Some Features of Publishing in Argentina in the 19th Century
On the Social Contract or Principles of Political Rights. This work written by the Genevan ‘Juan Jacobo Rosseau’ [sic] was printed in Buenos Aires for teaching American youth. With the authorization of the highest authority, at the Real Imprenta de los Ninos Expositos (the Royal Printing House of Foundlings) printing house. Year 1810.
So reads the frontispiece of what could be considered, in some sense, as the first “free”25 book published in Argentina. It came out of the printing house a few days after the May Revolution, when the United Provinces of Rio de La Plata were emancipated from the Spanish Crown.
The Imprenta de los Ninos Expositos, a printing house and children’s home, had been operating in Buenos Aires since 1781. This was the first printing house that the Jesuits had set up in the city of Cordoba in 1765 and that had been abandoned since the expulsion of this order in 1767.26 It was restored and transferred to Buenos Aires with the initiative of Jose de Silva Aguiar, a Portuguese man who, in 1759, opened the first bookstore in the city and was appointed as the librarian of the Real Colegio de San Carlos school. Due to his initiative, Viceroy Juan Jose Vertiz made him run the Real Imprenta for ten years. Silva у Aguiar had the exclusive privilege to print cards, ABCs, and catechisms for the whole Viceroyalty of Rio de La Plata. The printing house conducted a great deal of activities, “producing as much printed paper as was needed in the Viceroyalty”. He also produced some works at the request of authorities in Santiago de Chile, Asuncion, and Montevideo.27 Compared to what was done in the main Spanish colonial centres (New Spain and Peru - Cfr. Martinez 1984; Castaneda 2001), it may be stated that in Rio de La Plata the production of books during the colonial period was insignificant.
Although books had previously been published in the Viceroyalty of Rio de La Plata, On the Social Contract was the first one that did
not respond to a practical demand. An analysis on the time of emergence as an emblem for pro-independence Creoles would be the basis for deeming Rousseau’s book to be a threshold for the differentiation of intellectual and publishing practices in the Rio de la Plata basin. In this way, Argentina associated its own birth as an independent nation with translation.29 And translation is a concrete fact that helps introduce the most relevant question about the creation of national cultural practices: the nationalization of the universal through the appropriation of ideas, practices, and resources dominating the international cultural scene.30
After 1816, when the Tucuman Congress reaffirmed the independence of the United Provinces of Rio de La Plata, the number of printing houses increased.31 First, books by French humanists continued to be translated.32 Creole writers would rehearse the country’s ideological bases in numerous newspapers33 that accompanied the effervescence of public opinion. Their preaching motivated the decree on freedom of the press in 181134 and the early creation of the Public Library in 1812. By the 1820s, printing houses published didactic, religious, “generalities”35 books and some poetic works by Creole authors, such as Dido: Tragedia en tres ados by Juan Cruz Varela (1823). But the first sign of the unification of national poetic production was published in Paris in 1824: La
Lira Argentina. This indication leads us to the genesis of a structural phenomenon for the creation of any national culture in general and of the publishing and intellectual fields in particular - its debt to and imbrications with models, practices, and capitals from abroad.
In Paris, there emerged the authors and/or editions of most texts read in Argentina and Latin America throughout the 19th century. Some data are overwhelming: between 1814 and 1914 in France about 5,000 titles were published in Spanish. As has been seen, in the first half of the century, the genres of what we would classify today as social sciences prevailed - politics, history, and law - and in the second half, school books. Between 1840 and 1844, there were at least 25 book publishers in Spanish in France, of which 5 were important; by 1861 the Gamier Freres catalogue accounted for 540 titles in Spanish. Over half of the school books used in Argentina between 1865 and 1891 were foreigners: 61, of which 31 were of French origin against 16 of Spanish origin. 6 It is claimed, as a corollary, that the creation of reader communities was made possible, to a great extent, thanks to the strong transatlantic expansion of French intellectual and publishing production. This was an element consistent all throughout the entire 19th century, including the translation, adaptation, or original production of texts in France. Jean-Frangois Botrel has studied “the ‘Spanish’ bookstore in France” (La librairie espagnole en France) and discusses an indispensable framework to learn about the world of publishing and reading in Argentina at that time:
the ‘Spanish’ dimension of French book trade (and of the text in a general way) cannot be studied disregarding its function of substitution or competition and the international character of the networks that it supposes; that is to say that the ‘Spanish’ bookstore must be studied both in Perpignan and in Paris, but also in Madrid, Valencia, Buenos Aires, Mexico... or Rio de Janeiro.37
Botrel’s notion of “Spanish bookstore” imposes the observation of the complex international space involved in publishing and trading books in Spanish. Conversely, it is posited that the research about the texts published, sold, and read in Argentina means extending its tracking to at least the places that Botrel refers to. Thus, it is no accident that, on a trip to the Rio de la Plata basin, Arsene Isabelle observed that, in 1830, over half of the works in the Buenos Aires Public Library were of French origin. The same was the case in the bookstores of the city,38 which privileged the sale of works by Hugo, Constant, Leroux, Lamartine, and Dumas. As an echo of European intellectual movements, the first manifestations of the art of writing, the appeal to the national, the judgments about literary taste and publication conditions emerged. Among the newspapers that multiplied in the 1830s, La Moda (Fashion) stood out. Faced with the patriotic names of the remaining publications, La Moda invoked a market without necessary moral purposes, for readers could find literary novelties there, but also mundane frivolities, modes of behaviour, and ways of being in the society. In this case it is clear that a French model was adopted.
