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Printing Privileges to Monasteries (1487)

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Identifier: s_1487


Commentary on Printing Privileges to Monasteries (1487)

 José Bellido (BirkbeckCollege,UniversityofLondon)

Raquel Xalabarder (Universidad Oberta de Catalunya)

Ramón Casas Valles (Universidad de Barcelona)

  
Please cite as:
Bellido, J., Xalabarder, R. & Casas Valles, R. (2011) ‘Commentary on Printing Privileges to Monasteries (1487)', in Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer, www.copyrighthistory.org


 
1. Full title
2. Abstract

3. Printing Bulls & Indulgences 

4. Privilege or Obligation?

5. Politics of the Copy 

6. Privileges & Comfort. A note on Printers

7. References

 

1.          Full title.         Privilegios de impresión a los Monasterios de San Pedro Mártir (Toledo) y de Santa María de Prado (Valladolid)

 2.         Abstract

Privileges for religious publications are among the earliest Spanish privileges recorded. Two monasteries in Castile were the foundations which shared the exclusive royal concession of printing the bull of the Crusade and other indulgences. This commentary describes the main features of this peculiar type of privileges and offers some insights on the monopoly of the business of printing religious publications in Spain. In so doing, it maps out, in a very general way, the contours of the particular precinct and marketplace constituted by these privileges. 

3.         Printing Bulls & Indulgences  

Undoubtedly one of the earliest industries that mobilized the need for regulation of exclusive privileges was religion, or, more specifically the business dealing with printing bulls and indulgences.[1] By the end of the fifteenth century in Spain, there was an increasingly popular demand for devotional and religious literature. This was because the marketplace niche which had been carved out and the public involved were remarkably broad. Take, for example, the so-called “indulgences of the dead”, documents that promised relief to the souls of dead people.[2] Such popularity may explain an exceptional typographical output evidenced in two different cities of Castile: Toledo and Valladolid.[3] The monasteries of San Pedro Mártir (Toledo) and of Santa Maria del Prado (Valladolid) shared the privilege and publishing venture of printing bulls and specific indulgences.[4]

 

The exclusive content forged by the documents was remarkable. Bulls and indulgences were not the typical devotional and religious literature. They were purchased for remission of sin and their sale constituted a significant point of disagreement between Protestants and Catholics.[5] This undoubtedly had huge implications and consequently cannot be easily summarised here. However, we offer several distinct points of disagreement. Of the general distinctions at stake in the debate regarding the sale of bulls and indulgences, there were typical clashes between economies of gift and market logics, between justification of means and ends, and between different interpretations of the Gospel.[6] But what is of particular interest, and worth highlighting, here, for instance, is that the Crusades indulgences were actually papal grants awarded to the Crown for a specified term.[7] Therefore they were not only a royal prerogative, but were derived from a grant to print items that were intimately related to different enterprises. Their publication was related to external factors and events that increased the demand and resulted in these documents being mass-produced.[8] In fact, there is evidence that the most intensive commercial exploitation of bulls and indulgences in Spain took place in relation to enterprises such as the Granada wars.[9] In other words, financing the war against the Muslims is linked to the emergence of these printing centres.

 4.         Privilege or Obligation?

Nevertheless, the religious pressure exerted and the specific nature of the subject matter allows us to speculate on the contradictory nature of these privileges, (which we are able to understand with hindsight). The limits of our understanding of “privilege” and the meanings frequently attached to this term are challenged by these descriptions. According to a simple definition, a privilege would be an advantage, a grant or an opportunity. However, the vocabulary used by some scholars to describe these privileges is closer to the notion of responsibility. In fact, it would seem that the privilege (enjoyed) could be better conceived as a responsibility (borne). In this way, it would make sense to describe the exclusive licensees as “assuming” a responsibility [10] or “taking charge”.[11]

While the crown exercised control over, and derived profit from, the business of printing these tiny documents,[12] this historical snapshot of primitive printing activity offers us an image of a business grounded in the granting, as well as the framing, of an “official” position. Interestingly, such an approach would bring us closer to a proto-history of a form of privilege or even to a sort of “duty” over material, resembling the complexity of peculiar legal constructs that have survived in some European countries such as Crown Copyright.[13]

