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Privilege granted to Luís Vaz de Camões (1572)

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Luís Vaz de Camões (born circa 1524/25, died on 10th June 1580, which is the Day of Portugal, Camões, and the Portuguese Communities) is Portugal’s great national poet, author of Os Lusíadas. 

The national epic poem entails 10 cantos in ottava rima, amounting to 1,102 stanzas, describing, at both a historical and a mythological levels, Vasco da Gama’s discovery of the sea route to India.

It celebrates the courage, enterprise and glorious deeds of the Portuguese and their victories over men and forces of nature, also invoking the Olympian gods who gather to discuss the fate of the expedition.

The work was published in 1572 with the permission of both King D. Sebastião and the Inquisition.

Once the Inquisition was established in Portugal and censorship became the norm (in 1536) the activity of printmakers was closely monitored, with each book requiring a printing authorization issued by the Church.

To ensure compliance lists of forbidden books were drafted and printed under the guidance of the head of the Portuguese Inquisition (Inquisidor Geral).

In practice, both the Church and the Monarch closely supervised all printing activity, persecuting and punishing authors and printmakers, censoring pages and withdrawing books from sale where they saw fit.

In this environment books would display a dedication and invocation of a patron and/or a royal privilege, to protect both authors and printmakers.

Thus, both the printing privilege and the authorisation of the Inquisition are present on the first edition of Os Lusíadas, as well as an introduction, invocation and dedication to King D. Sebastião.

Commentary by Patricia Akester



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