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The University Press between 1537 (when it was definitively transferred to Coimbra) and 1772 (Pombaline Reforms)

Since the late fifteenth century, several European universities were already making efforts to acquire typographies or, at the very least, typographers who would work for them under contracts establishing their mutual rights and obligations: priority of the academic work, privileges for the typographers along with their wages.

The late introduction of the printing press in Coimbra (in 1530), at a time when it was spreading around Europe and some Portuguese towns, is likely to have contributed to the transfer of the University to Coimbra and the foundation of the Colégio das Artes (College of Arts).

In an attempt to parallel the progress occurring in the rest of Europe, the University of Coimbra endeavoured to obtain all the typographical devices essential to cultural diffusion, after the definitive establishment of the University in 1537, by decision of King João III.

In 1539, King João III granted the Coimbra booksellers the right to have “their own tents with copies of the science books read in the aforesaid university”, as well as the same privileges and liberties as the students and the University officials.

In 1546, presided by friar and Rector Diogo de Murça, the University Council gave the printer João Álvares power of attorney to travel to Lisbon in order to collect “all the printing material for the University” and “price it fairly”. The University now possessed a valuable set of printing material and devices.

In a provision dated from 1548, King João III confirmed the contract which Diogo de Murça had celebrated with the printers João de Barreira and João Álvares, established in Coimbra since 1542, declaring their “professional commitment towards the University”. The two printers were to be paid the annual wage of 12.000 réis and would enjoy the privilege of having the exclusive right to print for the University. The printing material and devices offered by the King were kept in an outbuilding of the Royal Palace, where the University was located. These were provided to the printers as and when they required it by Fernão Lopes de Castanheda, guard of the registry office and bookshop to whom the printing material and devices were entrusted.

It is important to clearly distinguish between the ownership and administration of a set of printing devices purchased to respond to the specific needs of the University and the relationship between the University and the two printers, who provided the technical means to generate profit. As was done by the University for other services, the University assured that specialised professionals would fill in the job vacancies by legal means, which entitled the institution to specific prerogatives and guarantees. Although the Press belonged to the University, the printers were not obliged to work exclusively for the institution and so did not need to abandon their freelance business.

In 1560, after the death of Fernão Lopes de Castanheda, the following printing materials: two printing presses, twelve boxes with printing types, seven hundred and fourteen letters for titles and beginnings of chapters, fourteen quintals of tin, “tiny pieces and ornaments”, along with typographical moulds originally from the typography of Colégio das Artes (College of Arts), were all handed to the printers João de Barreira and João Álvares, who committed themselves to restoring them to the University, if and when they were requested. The press equipment offered by King João III was worth around seven hundred and sixty million réis.

It was important to the University the security that exclusivity brought, as was to the professionals to be named its official printers; this was not only a prestigious title, but a proof of professional competence, which could attract more clients: "the booksellers and the printers were proud to work for the University and under the protection of “Typographus Universitatis" (Typographer of the University), they were as respected as the "Typographus Regius" (Typographer of the King).”

The University was interested in making new contracts in order to receive service from two privileged printers (who would be included among the names of the official printers in the 1591 bylaws). Sometimes, the widows of the deceased printers were allowed by the University to continue their husband’s activity. As in any lifelong contract, there were responsibilities the heirs of a printer were obliged to assume in case of the death of the printer, including the commitment of the heirs to pursue the same activity. However, it was possible to establish other agreements regarding bigger amounts of work.

Besides ensuring, in order of priority, the printing of students’ and teachers’ papers during this period, the University also financed the publishing of work of writers who could not afford to pay for printing.

Since very early times, it is possible to trace the existence of the Press Reviser and understand the purpose of the role. By naming Fernão de Oliveira reviser of the Press on December 18, 1554, King João III claimed to be fulfilling a 1549 provision which determined that "the University should own a Press Reviser in charge of reading, correcting and providing for all the printing, so that the final work can be as perfect as possible". The high esteem in which this post was held is also mentioned in the 1597 bylaws.

The Marquis of Pombal and the University Press

The Pombaline Reforms

In 1759, by the time of King José's reign, all the privileges of the University printers were abolished. In the same year, the press belonging to the Colégio das Artes (College of Arts), established in Coimbra since 1710, was closed. A few months later, the Jesuits were to be condemned to "perpetual expatriation and denaturalisation".

