From: Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America 5.1 (1985): 76-79.
Copyright © 1985, The Cervantes Society of America

Miguel de Cervantes. Novelas ejemplares. Text, Introduction, Selected Bibliography and Notes by Harry Sieber. Madrid: Cátedra, 1980. Two Volumes, 283 pp. and 359 pp.

     This very useful edition should be welcomed by scholars and the informed and interested reader alike. It offers a reliable text, a good number of clarifying notes and short introduction to each of the twelve novels. I say twelve because Prof. Sieber chose to separate El casamiento engañoso from the Novela y Coloquio que pasó entre Cipión y Berganza . . . with a title page (II, 297-8). Volume one contains, in addition to the Introduction and the Preliminary Texts, the first four novels and Volume II the other eight, with the corresponding Introductory essay.

The Text

     Professor Sieber follows faithfully (I, 31) the princeps edition of Madrid 1613 by Juan de la Cuesta. He has incorporated in the text, without


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annotations, all corrections that seemed obvious; he has modernized punctuation and spelling; in the case of the latter, the modernization does not alter the modern phonetic substance of the word (I, 32). In many cases letters were added between brackets when they helped understand the text. No textual variants corresponding to Madrid 1614 have been incorporated.
     The editor took great care in presenting a clean text, and he is faithful to the criteria as he summarized them at the end of the Preliminar (I, 31 and 32). In general, these criteria are similar to those in the best tradition of prestigious and respected editions of classical Spanish authors. Nevertheless, in some minor cases, certain changes seem questionable, e.g., s > x (when the phonic result is the same in both instances) is only a concession to more modern spelling habits that does not improve our understanding of the text and disregards phonetic realities of Cervantes' time and ours. Also, in cases like harpa and harriero, deleting the initial h- does not seem advantageous since both forms are acceptable today. However, we can only welcome Professor Sieber's respect for the fluctuating spellings that reflect the instability of the unstressed interior vowel during the XVII century, as well as the latinist spelling of consonant groups in cultured words. And, of course, by keeping quien as a nonvariable word, the editor not only showed the necessary respect for the text, but also for etymology: although the analogical plural was in use since the XVI century, it was still considered inappropriate in Cervantes' times (R. Menéndez Pidal, Manual de Gramática Histórica Española § 101). Cervantes himself used this form only twice in Don Quijote (DCELC s.v. que). Because of all this care, I found regrettable that Prof. Sieber preferred to put in footnotes the princeps version that has been altered in his text when, in my opinion, a more appropriate way would have been to annotate the proposed variant. In some cases, the notes simply reflect the criteria stated in pp. 31 and 32 of the first volume and are unnecessary: I, 252, note 24 or I, 262, note 46, for example, because these are cases of z instead of c, j for i or -ss- for -s-.
     In other cases, the changes seem (at least to me) unwarranted; however, with the adopted editing policy, the text remains changed and not always for the better. In La gitanilla alone, for example, at least seven corrections of the text are questionable: p. 75, n. 37 subjunctive “mate” in princeps is better reading than the indicative printed, since two lines below the verb is also in subjunctive “parezca”; p. 97, n. 80 princeps “hieran y sobresalten” is in agreement ad sensum with “vuestros cuidados”: the printed singular form might be more “correct,” but the syntactic construction of the princeps in not unusual; p. 103, n. 92 princeps “tus dineros” is impeccable and I do not see any need for a singular form; p. 105, n. 94 princeps indicative “anega” certainly disagrees with the previous subjunctive “corra” but, as the note states clearly, there were instances of the two moods being interchangeable; p. 109, n. 104 changes princeps “algún” to “alguno” but the original offers a legitimate reading if bueno is being considered the nucleus of the construction; p. 132, n. 128 changes to an unnecessary plural the correct

78 ISAÍAS LERNER Cervantes

princeps “palabra” and, conversely, p. 134, n. 131 should keep the princeps “habían” since it agrees with “galeras.”
     I am pointing out such minutiae to stress the importance of being faithful to the first edition in the absence of manuscripts, and to insist on the need of conservative editing policies even in editions aimed at a general audience. Competent readers will certainly reject superfluous modernizations disguised as corrections, as in the case of “argenas,” changed into modern “árganas” (II, 56, n. 47) when, in fact, the form of the princeps is still used in South America (see my Arcaísmos léxicos del español de América, s.v. árganas).
     Even words or letters added to the text “por clarificación o por modernización” should be used with more restraint. Without being exhaustive, in the same La gitanilla, I find (por) unnecessary (p. 61, I.9) and (n) to make “dejase” plural, incorrect (p. 97, I.23): Andrés' father is referring only to Preciosa. Similar instances are to be found in each of the novels, and this problem deserves a second, closer look by the editor.


