Commentary on:
Licensing Rules (1502)

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Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900)
www.copyrighthistory.org
Identifier: s_1502

 

 

Commentary on the Catholic Monarchs’ Licensing Rules (1502)

José Bellido (Birkbeck College, University of London)

 

 

 

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 Catholic Monarchs’ Licensing Rules (1502)', in Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer, www.copyrighthistory.org

 

1. Full title

2. Abstract

3. Fresh Beginnings

4. Censorship

5. Licensing Bodies

6. Foreign Books

7. Public domain

8.  References

1.          Full title          Diligencias que deben preceder a la impresión y venta de libros del Reyno, y para el curso de los extrangeros. D. Fernando y Dª Isabel en Toledo por Pragmatica 8 Jul. 1502.

2.         Abstract.        The 1502 pragmatica became the earliest attempt to produce a standardized uniform scheme to regulate the issue of books in the Iberian Peninsula. It is also an evocative reference point for contemporary Spanish scholars when constructing historical narratives of the regulation of the printing press in Spain. The commentary explains the reasons for such a selective mention and the main characteristics of the system of control deployed by the legal text. In so doing, it attempts to present the history of the origins and the emergence of censorship in Spain and explores several links the pragmatica (rules) may have in a domestic pre-history of copyright law.


3.         Fresh beginnings

The difficulties in tracing when the history of copyright law begins and ends and historians’ struggle with their “desire to ‘fix’ the historical record” are eloquently evidenced here.[1] Of course there is no precise date on which censorship can be said to have emerged. However, contemporary Spanish printing historians instinctively begin their narratives of the regulation of the printing press by discussing the rules (pragmatica) issued by the Catholic Monarchs on 8 July 1502.[2] Instead of tracing royal dispositions through the previous body of documents we have just discussed, these historians refer directly to these rules, which can be characterized as giving rise to a distinctive censorship apparatus.[3] In fact, while the previous documents brought with them a complex system of indirect legal resources and petitions of a very particular nature and while the specific arrangement of exclusivity regarding religious documents could be considered exceptional, historians prefer to mark the starting point of censorship regulation in 1502.[4]  The beginning of censorship is also identified with an ongoing shift that characterized the regulation of the book trade throughout the sixteenth century in Spain, a shift from material inspection to ideological control.[5] It is easy to see why the pragmatica is considered a singular event in the legislative fate of the Spanish regulation of the book industry. The reason is that these rules resemble our idea of positive law. A cursory glance at the rules shows us that they clearly refer to censorship; that they explicitly name specific authorities responsible for the examination of books and that they openly attempt to define what the public domain might have been. Nevertheless, a more focused reading concerning the interpretation of what constitutes censorship shows that the agency of these authorities and the definition of public domain are more complex than expected.[6]

 4.         Censorship

At the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Catholic Monarchs’ preoccupation with printing and publishing was made official.[7] Security for the social and religious order and royal expectations of the benefit of commercial exploitation of the printing press seem to have been the causes of a policy shift towards a regime of control in relation to the printing press.[8] The 1502 provisions ruled that censorship was to be exercised over written matters. No book was to be printed, imported or exposed for sale without preliminary examination and licence.[9] These forms of prior approval were directed towards booksellers, printers and their corresponding agents.[10] While these rules developed a type of control over books printed or imported and offered for sale,[11] the most remarkable issue was the type of investigation at stake. The machinery of control, through examination and licensing, involved a quality-related examination of the text and an inquiry into the physical contours of the book. In other words, it entailed an examination which referred to the “physical, thematic and technical integrity of the printed book”.[12] Interestingly, texts were not yet subjected to the doctrinal or theological revision carried out by the Inquisition but a material supervision exercised by trusted authorities.[13]

Censorship practices became sharply standardized, giving rise to parallel narratives of the status demarcation of books, cum privilegio.[14] This simultaneity should not come as a surprise. Since “censorship [...] determines the form of reception”,[15] it appears to be linked to the imposition of formalities that characterized early copyright regimes. In that sense, the relationship between censorship and the pre-history of copyright is even more explicit: the 1502 rules gave birth to the notion of the “license”[16] These supervisory and licensing practices were applied to any printing source, direct or indirect, and affected all categories, languages and sizes of books.[17] Hence, not only books in Latin but also books in romance languages were included in the censorship net. While censorship was not yet apparently ideological or explicitly repressive,[18] supervision began to produce a sort of territorial “umbilical cord” around the Spanish kingdoms. It embraced special activities that distinguished between licit and illicit knowledge and began to be applied in order to avoid “vicious and false readings” and “superstitious and banal things”.[19] Signs of censorship also appeared in the type of remedies granted.[20] For instance, the legislative mention of book burning as a means of redress could easily be likened to what Garcia Martin has wonderfully described as a hybrid mix of secular and religious interests, a crystallisation of a vicarial model of monarchic power.[21]

