Life of Lazarillo de Tormes

Life of Lazarillo de Tormes Facsimile Edition

Spain — 16th century

Banned by the Inquisition for being too critical of the aristocracy and the Church: one of the first ever picaresque novels in literary history

  1. This work was published simultaneously in the cities of Alcalá de Henares, Burgos, and Antwerp in 1554

  2. The story revolves around Lázaro, who takes the reader on a tour of 16th century society from a “worm’s eye view”

  3. Equally critical of the Catholic Church and the Spanish aristocracy, it was banned by the Spanish Inquisition

Life of Lazarillo de Tormes

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Life of Lazarillo de Tormes

The antihero is far from being a modern invention, in fact, the roguish hero was a popular archetype of late medieval literature and an agent for social critique. It is considered to be the first so-called picaresque novel, which took on the hypocrisy and corruption of the Late Middle Ages through a humorous and scathing depiction of society. This novel is both an important piece of Spanish literature and a useful artifact for cultural historians.

Life of Lazarillo de Tormes

Published anonymously due to its anticlerical content, this Spanish novella is considered to be the founding work of the picaresque novel, a literary genre with comedic and satirical elements that depicts the adventures of a roguish hero who usually comes from a lower class and survives by his wits in a corrupt society. The work was published simultaneously in the cities of Alcalá de Henares, Burgos, and Antwerp in 1554. The story revolves around Lázaro, a boy of humble origins from Salamanca who is accused of stealing by his stepfather and is forced to become an apprentice of sorts to a blind beggar. He develops his cunning through this experience and others while serving a priest, squire, friar, pardoner, chaplain, and an archpriest. This story takes the reader on a tour of 16th century society from a “worm’s eye view” and is written in straightforward prose as opposed to the more fanciful poetry of other works. Unsurprisingly, the scathing work, equally critical of the Catholic Church and the Spanish aristocracy, was banned by the Spanish Inquisition and an unabridged version did not appear in Spain until the 19th century. It is a cornerstone of the Golden Age of Spanish literature that was translated into various languages during the 16th and 17th century. The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes continues to be influential today, inspiring the popular antihero of modern film and television.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
La vida de Lazarillo de Tormes
Leben von Lazarillo de Tormes
Origin
Spain
Date
16th century
Language

Available facsimile editions:
Life of Lazarillo de Tormes – Biblioteca Nacional de España (Madrid, Spain) Facsimile Edition
AyN Ediciones – Madrid, 2004
Detail Picture

Life of Lazarillo de Tormes

Historiated “Y” Initial

This splendid woodcut initial appearing at the beginning of this work’s prologue is filled with flowering tendrils as well as a small, winged demon – most likely designed to be a nod to the roguish or “devilish” protagonist of the novel. The figure is perched in the crux of the letter and holds on to each of its “branches” as it looks out directly at the reader. There must have been an error either in the creation of the print or the woodcut itself because the upper-right corner appears as though it never properly made contact with the page.

La Vida de Lazarillo de Tormes
Single Page

Life of Lazarillo de Tormes

Title Page

This codex originates from the genesis period of book printing when the standard form of title pages as we know them today with the title, author, publisher, location, and year of publication first emerged. Three signatures from previous owners as well as two stamps from the Spanish National library attest to the ownership history of this codex.

In the middle of the page, the printer’s device consists of a stork or some similar long-legged, long-necked wading bird holding a snake in its beak as it lands in its nest, where it feeds the snake to its mate who is guarding their eggs. The motto surrounding the image reads VIRTUS PIETAS HOMINI TUTISSIMA or “Piety is the most secure virtue for men”. This symbol is typically associated with the Verdussen Family of printers.

La Vida de Lazarillo de Tormes
Facsimile Editions

#1 La Vida de Lazarillo de Tormes

AyN Ediciones – Madrid, 2004
Life of Lazarillo de Tormes – Biblioteca Nacional de España (Madrid, Spain) Facsimile Edition
Life of Lazarillo de Tormes – Biblioteca Nacional de España (Madrid, Spain) Facsimile Edition Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: AyN Ediciones – Madrid, 2004
Commentary: 1 volume by Bienvenido C. Morros
Language: Spanish
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
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