The Marquis used the assets of the Jesuit press to provide the foundation for the Real Officina da Universidade (Royal University Office), whose management was under printer José Correia da Costa. In 1767, the Real Officina’s assets were joined by printing types coming from the "new" press of Mosteiro de Santa Cruz (Monastery of the Holy Cross), which had been entrusted to the Observant Canons of Saint Augustine since 1758, in order to serve the purposes of the Liturgical Academy. That year, the Marquis disbanded the Academy. However, the Real Officina could not yet provide suitable conditions to print the University's new bylaws or any other academic books. Therefore, the Marquis ordered the printing at the Royal Typography in Lisbon; created in December 1768, it was the origin of the existing National Press.

A royal letter dated 7th February 1769 determined that the University of Coimbra should lend the royal typography 40,000 escudos "to help (...) create its first office", bearing in mind that the University would profit as well.

The typography scene in Coimbra

The fact that all typographical work was being channelled to the University Press struck a blow to the private printers in Coimbra, which all eventually disappeared. It was only in 1823 that a private press opened again, at Coutinhos’ Street, founded by Sé Nova's Rector, Priest Manuel Nunes da Fonseca. During the subsequent years, the total number of typographies increased to 15, the last one being registered in 1893.

The new Press

Having lasted until 1772, the Real Officina was not responding to the needs of the reformed University. Therefore, founding a new and greater press became imperative. It was then necessary to find a larger building, which would be suitable for its new role. In fact, suitable conditions were created with the transference of the Old Cathedral (Sé Velha) to the church of the Jesuits, the present day New Cathedral (Sé Nova). The vacant cloister would shelter all the material of the Real Officina da Universidade, according to the provision enacted by the Marquis on 15th October 1772. The neighbouring houses and courtyards were also expropriated and annexed to the main building, so as to enlarge the area and allow the setting up of the printing offices. Once guaranteed the required space, the repairs to adapt the facilities to their new function were started.

For the new facilities, Rector Francisco de Lemos ordered both the demolition of the tower and stairway opposite Sé Velha's main entrance and the elimination of a small street going from North Street to Colégio de Santa Rita (St. Rita's College). The facilities of the press were finished by June 1773, and the printing office was supplied with printing presses and other typographical material.

In the beginning of that year, Bernardo Correia de Azevedo Morato was nominated manager of the Press and Joaquim José da Silva Nogueira the first mould engraver, with the latter also showing his talent as a painter; the portrait of the Marquis that used to hang on the wall of the University Press Conference Room is a testament to his skill.

In spite of all efforts, by October 1773, the new Press was still not capable of printing the required number of books for the following academic year. Due to this, there was the need to print them in Lisbon at the Royal Typography and send them back to Coimbra through Figueira da Foz Harbour, given the volume and weight of the hundreds of books. Other measures were taken to promote the activity of the Press (or Academic Press, as the Marquis also called it). The royal permit of 16th December 1773 granted the Press the exclusive right to print "the founding works of mathematics, as this was no longer a right held by Colégio Real dos Nobres (Royal College of Nobles)". The Press was also granted the exclusive privilege of printing all the royal ordinances, which previously belonged to the Real Mosteiro de S. Vicente de Fora (Royal Monastery of Saint Vincent).

On the 12th April 1774, the University Rector, Francisco de Lemos, was finally able to send the Marquis some copies of the first printed books: "two volumes by Bezout, another one on Logics and Metaphysics by Genuense and a fourth by Van-Espen".

From the Pombaline Reforms to the Republic

The first bylaws of the Press

It is fair to say that all the efforts put into the Press were due to the knowledge and determination of both the Marquis of Pombal and Francisco de Lemos. Neither the death of King José I on 24th February 1777, nor the consequent withdrawal of the Marquis shook the structure of the Press. Later, Queen D. Maria I showed the same enthusiasm as others before her, as she provided the financial means to the Press director to be able to improve the typographic art.

In January 1790, by royal permit, the first internal rules were published. From then onwards, the Press was to be called Real Imprensa da Universidade (Royal University Press), or Imprensa da Universidade (University Press).

The bylaws mentioned:

· the duties and privileges of all staff members, as well as their exemption rights, for ten years.

