Nothing like it had ever appeared before. It was an epoch-marking book, if ever there was one. The proud and happy author himself spoke of his success with a frank complacency which, in any other man, would savor of vanity.
Cervantes’ Don Quixote Reforms Literature, featuring a series of excerpts selected from Life of Miguel de Cervantes by Henry Edward Watts published in 1895.
Previously in Cervantes’ Don Quixote Reforms Literature. Now we continue.
In spite of the frowns and sneers of the quality, however, and the ill-concealed disgust of the learned, Don Quixote was received with unbounded applause by the common people. Those best critics in every age and country, the honest readers, who were neither bourgeois nor genteel, neither learned nor ignorant, welcomed the book with a joyous enthusiasm, as a wholly new delight and source of entertainment. Nothing like it had ever appeared before. It was an epoch-marking book, if ever there was one.
The proud and happy author himself spoke of his success with a frank complacency which, in any other man, would savor of vanity. Some seven or eight editions of Don Quixote are supposed to have been printed in the first year, of which six are now extant–two of Madrid, two of Lisbon, and two of Valencia. The number of copies issued from the press in one year was probably in excess of the number reached by any book since the invention of printing. But though all Spain talked of Don Quixote and read Don Quixote, and though the book brought him much fame, some consolation, and a few good friends, it does not appear to have helped to mend the fortunes of Cervantes in any material degree. In accordance with the usual dispensation, the author derived the least benefit from his success. Francisco Robles and Juan de la Cuesta, doubtless, made a good thing of it; but to Miguel de Cervantes there must have come but a small share of the profit. The laws of copyright were, in that age, little regarded; and it may be questioned whether, in a book published in Madrid, they could be enforced outside of Castile. The pirates and the wreckers were busy upon Don Quixote from its very earliest appearance; and its quick and plentiful reproduction in all the chief cities, not only of Spain but of the outside Spanish dominions, though highly flattering to the author, could not have greatly helped to lighten his life of toil and penury.
 Con general aplauso de las gentes–he says in the Second Part of Don Quixote, speaking through the mouth of the Duchess. The legend, revived in the present age, that Don Quixote hung fire on the first publication, and that the author wrote anonymously a tract called El Buscapie (The Search-foot), in order to explain his story and its object, rests only upon the evidence of one Ruidiaz, and is contradicted by all the facts of the case. No such aid was necessary to push the sale of the book, whose purpose had been sufficiently explained by the author in his preface. The so-called Buscapie, published in 1848 by Adolfo de Castro, is an impudent forgery, which has imposed upon no one. It is the composition of Señor de Castro himself, who is a farceur, of some wit and more effrontery. Ticknor is even too serious in the attention which he bestows on Señor de Castro and his work, which an English publisher has thought worthy of a translation.
 Señor Gayangos is of opinion that there were other editions of 1605 which have wholly perished; one probably at Barcelona, the press of which city was very active in that year; one at Pamplona, and probably one at Saragossa, which were capitals of old kingdoms. See also Señor Asensio’s letter to the Ateneo, No. 23, p. 296; and the Bibliography of Don Quixote at the end of this volume.
 The ordinary obrada, or impression, of a book at this period, I am told by Señor Gayangos–and there can be no better authority–was 250 copies. But in the case of a popular book like Don Quixote the impression would be larger–probably 500 copies. Supposing 8 editions to have been issued in 1605, there would thus have been printed 4,000 copies in the first year–a number unprecedently large in an age when readers were few and books a luxury.