From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America 9.2 (1989): 61-65.
Copyright © 1989, The Cervantes Society of America

NOTE

A Revision: Cervantes's Writing


HELENA PERCAS DE PONSETI


     The purpose of my present note is to modify some statements I have recently made on Cervantes's writing in “‘Tate tate, follonzicos . . .’ Once Again: The Metamorphosis of a Locution,”1 and in my book, Cervantes the Writer and Painter of “Don Quijote. ”2
     I was led to rethink the delicate matter of attributions while reading Daniel Eisenberg's recent study, Las “Semanas del jardín” de Miguel de Cervantes,3 an important work on a controversial manuscript believed by some to belong to the author of Don Quijote.
     Since no manuscript of Cervantes's published works has been preserved, there is no way of knowing other than by conjecture which spellings and other orthographic signs should be attributed to the author and which to the editor or compositors. Judging from the handful of existing autographs of letters and signed documents, Cervantes's writing habits exhibit peculiarities

     1 Cervantes, 7.2 (1987), 85-89; later utilized in my 1988 study of Don Quijote” (note 2). [Daniel Eisenberg responded to this current note with “‘Esta empressa,’ no ‘está impressa’”, Cervantes 13.2 (1993): 125-26, to which Helena Percas de Ponseti replied with “Nota a la nota sobre una nota: ‘impressa,’ no ‘empressa’”, Cervantes 15.1 (1995): 164-66. -FJ.]
     2 Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1988.
     3 Serie Lengua y Literatura, 3 (Salamanca: Ediciones de la Diputación de Salamanca y el autor, 1988). Whether or not we are convinced about the authenticity of the manuscript —the author makes a very good case for it— we owe him a debt of gratitude for his thorough scholarship and for making this invaluable document available to us.

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62 HELENA PERCAS DE PONSETI Cervantes

that, scholars have concluded, must have carried over to his manuscripts.4
     What we see in these autographs, ten of which are reproduced and analyzed by Miguel Romera-Navarro in Autógrafos cervantinos,5 is that Cervantes didn't bother with accents, hardly used punctuation, capitalized prepositions, adjectives, and nouns for no apparent reason, or wrote given and family names, including his own, in lower case, but not consistently and with different spellings. Writing a b rather than a v in “cerbantes,” Daniel Eisenberg remarks, “is one of the few consistencies to be found.”6
     Another feature of the author's handwriting is that he fairly consistently dotted his is. They are described by Romera-Navarro as “un trazo vertical [. . .] generalmente con punto encima [. . .] a veces con rayita” (p. 7).
     The present revision has to do with accents, dotted is, and capitalization. In my note, “Tate tate . . . ,” I suggested that there was a play on words wrought in the locution “estâ impressa” in Cide Hamete Benengeli's well-known charge to his pen which goes, “Tate tate, follonzicos, de ninguno sea tocada porque estâ impressa buen Rey, para mi estaua guardada” (Madrid: Juan de la Cuesta, II, 279v).
     As I also suggested, two meanings are implied in the locution above, the contextual meaning of esta empresa (this task, deed, emprise or undertaking), and the extended meaning of estâ impressa (has been irrevocably recorded in print). How the locution appeared as it did in the Juan de la Cuesta edition of 1615 is one point of the present revision.
     If Cervantes did not write the accent on estâ in the locution estâ impressa because he didn't write accents, the accent was supplied by the editor or compositor before the adjectival participle impressa. Impressa, on the other hand, is what Cervantes must

     4 See Daniel Eisenberg's “On Editing Don Quixote” (Cervantes, 3 [1983], 3-34).
     5 University of Texas Hispanic Studies, 6 (Austin: University of Texas, 1954); II. Autógrafos, pp. 25-76. For some of these and other autographs, see Luis Astrana Marín, Vida ejemplar y heroica de Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, 7 vols. (Madrid: Instituto Editorial Reus, 1948-1958), especially Vol. 3, pp. 463, 489; Vol. 4, pp. 184, 192, 232, 402, 493, 510; Vol. 5, pp. 14, 18, 20, 24, 28, 40, 108, 138, 290-94, 626; Vol. 6, pp. 71, 418, 510. See also Daniel Eisenberg's “On Editing” for further bibliography.
     6On Editing,” p. 22.


