Chapter Four: Early Editions in Spanish of Don Quixote

Printers and book sellers of Don Quixote reissued the first edition of the novel without editorial intervention or commentary. The editio princeps of the novel's first part (Madrid, 1605) was the basic text reprinted throughout the seventeenth century in Spain as well as in the rest of Europe. It was not until the eighteenth century that a more "scientific" approach to the novel began to appear. In 1780 the Spanish Royal Academy "corrected" Cervantes' masterpiece with its publication of a handsome four-volume edition of the novel. For the first time, editors included a "critical" introduction, comprising a biography of the author, an "analysis" of the novel, a chronological/historical survey of Don Quixote's adventures, a series of engravings, which placed many of those adventures literally before the eyes of readers, and a map of Spain in order to follow Don Quixote's itinerary.

Vicente de los Ríos, the principle editor of the Spanish Academy edition, corrected the textual "errors" of previous editions, and called attention to the visual "misrepresentations" of the engravings of other versions.

Vincente de los Ríos fought aggresively to reclaim the novel from foreign publishers by emphasizing its essentially Spanish character, and countered conservative Spanish critics who claimed that Cervantes' sole purpose was to parody the romances of chivalry. The effort succeeded, at least in Spain. Less expensive versions of the Spanish Academy's edition soon became available in 1782 and 1787, replacing other editions of the novel and testifying to its popularity among a wider reading public that could not afford the 1780 original.

By the 1790s pocket-sized editions were sold by a number of printing presses and book shops. These miniature versions of Don Quixote were less expensive, yet still allowed readers to enjoy the engravings, even though much reduced in size.

Other scholarly editions of Don Quixote began to appear with regularity, questioning the authority of the Spanish Royal Academy. Individual editors vied with each other to produce the most "scholarly" apparatus with the most "scientific" notes. Don Juan Antonio Pellicer's five-volume edition appeared in 1797-1798. As librarian to the king and member of the Royal Academy of History, Pellicer produced what he called a "new edition, newly corrected, with new notes, new engravings, new analysis, and with the life of the author newly added."

Thirty-six years later, Pellicer's impressive version was superseded by Don Diego Clemencin's six-volume edition --still consulted by Cervantes scholars-- which more than tripled the number of scholarly notes. Its serious pretensions are evident in the fact that it claims to correct Cervantes' language and includes no engravings. The space customarily reserved for the engravings that depicted Don Quixote's adventures is instead replaced with historical explanations, parallel literary texts, contemporary lore, lexicographical analyses and scholarly commentary.

Remarkable in some ways was the fact that Spanish language editions were also printed abroad in great numbers, pointing out that readers of Spanish--whether Spaniards living outside Spain or non-Spaniards who claimed expertise in the language--could consult "corrected" versions of the novel and/or engage in scholarly debates about Cervantes' language and culture. The most expensively produced Spanish version--the "Tonson Edition"--was published by Lord Carteret for Queen Caroline of England. Printed in London in 1738 with an extensive series of engravings by J. Vanderbank, sales of this edition were never expected to off-set production costs. Expenses were underwritten by the Countess Montijo, wife of the Spanish ambassador to the Court of St. James, in an effort to publicize Cervantes' text in the original. This edition also included for the first time an essay by "Dr. Juan Oldfield" explaining the allegorical significance of the various engravings.

The Reverend John Bowle edited the first Spanish version printed in England with a complete scholarly apparatus. Reverend Bowle hoped to create a market for subscribers by publishing two letters he had written to Dr. Thomas Percy, Bishop of Dromore, in 1777, in which he refers to the progress of his forthcoming edition. Bowle was known as a "difficult" individual, and his scholarly effort was not without critics. By 1784 he was compelled to respond to "very unfair practices ... of my edition of Don Quixote...and have found the perpetrators ...to have been a false friend, and another, whose encomium I should regard as an affront and real slander...."

Bowle no doubt had in mind one of his most vicious enemies, Joseph Baretti, also a translator of Spanish works into English. In Baretti's work Tolondron. Speeches to John Bowle about his Edition of Don Quixote, Bowle is spared no insult, including Baretti's accusation that he was unable to speak Spanish, did not know Spanish grammar, and frequented taverns more often than he should.

Despite Bowle's numerous complaints of unjustified attacks by his contemporaries, the scholarly impact of his edition on other editors--both in England and Spain--was considerable. Pellicer, for instance, belittles Bowles' contribution to an understanding of Cervantes' novel, while admitting that he incorporated many of Bowles' notes and annotations in his own version. Interest in scholarly editions of Don Quixote began to wane as more translations of the novel appeared. And it was primarily the English version of Don Quixote that introduced Cervantes' masterpiece into the mainstream of English prose fiction. Henry Fielding would be the most famous beneficiary of this development. The "ENGLISH CERVANTES," as he would be called by many of his contemporaries, modeled his "new species of writing" ( Joseph Andrews, 1742) on the English translation of Don Quixote.