· the obligation of the Press to give the University's Library two well-bound copies of every printed book.

· the management of the Press, which would be led by the Dean's Council and composed of the following elements: "The director, someone enlightened in the fields of book culture and typographical art; the proofreader, skilled in language and general subject matters; the administrator, chosen among the printers or book sellers".

The Board of Direction of the University Press was obliged to meet once a week. The aims of the meetings were to discuss current affairs and to examine the activity of the Press, especially concerning the performance of the staff members, the outgoing production, the necessary provisions and economical means to achieve them and the printing or reprinting of works. Both the clerk and the bookkeeper (who was in charge of the register book, where the official letters and decisions were published) were required to attend all meetings. The first Press Administration gathered Greek teacher José Fernandes Álvares Fortuna as proofreader, Latin teacher João António Bezerra de Lima as director, and book seller António Barneoud as administrator.

The privileges of the Press staff

Similarly to other qualified staff of the University, privileges were also given to members of the Press staff. Dated from 1796, the letter addressed to mould engraver Joaquim José Nogueira, outlining his privileges, reads: "The privileges are the following: the University Curator, or whoever assists him, is the only competent judge of the petitioner [...] he is more privileged and excused from serving the city council (as is the solicitor, price-fixer or tax collector); he is not obliged to pay for any extra taxes on bridges, doorways, roads, walls, sidewalks, animal straw, prisoner housing; he is free from handing over his dwellings, wine cellars, stables, clothes, furniture, bread, barley, straw, cattle [...]"

The activity of the Press

The University's printing presses gave birth to the academic books of the Pombaline Reforms, works on the subjects taught in each faculty, as well as academic periodicals and leaflets. Material for internal use was also printed here, including registration and examination manuals, certificates, dissertations and other academic written papers.

As the production capacity of the Press was greater than the amount of work demanded and since the city lacked private presses until 1823, the University Press was also printing works unrelated to the University. From 1800 onwards, the Press started publishing an important list of all registered students under the name: Relação e índice alphabetico dos estudantes matriculados na Universidade de Coimbra (List and alphabetic index of the registered students of the University of Coimbra). In 1865-66, this publication changed its name to Anuário (Yearbook) and in 1866-67, to Anuário da Universidade (University Yearbook). In 1869-70, its structure underwent some changes, including starting to include other different aspects of University life.

The scope of the printed works

Both the authors and the works that the University Press chose to print, along with the most popular ones at that time, were not only mirrors of an age but also of the spirit of the reforms planned by the Marquis of Pombal. Some of the printed works were even included in the Catholic Church’s list of prohibited books. Moreover, those works expressed the core of the Press bylaws, which determined that the administration should deliberate on the “printing or reprinting of the works as long as they were not considered frivolous, although their demand appeared to be profitable”. The printed works made the reputations of personalities noteworthy in almost all fields of study: Law, Botany, Philosophy, Mathematics, History, Theology, Oratory, Medicine, Chemistry, Natural History, Astronomy, and Experimental Physics. The works also contributed to the circulation of the major thoughts in cultural, ideological, political, religious, economic and scientific studies that spanned Europe at the time. Those works and their authors were deeply grounded on the Enlightenment, which expressed to some extent the world view followed during the Pombaline Reforms. In the eighteenth century, the Press already had its own shop, located in the same building, where not only the printed books were sold, but also many other imported works.

The "compulsory books"

During the nineteenth century, the edicts posted by the Rector in the beginning of the academic year included a list of all the books students should purchase. In fact, it was determined that no registration would be accepted unless students presented a declaration signed by the Press confirming that they had acquired all the necessary books.

The French invasions and the University Press

The French invasions represented an enormous loss for the Press: the building was damaged, the storehouses were sacked and almost all materials were destroyed, including paper, printing presses, printing types, and books.

In 1808, by dispatch of the Vice-Rector, the University Press published the first Coimbra periodical, called Minerva Lusitana (Lusitanian Minerva). In it, the nation's value and patriotism were publicly divulged, as well as the latest developments in military operations and even the insurrection against Junot's army, which the city joined on 23rd June 1808. Medicine teacher Joaquim Navarro de Andrade and Luís do Coração de Maria were the two most valuable contributions to the publishing of periodicals.

