The Value of Sueltas as Witnesses

C. George Peale  ~ 2016 ~

Critics frequently assume that chapbook editions, sueltas, are spurious, owing to the changes introduced by their printers to adjust the text for convenience sake or to fit the forme, further adulterating what was already a text degraded by stage directors’ adjustments. Considering the stated goal of critical editions, to reproduce an author’s final intention,[1] that attitude is understandable. But for theatrical works that objective is qualified prima facie by the genre’s ontological essence as well as by its practical realities. Whenever possible, priority must be given to the author’s manuscript, but even then it can be impossible to determine ultimate intention. For example, the autographs by Luis Vélez de Guevara held in Spain’s National Library[2] are full of the author’s cross-outs, cues and cuts—perhaps optional—that reflect changes of mind or last-minute decisions for staging, and even, in the case of El Águila del Agua, a different dramatic idea. What is more, the plays seen by audiences never reflected the exact intention of the author’s text; adjustments and adaptations were always made, even by the author himself.[3]

Lacking an autograph manuscript, textual primacy is given to editions in whose preparation the author was involved, for instance, the author’s Partes. A dramatist’s participation the printing of his works in collections did not necessarily guarantee texts that were faithful to the original, but his authority, while not infallible, normally produced results that were more or less satisfactory. Here is where the relevance of sueltas and non-authorial collections begins to be appreciated, because they were frequently based on performance manuscripts that were copied for use by a theatrical company,[4] in other words, texts that performed the author’s intentions onstage. In the following are illustrations of how sueltas can be indispensable factors in the process of creating a critical edition.

First, a suelta can provide readings that correct the errors in earlier witnesses. Such is the case, for example, of Vélez de Guevara’s El cerco del Peñón de Vélez:



^[1] I emphasize that this has been the traditional purpose of critical editions, but for more than a generation textual criticism has recognized other ecdotic purposes and methods. Vid. David Greetham, Textual Scholarship: An Introduction (New York-London: Garland Publishing, 1992), pp. 383–417, who reviews various kinds of  “critical editions”; the “Prefacio” by William R. Manson y C. George Peale to Luis Vélez de Guevara, El espejo del mundo, 2nd corr. ed. (Newark, DE: Juan de la Cuesta, 2002), pp. 30–46, which discusses the issues of documentary editions. Also, Elena Pierazzo, “Digital Documentary Editions and the Others”, Scholarly Editing: The Annual of the Association for Documentary Editing, 35 (2014): 1–23, who points up new directions for the future.[return]^

^[2] La Serrana de la Vera (1613) (BNE, MS Res. 101), El Conde don Pero Vélez y don Sancho el Deseado (1615) (BNE, MS Res. 97), El rey en su imaginación (1624) (BNE, V.a–21–8) y El Águila del Agua, representación española (1632–1633) (BNE, MS R 111).[return]^

^[3] Vid. the respective editions by William R. Manson and C. George Peale, La Serrana de la Vera, 2.ª ed. corregida (Newark, DE: Juan de la Cuesta, 2002), pp. 56–62, with annotations of cuts, passim; El Conde don Pero Vélez y don Sancho el Deseado, 2.ª ed. (Newark, DE: Juan de la Cuesta, 2002), pp. 45–48, with annotations of cuts, passim; El rey en su imaginación (Newark, DE: Juan de la Cuesta, 2002), pp. 39–41, with annotations of cuts, passim; El Águila del Agua (Newark, DE: Juan de la Cuesta, 2003), pp. 16–22, with annotations of cuts, passim.[return]^

^[4] Germán Vega García-Luengos, “La transmisión del teatro de Luis Vélez de Guevara”, en Historia del teatro español. I. De la Edad Media a los Siglos de Oro, dir. Javier Huerta Calvo, coord. Abraham Madroñal y Héctor Urzáiz Tortajada (Madrid: Gredos, 2003), pp. 246–47.[return]^


Bibliographic description, Critical editions