     The text has been abundantly annotated. Over a thousand notes (1074 to be precise), including the numerous ones dealing with textual changes, clarify the Novelas from historical, lexical and grammatical points of view. By far the best are the historical ones. Professor Sieber has to be commended for the many works of history he cited to explain difficult meanings. Many of these notes will serve as an excellent guide to the readers interested in the social background and the factual references of the text. It is a real pity that so many useful studies and books mentioned in the notes have not been included in the bibliography. In many instances, the interested reader will have to find the first entry to get the complete citation, an often difficult and exasperating search. In the Introduction, Professor Sieber pays special tribute to his most famous predecessors: Alonso Cortés for El licenciado Vidriera, González de Amezúa for El coloquio and Rodríguez Marín for Rinconete. He quotes them judiciously and in many instances, he brings new data and references. The lexical notes have mainly two basic sources: Covarrubias and Autoridades, even when their definitions are not exactly apt for the text (cf. I, 51, n. 11) or are obscure for our contemporary readers (I, 194, n. 21 in which Cervantes' text clarifies the meaning of avampiés with the more common word polainas, whereas Covarrubias' own definition of polainas demands in itself a note).
     There are abundant examples of other contemporary texts; not all readers will agree with many definitions, but even the controversial or wrong ones have the not insignificant virtue of calling to the attention of the reader a special element in the Cervantine vocabulary. For the germanía words, it would have been quite useful to check the studies of J. L. Alonso Hernández, especially his Léxico del marginalismo del siglo de oro (1976) and El lenguaje de los delincuentes españoles de los siglos XVI y XVII: La germanía (1979), although perhaps this last one was not available for the edition.

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     Of course, textual notes (as textual selection or an anthology), generally reflect the interests of the reader as much as the difficulties of the text, if such things can be separated in the reader's reception. What is difficult or obscure or merits a detailed historical analysis will vary from reader to reader and, therefore, from editor to editor. In this particularly difficult text, Professor Sieber reveals himself to be a careful and sensitive reader.


     The two volumes are introduced by prefatory remarks (“Observaciones”, p. 17), distinguished by their brevity and critical restraint. They seem to be directed to the general reader more than to the cervantine scholar. Within their limited scope they are helpful and deal mostly with the development of the stories in each novel.
     They are not devoid of controversial statements: a) Cervantes called his Novelas “Ejemplares” because they deserve to be imitated by other writers (I, 14); b) La gitanilla's structure follows a pattern of “intercambio” in an anthropological sense (I, 19); c) Loaysa has a “phallic” way of dressing up (II, 19); d) La señora Cornelia should be considered “No . . . una comedia sino una obra cómica”; e) the adventures of a dog are “en realidad una experiencia de intertextualidad.”
     Finally, a well deserved second edition of this book has to take care of the many misprints that show, on the part of the publisher, little effort in proofreading. In a preliminary reading, I noticed the following misprints in Volume I: p. 13, l.15-16 should read: No hay para qué decir; p. 23, l.13 cuales vivía, p. 26, l.26 redundant pueden; p. 32, l.1 x > j; p. 32, last line: referencias que las que pongo; p. 42 should bring some information on the “portrait” reproduced there, in the light of note 9, p. 50; p. 53, l.3 the second comma has to go after brevedad, not after dilatadas; p. 67, l.6 capitán de since the note refers to the change made in the princeps; p. 71, n. 26 abundante; p. 99, n. 86 tremendo; p. 100, n. 87 La novela picaresca española, as in II, p. 43; p. 124, l.11 quien no os; p. 128, l.6 derecho se trababan; p. 171, n. 67, l.2: matalotaje; p. 178, n. 78 should be placed after en in the text, and in the note, the word para has to be added; p. 191, n. 2, l.2: citarse; p. 192, n. 14, l.1 “valones”; p. 195, n. 22, last line Mercadal; n. 23, first line el amo; p. 215, n. 115, l.4 por todos; p. 221, n. 144, l.2 (Cov.); p. 226, n. 160, l.1 las pajas; p. 238, n. 204 la acostumbrada; p. 238, n. 207 oposición; p. 259, n. 42 esguízara. Volume II was proofread more carefully. I found only three misprints in the notes: p. 63, n. 66, l.3 asentaderas; p. 66, n. 75, l.3: perderlo; p. 67, n. 79, l.2: sino el Padre.


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Prepared with the help of Myrna Douglas
Fred Jehle Publications of the CSA HCervantes