee of the
collected works of Santa Teresa, taken to the press – supported and promoted,
that is – by Fray Luis de León.52 All in all, the exaggerated pro-feminist stance
of Liaño’s text, her and the book producers’ decision to market it on gender
grounds, makes perfect sense commercially and thematically.
Anonymity in Print
Seventeenth-century texts manifested literary self-consciousness in various
ways, and this was no different within the didactic tradition, especially among
noble and religious writers. Despite their well-established stature as authors,
Quevedo, Gracián and Fray Gabriel Téllez published both religious and profane
Liaño, Historia de la vida, fol. 3v; my translation.
A copy of Pizan’s Le Livre des Trois Vertus in its Portuguese translation is listed in the book
inventory of the Catholic Queen, but it may have actually belonged to Reina Margarita de
Austria. See Elisa Ruiz García, Los libros de Isabel la Católica: arqueología de un patrimonio
escrito (Madrid: Instituto de Historia del Libro y de la Lectura, 2004), p. 27.
Genette, Paratexts, p. 40.
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Writing Literature for Publication, 1605–1637 137
works under their own names and also under pseudonyms, and most espe-
cially, when they first entered the literary field. Diego de Saavedra Fajardo vali-
dates this claim in his dedication of La república literaria to the Count-Duke of
Olivares. Interestingly, Saavedra Fajardo’s statements on his anonymity were
published under a pseudonym, Claudio Antonio de Cabrera, in the work’s first
edition, entitled Juicio de artes y sciencias (Madrid, 1655):
This was, my lord, the first birth of my wit, crime of my youth, as can be
seen in its freedom and movement. I let it travel around Spain anony-
mously so as to prove himself and me […] without allowing it to go
through the press until another work of greater judgement and public
utility deserved it, as I believe Empresas Políticas is.
Such examples show that we should expect that women’s practice and status
as authors, just like men’s, by no means conformed to a single or simple pat-
tern – Bernarda Ferreira de Lacerda and Ana de Castro Egas both signed their
published works in their real names, going on to achieve important renown as
Accordingly, an anonymous work in octavo format, entitled
Nobleza virtuosa, appeared in print under a royal privilege in 1637 in Zaragoza
(USTC 5006146) – in the same year that María de Zayas and Ana Caro
the works previously discussed.
The paratexts of Nobleza virtuosa
a noteworthy architectural frontispiece – an expensive choice of
title-page design, displaying in the centre of its architrave the coat of arms of
the text’s dedicatee, Gaspar, the eldest son and heir of the Duque de Osuna.57
More striking is
Its title page displayed the publisher’s name, D. Melchor de Fonseca y Almeida. A second
edition was published in 1670 in Madrid by María Fernández; here the author’s name was
changed to Diego de Saavedra Fajardo, and the publisher was D. Joseph de Salinas. See
Diego de Saavedra Fajardo, República Literaria, J.C. de Torres (ed.), (Madrid: Libertarias,
1999), p. 61; my translation. On the count-duke of Olivares, see John H. Elliott, El conde-
duque de Olivares: el político en una época de decadencia (Barcelona: Crítica, 2009).
See Bernarda Ferreira de Lacerda, Hespaña libertada: parte primera (Lisboa: Pedro
Crasbeeck, 1618) (
5013245) and Hespaña libertada. Poema posthumo: parte
segunda (Lisboa: Ivan de la Costa, 1673), as well as Ana de Castro Egas, Eternidad del Rey
Don Filipe Tercero Nvestro Señor, el Piadoso: Discvrso de sv vida y santas costumbres
(Madrid: Viuda de Alonso Martin, 1629) (
Nobleza virtuosa (Zaragoça: por Iuan de Lanaja y Quartanet, 1637) (
On the title-page design, see Ana Martínez Pereira, ‘La ilustración impresa’, in V. Infantes,
F. Lopez, and J.F. Botrel (ed.), Historia de la edición y de la lectura en España, 1472–1914,
(Madrid: Fundación Germán Sánchez Ruipérez, 2003), p. 59. The name “Alonso” was in
fact an error and should have been Gaspar (1625–1694), only son of Juan Téllez Girón
Enríquez de Ribera. The mistake was corrected in the book’s sequel. See Noble perfecto y
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the prominence given to the name of the publisher, Fray Pedro Enrique Pastor,
Provincial of the Augustinian Order in Aragon. And yet, in the aprobaciones
it is made abundantly clear that the author is not him, but a noble. The two
dedications that follow begin to lift the veil that the title-page had cast over
the mysterious author. In the first, signed by Pastor and addressed to the book’s
dedicatee, it is claimed that the text – a copy ready for publication and ex-
plicitly attributed to a woman autora – was found by chance. Pastor goes on
to promise would-be readers (book-buyers) a text offering both pleasure and
delight, a topos of public utility which he links to that of praise of the unknown
writer’s wit – ‘I looked at it carefully and read it with pleasure, equally admir-
ing its useful doctrine and sovereign wit’.58 This allows him to reveal at last the
further detail that the autora is of noble lineage, ‘suffice to say that it is by a
great lady […] to get princes to accept it, nobles to esteem it, children to read it,
parents to teach it’.59 The second dedication is by the author herself. Its rubric
repeats the fact that she is a noble lady, and justifies the hiding of her name as
a matter of decorum – ‘dedication by a great lady of these kingdoms of Spain,
on the advice left for her eldest son and daughter, in which, out of due respect,
her name was hidden’. Despite its intimate tone and personal comments about
the author’s poor health, the dedication may be seen as rhetorical rather than
real, not least because the children remain unnamed and happen conveniently
to be of each sex, the male being the first-born:
Since our God is not being served by giving me the time to communicate
them through your education, for I have been in bed so many months
now due to an illness which right from the start threatened me with
death and your orphanage in such tender years, I exhort you with these
documents (that I have only just managed to gather together), judging
them to be the most esteemed inheritance that I could leave you as to-
kens of the dear love that I profess you.60
The perspective of a mother teaching her children seems to have been used for
conferring credibility on her authorial persona, as a noble woman writing on
the education of noble children who herself was a mother. This aspect should
segvnda parte de la Nobleza virtuosa (En Zaragoça: por Iuan de Lanaja y Quartanet, 1639)
Nobleza virtuosa, fol. 7v; my translation.
