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1. Introduction

Research on censorship in translation is a highly intricate process, requiring careful examination of multiple sources to ascribe agency to ideological issues. A core part of the work carried out by translation researchers studying censorship-related phenomena is identifying and describing textual changes between source texts and target texts stemming from censorship processes and tracking those individuals involved in such changes. For the last 25 years, the TRACE (TRAnslations CEnsored) research team (<>) has been painstakingly charting the history of translation and censorship in Francoist Spain and beyond, producing in-depth studies on specific periods and genres (e.g. narrative texts, poetry, theatre, cinema, and television) in order to obtain a clearer view of how censorship mechanisms affected the production and reception of translated texts. The first key step in any TRACE-led research is the construction of a comprehensive catalogue of translations, sourced from archival records, as the basis of ulterior textual studies. These catalogues are currently being compiled into a large database, TRACE DB 1.0, freely available at <>. This methodological stage has “opened new ways of unveiling better selected and defined corpora of translations” (Merino 2005: 87).

The breadth and depth of the studies produced to date are significant. These are reliant on the first-hand examination of thousands of censorship files and the careful analysis of the socio-political context in which they were produced. Such studies span the entire Francoist period into the first years of the transition to democracy.

A major obstacle when commenting on archival material related to censorship is the fact that researchers often have to deal with incomplete documentation. This may include the source and target texts, contemporary and modern accounts from the parties involved in their production and distribution (i.e. translators, film distributors, book publishers, and censors) obtained via published materials (e.g. monographs, bibliographic indexes, press articles, reviews and other paratextual materials), personal interviews, and private and public archives. Archives in particular are crucial in understanding censorship since they offer a unique vantage point from which to look at the history of translation practices (Munday 2014; Paloposki 2017). Such collections of cultural artefacts are remnants of the different ideological systems that govern society and serve as invaluable sources of evidence for researchers.

Unique to the Spanish context are the publicly available archival materials located at the Archivo General de la Administración (AGA) in Alcalá de Henares, Madrid. Since the TRACE team has already explored and exploited (see Section 6) many of the research possibilities offered by this outstanding resource, the main aim of this paper is to highlight the way AGA materials have enriched research on translation and censorship. In this respect, first, we will briefly examine the legislation regulating the production of censorship-related documentation held at the AGA, focusing on both printed books and public performances. This will be followed by a critical evaluation of the main sources that can be employed in the study of censorship in translation, including private and public archives, which will lead us into an in-depth description of the main TRACE resource, that is, the AGA. Those censorship-related materials which have proved relevant in the study of translations, and their evolution over time, will be considered in detail. Finally, we will reflect on the use of these materials and illustrate how they have provided remarkable insights into the study of the reception and textual analysis of translated works.

2. Censorship under Franco: legislation and ratings

To appreciate what AGA materials contribute to the study of censorship in translation, as well as to identify their potential shortcomings, it is crucial to understand the political climate in which they were generated. Thus, what follows is an examination of the official censorship apparatus and the legislation that regulated it.

Even before the Francoist regime was established in 1939, the Nationalist faction imposed a systematic control over all types of cultural production, including books, periodicals, public performances, music, and films, which resulted in a wealth of documentation on the reception and nature of translations. Francoist censorship lasted for nearly fifty years, from its initial legislation in 1936 (e.g. BOE[1] 18-XI-1936[2]) to its final death throes in 1985, a lengthy period in which significant legal and administrative changes took place. This repressive system therefore outlived Franco. Although Article 20 of the 1978 Spanish Constitution (BOE 29-XII-1978) guaranteed freedom of speech as a fundamental right, censorship reports continued to be produced until 1983, and the bureaucratic apparatus which generated them was only dismantled in 1985 (Rabadán 2000: 9).