The University Press and the 1820 Liberal Revolution

Throughout the Liberal Revolution, the University of Coimbra experienced troubled times. Both the University and the Press faced strong criticism.

Revelling over the Liberal Revolution, in November 1820, the Academy decided to celebrate with a poetic soiree in Sala dos Capelos, where, among others, the romantic poets Almeida Garrett and António Feliciano de Castilho were present. Some academic newspapers that were critical of the University, such as Censor Provinciano (The Provincial Censurer), were published by the Press. Director José Pinto Rebelo de Carvalho, a medical student, would later be expelled from the University for his criticisms.

The Collecção de Poesias recitadas na sala dos actos grandes (Collection of Poetry recited in the room of the great acts), praising the new constitutional order and also including some criticism towards the Vice-Rector, was also published by the Press in 1821. In the same year, the Regimento da Proscripta Inquisição de Portugal ordenado pelo inquisidor geral o Cardeal da Cunha e publicado por José Maria de Andrade (The Abrogated Portuguese Inquisition Bylaws ordered by the Grand Inquisitor Cardinal da Cunha and published by José Maria de Andrade) would also be printed. The introduction to this work compares the Inquisition to "a devastating plague" resulting in more than 32,000 victims among which more than a thousand were probably "thrown into the fire".

Following the abolishment of the Liberal Revolution in 1821, the Inquisition was also abolished. In the same year, the Press would print the poem "Retrato de Vénus" ("Portrait of Venus") by romantic poet Almeida Garrett. This book would be prohibited from sale, under penalty of major excommunication, mainly due to the objection of Priest José Agostinho de Macedo.

King Miguel’s request for equipment and typographers

In 1833, the army of King Miguel requested two printing presses and some typographers from the Press, in order to print Ordens do Dia (Orders of the Day) and Boletim do Exército (The Army Bulletin), following his withdrawal from Oporto to lay siege to Lisbon.

His goal was to print a newspaper in his barracks so as to publish the orders of the day for the armed forces to read, both during marches and during quarter allotment. This small campaign typography called "Typographia da Intendência Geral da Policia do Exercito" ("Typography of the General Superintendence of the Army Police") followed the royalist army throughout its political struggle and attended the Évora Monte convention on the 26th May 1834. The Boletim do Exercito, whose editor was Coimbra-born bachelor António Pimentel Soares, was published in several towns: Coimbra, Leiria, Caldas da Rainha, Óbidos, Mafra, Cabeço de Monchique and Lumiar e Santarém.

The University Press and the “Cork Law”

In 1850, the Parliament was presented a bill to restrain press freedom, which became known as “Lei das Rolhas” (“Cork Law”). The University responded strongly against the bill, since it affected the teachers of that institution. Vicente Ferrer Neto Paiva wrote a leaflet called Defesa da Representação dos Lentes da Universidade de Coimbra (Defense of the Lectures of the University of Coimbra) against the bill and dedicated it to the memory of the Marquis of Pombal, a University reformer.

The 1854 provisional bylaws

In 1853, a commission for the elaboration of the University Press bylaws was nominated by ministerial decree. Published in 1854, the Provisional Bylaws of the Press established detailed penalties for work absence and rule transgression, as well as the roles of the workers: warehouseman, collector of printed sheets for binding, bookseller, typesetting office manager, typesetters, apprentice typesetters, printing master, printers and assistants, doorman and security officers. The general dispositions clearly prohibited the workers from collaborating with or working simultaneously for other printing offices.

Manifest against the Rector’s Decrees

The fight of the Press working class for rights against the Rector’s decisions, which were considered illegal, was put on paper by typographer Delfim Gomes, in 1896. The manifesto he wrote was obviously printed outside the Press, at the França Amado printing office, also located in Coimbra. The Rector’s decisions would follow from the periodical crises the Press had been going through because of the “progressive unbalance between the amount of work and the number of workers”. While the number of workers tended to rise (the year of 1896 counted 37 staff elements, from managers to workers), the amount of work kept declining, due to rising competition from private printing presses (a total of 15 were counted in Coimbra three years before). However, the measures taken were considered not to conform with the contract and were seen as disrespectful to the acquired rights, which led to the public announcement of the workers’ position and the plea to the Kingdom Minister.