 5.         Politics of the Copy

Confining the printing of bulls and indulgences to monastic precincts was undoubtedly “a measure of security”.[14] Not only were there measures and remedies against counterfeiting activities;[15]production was also characterized by a particular understanding of the bulls’ and indulgences’ creation and by the development of singular practices of control.[16] Indeed, it was obvious that their creation was subjugated to a distinct logic of serial production.[17] For a type of subject matter that had traditionally circulated in manuscript, as opposed to print, the advent of the press also meant a different typology for the product.[18] The two monasteries consistently produced similar templates for the bulls and indulgences which were to be adapted to different recipients.[19] Given that the templates developed with limited flexibility, formal consistency of documentary schemes made authenticity (and not originality) the most important feature of the work.[20] This specific feature precipitated a close relationship between fact and value, a relationship that might be contrasted with understandings of the two concepts developed in contemporary copyright scholarship.[21] While modern copyright struggled to produce the opposition of fact and value, here the two ingredients actually merged. The value of the bull or the indulgence was not derived from anything but its status as an accomplished fact.[22] This explains why the production of bulls and indulgences was accompanied with instruments that ensured their validation.[23]

At the same time, their nature also affected their remuneration and distribution practices.[24] Despite the fact that they constituted an important revenue income for different enterprises, economic transactions related to bulls and indulgences took a very particular form. Their sale was mediated by brokers who received a commission based on the number of bulls sold.[25] This could be used to explain the increasing levels of piracy closely related to fraudulent practices.[26] Nonetheless, their price was set low in order to facilitate requests from all people. Precisely because of the price mobility, the price could be more appropriately described as a “contribution”, donations or alms that affected the extent of the reward given.[27]

 

 6.         Privileges & Comfort. A note on Printers

This form of privileges was valuable because the market constructed around them was secure.[28] The exclusive and monopolistic scheme in which they evolved provided clear incentives to printers.[29] It is not surprising then to observe that the most famous printers of the time in Spain directed the privileged printing centres. While the renowned Diego de Gumiel (?-1518)[30] and the top-printer Arnao Guillen de Brocar (1460-1524) have been documentarily related to the press at Santa Maria del Prado (Valladolid),[31] Pedro Hagenbach (?-1502),[32] Juan Varela (1476-1555)[33] and again Guillen de Brocar occupied exclusive printing jobs in the monastery of San Pedro Martir (Toledo).[34]

These individuals had the exclusivity and they fought to preserve it. However the controversial question regarding which institution could grant the exclusivity caused some confusion. For instance, F. J. Norton (1904-1986) mentions a complaint from Brocar “to the cardinal that a bookseller of Valladolid had gone to Flanders to petition the king (Charles V) for the concession of the privilege for printing the Crusade indulgence, and that it was reported that his request had been granted”.[35] In that episode, Brocar argued that he had already been granted the same exclusive privilege for life by the cardinal. [36]

References

Anonymous, The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes (Alcalá de Henares, 1554)

Bainton, R. H. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (New York, Abingdon-Cokesbury, 1950)

Delgado Casado, J. Diccionario de Impresores Españoles (Siglos XV-XVII) vol I (Madrid, Arco, 1996)

De los Reyes Gómez, F. El libro en España y América. Legislación y Censura (Siglos xv-xviii) vol. I (Madrid. Arco Libros, 2000)

De los Reyes Gómez, F. “Las Bulas de Rodrigo de Borja y los orígenes de la imprenta española” Pecia Complutense. 2008 (5),  núm. 8, pp. 1-51

Fernández, L. La Real Imprenta del Monasterio de Nuestra Señora de Prado, 1481-1835 (Salamanca, Junta de Castilla y León, 1992)

García, R. M. La imprenta y la literatura spiritual castellana en la España del Renacimiento (Trea, Gijón, 2006)

García Villoslada, R. Raíces históricas del luteranismo (Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 1969) pp. 212-215

Gaselee, S. The Early Spanish Printing Press (London, Hudson & Kearns, 1924) p. 4.