The structure of censorship under the Franco regime was not monolithic. Rather, different types of cultural products were overseen by separate branches of the administration, with specific legislation and internal directives put in place and tailored to the particularities of the reviewed texts. Considering such disparities across various media, complementary analyses of the censorship of books and public performances, cinema and theatre in particular, are required to understand how it affected the reception of those works. The following sections provide a glimpse into the way those forms of censorship were organised and how they operated. Broadly speaking, the legislation and censorship processes commented on below apply both to native and translated works, our focus being on the latter.

2.1. Book censorship

The Francoist book censorship system was established on 14 January, 1937, at the height of the Spanish Civil War, with the creation of the Delegation for Press and Propaganda, the main function of which was to establish censorship norms. By 29 May, book censorship duties were centralised in the Delegation. The first of the two major pieces of Francoist legislation regulating censorship was passed a year later. Under the 1938 Press Law, censorship was conceived as a necessary means to establish strict control over the flow of information and an integral part of Franco’s propaganda effort. Although this law was conceived as a transitory measure (Sevillano Calero 1998: 58), the censorship system was kept in place after the war as a means of purging what were perceived as pernicious ideas, preventing them from reaching a wide audience. Such ideas, as per Abellán (1980: 88-89), can be classified into four areas: sexual references, use of vulgar language, as well as attacks against the Catholic Church and against the regime, including their representatives. Further legislation detailed authorisation guidelines, initially based on the need to control the consumption of paper, which had become a scarce commodity with the outbreak of World War II (Armas 1982: 110).[3]

The other major piece of censorship legislation was the 1966 Press and Print Law (BOE 19-III-1966), which replaced the former compulsory review system with a so-called voluntary consultation. This meant, in principle, that publishers could release new titles without prior administrative approval. Although this period was characterized by a slightly more open cultural climate, in reality, the new law substituted the former preventive system with a repressive one, making government intervention in these matters more visible to society (Chuliá 1999: 218). Therefore, this half-hearted attempt at liberalisation was ultimately, and by design, meant to give the illusion that the regime’s cultural policy had changed course for the better. The 1966 law, in fact, outlined a new set of restrictions (Llera 1995: 16). Prior censorship was eliminated, but books were still liable to be sequestered based on their contents (Art. 64). Also, as per Article 2, criticism against the regime and its members was explicitly banned and potentially punishable. The only way to avoid the financial consequences of such punitive measures, which could prove fatal for some publishers, was to submit books for voluntary review prior to publication (Abellán 1980: 118). If a book was authorised, this resulted, on paper, in publishers being exempted from legal liability for its publication (Art. 4), although they would still be exposed to civil lawsuits. Furthermore, publishers were compelled to self-censor their publications to limit the economic impact of an adverse decision, a sequestered book or a lawsuit.

Book censorship responsibilities changed hands several times with the shifting political landscape. Originally entrusted to the fascist Falange via the Delegation for Press and Propaganda, the party started to lose influence in the mid-1940s due to the regime’s pressing need to break Spain’s isolated position on the international scene. After the defeat of the Axis powers in World War II, the regime sought to highlight its democratic elements to foreign leaders. This meant distancing itself from the Falange via a change of guard in the government, henceforth privileging its Catholic elements (Sevillano Calero 1998: 70). Censorship duties were moved in 1945 to the newly created and short-lived Vice-Secretariat of Popular Education, under the Ministry of National Education. In 1951, censorship was transferred to the Ministry of Information and Tourism, initially headed by individuals aligned with the Church (Muñoz Soro 2014). The Ministry remained at the helm until 1978, when freedom of speech was codified in the Spanish Constitution (BOE 29-XII-1978). These structural changes, along with major cabinet shifts, are key to understanding how the censorship system evolved throughout the Francoist era.

Another essential element researchers employ to examine book censorship is the ratings system established by the regime. The basic categories (i.e. “authorised,” “banned” and “authorised with cuts”) remained consistent throughout the dictatorship. In the case of foreign texts, to limit potential financial losses, publishers would sometimes submit the source text to gauge the viability of a prospective translation into Spanish. In such cases, censors could authorise the production of a translation, which would then undergo another review.

