El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha. Nueva Edición Corregida por la Real Academia Española. 4 vols. Madrid: Joaquín Ibarra, 1780.

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Frontispiece of the 1780 Ibarra Edition




While Don Quixote had been traditionally interpreted as a merely comic story in the decades following its first publication in 1605, the reading of the novel would dramatically change in the eighteenth century. With the patronage of Lord Carteret, a luxuriously illustrated edition was published by Jacob and Richard Tonson, heirs of a prestigious dynasty of English publishers,  in London in 1738. In brief, the illustrations along with the critical apparatus were carefully designed not only to present  Don Quixote as a humanized hero who can teach a moral lesson to the reader, but also to convince the reader that the novel was an important work of literature. Similarly, the Real Academia de la Lengua commissioned and supervised the publication of a four-volume edition in Madrid in 1780, atttempting also to establish Cervantes as part of the literary canon. For that purpose, the editors further developed the vision of the London edition. Through the delicacy of the illustrations, we are guided to see Don Quixote as a dignified hero, as a vehicle of satire whose ultimate goal is to warn the readers about the dangers of reading novels of chivalry. Furthermore, included in this edition is Vicente de los Ríos' Análisis de Don Quixote, where our hero is restored to his real self just before his death. Indeed, we are told that he recognized his errant ways and died in the bosom of Christian peace.

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Title Page of the 1780 Ibarra Edition

The illustrations of the Ibarra edition of 1780 are not limited to the traditional full-page engravings. Altogether, it consists of one portrait, four frontispieces, 31 engravings, 25 headpieces, 20 tailpieces, 13 ornamental initial letters, and one map. The thirty-one copperplate engravings are all signed by famous Spanish artists of the age: Antonio Carnicero (19), Joseph Castillo (7), Bernardo Barranco (2), Joseph Brunete (1), Gerónimo Gil (1), and Gregorio Ferro (1).

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Full-Page Engraving of the 1780 Ibarra Edtion

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Map in the 1780 Ibarra Edition

Born in Saragossa in 1725, Joaquín Ibarra y Marín was perhaps the Spanish printer who gained the greatest reputation in both Spain and Europe. In his Printing Types, their History, and Use: a Study of Survivals. 2 vols. 2nd edition (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1951), Daniel Berkeley Updike highly praises the accomplishments of Ibarra, arguing that he was influenced by the best printers and type cutters of the time, such as Bodoni, Didot, and Baskerville. Moreover, Ibarra himself was admired by his contemporaries. For instance, in Printing Types (1. 56) Updike echoes Jean-François de Bourgoing's enthusiastic description of the Academy edition of Don Quixote in Travels in Spain: Containing a New, Accurate, and Comprehensive View of the Present State of that Country. 3 vols (London: G. G. J. & J. Robinson, 1789).

The academy of the Spanish language, which in the year 1780 gave an elegant edition of Don Quixote, enriched it with embellishments of the graver. But the engravings, for the most part not above mediocrity, do not answer to the merit of the edition,  equally admirable for the quality of the ink, the beauty of the paper, the clearness of the character, and to be compared with the finest production of the kind in any other nation. This is not the first proof the Spaniards have given of their ability in the art of printing. Every connoisseur is acquainted with, and prefers to the editions of Baskerville and Barbou, the Sallust, which the Infant Don Gabriel has translated to his own language, and some other works from the presses of Ibarra at Madrid, and from those of Benedict Montfort at Valencia, which are masterpieces of the typographical art, and will one day be sought after by posterity, as we now search for those of the Elzevier  (1. 243-4).

Photos by Randal Stegmeyer








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Last modified: 06/14/2018