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Ibero-American Editors and Publishers (Centuries XIX-XXI) – EDI-RED

Publishing in Ibero-America

The commercial exchange of books among the different Spanish-speaking countries sketches out an expressive map of the evolution that cultural contacts between these areas have experienced throughout the most recent centuries. Books are linguistic realities and, for this reason, the countries that share a language form an immense market. The production and exportation of books, the planning of publishing policies, the contacts with other literary and cultural traditions through translations, the legislative frameworks which regulate international commerce, the search for international markets or the formation of competing national industries are some of the factors that indicate the rhythm and the changes of a cultural history which is shared but is not for this reason conflict-free.

The dual tenor of publishers is well known: entrepeneurs who are subject to the law of profit but also are cultural mediators on whom to a certain degree the brilliance of a national culture depends. Such a duality means that in the formalization of this history both economic and political opportunities have an impact as well as the intervention of groups and nations who are interested in defending in their discourse dynamics regarding national autonomy or subordination of former colonies whose cultural identity has, in books and the act of reading, a space of particular symbolic value. Editorial relationships display in effect the hierarchies, ideologies, and structures undergirding these networks which are complex, multilateral and subject to diachronic variables of a distinct sign. Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries this commercial sector recognizes moments of intense interchange and moments of retraction or resistence. As these phases follow each other, the relationships between the production of a printed text culture, the political vicissitudes of the various states implicated in this commerce and the various economic opportunities are worked out, all of which, to a considerable degree, mutually explain each other.

Traditionally, the Latin America presses nurtured the state and religious routes, while the lettered elites consumed imported books. Until the onset of the 20th century, America imported high-quality books and produced low-quality books. Simultaneously, from Spain, the publishing industry formalized a body of business cases and laws so as to erect obstacles to the emancipation of American publishing industries and the formation/creation of a literary tradition of their own, by trying to consolidate or to recover a market which was considered vital due to its political and economic significance. Since then, publishing projects in Latin America have experienced the typical tensions of a peripheral market: between a central market which exerts pressure with the local distribution of its products and the proyects that publishing and intellectual programs themselves gradually consolidate. There comes into existence a network of increasing exchanges and an increasingly connected market which will become central and dominant when, due to the effects of the Civil War (1936-1939), Spain enters a non-productive period in book publishing. To this is added the presence in America of exiled Spanish publishers and intellectuals, who will give a boost to the quality of the catalogues.

Toward the end of the 50s and at the beginning of the 60s, various social factors produced in America a university expansion and the origins of a demand for books which would lead the renovation of the human and social sciences, as well as the so-called boom of Latin American literature, which during those years witnesses a vigorous process of internationalization. The 90s begin with the consolidation of a worldwide capitalist market and with a phenomenon that has had a decisive importance in the field of culture: globalization. The book industry was not exempted from the greed of external investors, and the process of concentrating the publishing market into but a few groups was and continues to be the distinctive and characteristic sign of the publishing industry up to the current time.

Although following differing contours, the route taken by Brazil's publishing market has not escaped the characteristics identified here. And if indeed in America, the Portuguese and Spanish languages have been historically less articulated than might have been desired, integrating them into this project implies thinking about the continental book market as a single entity, in which even distinctive features can be thought of as significant for that integrated whole. For the same reason, it is necessary to integrate into this transatlantic vision of books written in the Iberian languages other geographic spaces where they have been produced, exchanged and read: specific zones in Africa –Morocco, Guinea, Angola– the Philippines and the United States.

Ultimately, this section aspires to document this publishing history and, with it, to bring to light indispensable keys of a cultural history –complex, conflictive, at times contradictory– of agreements and disagreements, which in great part, is formed by a multiple tradition.

José Luis de Diego (Universidad Nacional de La Plata)

Fernando Larraz (Universidad de Alcalá)


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