Towards the late 1820s, the first lithograph machines were installed. The first one belonged to Swiss Hipolite Bade, who published the first illustrated newspaper: El Diario de Anuncios (Advertisements’ Journal). In 1833, Litografia Argentina, founded by French Hilaire Bertrand, came next.39 For its part, the logic of book publishing followed the closed circuit of subscriptions. This is how, in 1932, Elvira о la novia del Plata by Esteban Echeverria was the first piece of romantic poetry to come out.40 With Echeverria, we find compositions that fused literature and nation, and the country’s first intellectual formation: The May Association. The protagonists of this coterie, amongst whom Juan Bautista Alberdi and Juan Maria Gutierrez stood out, would meet in the literary cabinet of the Montevidean bookseller Marcos Sastre. The programmes of the Association were composed by Echeverria in El Dogma de la joven generacion, which had to be published in El Iniciador newspaper in Montevideo in 1838, owing to the persecution they suffered from the government of Juan Manuel de Rosas. In this platform for a generation, the division of the intellectual activity of politics was explicit: its authors sought to impose a programme for thinking of the country and of “American” reality as a way to overcome the miseries of the armed struggle between Unitarians and federals. With the publishing of their books in Montevideo, Uruguay, and Santiago, Chile, we find a recurrent feature in the whole of Latin American publishing history: movements of autonomization of intellectual and publishing production were halted again and again by political interventions and economic crises. On the positive side (Burke 2017), exile encouraged the formation of networks of international relations that persisted after the recovery of “freedom of thought and association”.
The organization of the Argentine State was only possible after 1853, when the territory began to be pacified after decades of fighting between leaders, and the first National Constitution was issued. The progressive implementation of economic and political liberalism was accompanied by the triumph of positivism in the domain of ideas. For the 1837 thinkers who, with weapons, came to power after the Battle of Caseros against “the tyranny of Rosas”, the implantation of a modern nation would only be possible after eradicating the “barbaric” elements of autocratic leadership known as Caudillismo. In Facundo, Domingo F. Sarmiento described the embodiment of barbarism in the caudillos (leaders) living outside the capital with its rural social and cultural basis. In De la educacion popular (1849), he began to spread his pedagogical strategies as the principal policy for building the nation. When he was appointed president in 1868, Sarmiento began his works of “civilization”: the promotion of selective immigration, the creation of teacher training schools based on the models in English-speaking countries, the construction of schools and libraries all over national territory, the promotion of literacy campaigns, and the foundation of scientific institutions.
According to the almanac of La Tribuna newspaper, around 1855, in Buenos Aires, there were 10 printers, 2 lithograph machines, and 11 bookstores (Rivera 1985: 324). The main cities outside the capital already had printers who published newspapers, brochures, and, occasionally, books. Within the first 20 years of the so-called National Organization period which began in 1852, large workshops for printing books (Coni, Kraft, Peuser, Biedma, and Estrada) and newspapers [La Prensa, La Naciori), whose activity was dominant until the middle of the 20th century, were founded. Newspapers and magazines were affirmed as an action platform for publicists such as Bartolome Mitre, Valentin Alsina, Dalmasio Velez Sarsfield, Lucio Mansilla, and Domingo Sarmiento - soldiers, lawyers, men of letters who excelled as spokespersons for a “generation” (from 1880), whose social unity and liberal horizons helped develop the political, economic, and cultural projects that predominated in Argentina until Peronism. Among them a journalism of increasing specialization started to stand out in the figures of Jose Maria Gutierrez and Jose Cantilo.
