Some years ago I was working on the publication of a short translation of the Jesuit scholar Juan de Mariana’s De monetae mutatione. Back when the original translation had been commissioned, one of the only readily available domestic copy of this seventeenth-century treatise was held at the Boston public library. The translator, Fr. Patrick T. Brannan, worked off of that manuscript in producing the translation.
As I worked on editing the text for further publication, I needed to consult the original to clear up a few editorial queries. But I did not have a copy of the treatise by Mariana easily at hand to do some comparison. So naturally I went over to the Post-Reformation Digital Library to see if the original was listed among the site’s contents.
I was not disappointed. There were in fact multiple copies of the collection of treatises which included De monetae. Mariana’s treatise, De monetae mutatione, was the fourth of seven treatises published together in 1609 in Cologne. Via the PRDL I quickly downloaded a version.
But as I opened the document I found that the pages of the fourth treatise seemed to be missing from the PDF. The page number in the PDF would just suddenly skip ahead when I moved past the end of the third treatise. When I looked at the title page, I found that the contents listing for De Monetae mutatione was crossed out, and there was in fact a signature affixed to the document noting that the treatise had been expurgated!
In his introductory comments to the translation, my colleague Stephen Grabill relates the context of this expurgation:
Mariana’s tract, which attacks King Philip II’s debasement of the currency, led the monarch to haul the aged (seventy-three-year-old) scholar-priest into prison, charging him with the high crime of treason against the king. He was convicted of the crime, but the pope refused to punish him. He was released from prison after four months on the condition that he would remove the offensive passages in the work, and would promise to be more careful in the future.
King Philip, however, was not satisfied with the pope’s punishment. So the king ordered his officials to buy up every copy they could find and to destroy them. After Mariana’s death, the Spanish Inquisition expurgated the remaining copies, deleting many sentences and smearing entire pages with ink. All non-expurgated copies were put on the Spanish Index, and these in turn were expurgated during the course of the seventeenth century. As a result of Philip’s censorship, the existence of the Latin text remained unknown for 250 years, and was rediscovered only because the Spanish edition, which Mariana himself had translated into Spanish, was incorporated into a nineteenth-century collection of classical Spanish essays.
This censorship would have lasting implications for my efforts to secure a copy of the text, as De monetae had been expurgated in not only the first but also the second version of Tractatus VII that I consulted on Google Books. In the second instance, I found the table of contents intact, and moved ahead to download the file.
But again there was a missing range of pages right where De monetae ought to be! When I examined the front matter again, I found that a note explaining the expurgation was on the bottom and the verso side of the table of contents.
As anyone who has used Google Books for research purposes knows, there are some interesting quirks in the system. The PRDL had only turned up those two copies of Tractatus VII, both originating from the Complutense University of Madrid. But if you visit the “about” page for a Google Book, you can often find similar, related, or other versions of the work that are difficult to locate by other search methods. And in the case of my search for De monetae mutatione, the third time turned out to be the charm.
Google also has a copy digitized from the Austrian National Library that had been untouched by the Spanish expurgation efforts, and with a few more clicks I had my digital copy of De monetae mutatione safely downloaded and ready for consultation. The un-mutilated version of Tractatus VII including De monetae mutatione is now listed on the PRDL page for Mariana. Thankfully for my own research efforts, King Philip’s expurgatory efforts did not reach into the holdings of Austria.
In a future post I’ll explore some of the implications of this adventure for digital scholarship. But if you have your own story of the sometimes labyrinthine nature of digital source exploration, please share it below.