A few, more nuanced, period-specific ratings were introduced at various points. For instance, certain books could be “Tolerated” (BOE 29-VI-1945, Art. 2), which curtailed their public exposure by banning them from bookshop displays. This rating would be quietly phased out a few years after its introduction. With the advent of the 1966 Press and Print Law, several new ratings were created. The most common by far was “Deposit,” which cleared the book for the legal deposit requirement and subsequent publication. This verdict, equivalent to a simple authorisation under the 1938 law, was introduced to expedite the release of printed material. “Administrative silence” and “Authorised with reservations” were essentially legal disclaimers that signalled that the book could be released, but at the publisher’s own risk. Should the company be subject to a civil lawsuit on account of the book’s contents, the authorities would not provide them with any legal protections. A further category introduced by the 1966 law was “Denunciable,” which meant the publisher was liable to lawsuits from the State. This category was for the most part reserved for books with politically charged content, especially those championing ideologies that clashed with the regime’s core tenets, such as communism. In the case of imported books (see Section 5.1.2.), titles had to be published as is since there was no means to alter the contents of already printed volumes. Thus, the censors’ decision was strictly binary, as the only possible options were to either authorise or ban their importation.

It is also worth noting that several types of texts were exempted from prior censorship following a law passed on 25 March, 1944 (BOE 07-IV-1944), which was conceived as an effort “to establish more flexibility in the application of censorship-related norms.”[4] This intent would be reflected in the exemption of censorship for religious, scientific and technical books, songs composed prior to 1900 and Spanish literary works written before 1800 (Art. 1). This latter exemption was also granted by extension to translated works by classic authors.

2.2. The censorship of public performances

In the case of public performances, due to their great social impact, the authorities established tight control measures even before the end of the Spanish Civil War (e.g. BOE 27-III-1937, BOE 03-V-1937, BOE 12-XII-1937). In order to unify the criteria of the censorship apparatus, the Vice-Secretary of Popular Education of the Falange Española published a three-page order (BOE 26-XI-1942) establishing the National Commission of Cinema Censorship and the National Superior Board of Cinema Censorship as the only official censorship bodies. Each of these were composed of a president and five representatives from the Ministry of the Army, the Ecclesiastical Authority, the Ministry of National Education, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, and the censor-reader of scripts of the National Delegation of Cinema and Theatre. The close link between Church and State at the time is evidenced by the fact that no session could be held in the absence of the Ecclesiastical Authority. In 1946, both institutions merged into the Superior Board of Cinema Guidance (BOE 19-VII-1946). Together with the president and vice-president, ten representatives of various official bodies, including the Church representative, were appointed as members, which is indicative of the authorities’ great concern for the types of films that were shown. Further proof of this is the fact that the Church representative was granted veto power, which allowed him to ban any film, overruling the rest of the board. A different order (BOE 11-X-1947) specified that sessions could only be held with a minimum of four censors present, one of whom had to be the ecclesiastical member of the board.

In the early fifties, censorship duties were yet again transferred to another official body: the Board of Film Classification and Censorship (BOE 31-III-1952). The large number of members, their diversity, and the perfectly structured functioning of the censorship and classification branches indicate that cinema censorship had attained a high professional status within the institutions set up by the Francoist regime.

The reorganisation of the Board of Film Classification and Censorship by the Ministry of Education and Tourism took place in 1962 (BOE 28-IX-1962). A new period of relative openness (apertura) filled censorship boards with more open-minded members (whose names were made public in BOE 11-XII-1962), resulting in the Church losing power and influence. This chapter also witnessed the publication of the official Norms of Film Censorship (BOE 08-III-1963), which, although vague, constitute the first list of film censorship criteria officially published in Spain. Among these, any perceived slights against the State, the Head of State, the Catholic Church and its moral principles were banned, as were references to abortion, adultery, and colloquial expressions that violated the basic norms of decency.

