There was a time when pirates illegally reproduced works by Lope de Vega (Madrid, 1562-1635). Censorship in the seventeenth century caused the public to resort to different ways to access the works of its favorite author. The publishers managed to provide them without caring too much origin. This was the case with an illegal edition of the Golden Age playwright of Punishment without revenge (1631), distributed before its author added in a later version a dose of tragedy to an originally less brilliant ending. That manuscript, which circulated in Seville without the permission of its author, has appeared almost 400 years later in the National Library. All to the surprise of three researchers who did not suspect that there was a pirated version of this work there.
The discoverers come from the Autonomous Universities of Barcelona, Valladolid and Salamanca and have verified that this unique copy offers a different closure, which the author discarded, compared to the one contained in the autograph manuscript, which is in the Boston Public Library (United States ). The professor and member of the Prolope research group from the Barcelona university Ramón Valdés compares the pirating of the Baroque with the current one. Those tricks, he relates, came from the theater companies themselves, which sold confidential texts under the cover, which the cast received to memorize the text, to get money. Castilla had banned the publication of this kind of works in 1625, so the rule also affected Seville. The picaresque replaced the legality to obtain these contents. “Lope loses control of his creation,” says the expert, “and probably some actors got hold of the text and sold it.”
The censorship stimulated the desire to consume firms like that of Lope de Vega, who was then almost 70 years old. The author feared that the new generations, whom he called “new birds” and where figures such as Pedro Calderón de la Barca emerged, would overshadow him. Alejandro García, from the University of Salamanca, thinks that Punishment without revenge symbolized the clash between Lope and the new sap.
Germán Vega, from the University of Valladolid, describes as “collective passion” the fervor towards the theater in those decades, even to read the texts. This, combined with censorship, encouraged the spread of irregular copies. Vega suspects that the find was distributed on the black market by the Sevillian printer Pedro Gómez de Pastrana. An “almost detective investigation” points to his workshop, since they have compared different publications in this press with this issue.
The repository of the National Library “will hold more surprises,” says Vega, as it is the “largest collection of ancient Spanish theater”, full of “neglected-looking” forms, affected by an “apparent lack of control.” This version of Punishment without revenge arrived at the BNE in 1863, from the collection of the scholar Agustín Durán, one of the great experts in the Golden Age. Until the 1990s, the National Library’s deposits accumulated some 2,700 uncategorized pieces, which were later They have been ordering and analyzing, although there are still many pages to study. Marta Vizcaíno, head of the National Library in the Golden Age, admits that “there are countless editions” in a collection that only houses 55,264 volumes in theater, with many of them stored in complex cataloging sections, as in this case. Vizcaíno also believes that future research may reveal more unexpected discoveries.
Valdés emphasizes that the ending that Lope reworked improves on the original. The copy that has been located did not include the death of the son of the Count of Ferrara, who had begun a relationship with his stepmother, to great paternal dishonor. “The new one is more elaborate, with the duke moved and crying, and with two corpses,” describes the researcher. The appearance of this play responded to “chance” while the team searched for other files. “Chance findings in any science are common”, underline the specialists, who will scrutinize this version to try to better understand the theatrical and publishing business of yesteryear and, incidentally, restore the text, which contains worn characters, and compare it with the well-known publication . García compares the “leak” of this version to when the final chapter of a series is released or a film fragment is released without authorization.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.