The Exemplary Tales were written between 1590 and 1612 and were published in 1613 in a single volume. In Madrid, on September 9 of the same year, the publication rights for the work were signed to the bookseller Francisco de Robles. As such, Cervantes sold the rights and royalties for these historic twelve stories for 1,600 pennies. Also, just as with Don Quixote, it is Juan de la Cuesta’s printing house that was commissioned to publish them.
Judging by the number of editions that followed the first one, the book must have been very successful at the time. It is not only the success of the twelve stories that are told in the book, but, in Cervantes’ words, in the opportune examples for the reader that can be taken from them, which is where the title ‘exemplary’ comes from. What is more, Cervantes’ famous prologue is a rich source of information for understanding the author and Spanish literature. Miguel de Cervantes is undoubtedly the first author to write a series of short stories in Spanish, a genre that was gradually introduced to the peninsula through the mediaeval Italian novelle. However, the best-known part of the prologue is surely the autobiographical description made by the author. While it was common to see engravings of the portrait of the author in the 17th century, Cervantes substituted that image for a ‘portrait of words’.
“This person that you see here, of aquiline countenance, with dark brown hair, a smooth clear brow, merry eyes and hooked but well-proportioned nose; his silver beard […]”
The short stories in Exemplary Tales are:
*La gitanilla (“The Gypsy Girl”)
*El amante liberal (“The Generous Lover”)
*Rinconete y Cortadillo (“Rinconete and Cortadillo”)
*La española inglesa (“The Spanish-English Lady”)
*El licenciado Vidriera (“The Lawyer of Glass”)
*La fuerza de la sangre (“The Power of Blood”)
*El celoso extremeño (“The Jealous Extremaduran”)
*La ilustre fregona (“The Illustrious Kitchen Maid”)
*Las dos doncellas (“The Two Damsels”)
*La señora Cornelia (“Lady Cornelia”)
*El casamiento engañoso (“The Deceitful Marriage”)
*El coloquio de los perros (“The Dogs’ Colloquy”)