The piece of the month of January 2006


Eduardo Morales Solchaga
Chair of Navarrese Heritage and Art

We are dealing with a thesis of Degree also known as a sheet of Degree. In these printed documents, the academic conclusions of an academic Degree were recorded. Their value lies not only in the interesting information they provide, but also in the undeniable role played by artistic work. Because of its support, it is an exceptional case, since, in spite of the fact that during the centuries of the Baroque there were two universities in Navarre, that of the Benedictine monastery of Irache and that of Santiago, of the Dominicans of Pamplona, the percentage of printed thesis is quite low. In its favor, we can affirm that of the more than two thousand documents of this subject conserved in the file General de la Nación de Méjico, only one was printed on red silk. Even and all, we cannot notice such a tiny proportion in peninsular Spain, where the publications on silk were more frequent.

The basic structure of this document, subject , consists of a heading, with the sponsor's coat of arms, his own, that of the city, that of a religious order, or a devotional print, in which the author is, in one way or another, identified, it could be his saint patron saint, that of his birthplace, the founder of the order of which he is a member etc. ..... Very exceptionally, portraits are placed, either of the sponsor, or of an important personality of the family of the graduate. Next is the name of his patron or godfather, who has invested his money in the training of the individual in question. In front of it appears the name of the author of the thesis , under which is placed an explanatory text of the thesis supported, accompanied by the main conclusions of the same. This is followed by the name of the master director and the date on which the ceremony will be held, accompanied by the credentials of the president of the court that will judge the work.

The beauty of the document lies in its complex creative process, as it involves several stampings. Firstly, the typographies that consolidate the ornamental border. To this is added the printing of the text, and the subsequent incorporation of the intaglio engraving of subject heraldic, portrait or devotional. As far as the support is concerned, it was mostly made on paper, reserving for the most distinguished recipients the noblest materials, such as silks, taffetas or vellum, in a wide variety of colors, with yellow standing out above all of them. Therefore, several personalities are involved, among them the engraver and the printer.

We also find different modalities that respond to the era of printing, varying from the simplicity of the thesis defended during the sixteenth century, to the excessive baroque of the thesis of the eighteenth century. At the same time, there are regional variations, highlighting for their complexity those sustained in universities located in the European Septentrión. Its swan song came with the arrival of the 19th century, when ornamentation was simplified, to later become a simple accreditation document, administrative and pragmatic in nature, leaving aside decorative materials and processes.

thesis  from Degree by Antonio Jesús Claessens

thesis from Degree by Antonio Jesús Claessens
Pamplona, Printed by Pascual Ibáñez, 1768. Private collection

The thesis of Degree presented here, printed on yellow silk, is undoubtedly unusual. The document is headed with an anonymous engraving of St. Anthony of Padua, holding the baby Jesus on his lap, while in his right hand he carries a lily staff. The fact is explained by the fact that it is the saint patron saint of the Flemish PhD student , Antonio Jesus Claessens, whose two names are reflected, according to the miracle that happened to the Franciscan saint, in this engraving. With certainty, the print would not be opened for the purpose of the thesis , but the stamping would be done with a plate possibly conserved in the Franciscan convent located in the capital of Navarre, belonging to the brotherhood of the saint or to his devotees.

Under it appears the name of the patron who paid for his programs of study, María Manuela Antonia Sarrate. Curiously enough, the devotional stamp, not by chance, corresponds to her patron saint, since the heading also introduces the term "Emmanuel" (God among us), the Hebrew term used in the Bible to refer to Jesus. With this, the PhD student would honor his main patron, as a gratification to his sponsorship, and with the purpose of helping him to promote himself in the Pamplona society of the time. It uses the formula "D.O.C.", dicat, offert et consecrat, (dedicate, offer and consecrate), a Latin formula very common in this subject of documents, as well as in others of a different nature, such as books.

This is followed by an introit, under which the four main conclusions of the thesis are listed, in which philosophical questions are debated on the works of another Franciscan, Blessed John Duns Scotus, something that is not surprising, since during the Baroque centuries a prestigious philosophical school of Scotus functioned in Pamplona, with its headquarters in the aforementioned Franciscan convent.

In the lower part of the composition, the name of the teacher who directed the work appears, since the PhD student, according to the text, has always been located "sub umbra sui". This is the Franciscan friar Joseph Rodrigo, lector at Philosophy of the Pamplona convent of San Francisco. The date on which the academic act was to be held is given below, without specifying the day, but simply the month and year, May 1768. This is due to the fact that the thesis was printed prior to its reading, being completed the day after the printing, thus serving both as an invitation and as a commemorative document of the event.

Also mentioned is the manager of the examining board, the Franciscan R. P. Pedro de Armendáriz, retired reader of Philosophy . Finally, in the lower right part, the place of printing, Pamplona, and the prestigious printer, Pascual Ibáñez, "printer of the Kingdom" and book merchant, with a workshop in Calle del Carmen in Pamplona, whose production, in the second third of the 18th century, gave rise to more than forty volumes of medium quality. Among them, the third edition of the "Annales del Reyno de Navarra" by P. Moret (1766), the most important printed work of identity character for Navarra during the whole of Modernity, stood out above all.

The whole set is set in a cartouche configured based on typographies, which combine animal and vegetable elements, starting from the same element, a delicate wicker vase. A second typography also intervenes, in the central zone, consolidated with eighteenth-century rocailles. The printing, as we have already noted, is done on yellow taffeta, something reserved for the most distinguished engagements, which was delivered framed in wooden sticks, and rolled up inside a luxurious case. In any case, most of the engravings were made on paper, and, therefore, it must be valued in its right measure.

BARRIOCANAL LOPEZ, Y., El grabado compostelano del siglo XVIII, La Coruña, Fundación Pº Barrié de la Maza, 1996, pp. 102 - 113.
SÁNCHEZ DE BONFIL, Mª C., Catálogo de Ilustraciones XIII [prologue], Mexico, file General de la Nación, 1981, pp. 7 and 8.
FERNÁNDEZ GRACIA, R., "thesis de Degrees de Juan Francisco de Alduán e Ibarra", in Juan de Goyeneche y el triunfo de los navarros en la Monarquía Hispánica del siglo XVIII, Pamplona, Fundación Caja Navarra, 2005, p. 270.
GARCÍA TURZA, F.J., "Pascual Ibáñez" in Gran Enciclopedia Navarra, vol. VI., Pamplona, Caja de Ahorros de Navarra, 1990, p.30.