The supervision of all publications by the Kingdom Government and the resignation of the director

The position of director was already part of the Press government structure in 1871, standing as an intermediary position between the administrator and the Rector, and was then occupied by Bernardo da Serpa Pimentel. Authorized by the director, the University Press published José Falcão’s “famous and roaring” manifesto: The Paris Commune and the Versailles Government. As a consequence, on the 20th June 1871, the Kingdom Ministry issued a decree declaring the resignation of the director. Subsequently, the position of director was removed by regulatory decree on the 12th July of the same year, only maintaining the role of administrator. “The administrator was entrusted by the University Press to fulfill the position of director, under the Rector’s supervision. In case of absence, the Rector would provide for an interim replacement of the administrator.” The bylaws also altered the application process positions such as administrator and proofreader to be subject to public examination.

The homage paid to the Marquis by the Press staff

In 1882 (the hundredth death anniversary of the Marquis), his memory was still being kept alive among the Press staff. A card was printed and signed by all workers as a tribute paid to the reformer.

From the Republic to the extinction of the Press

The Proclamation of the Portuguese Republic laid the intellectual scene for the forthcoming innovations in the area of teaching, as well as in the technical and scientific fields. The revitalisation of the University allowed by the new political order led the way for, among other things, the publication of new scientific magazines and the support for the editing business. In 1919, the Universidade Popular Portuguesa (Portuguese Popular University) was inaugurated with a conference by Leonardo Coimbra. In February 1925, the Universidade Livre de Coimbra (Coimbra’s Free University) was created, with Joaquim de Carvalho as one of the promoters.

Joaquim de Carvalho as administrator of the University Press

A philosophy teacher at the Faculty of Humanities, Joaquim de Carvalho was also a liberal and republican intellectual. On the 30th July 1921, at the age of 29, he was appointed administrator of the University Press. Under his charge, the Press not only continued its typographical work but also actively played the role of editor.

The University Press as a model institution

Throughout its one hundred and sixty two years of existence, the work developed by the Press was remarkable. In addition to the printing of academic books, the history of publications of the Press also includes many other works related to literature, as well as art.

The Press as typography school

The human resources of the University Press were highly qualified. Along with the various professional categories related to typographic arts, there was also the master of the typography school, who was entrusted with teaching “the art of printing well” to a group of beginners who were supposed to give continuity to the activity. Some of the staff started off as beginners and slowly rose in the hierarchy, whilst still maintaining their academic studies.

To Joaquim de Carvalho, the qualification of the staff was of great concern. This is quite clear in a letter from Salazar addressed to him, dated 25th January 1992, that reads: “I received your esteemed letter yesterday regarding the apprentices, preferably students from the college for orphans, you have requested for your Press school [...]”.

The Press as an institution for solidarity

As a way to assist the community as well as their own families’, the Press staff decided to create a beneficiary fund. This is the oldest fund in Coimbra, founded on the 8th September 1849 by 16 of the Press workers. Its aim was to assist the associates in case of disease or disability, as well as to fund funeral costs.

“When not expecting, one can be attacked by illnesses that can keep a person from working and consequently from acquiring the means for his own support. On these occasions, the Fund acts like a shield under which one finds comfort for suffering as much as financial support in times of need. In such a manner, one finds remedy and assistance in the union of our little forces, useless individually but very strong together, capable of building a safe haven against disgrace and rough times […] We, children of the people, shall also contribute to this noble social mission according to our means. So as the richest assist the misfortunes of others with the remains of their wealth, we intend to lessen our own misery with small contributions earned with the sweat of our bodies […]”

The Press supporting Coimbra’s Artists Association

The University Press supported Coimbra’s Artists Association, founded in 1862, under the administration of Olímpio Nicolau Rui Fernandes.

The high quality of the work of Press

The typographers’ work was renowned. Its exceptional typographical quality was shown in the books displayed at the 1928 exhibitions in Florence and Madrid.

Recognition of excelency

Salazar himself referred to the merit of the Press when, in the previously mentioned 1922 letter addressed to Joaquim de Carvalho, he highlighted the advantages for beginners in attending the Press school by declaring assertively: “Your Press has the benefit of being a model institution [...]”.