A marked difference is observed between the founders of printing houses and newspapers. In the former case, they were foreign specialists; in the latter, political leaders from Creole families. In sum, it may be stated that, while literary, journalistic, and intellectual activity was based on the action of individuals of the local elite, the complementary development of the printing and bookstore activity was undertaken by foreigners who, in some cases, arrived in the country already trained for their trades.
A prominent case among foreign printers of the 19th century is that of Pablo Coni. He was born in Saint-Malo, France, on November 30, 1826 (Grondona 1990). It is said that there his father encouraged the Cabinet de Lecture et Librairie Coni.41 He was trained as a master printer in Paris and, after the revolution of 1848, in which he fought, he decided to emigrate to California. In the ship’s halt in Montevideo, Pablo met leaders of the Argentine Unitary Movement. There, the governor of the province of Corrientes, named Pujol, invited him to direct the official printing house with Jose Barnheim. This encounter demonstrates the rarity of the capital represented by a knowledge of the arts of printing and selling texts as well as the significance attributed to such practical knowledge for the affirmation of a public sphere. The modern printing house of the State of Corrientes was chosen, among other things, to print the country’s first postal stamp and numerous publications of the national government. In 1859, Coni returned with his family to Paris and, in 1863, he settled permanently in Buenos Aires where he opened his own workshop. He arrived from France with a team of operators and with modern machines. From then on, the main political and intellectual leaders such as Alberdi, Mitre, and Sarmiento entrusted the printing of some works to Coni. His catalogue grew thanks to the publishing of school books42 and editions commissioned by public bodies43 and science institutions.44 He also edited narratives and poems, including La vuelta de Martin Fierro by Jose Hernandez in 1879. Coni had the opportunity to be a representative for Argentina of some French linotype manufacturers but preferred to continue with manual composition. That offer was taken up by the Imprenta Serra Hermanos printing house. In the mid-1870s, Pablo Coni was one of the founders of the Industrial Club, which in 1887 gave rise to the Argentine Industrial Union. The club organized the First Exhibition of Industries in 1877 and, between 1875 and 1884, Coni edited the El Industrial (The Entrepreneur). In that exhibition, the La Primitiva factory exhibited the first sheet of paper produced in the country. Publishers and printers competed in each of these exhibitions for the awards of the best books and printouts. In 1881, Pablo Coni was president of the Continental Exhibition commemorating the 300 years of the city of Buenos Aires.
Coni’s position among industrialists evidences how strong the printing sector was in Buenos Aires. In fact, there were a large number of workshops that printed books: in 1882 the Anuario Bibliogrdfico de la Reptiblica Argentina (Bibliographic Yearbook of the Argentine Republic) by Navarro Viola accounted for 40 editores (publishers). Eleven of them had published over ten books that year. Coni was the second most important, with 83 titles, after Imprenta de Biedma (91) and followed by Del Provenir (61), De la Republica (36), Carlos Casavalle (32), and La Nacion (32). According to the yearbook, the total number of books published that year was 544. Additionally, the printers in 1870 were already publishing the Anales de la Sociedad Tipogrdfica Argentina (Annals of the Argentine Typographical Society) and, in 1878, were involved in the country’s first strike. Shortly after, in 1879, the Colegio Pio IX de Artes у Oficios school opened the first printing training course. Finally, in 1882, the first Continental Exhibition of Printed Works was organized in Buenos Aires, in which the Montevidean bookseller Carlos Casavalle won the gold medal (De Sagastizabal 2002: 121, 123).
At the time of the organization of the national State, the printing of books in Argentina continued to be a rarity. The books came mainly from Paris and to a lesser extent from London and New York. The trade in books produced in Barcelona (by publishers such as Espasa, Salvat, Gili, Sopena, and Muntaner) and Madrid began to be regular in the 1850s, although it had great difficulties. The Spanish industry did not have the French structure that allowed it to project itself on the Ibero- American cultural world without being subject to the political and economic fluctuations of the main ports. The small circle of the literate elite appropriated these products in a book space of some differentiation. This is Buonocore’s review with its characteristic celebratory tone:
The decade from 1862 to 1872 was fruitful for the graphic arts.
Illustrious booksellers and printers follow one another year after year. Here they are: Carlos Casavalle, in 1862, with his Libreria de Mayo; Coni, in 1862 (...) founded his workshop; Kraft in 1864 (...); Peuser in 1867 opens the doors of his Libreria Nueva; in 1868, The Igon brothers acquired the historic Libreria del Colegio; in 1869, Luis Jacobsen, a newcomer to Rio de La Plata [from Denmark], set up his famous European bookstore, and finally (...), in 1871, Angel Estrada places on San Martin Street between Cuyo and Cor- rientes, in the so-called ‘block of the printing houses’, his Imprenta Americana (...).
