Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage - Vol. 2

By Erlinda Gonzales-Berry; Chuck Tatum | Go to book overview

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Cultural Continuity in the Face of Change:
Hispanic Printers in Texas

Laura Gutiérrez-Witt


Introduction

The printing medium has been the principal means for conveying ideas for the last five hundred years. Invented in Mainz, Germany, by Johann Gutenberg in 1439, moveable type made possible the editing and correcting of texts to be distributed in multiple copies. The economic exploitation of the press began in 1450, and the printing industry quickly spread across Europe. Although ecclesiastical and/or royal patronage was an important consideration for the early printers, retail sales to the expanding middle and professional class provided the printers some of the capital to expand their businesses.

Print historians such as Elizabeth Eisenstein and Lucien Febvre consider the invention of printing and its rapid dissemination across Europe a "communication revolution" (Eisenstein 21) and "a new means of communicating ideas" (Febvre 12). Eisenstein suggested that printing made possible the spread of old ideas in new combinations and the consequent creation of new systems of thought. The press hence served as an agent for change in established—though evolving—societies.


Printing in Mexico

Soon after the arrival of Hernando Cortés and his armies in Mexico, the press became an instrument to implant and spread European ideas. The license to import books to Mexico was granted by Emperor Charles V in 1525 to Jacob Cromberger, a German master printer who resided in Seville, and the monopoly to import books to Mexico was held by the Cromberger family until 1551. This lucrative business was based on the demand for European books by religious houses and libraries, by individual clergy, and by laymen who wished to add new texts to their private libraries (Leonard 95–97).1

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