Ginsburg, J. “Creation and Commercial Value: Copyright Protection of Works of Information” Columbia Law Review vol. 90, n. 7 (Nov., 1990), pp. 1865-1938.

Gonzálvez Ruiz, R. "Las bulas de la catedral de Toledo y la imprenta incunable castellana” Toletum, 18, 1986, pp. 11-180

Goñi Gaztambide, J. Historia de la Bula de la Cruzada en España (Vitoria, Editorial Seminario, 1958) p. 508.

Latour, B. Politics of Nature (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 2004)

Martín Abad, J. Los primeros tiempos de la imprenta en España (c. 1471-1520)  (Madrid, ediciones del Laberinto, 2003)

Monotti, A., “Nature and Basis of Crown Copyright in Official Publications”, European Intellectual Property Review 14 (1992), pp. 305-16.

Mosquera Armendáriz, J.A. Compendio de la vida y obra de AG de Brocar (Pamplona, Imprenta Navarro, 1989) p. 81 and p. 187.

Norton, F. J. Printing in Spain, 1501-1520 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1966)

Torres Pérez, J.Mª, “Una bula impresa por Guillén de Brocar en 1498” Príncipe de Viana, January-April 2003, n. 228 pp. 235-246



[1] De los Reyes Gómez seems more cautious when he only suggests that it is “perhaps the first known Spanish privilege” in De los Reyes Gómez, F. El libro en España y América. Legislación y Censura (Siglos xv-xviii) vol. I (Madrid. Arco Libros, 2000) p. 56. See also De los Reyes Gómez, F. “Las Bulas de Rodrigo de Borja y los orígenes de la imprenta española” Pecia Complutense. 2008 (5),  núm. 8, pp. 1-51

[2] Norton, F. J. Printing in Spain, 1501-1520 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1966) p. 46; Goñi Gaztambide, J. Historia de la Bula de la Cruzada en España (Vitoria, Editorial Seminario, 1958) p. 508.

[3] Pérez García, R. M. La imprenta y la literatura spiritual castellana en la España del Renacimiento (Trea, Gijón, 2006) p. 219

[4]Martín Abad, J. Los primeros tiempos de la imprenta en España (c. 1471-1520)  (Madrid, ediciones del Laberinto, 2003) pp. 50-52.

[5] Goñi Gaztambide, J. Historia de la Bula de la Cruzada en España (Vitoria, Editorial Seminario, 1958) p. 459.

[6] An overview of the differences can be read in Bainton, R. H. Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (New York, Abingdon-Cokesbury, 1950); and García Villoslada, R. Raíces históricas del luteranismo (Madrid: Biblioteca de Autores Cristianos, 1969) pp. 212-215

[7] Norton, F. J. Printing in Spain, 1501-1520 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1966) p. 46

[8] Fernández, L. La Real Imprenta del Monasterio de Nuestra Señora de Prado, 1481-1835 (Salamanca, Junta de Castilla y León, 1992) p. 8 (“millions of copies”); Gonzálvez Ruiz, R. "Las bulas de la catedral de Toledo y la imprenta incunable castellana” Toletum, 18, 1986, pp. 11-180

[9] Gonzálvez Ruiz, R. "Las bulas de la catedral de Toledo y la imprenta incunable castellana” Toletum, 18, 1986, pp. 11-180; 12; Fernández, L. La Real Imprenta del Monasterio de Nuestra Señora de Prado, 1481-1835 (Salamanca, Junta de Castilla y León, 1992) p. 15.

[10] Norton, F. J. Printing in Spain, 1501-1520 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1966) p. 50.

[11] Norton, F. J. Printing in Spain, 1501-1520 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1966) p. 45.

[12]. Norton, F. J. Printing in Spain, 1501-1520 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1966) p. 46

[13] Monotti, A., “Nature and Basis of Crown Copyright in Official Publications”, European Intellectual Property Review 14 (1992), pp. 305-16.

[14] Norton, F. J. Printing in Spain, 1501-1520 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1966) p. 46

[15] Gonzálvez Ruiz, R. "Las bulas de la catedral de Toledo y la imprenta incunable castellana” Toletum, 18, 1986, pp. 11-180; 44

[16] Fernández, L. La Real Imprenta del Monasterio de Nuestra Señora de Prado, 1481-1835 (Salamanca, Junta de Castilla y León, 1992) pp. 54-68.