In the mid to late 1960s, two ministerial orders would set the course for Francoist cinema censorship, the first one being the creation of the Film Censorship and Assessment Board (BOE 01-II-1965). The five-page order issued by the Ministry of Information and Tourism (BOE 27-II-1965) regarding the composition and functioning of the new board not only highlights the importance attached by the censoring apparatus to the control of public performances, but also shows how priorities had changed, how the role of the Church had diminished, and how attitudes and public morals had evolved almost inevitably, as Spain slowly opened up to the rest of the world and to the West in particular. A final piece of legislation worth mentioning relates to the creation of special art cinemas, passed at the end of the 1960s by Order of the Ministry of Information and Tourism (BOE 20-I-1967). Films of special interest were shown in cinemas with limited capacity in their subtitled versions, catering to tourists and domestic audiences eager to watch art films outside commercial circuits. In the case of these films, censorship proved to be less restrictive, allowing more offensive behaviour and language, deemed unsuitable for larger audiences.

In 1975, a new set of censorship norms issued by the Ministry of Information and Tourism (BOE 01-III-1975) replaced those from 1963 with supposedly more lenient ones. For example, nudity was timidly accepted for the first time, as long as it was required by the film’s plot. However, the new norms still stressed the importance of respecting the principles and fundamental laws of the Spanish State, and protected the public against the morally corrosive effects of acts such as adultery and abortion. Furthermore, old practices, including banning entire films, cutting certain scenes, or modifying translated dialogue, were still in operation. After Franco’s death, the film censorship apparatus, unable to withstand the transition to democracy, was finally abolished in late 1977 (BOE 01-XII-1977).

With respect to theatrical performances, a Theatre Censorship Board was established in February 1963 (BOE 08-III-1963), which closely resembled the Board of Film Classification and Censorship, reorganised one year before, in both structure and functions. Almost a year later, a series of norms regulating the composition and operation of the board were published, together with the Norms of Theatre Censorship (BOE 25-II-1964). The second and third norms highlighted the fact that censorship criteria should not be applied strictly, given the limited and highly educated audience for drama and comedy. This principle was especially relevant when plays were staged in art theatres or in sessions of special interest. The same applied to classical and historical plays, given their age. In addition, theatre performances were to be reviewed by a body of inspectors. The Theatre Censorship Board was reorganised in 1970, with minor changes (BOE 17-XI-1970), and a few years later, in 1978, theatre censorship was abolished (BOE 03-III-1978).

Throughout the dictatorship, film classification was regulated by both the Catholic Church and the Francoist Regime. In 1950, the Spanish ecclesiastical authorities approved the Instructions and Standards Regarding Moral Censorship of Public Performances, a written code of censorship norms which provided a unified moral guide for public performances aimed at critics, priests and audiences. This film classification system, published that same year in the periodical Ecclesia, included the following ratings: 1: all audiences, including children; 2: young viewers, from 14 to 21 years of age; 3: adults, 21 years and older; 3R: adults, 21 years and older, but with reservations regarding moral grounds; and 4: seriously dangerous (i.e. the film should be banned). Although the moral code set by the Catholic Church was used to classify all films, it was used solely for guidance. Only the official censorship boards had the power to issue a final verdict.

Age limits for cinema attendance remained highly fluid throughout the dictatorship. For instance, the order published in BOE 26-XI-1942 established the threshold for attendance at 16. Although a Ministerial Regulation of 29 October, 1949, re-established the minimum age as 14, it thereafter reverted to 16 with an order (BOE 14-XI-I1954) meant to set a unified and definite age limit, not only for cinema, but for all public performances. However, during the aforementioned period of relative apertura (1962-1969), when the regime felt compelled to authorise problematic foreign films for both economic and political reasons, two different ages for attending public performances were stipulated, together with their corresponding classifications: for everyone, for people over 14, and for people over 18 (BOE 09-III-1963). Thus, many films that had been banned for audiences aged 16 and older, after long periods of negotiation, were now authorised for people over 18 (Gutiérrez Lanza 2011).

