How many autographs by Cervantes – that is, documents written in his handwriting – still survive? Only eleven. And nearly all of them are linked to his professional life as a tax collector in various Andalusian towns. They have nothing to do with his literary life and, less still, with personal details.
An example is this autograph, the only one held by the Biblioteca Nacional de España. One of the major problems of tax collection – which led Cervantes to serve a spell in prison – was the financial guarantees he had to provide, and treasurers’ constant demands for further guarantees. Cervantes pledges his reputation and the fact he was married in the town: “I have no more guarantees and four thousand ducats is enough, and I am well-known, reliable and wed in this place.”
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