Ms. Codex 63 & Ms. Codex 188: Lope de Vega in manuscript

On February 16 guest hosts John Pollack and Roger Chartier brought out two manuscripts from the library’s MedRen collection, both autograph manuscripts by Spanish Golden Age playwright Lope de Vega. Ms. Codex 63 is a copy of Carlos Quinto en Francia, dated 20 November 1604, and Ms. Codex 188 is a copy of Los Benavides dated 15 June 1600.

Being autographs, both copies are in the hand of the author, and are also signed by him. In Ms. Codex 188 Lope’s signature is at the end of Act III. In the signature, the L of Lope is entwined with the M of Micaela – a dedication to Micaela Luján, a married woman and actress who was Lope’s lover between 1599 and 1608. This monogram also appears at the end of Act II.

He was still using this monogram four years later, as it appears on Ms. Codex 63, f. 61v, at the end of Act III.

Ms. Codex 63, Carlos Quinto en Francia, f. 61v

These manuscripts are a trove of information about the practice of Golden Age theater. For example, Ms. Codex 63 contains sections of licencias or authorizations granted by Bishops and Inquisitors in each town in which the play was performed, including Valladolid, Madrid, Saragossa, Jaén, Málaga, Murcia, Granada, Lisbon, and Madrid. This suggests that this manuscript belonged to companies of strolling players that used it as a prompt book.

That the manuscripts were used as a prompt book is also supported by the structure of the books. Ms. Codex 188 the gatherings that compose each of the three acts have separate foliation and had not been bound together, instead they were composed as separate textual units by Lope.

There are cuts in the manuscript , but these revisions are Lope’s. Rather they are the cuts and corrections required or desired by the director of the company (the autor de comedias). In Ms. Codex 188 Lope wrote or copied the text of the play and added in some stage directions in the margins, but there are several other manuscript interventions that are in the hands of those who prepared the text for the performances.

In Ms. Codex 63, textual revisions by Lope are made by a series of loops or more rarely blots. The other manuscript interventions are the responsibility of those who prepared the text for the performances. These corrections indicate cuts (with NO) and, sometimes, the reintegration of a previously suppressed passage (with SI), traces of the adjustment of the text made by the autor de comedias for the performances.

There are differences between the manuscripts and the eventual published versions of the plays. The printed text of Los Benavides omitted 148 lines present in the autograph manuscript, while the printed text of Carlos Quinto en Francia omitted 434 lines found in the autograph manuscript.

There is so much more to learn about these fascinating manuscripts, please take the time to watch the video with John Pollack and Roger Chartier here. You can also read the full catalog records and see the digital versions:

Ms. Codex 63

Ms. Codex 188

We host Coffee With A Codex every Wednesday at 12pm ET / 5pm GMT on Zoom. For a schedule three weeks ahead, visit our main page here.

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