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Descripción editorial

Simple as the bibliography of the Galatea really is, a habit of conjecture has succeeded in complicating it. Though the earliest known edition of the book is unanimously admitted to have appeared at Alcalá de Henares in 1585, it is often alleged that the princeps was actually issued at Madrid during the previous year. This is a mistaken idea arising, probably, out of a slip made by Gregorio Mayáns y Siscar, the first Spaniard who attempted to write a formal biography of Cervantes. In his thirteenth paragraph Mayáns remarked by the way that the Galatea was published in 1584; but he laid no stress upon the date, and dismissed the matter in a single sentence. The error (if it were really an error, and not a mere misprint) was natural and pardonable enough in one who lived before bibliography had developed into an exact study. Unfortunately, it was reproduced by others. It is found, for instance, in a biographical essay on Cervantes which precedes the first edition of Don Quixote issued by the Royal Spanish Academy; and the essayist, Vicente de los Ríos, adds the detail that the Galatea came out at Madrid. It was unlucky that this statement should be put forward where it is. The Academy's responsibility for the texts issued in its name is chiefly financial: for the rest, it habitually appoints the most competent representatives available, and it naturally gives each delegate a free hand. But foreigners, unacquainted with the procedure, have imagined that Ríos must be taken as expressing the deliberate and unanimous opinion of the entire Academy. This is a complete misapprehension. On the face of it, it is absurd to suppose that any corporation, as a whole, is irrevocably committed to every view expressed by individual members. Even were it otherwise, it would not affect the case. An error would be none the less an error if a learned society sanctioned it. But, as a matter of fact, like all those concerned in editing texts or in writing essays for the Academy, Ríos spoke for himself alone. He was followed by Pellicer who, though he gives 1584 as the date of the princeps, is less categorical as to the place of publication. Some twenty-two years after Pellicer's time, Fernández de Navarreteaccepted his predecessors' view as regards the date, and to this acceptance, more than to anything else, the common mistake is due. Relying on Navarrete's unequalled authority, Ticknor repeated the mis-statement which has since passed into general circulation. Further enquiry has destroyed the theory that the Galatea first appeared at Madrid in 1584. However, as most English writers on this question have given currency to the old, erroneous notion, it becomes necessary to set forth the circumstances of the case. But, before entering upon details, it should be observed (1) that no copy of the supposititious 1584 edition has ever been seen by any one; (2) that there is not even an indirect proof of its existence; and (3) that, so far as the evidence goes, no edition of the Galatea was published at Madrid before 1736: that is to say, until more than a century after Cervantes's death.

We do not know precisely when the Galatea was written. M. Dumaine, indeed, declares positively that the poems in the volume—he must surely mean some of them, not all—were addressed to a lady during the author's stay in Italy. If this were so, these verses would date (at latest) from September, 1575, when Cervantes left Italy for the last time. Sr. D. José María Asensio y Toledo holds that the Galatea was begun in Portugal soon after the writer's return from Algiers in 1580. Of these views one may conceivably be true; one must necessarily be false; and it is more than possible that both are wrong. As no data are forthcoming to support either opinion, we may profitably set aside these speculations and proceed to examine the particulars disclosed in the preliminaries of the Galatea. The Aprobación was signed by Lucas Gracián Dantisco at Madrid on February 1, 1584, and, as some time must have passed between the submission of the manuscript to the censor and the issue of his license, it seems certain that the text of the Galatea was finished before the end of 1583. In its present form, the dedication, as will be seen presently, cannot have been written till about the end of the following summer. Meanwhile, on February 22, 1584, the Privilegio was granted at Madrid in the King's name by Antonio de Erasso. It was not till a year later—the very end of February 1585—that the Fe de erratas was passed at Alcalá de Henares by the Licenciado Vares de Castro, official corrector to the University of that city. The Tasa, which bears the name of Miguel Ondarza Zabala, was despatched at Madrid on March 13, 1585.

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