9.2 (1989) A Revision: Cervantes's Writing 63

have written in his manuscript with a clearly visible dotted i. Why would the editor or compositor go out of his way to choose the noncontextual meaning, estâ impressa, rather than the contextual one, esta empressa? Most likely, the accent on estâ was automatically prompted by the i of impressa. Esta empresa has been emended in most editions to the present day. Esta impresa, without an accent on the a and without a footnote to call attention to the deletion but retaining the i of the supposed noun, is occasionally found in some editions. Such a correction is unsatisfactory for two reasons: it implies both that an error was introduced, the accent on estâ, and that Cervantes did not know the difference between impressa and empresa, which are not synonymous. This assumption is hardly warranted in view of the correct usage of both terms elsewhere, as I indicated in my earlier note.7
     If, indeed, the locution happened the way I have reconstructed, then, we could assume one of two things: either Cervantes had in mind the phonetic accent on the verb estâ from the start but did not write it because he didn't use accents (really an academic question that would take us back to my original reading), or else, and perhaps more subtly, that he started writing the contextual locution esta empresa and changed its thrust in mid-thought to estâ impressa thereby saying two things at once, esta empresa estâ impressa, and implying with the double locution —as I said in my first note— that the task of writing about Don Quixote's adventures, reserved exclusively for Cervantes's Pen, had been brought to an irrevocable end in print as decreed by his Creator —Cervantes.
     Variations of this technique of shifting direction in mid-sentence (e.j., Sancho's argument to stop Don Quijote from attacking the actors, II, 11)8; of saying or implying two things with the same words (e.j., Don Quijote's advice to Sancho governor-to-be),9 of repeating a word with a different meaning (e.j., “estrecho estrecho,” narrow strait, in Don Lorenzo's sonnet, II, 18), of redefining a word by its application in context (e.j., “atrevido”

     7 See “Tate tate,” pp. 87-89.
     8 Discussed in Cervantes the Writer, p. 24.
     9 See “Los consejos de Don Quijote a Sancho,” in Cervantes and the Renaissance, Ed. by Michael D. McGaha (Easton, Penn: Juan de la Cuesta Hispanic Monographs, 1980), 194-236. The most striking examples are found on pp. 197, 201, 202, 204, 208.


64 HELENA PERCAS DE PONSETI Cervantes

applied to Don Quijote, the ferret and the devil in the same episode),10 and many others, are significant features of Cervantine art. When no significance is perceived in language anomalies or in unusual syntax, they pass for errors. Such “ungrammaticalities” (the term belongs to Michael Riffaterre, quoted by Michael McGaha)11 as estâ impressa are spontaneous manifestations in the spoken language of suspended thoughts in the stream of consciousness of the author and, of course, of the characters who utter the words. The “ungrammaticality” itself is what, according to Michael McGaha (referring to the Battle of the Sheep) “leads us straight to the matrix of” the passage or episode in which it appears “and of the novel of which it forms a part” (note 11).
     Coming back to Cervantes's spelling habits as observed in his autographs, we notice with Romera-Navarro (pp. 14-15) that Cervantes more likely than not capitalized nouns and adjectives referring to royalty. He wrote, for instance, “Reyno de granada” (pp. 66, 70), “Reales” (pp. 26, 28, 30) —real is a coin meaning belonging to the king, Joan Corominas tells us—12, “Muy Poderoso Señor” (p. 70), and so on. It could well be that Cervantes capitalized “Rey,” “Reyna,” “Emperadores,” and “Príncipes,” and not “muerte,” the figure that rides along with the King and Queen in the cart of Death. Modern editions capitalize “Muerte.” Short of seeing the manuscript itself, we will never know to whom to attribute these spellings, but more importantly whether they are accidents or whether they respond to some deliberate or subconscious pattern in the author's mind.
     Even though considerations of spelling do not alter the substance of my study, I should not have adduced capitalization vs. lower case without a caveat in my recent book, Cervantes the Writer and Painter of “Don Quijote.” My deductions are primarily derived from contextual and intertextual evidence within the socio-historical context, and from the frequency with which characters are referred to by their status or occupation (Caballero, Bachiller, Hidalgo) rather than by their names.

     10 Discussed in Cervantes the Writer, pp. 46-47.
     11 See his article “Intertextuality as a Guide to the Interpretation of the Battle of the Sheep (Don Quixote I, 18),” to be published in Cervantes: Essays offered to Luis A. Murillo (ed. James A. Parr. Newark, DE: Juan de la Cuesta (1990]). The author has generously sent me a copy at my request.
     12 In his Diccionario crítico etimológico de la lengua castellana, under Rey.


9.2 (1989) A Revision: Cervantes's Writing 65

     Having said this, I shall make a considered guess about the lower case for rocinante in Part II of Don Quijote. Logically, an editor would have capitalized the given name of the horse, Rocinante, as was done throughout Part I. Sancho's donkey, Dapple, referred to as el rucio, is logically not capitalized. It is made up of an adjectival noun preceded by an article. But, rocinante, Don Quijote's made up name for his nag, does not fall under the same syntactical category as el rucio. Rocinante is not preceded by an article, e.j., el rocinante. It is clearly a given name consistently not capitalized in Part II. It seems to be Cervantes's choice respected by his editor. If so, it would be legitimate to attribute significance to this peculiarity. Rightly or wrongly I did.
     In the last analysis, I have to agree with Daniel Eisenberg that “lacking evidence to the contrary, Cuesta's texts are punctuated and, with exceptions, spelled as Cervantes wanted them to be.”13

GRINNELL COLLEGE



     13On Editing,” p. 30.


Fred Jehle jehle@ipfw.edu Publications of the CSA HCervantes
URL: http://www.h-net.org/~cervantes/csa/articf89/percas.htm