 5.         Licensing Bodies

Perhaps the most puzzling question of the 1502 rules refers to the quality of the agency given to licensing authorities. It is immediately obvious that the surveillance and supervisory assignments was to be carried out by the Monarchs themselves or by trusted authorities. In that sense, the Catholic Monarchs developed a decentralized system which relied on strong intuitu personae in relation to the main printing centres in Castile.[22] They drew a singular map of duties that was made explicit in the legal text.[23] In Valladolid the task was given to the head judges of the royal courts; in Toledo, Seville and Granada the duty was imposed on the archbishops; in Burgos on the bishop, and in Salamanca and Zamora on the Bishop of Salamanca. Despite the fact that this series? of appointments resembled the content of the bull Inter multiplices issued by Alexander VI in June 1, 1501,[24] it is not clear that, at that point, institutionalisation of duties assimilated civil and religious authorities. That is, it is not evident whether ecclesiastical jurisdiction covered the circulation of books since, as mentioned above; there was no reference to the Inquisition.[25] In fact, it might be more accurate to suggest that these rules constituted one of the first examples of delegation of power from monarchical to ecclesiastical institutions.

 Despite the lack of efficiency such a decentralized system of censorship may have possessed, the control attempted to encompass the entire production process, from manuscript submission to publication. After the printing of the manuscript, another form of control was exercised: members of the letrado caste carefully compared the product with the previous sheets to see that no changes had been made.[26] The only fee applied to booksellers and printers for all these control mechanisms was for this last step and it was not extortionate, just a moderate salary given to these examiners (letrados).[27]

6.         Foreign Books

Undoubtedly, the incipient territorial interest in the control of the printed book inaugurated a critical space for important normative qualifications. That is, the collateral effect of the legislative activity and its corresponding protocols was to initiate a series of distinctions in terms of what constituted a foreign book. If copyright historians have always been anxious to trace or to deny interrelationships between censorship and early forms of copyright,[28] their shared domestic interest on regulating the location and provenance of knowledge might be a noticeable feature which feed such anxiety. In fact, the quality-related examination of the printed book was made for the “physical” and “spiritual” welfare of the Spanish kingdoms.[29] The Catholic Monarchs had specific interests in printing and its territorial expansion.[30]  In this way, activities related to the book constituted the border, frontier, or place in which authority could be exercised. It is there that heresy and piracy could meet.[31] Ultimately, both heretics and pirates could be considered enemies of the kingdom. The fact that heresy and piracy could meet shows us that licensing practices affected both reading and writing uses of the book. Although the connection of spheres seems obvious, it should not obscure the fact that their regulation was derived from a royal (and not ecclesiastical) prerogative.

7.         Public Domain

The more one reads the rules and commentaries related to the 1502 pragmatica, the more conscious one becomes of the extent of its distinctive characteristic. The rules were grounded in appeals to public necessity and the need to influence the production and distribution of literature. It is within this framework that the Catholic Monarchs’ “ambition to declare public –subject to a licence- the printing press” may be considered[32] As a result, the legislative approach to the printing trends had an impact on the different ways in which the concept of public domain was defined. Public domain and early censorship were not contradictory terms since they both embodied ways of defining the limits of the kingdom. They both attempted to define whether a particular book was fit to be read. In other words, public utility possessed some vectors linked to religious considerations.[33] Some of these links were used to delineate the public domain. It is no wonder then that these notions of demarcation were shattered with the Spanish transatlantic colonial experience.[34] If the concept of public welfare emerged from the concept of the state, the idea of the public domain was clearly not only a territorial notion but also a spiritual one.

 

References

Bourdieu, P. Language and Symbolic Power (Polity Press, 1991)

Bowrey, K. and Natalie Fowell, "Digging Up Fragments and Building IP Franchises", Sydney Law Review vol 31: 185 (2009) pp. 185-210

Cendán Pazos, F. Historia del derecho español de prensa e imprenta (1502-1966) (Madrid, Editora Nacional, 1974)

Dánvila y Collado, M. La propiedad intelectual. Legislación española y extranjera, Imprenta de correspondencia de España (Correspondencia de España, 1882)

De Los Reyes, F. “Licencia y Privilegio en el Libro español antiguo. Breves notas y aclaraciones” Pliegos de Bibliofilia, Jul-Sept, 2001, pp. 77-78.

