Caper's Words

Incunabulum 4º; a-j⁸; [64] Leaves — Andrea Fernandez

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Incunabulum 4º; a-j⁸; [64] Leaves

By Andrea Fernandez

Tintero arrived at the workshop the previous year biting his nails to the cuticles with foreboding. He knowingly caused quite a commotion when his cinnamon hand presented that prodigious letter, which without warning spiraled the copiously stoic Fadrique the German into an indisposition surely caused by an excessive outburst of bile in the humors, and generally provoking havoc in the shop, with typists scurrying to and fro as though Burgos had unexpectedly transmuted itself into a vessel afloat a tempest.

Everyone wondered what produced the Saracen girl’s departure no longer. The summer when news arrived of James IV attaining the Scottish throne, she took flight and left no trace. Some thought the girl was kidnapped for her skill with song and epic poetry that betrayed her illiteracy; others, far more realistic, pronounced her a sorceress whose purpose was to tenderize the printer’s apprentices and patrons alike, but like all things come from the Lord’s nemesis, she had to leave in haste.

Then the boy came. Fadrique snatched the letter and dragged the child by the tresses into the room for receiving patrons and ceased the beatings when his wife took pity and stormed the door demanding the boy released. She turned pale upon seeing the apparition of her much darkened, puerile spouse before her, and promptly comprehended, as did everyone else in the municipality within minutes, why the young girl fled.  Her ashen extremities trembled, but the woman managed to fetch a maid and order the newcomer cleaned and fed. After all, it was not his fault, the poor thing.

He spent most days attempting to be near his father, who in turn, avoided the child as much as possible, ashamed of its existence. But no matter how much Fadrique smacked and kicked it, the boy, whom he refused to name in the hopes it would disappear, was happiest near the German.

During the first week of June, when Fadrique visited the new author from whom he would acquire a new lovely comedy for printing, the boy joined the most prominent apprentice in the shop, Juan, in passing the movable type over the ink, and pressing it into the blocks. Juan thought it strange, but quickly realized the boy’s innate proficiency in Latin grammar, though nobody had taught it reading or writing in Castilian to begin with. It did not speak, leading everyone to assume it either a halfwit or a nuisance. Clandestinely, Juan gave it a name over the next few days, and found himself constantly talking to the nonresponsive Tintero.

Fadrique peered over a pamphlet in the middle of September; a fragmentary facsimile copied with impeccable pulchritude from Gama’s travels to India in ancient Greek, and demanded to identify who in the shop had carved type blocks in Homer’s tongue, because to his knowledge, there was nobody capable of the feat in the whole city. After much buck passing Juan confessed he not only named Tintero, but encouraged the boy’s mastery of letters. Not knowing what to make of a mute linguistic genius spewed into the world from his groin, Fadrique put his illegitimate son’s skill to good use.

Tintero absentmindedly printed folio after folio, and even excelled at making woodblocks to match the stories, earning his father much acclaim in the printing business. When Fernando de Rojas brought the comedy’s manuscript for reproduction, Tintero was assigned to the task of arranging the movable type for it.

The edito princeps flew off the shelves so fast the second edition had to be produced earlier than anticipated to accommodate demand. Tintero fell ill and Fadrique trusted none of his other apprentices for the task of reproducing his most acclaimed book.

When he discovered the altered passages he nearly regurgitated supper. That accursed Saracen whose ghost refused to forgive her violation and her child’s abuse had discovered yet another way to torture him. The German held the author’s manuscript in one hand and Tintero’s in the other, wondering why in God’s name he did not revise the boy’s work before printing and distributing it throughout the kingdom.

Fadrique the German’s reputation as the best book printer could not be undone for the sake of a bastard. He set to copying its book praying Fernando de Rojas would not read the second edition either.


Written by caperjournal

2009 at AM

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