(Buonocore 1955: 316)
Shortly after, the stores of Joly, Bredhal, and Felix Lajouane opened. Buonocore characterizes Casavalle’s bookstore-publisher45 as the most committed to the power elites and to Jacobsen’s Libreria Europea bookstore as a cosmopolitan pole. The characterization of the reading public as an elite is due more to the (hypothetically)46 reduced number of consumers than to their differentiation by purchasing power or intellectual capital. A proof of this is the emergence of series of generalist style and reduced prices that began to compete in the second half of the 19th century. These are, first, series from French publishers such as Gamier, Hachette, and, later, Ollendorf, but also Spanish ones such as Gaspar and Roig, Mellado, and Fernandez de los Rios.4/ Despite the expansion of the market, subscriptions were still the predominant selling method of printers-booksellers.
Jorge Rivera (1985: 330) estimates that, between 1880 and 1899, the Biedma, Coni, Kraft, and Peuser printing houses edited 40 novels by Argentine authors. In spite of this, it is still possible to observe the two poles of the market - on the one hand, bookstores-publishers such as Lajouane would have some luxurious editions printed in Paris and served a select clientele of authors and readers; on the other hand, the evolution of the graphic and journalistic space initiated the local production of brochures of foreign and national authors. Further, small printing workshops (Tomassi, Rolleri, and Matera) published “gaucbo booklets” that reached an incipient reading public in the countryside (Rivera 1985: 329). With these two forms of print, an appeal was made for the first time, to an anonymous reading public. In this context, in 1872, El gaucho Martin Fierro by Jose Hernandez was published. It is a long poem in which the author condemns the political and social ills of his time through the hardships of the countryman Martin Fierro. In a few years, 48,000 copies were sold, and the book began to be deemed a national epic. By the end of the 1880s, several Argentine authors had enjoyed a sales success, and a pioneer of self-help called Samuel Smiles managed to sell 30,000 copies of his books on topics including saving, duty, and help.48
As the foreign population increased in the last decades of the 19th century,49 publishing and cultural subsystems were also generated, focusing on the publishing of newspapers and books in other languages, and on the development of immigrant associations that created their own teaching structures. Although it is not possible to conduct an in- depth study about relations among the literary, printing, bookselling, publishing, and educational movement, three dimensions that account for the progressive organization of a national publishing space may be pointed out: the trade union of the graphic sector; the presence of the State in the planning of educational actions based on the dissemination of the book as an instrument of civilization, and the emergence of the first bibliographic yearbook.
On the one hand, in 1875, the Buenos Aires Typographic Society filed claims to establish a tariff regime to encourage “the exemption from duties on raw materials used in the trades (typography and lithography)” and produced in the country (Imprenta Peuser 1943: 27). On the other hand, President Domingo Sarmiento, who had already created a General Council of Education, in 1870, founded the Public Library Protection Commission. From then on, the State started to play an intermittent role in the support of private and public institutions devoted to the dissemination of books and reading. By 1876, it is estimated that there were around 200 public libraries distributed in the most populated regions of the country.50 Later, in 1884, Sarmiento requested authorization from Eduardo Wilde, minister of Public Instruction, during the presidency of Julio A. Roca, to make a trip to Santiago de Chile to implement a project to promote the publication of books in Spanish. The purpose was to help “publishers-booksellers pay editing costs”. The initiative was accepted by the governments of Chile, Uruguay, and Colombia, giving rise to an “agreement on the promotion and propagation of useful publications”. The purpose was to subsidize “the production, translation, and publication in the Spanish language of general reading works”. The agreement established the proportion of resources in which each State was to invest and the copies that they would receive in return. It also proposed including such expenses for publishing in the national budget.51
Finally, between 1879 and 1887, the Catholic writer Alberto Navarro Viola organized and published the Anuario Bibliogrdfico de la Reptiblica Argentina,52 As shown by Leandro de Sagastizabal, by quantifying, classifying, and ordering the country’s publishing production and the books that circulated in a local book market, Navarro Viola sparked disputes for regulating the control and appraisal criteria of the “good books” and the activities in publishing space. Among other aspects, the Anuario helps observe the number of printing houses, bookstores, and other publishing mechanisms, as well as advertising, literary prizes, magazines, and newspapers where criticism differed. Flence, it established an unprecedented means to unify, imagine, and totalize a regional space for the production, circulation, and consumption of books.