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Privilege granted to Jacobo Cromberger (1508)

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Jacobo Cromberger was a German bookseller and printer who became well known in the Iberian Pensinsula. He worked for a longer period of time in Spain than in Portugal, gaining acclaim in both coutries.

Initially Cromberger worked with printers such as Estanisla Polo, went on to marry his widow and found himself controlling Polo’s business. With Cromberger and his descendants (his son Juan Croemberger and his grandson Jacobo Cromberger) working in the printing business the surname stood out in that trade.

With time Jacobo became a prestigious printer in Spain. Upon finding out about his skills, the Portuguese King D. Manuel I invited him to carry out his trade in Portugal. It was the same monarch that commissioned the printing of a collection of royal ordinances. That is the understanding of most scholars. For exemaple, according to F.J. Norton:

«In 1521, there appeared a collection of Portuguese royal ordinances in five parts, each signed by Cromberger, two of them with the imprint of Évora and three, including the last and only dated one of 11 March, with that of Lisbon. The circumstances are a little mysterious in that there is documentary evidence of Cromberger’s presence in Seville as late as 26 January, and the volume was a folio of over 500 leaves whose printing can have cost no little time. No further Portuguese imprints of him are known, thought it was during a visit to Lisbon that he died in 1528.»

Cromberger was invited to work as a printer in Portugal by the monarch himself. The relevant document – ​​containing the printing privilege – was very broad since it granted not just the privilege to print and sell books but also to become a member of the Royal household. In other words, Cromberger was awarded far more than a printing privilege. As Deslandes wrote in 1881: 

«Jacob Cromberger was a German book printer who was invited to render his services in Portugal, obtaining in 1508 the mercy of all graces, privileges, liberties and honours bestowed upon the knights of the Royal household.»

The legal nature of the document has been debated, as it puts forward all benefits and privileges that were attributed to Cromberger by the monarch, resorting sometimes to the word letter and others to the word privilege.

Debate aside, what really stands out is the broad nature of the perks bestwoed upon Jacob Cromberger. The document also contains the words graces, freedoms and honours which were meant for knights of the Portuguese Royal household.

It should be noted that even though the document places no restrictions on Cromberger’s printing activity, in practical terms it is likely that King Manuel I exercised a certain amount of control as to what was published.

Commentary by Victor Drummond & Translation by Patricia Akester 



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