[17] Goñi Gaztambide, J. Historia de la Bula de la Cruzada en España (Vitoria, Editorial Seminario, 1958) p. 508.

[18] Gonzálvez Ruiz, R. "Las bulas de la catedral de Toledo y la imprenta incunable castellana” Toletum, 18, 1986, pp. 11-180; 34.

[19] Gonzálvez Ruiz, R. "Las bulas de la catedral de Toledo y la imprenta incunable castellana” Toletum, 18, 1986, pp. 11-180; 41-44.

[20] Fernández, L. La Real Imprenta del Monasterio de Nuestra Señora de Prado, 1481-1835 (Salamanca, Junta de Castilla y León, 1992) p. 20

[21] For instance, se Ginsburg, J. “Creation and Commercial Value: Copyright Protection of Works of Information” Columbia Law Review vol. 90, n. 7 (Nov., 1990), pp. 1865-1938.

[22] On the difficulties of separating them; see generally Latour, B. Politics of Nature (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 2004) pp. 95-102.

[23] Gonzálvez Ruiz, R. "Las bulas de la catedral de Toledo y la imprenta incunable castellana” Toletum, 18, 1986, pp. 11-180; 42.

[24] Fernández, L. La Real Imprenta del Monasterio de Nuestra Señora de Prado, 1481-1835 (Salamanca, Junta de Castilla y León, 1992) p. 64.

[25] Anonymous, The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes (Alcalá de Henares, 1554) [translated by George Stephen Staley, 1997]; Goñi Gaztambide, J. Historia de la Bula de la Cruzada en España (Vitoria, Editorial Seminario, 1958) p. 516.

[26] Goñi Gaztambide, J. Historia de la Bula de la Cruzada en España (Vitoria, Editorial Seminario, 1958) p. 513.

[27] Goñi Gaztambide, J. Historia de la Bula de la Cruzada en España (Vitoria, Editorial Seminario, 1958) p. 503.

[28] “[i]t must have been a valuable privilege while it lasted” in S. Gaselee, The Early Spanish Printing Press (London, Hudson & Kearns, 1924) p. 4.

[29] It is clear that the transmission of the right to print these indulgences was an inducement for several printers to settle in those two towns” in Norton, F. J. Printing in Spain, 1501-1520 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1966) pp. 6-7; Fernández, L. La Real Imprenta del Monasterio de Nuestra Señora de Prado, 1481-1835 (Salamanca, Junta de Castilla y León, 1992) pp. 20-22. Mosquera Armendáriz, J.A. Compendio de la vida y obra de AG de Brocar (Pamplona, Imprenta Navarro, 1989) p. 81 and p. 187.

[30] Delgado Casado, J. Diccionario de Impresores Españoles (Siglos XV-XVII) vol I (Madrid, Arco, 1996) pp. 309-311.

[31] Fernández, L. La Real Imprenta del Monasterio de Nuestra Señora de Prado, 1481-1835 (Salamanca, Junta de Castilla y León, 1992) p. 7; 22; Torres Pérez, J.Mª, “Una bula impresa por Guillén de Brocar en 1498” Príncipe de Viana, January-April 2003, n. 228 pp. 235-246; Norton, F. J. Printing in Spain, 1501-1520 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1966) p. 44.

[32] Delgado Casado, J. Diccionario de Impresores Españoles (Siglos XV-XVII) vol I (Madrid, Arco, 1996), pp. 316-317; Norton, F. J. Printing in Spain, 1501-1520 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1966) p. 50

[33] Delgado Casado, J. Diccionario de Impresores Españoles (Siglos XV-XVII) vol II (Madrid, Arco, 1996), pp. 691-693. Norton, F. J. Printing in Spain, 1501-1520 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1966) p. 50

[34] Norton, F. J. Printing in Spain, 1501-1520 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1966) p. 45

[35] Norton, F. J. Printing in Spain, 1501-1520 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1966) p. 38

[36] Norton, F. J. Printing in Spain, 1501-1520 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1966) p. 38


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