Eguizábal J. E. Apuntes para una historia de la legislación española sobre imprenta: desde el año de 1480 al presente (Madrid, Imprenta de la Revista de Legislación, 1873)

García Martín, J. El juzgado de imprentas y la utilidad pública. Cuerpo y alma de una Monarquía Vicarial (Bilbao, Servicio Editorial Universidad del País Vasco, 2003)

García Oro, J. Los reyes y los libros. La política libraría de la Corona en el Siglo de Oro (1475-1598) (Madrid, Editorial Cisneros, 1995)

García Oro, J. and Portela Silva, M. J. La Monarquía y los libros en el siglo de Oro (Alcalá, Centro Internacional de Estudios Históricos “Cisneros”, Universidad de Alcalá, 1999)

Lea, H. C. A History of the Inquisition in Spain vol. 3, book viii (London, The Macmillan Company, 1922)

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

Moll, J. “Problemas bibliográficos del libro del Siglo de Oro“, Boletín de la Real Academia Española, 56 (1979), pp. 49-107

Nesvig, M. A., “‘Heretical Plagues” and Censorship Cordons: Colonial Mexico and the Transatlantic Book Trade,” Church History 75 (March 2006): 1-37

Pascual, P. “Pragmáticas y la industria editorial española en el reinado de Felipe II” Congreso Internacional "Felipe II (1598-1998), Europa dividida, la monarquía católica de Felipe II (Madrid: Parteluz, 1998) pp. 403-423

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

Putnam, G. H, The Question of Copyright (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1896)

Putnam, G. H, The Censorship of the Church of Rome (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1907)

Ruíz García, E. "El poder de la escritura y la escritura del poder" in Nieto Soria, J.M (dir.), Propaganda y legitimación en los orígenes de la monarquía hispánica (1400-1520) (Madrid: Dykinson, 1999) pp. 275-314; 302.

Ruíz García, E. “El patrimonio gráfico de Isabel la Católica y sus fuentes documentales” Signo. Revista de Historia de Cultura Escrita, n. 14, 2004, pp. 89-138; 129.

 



[1] See, generally, Bowrey, K. and Natalie Fowell, "Digging Up Fragments and Building IP Franchises", Sydney Law Review vol 31: 185 (2009) pp. 185-210

[2] Cendán Pazos, F. Historia del derecho español de prensa e imprenta (1502-1966) (Madrid, Editora Nacional, 1974); Moll, J. “Problemas bibliográficos del libro del Siglo de Oro“, Boletín de la Real Academia Española, 56 (1979), pp. 49-107; 51.

[3] For instance, Dánvila y Collado, M. La propiedad intelectual. Legislación española y extranjera, Imprenta de correspondencia de España (Correspondencia de España, 1882) p. 14.

[4] Cendán Pazos, F. Historia del derecho español de prensa e imprenta (1502-1966) (Madrid, Editora Nacional, 1974) p. 24; Eguizábal J. E. Apuntes para una historia de la legislación española sobre imprenta: desde el año de 1480 al presente (Madrid, Imprenta de la Revista de Legislación, 1873) p. 3.

[5] Martín Abad, J. Los primeros tiempos de la imprenta en España (c. 1471-1520) (Madrid, Ediciones del Laberinto, 2003) p. 158.

[6] A summary of different historical interpretations can be read in García Martín, J. El juzgado de imprentas y la utilidad pública. Cuerpo y alma de una Monarquía Vicarial (Bilbao, Servicio Editorial Universidad del País Vasco, 2003) pp. 115-120.

[7] García Oro, J. Los reyes y los libros. La política libraría de la Corona en el Siglo de Oro (1475-1598) (Madrid, Editorial Cisneros, 1995) p. 37.

[8] Martín Abad, J. Los primeros tiempos de la imprenta en España (c. 1471-1520) (Madrid, Ediciones del Laberinto, 2003) p. 158.

[9] Lea, H. C. A History of the Inquisition in Spain vol. 3, book viii (London, The Macmillan Company, 1922) p. 481.

[10] García Oro, J. and Portela Silva, M. J. La Monarquía y los libros en el siglo de Oro (Alcalá, Centro Internacional de Estudios Históricos “Cisneros”, Universidad de Alcalá, 1999) p. 45.

[11] De Los Reyes, F. “Licencia y Privilegio en el Libro español antiguo. Breves notas y aclaraciones” ” Pliegos de Bibliofilia, Jul-Sept, 2001, pp. 77-78; 77; Pascual, P. “Pragmáticas y la industria editorial española en el reinado de Felipe II” Congreso Internacional "Felipe II (1598-1998), Europa dividida, la monarquía católica de Felipe II (Madrid: Parteluz, 1998) pp. 403-423;

[12] García Oro, J. and Portela Silva, M. J. La Monarquía y los libros en el siglo de Oro (Alcalá, Centro Internacional de Estudios Históricos “Cisneros”, Universidad de Alcalá, 1999) p. 45; Pérez García, R. La imprenta y la literatura espiritual castellana en la España del Renacimiento (Trea, Gijón, 2006) p. 128.