Nobleza virtuosa, fol. 8r–v; my translation.
It is paginated as part of the body of the text (pp. 1–6), to which it serves as an introduc-
tion; my translation.
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Writing Literature for Publication, 1605–1637 139
not be downplayed, since women could be seen as having particular types of
authority in domestic knowledge. In the Privilège of a child-rearing handbook
by Madame and Philippe du Verger, Le Verger Fertile des Vertus Plein de toute di-
versité de fruicts & fleurs pour l’ytilité ornement et saincte instruction de la petite
ieunesse, printed in 1595 in Paris by François Jacquin (USTC 20561), it is argued
that the authors’ experience in raising children as governesses in Paris must be
published so as to not be lost to their contemporaries and future generations.61
Thus, although the text concealed the author’s name, the book producers of
Nobleza virtuosa saw fit to suggest – beyond its title-page – that they all knew
and supported the woman autora. A male priest does take responsibility for
‘giving it to the press’, but this authorial reticence is immediately and consis-
tently presented as being motivated by scruples of class, not gender. Here the
advice given in Castiglione’s widely famous Libro del cortegiano seems perti-
nent, since it was precisely that a courtier should be circumspect about show-
ing their work to an audience larger than just one’s trusted friends.62
Not only did all those involved in the production and publication of Nobleza
virtuosa agree on supporting the woman autora, but they all also concurred on
using what Gérard Genette has called the ‘affectation of mystery’ as part of the
marketing campaign. Indeed, the author’s identity was unveiled eventually, in
the paratexts of a third part – from a total of six – which appeared in Zaragoza
by the same publisher in 1639. In the copy in the National Library of Spain,
a reader has shown recognition of this fact by adding a marginal annotation
under the imprint: ‘the Countess of Aranda is the author of this book’.63 In
’s will, dated Épila, 17 February 1645, there is a reference to the
Countess of Guimerá, co-founder of the literary academy, La Pítima contra la
ociosidad, near Zaragoza in 1608.
The very first rule in becoming a member
the adoption of a pseudonym so as to eschew all possibility of
renown, again suggesting that her anonymity was influenced by scruples of
class, not gender:
Broomhall, Women and the Book Trade, p. 84.
See Brian Richardson, Printing, Writers and Readers in Renaissance Italy (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 79–80.
See Lagrimas de la nobleza (En Çaragoça: por Pedro Lanaja, 1639) (
, R1018]; my translation.
‘Also, I kindly leave my lady, the Countess of Guimaran, an image of the Escape to Egypt,
as a token of the friendship we have always professed one another’. See Manuel Serrano
y Sanz, Apuntes para una biblioteca de escritoras españolas desde el año 1401 al 1833,
(Madrid: Atlas), p. 103; my translation.
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The first [rule] is that members could take a name different to the one
they had, on the grounds that the intent and rule of this board lie in get-
ting qualified, rather than in achieving renown through the noise and
opinion that could arise from the fruits derived from this activity, and so
they did immediately.
In sum, a comparative approach which views the question of literary self-
consciousness as being intrinsically related to the question of authority serves
to identify and explain similarities, not just differences, in the promotion of
male and female-authored texts in writing for publication. Similarly, such
an approach helps to expose the pervasive fallacies of reading women’s first-
person statements and other gendered perspectives used in their published
works literally and uncritically. Indeed, even if some related to personal expe-
riences, we cannot overlook the rhetorical and material contexts in which the
writers’ remarks appeared – not least genre, tradition, medium, and contem-
porary trends. In the early period, certainly in the seventeenth century, writing
for publication involved making use of a wide range of authorial and edito-
rial strategies, which included the exploitation of personal details such as the
author’s place of birth, religious status or affiliation, marital and class status,
as well as gender. Due to the conditions of patronage, it was often publishers
and patrons, not authors, who initiated the literary enterprise. This practice,
in turn, necessarily invites us to concede that literary production and success,
male and female, ultimately depended on the writer’s proximity to the agents
of power. The question of gender had a relational value – literary practice
and success concerned the effects of a complex and interconnected web of
factors. The examples discussed and analysed in this chapter are testament to
the fact that the mercantilization of the literary product in the seventeenth
century impinged on textual production, irrespective of the author’s gender.
Actas de Pitima contra la ociosidad [literary academy] (Zaragoza, 1608) [copy:
BNE, MSS/9396], 3, my translation. The Countess of Guimerá co-founded it with her
mother-in-law the Countess of Heril in the summer of 1608. It was hosted on the estate
at Fréscano of the count of Guimerá, Gaspar Galcerán de Castro y Pinós, the amusingly
named group (called after a type of socrocio or saffron poultice applied to the heart
against melancholy) met every afternoon from 9 June to 30 August 1608, and included,
besides the women, the count’s two sons and members of his household; it accepted
verse or prose in Latin, Castilian, or Valencian, and held certámenes in honour of the
beatification of Fray Luis Beltrán, St Agnes, and St Francis, as well as discussing such
diverse topics as Virgil
and Alciato, jurisprudence, and anatomy.