The removal of the Press

By decree on 30th June 1934, by the time former student in Coimbra Oliveira Salazar was Prime Minister, the Press was extinguished. This was a political act included in a wider authoritarian practice, meant to control or neutralise every institution or person potentially dangerous to the unitarian logic of the Portuguese dictatorship. In fact, the progressive and democratic minds of its workers turned the Press into a powerful political weapon at the time.

After the removal of the Press, part of the equipment was entrusted to the National Press in Lisbon, while the rest remained scattered, including the printing presses. The 37 works in progress registered by the time of the Press’ removal, the innumerable titles included in all 11 collections, and the words expressed by notable individualities (the unsuspected Alfredo Pimenta even referred in the newspaper Diário de Notícias to the Press’s “glorious work history”) all reflect the high level and worth of Joaquim de Carvalho’s work as administrator of the Press.

Responses to the closing of the Press

Neither the Senate nor the Assembly reacted actively against that measure. The only response from these organs was the fruitless expression of both esteem towards Joaquim de Carvalho’s work and perplexity before the ignorance manifested by Rector João Duarte de Oliveira as to Salazar’s intentions of extinguishing the Press. “To speak of the extinction of such secular institution of Pombaline origin, whose last administrator was an historical republican overtly demoliberal, is to talk about the whole control movement undertaken by the dictatorial regime of Estado Novo over the several institutions and streams of thought. The aim was to create a single political ideology, inserted in what euphemistically was called “União Nacional” (National Union). Furthermore, the extinction of the Press must be seen as a measure taken to neutralise an institution whose prolific printing and editorial production would probably escape the State’s fiscal control. As like any other Republican, Joaquim de Carvalho joined various organizations of that movement, namely the Universidade Livre (The Free University), created in 1925 and Freemasonry [...], supportive of non-religious and penalty-free morals, founded on solidarity [...]. The University had lost its autonomy since the Rector started being nominated by the government, but mostly because he was regarded since the 1930 legislation as the “representative of the Public Instruction Minister before the University”.

On the 6th November 1936, a work order issued by the Education Minister would suspend the representation of the students at the Senate and at the University’s General Assembly, as well as the elections for the Students’ Association later that month. The first Administration Committee was nominated.

The greatest concern was to ensure that the building where the Press was installed would continue to store the equipment so that its activity could proceed.

The editing practice of the Press after its removal

Even after the removal of the Press, scientific editing was kept alive at the University. The University’s scientific magazines printed by the Press until 1934 continued to be published by the faculties of Law, Medicine, Science and also by the University’s General Library. The scientific magazines founded in the following decade would be published by the faculties of Humanities, Law, Medicine, Science and Pharmacy.

The present University Press

Recent history

Sixty-four years passed from the extinction in 1934 until it was reactivated in the year 1998. Meanwhile, by a 1979 law, the Documentation and Publications Service of the University was created. Its aim was “to plan, coordinate and lead the pedagogical, scientific and cultural publications of the University”.

Research in 1986, ordered by Rector Rui Alarcão and in collaboration with Maria Antónia Amaral, Luís Reis Torgal, defended “the reactivation of Coimbra’s University Press as a priority”.

Three years later, the University’s bylaws would contemplate the creation of the Press. They established the following: “The University Press is responsible for the definition of the University’s editorial policies, as well as for planning, coordinating and leading the publications of cultural, scientific and pedagogical interest. Its duties also include the management of the distribution, selling and interchange of all publications”.

The University Press resumes activity

In December 1998, Rector Fernando Rebelo proposed the Senate to elect Medicine teacher Fernando Regateiro for the role of Director. With the Senate’s approval, the Press resumed its previous activity.

In May 1999, the editorial council started activity and in July the bylaws were approved by the Senate. In the same year, the bookshop was made available, which meant that an eighteenth-century tradition would be able to continue.

In 2007, the Press would return to the original facilities to be installed in the building adjacent to Sé Velha (Old Cathedral), built in 1773 for this purpose.

The estate of the Press returns home

Since the resumption of the Press activity, there is the intention to relocate all possible material from past Press activities. In order to achieve this, the Press made contact with National Press President, Brás Teixeira. This allowed the return to the University of Coimbra in 2001 of part of the old estate, which had been under the guard of the National Press since 1934. It included several types of documents but mostly copper engravings, printing types in wood and metal, and vignettes. Some of these are likely to be the remains of the previous Jesuit Press.