The history of Brazilian print culture is closely connected to the establishment of national literature in the 19th century. Indeed, after three centuries of prohibition of printing activity in the colony by the Portuguese Crown, Impresão Régia, the first legal printing establishment in Brazil, was created in 1808 due to the arrival of the Portuguese royal family during the Napoleonic wars. From the late implementation of Imprensa Régia, which became Typographia Nacional after the independence of Brazil in 1822, to the consolidation of the publishing world in the second half of the century, marked by the controversial French presence, the discourses on literature and print production modes tend to reflect the different circulation spheres. In fact, following the long period of colonization under Portuguese rule, print production modes were implemented simultaneously with the consolidation of a broad print culture, characterized by the growth of newspapers, the circulation of images, and the impactful arrival of the novel. Undeniably, the sudden and concurrent arrival of the two worlds—technical and cultural—in addition to the paradoxical development of the print world, marked by its two technical systems—artisanal and industrial—strongly influenced the material aspects of 19th-century Brazilian publishing production. In this context, under the argument of an alleged precariousness of local print production, writers, critics, typographers, engravers, and bookbinders created literary and editorial polemics in newspapers, magazines, and books that contributed to the very construction of a “literary system.” Despite the intrinsic relationships established between literature and publishing, the multidisciplinary field of the history of the book insists on separating approaches dedicated to the technical production processes and the material analysis of objects of written culture from the approaches dedicated to print circulation and uses. Understanding the contradictions imposed by the simultaneous implementation of two technical systems, which are found when analyzing the traces left by the print equipment supply trade and the conditions to build a printing workshop, contributes to understanding the historical conditions of print production. In this sense, the historiographical perspective dialogues with heritage studies in the notion of printing heritage, understood in its tangible and intangible dimensions, considering the machines and tools of the past, together with the techniques then in use. In fact, while bringing together a set of material, technical, and mechanical elements of different production modes, printing heritage also contains the memories of the human actions that set them in motion.
The modern concept of authorship evolved in parallel with the legal recognition of the author as the subject of certain property rights within the marketplace for books. Such a market was initially regulated by a system of printing privileges, which was replaced by copyright laws at the juncture of the 18th and 19th centuries. The inclusion of copyright under the umbrella of property and the dominating economic discourse marked the naissance of a new figure of the author, namely, the author as supplier of intellectual labor to the benefit of society at large. In this sense, products of authorship became fully fledged commodities to be exchanged in the global marketplace. Focusing on the transition between the privilege and the copyright systems, and the prevailing economic rationale for the protection of works of authorship, leads to a more original understanding of authorship as rooted in the human need for reciprocal communication for the sake of truth. Modern authorship, being grounded in a narrow utilitarian understanding of authors’ rights, is detached from both the economic logic of the privilege system and the rational foundation of copyright.
Matthew J. K. Hill
Print culture refers to the production, distribution, and reception of printed material. It includes the concepts of authorship, readership, and impact and entails the intersection of technological, political, religious, legal, social, educational, and economic practices, all of which can vary from one cultural context to another. Prior to their arrival in the Americas, Spain and Portugal had their own print culture and, following the conquest, they introduced it into their colonies, first through the importation of books from Europe and later following the establishment of the printing press in Mexico in 1539. Throughout the colonial period, the importation of books from abroad was a constant and lucrative practice. However, print culture was not uniform. As in Europe, print culture in Latin America was largely an urban phenomenon, with restricted readership due to high rates of illiteracy, which stemmed from factors of class, gender, race, and income, among others. Furthermore, the press itself spread slowly and unevenly, according to the circumstances of each region. One thing, however, that these territories had in common was widespread censorship. Reading, writing, and printing were subject to oversight by the Inquisition, whose responsibility was to police the reading habits of the populace and to ensure that no texts were printed that could disrupt the political and religious well-being of the colonies, as they defined it. In spite of Inquisitorial restrictions, print culture flourished and the number and kind of materials available increased dramatically until the early 19th century, when most of the territories under the Iberian monarchies became independent, a phenomenon due in part to the circulation of Enlightenment thought in the region. Following the era of revolutions, newly established republics attempted to implement freedom of the press. While the Inquisition no longer existed, censorship continued to be practiced to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the circumstances and who was in power. This also applies to Cuba and Puerto Rico. Immediately prior to Latin American independence, the United States became a sovereign nation. Commercial and cultural exchanges, including print materials, between the United States and Latin America increased, and many Latin Americans were traveling to and residing in the United States for extended periods. However, it was also in this period that the United States began a campaign of expansionism that did not cease until 1898 and resulted in the acquisition of half of Mexico’s national territory and of Spain’s remaining American colonies, Cuba and Puerto Rico. In addition to the land itself, the United States also “acquired” the people who had been Spanish and Mexican citizens in California, the Southwest, and Puerto Rico. With this change in sovereignty came a change in language, customs, and demographics, which provoked a cultural crisis among these new Latina/o citizens. To defend themselves against the racial persecution from Anglo-Americans and to reverse the impending annihilation of their culture and language, they turned to the press. The press allowed Latinas/os a degree of cultural autonomy, even as their position was slowly eroded by legal and demographic challenges as the 19th century progressed.