[13] García Oro, J. and Portela Silva, M. J. La Monarquía y los libros en el siglo de Oro (Alcalá, Centro Internacional de Estudios Históricos “Cisneros”, Universidad de Alcalá, 1999) p. 45; García Oro, J. Los reyes y los libros. La política libraría de la Corona en el Siglo de Oro (1475-1598) (Madrid, Editorial Cisneros, 1995) p. 38. Lea, H. C. A History of the Inquisition in Spain vol. 3, book viii (London, The Macmillan Company, 1922) p. 481.

[14] Martín Abad, J. Los primeros tiempos de la imprenta en España (c. 1471-1520) (Madrid, Ediciones del Laberinto, 2003) p. 161.

[15] Bourdieu, P. “Censorship and the Imposition of Form” in Bourdieu, P. Language and Symbolic Power  (Polity Press, 1991) pp.   137-161;  139.

[16] Martín Abad, J. Los primeros tiempos de la imprenta en España (c. 1471-1520) (Madrid, Ediciones del Laberinto, 2003) p. 158.

[17] Ruíz García, E. "El poder de la escritura y la escritura del poder" in Nieto Soria, J.M (dir.), Propaganda y legitimación en los orígenes de la monarquía hispánica (1400-1520) (Madrid: Dykinson, 1999) pp. 275-314; 302.

[18] Martín Abad, J. Los primeros tiempos de la imprenta en España (c. 1471-1520) (Madrid, Ediciones del Laberinto, 2003) pp. 158-159; García Oro, J. and Portela Silva, M. J. La Monarquía y los libros en el siglo de Oro (Alcalá, Centro Internacional de Estudios Históricos “Cisneros”, Universidad de Alcalá, 1999) p. 44-46

[19] 1502 Catholic Monarchs’ Licensing Rules (1502); s_1502

[20] “[...] so pena que por el mismo hecho hayan, los que los imprimieren sin licencia , o vendieren los que truxeren de fuera del Reyno sin licencia, perdido y pierdan todos los dichos libros, y sean quemados todos publicamente en la plaza de la ciudad, villa, o lugar donde los hubieren hecho, o donde  los vendieren” in 1502 Catholic Monarchs’ Licensing Rules (s_1502)

[21] García Martín, J. El juzgado de imprentas y la utilidad pública. Cuerpo y alma de una Monarquía Vicarial (Bilbao, Servicio Editorial Universidad del País Vasco, 2003)

[22] García Martín, J. El juzgado de imprentas y la utilidad pública. Cuerpo y alma de una Monarquía Vicarial (Bilbao, Servicio Editorial Universidad del País Vasco, 2003) p. 111-112.

[23] Ruíz García, E. “El patrimonio gráfico de Isabel la Católica y sus fuentes documentales” Signo. Revista de Historia de Cultura Escrita, n. 14, 2004, pp. 89-138; 129.

[24] Pérez García, R. La imprenta y la literatura espiritual castellana en la España del Renacimiento (Trea, Gijón, 2006) p. 126

[25] Lea, H. C. A History of the Inquisition in Spain vol. 3, book viii (London, The Macmillan Company, 1922) p. 480.

[26] Pérez García, R. La imprenta y la literatura espiritual castellana en la España del Renacimiento (Trea, Gijón, 2006) p. 128.

[27] Lea, H. C. A History of the Inquisition in Spain vol. 3, book viii (London, The Macmillan Company, 1922) p. 481.

[28] An example of this interest is found in copyright historians such as George Haven Putnam. (1844-1930), author of both The Question of Copyright (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1896). and The Censorship of the Church of Rome (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1907). See the commentary on the following entry: us_1896f

[29] García Martín, J. El juzgado de imprentas y la utilidad pública. Cuerpo y alma de una Monarquía Vicarial (Bilbao, Servicio Editorial Universidad del País Vasco, 2003) p. 111-112

[30] For a posterior time but the same arguments, see Nesvig, M. A., “‘Heretical Plagues” and Censorship Cordons: Colonial Mexico and the Transatlantic Book Trade,” Church History 75 (March 2006): 1-37.

[31] García Martín, J. El juzgado de imprentas y la utilidad pública. Cuerpo y alma de una Monarquía Vicarial (Bilbao, Servicio Editorial Universidad del País Vasco, 2003) p. 119.

[32] García Martín, J. El juzgado de imprentas y la utilidad pública. Cuerpo y alma de una Monarquía Vicarial (Bilbao, Servicio Editorial Universidad del País Vasco, 2003) p. 140

[33] Pérez García, R. La imprenta y la literatura espiritual castellana en la España del Renacimiento (Trea, Gijón, 2006) p. 123.

[34] See, again, Nesvig, M. A., “‘Heretical Plagues” and Censorship Cordons: Colonial Mexico and the Transatlantic Book Trade,” Church History 75 (March 2006): 1-37


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