Having examined the main censorship-related legislation as well as the full range of ratings used in reviewing both books and films, we will now analyse the main sources employed by translation and censorship scholars. This is a much-needed step since general reflection on the use(fulness) and usability of these sources is scarce, with only a few exceptions, e.g. the catalogue of the National Portuguese Library (Pięta 2013) and the Index Translationum database (Poupaud, Pym, et al. 2009).

3. Critical assessment of sources

Sources employed in the search for censored translations are not always easy to locate or encompassing enough to carry out wide-ranging studies. For example, in the case of cinema, although many original scripts can be consulted in situ in institutions such as the British Film Institute, their reproduction is strictly forbidden. In addition, most translated and censored scripts have disappeared from their corresponding files. Such issues make it difficult for researchers to conduct in-depth textual analyses of translated and censored films. The study of book censorship follows a similar pattern. Exhaustive, non-TRACE monographs studying specific genres and/or periods are scarce (see Lázaro 2008 on English horror stories and 2011 on the British colonial novel). In fact, many TRACE PhD theses were developed as a response to those research gaps. The aim of this section is to consider the advantages and shortcomings of three basic sources of information – personal interviews, private archives, and public archives – which may allow researchers to adopt a holistic approach to the study of translation and censorship.

3.1. Personal interviews

Personal interviews are one of the potential sources of historical testimony available to researchers. However, interviewing the individuals involved in the translation, censorship, distribution, and publication of translated texts during the Franco regime is increasingly becoming a problem since many were born in the 19th and early 20th century, and locating those still alive may be a daunting task. In the case of film translators, their names usually go unmentioned in translated scripts, which merely tend to feature the dubbing studio stamp. With regard to books, although translators’ names are usually acknowledged in published translations, their contact details were not readily available. In order to fill this gap, contact details – although outdated, and by no means exhaustive – for various contemporary English-Spanish translators were published by Congrat-Butlar (1979). In addition, an online resource called HISTRA (HIStory of TRAnslation, <>), currently being developed by TRACE members, has recently been made available. It is a freely accessible bibliographic database of English-Spanish translators and translations dating from the 16th century to the 1980s[5] (Vallejo Fernández, Gutiérrez Lanza, et al. 2017).

Film censors can be easily identified as their names appeared in censorship reports and other internal documents, and were officially made public in the BOE. When it comes to books, however, their names are largely unknown since they were typically left out of reports. From the mid-1940s, censors were assigned a number to identify them internally while maintaining their anonymity. Even when they signed using their names, the only legible part of the signature is usually their last name. This poses major ethical issues for researchers since there is a real risk of making mistakes when publishing the full names of the censors (Sinova 1989/2006: 149). Some authors, including Gutiérrez Lanza (1999) and Sinova (1989/2006: 329-338), have provided partial lists of censors, along with details about their involvement. The majority, however, remain anonymous. Although the identity of some high-profile censors has entered the public domain, notably well-known writers such as Leopoldo Panero and Camilo José Cela, particularly in the last two decades of the regime, most censors were inconspicuous civil servants (Abellán 1980: 115).

Interviewees might also find it difficult to reliably recall information about specific books, something that might be especially true for censors, who were typically assigned very demanding workloads (Ruiz Bautista 2005: 285), and who might be unwilling to discuss their work openly, considering that their reputation would be at stake (Suárez Toledano 2019).[6] While there are several published interviews with authors in regard to censorship,[7] among the scarce testimonies by censors touching on their work for the regime, the best known is one with Cela (Cueto and Abad Contreras 1990/1995), who worked as a censor between 1941 and 1945.

All too often, the limited data provided by these sources result in merely descriptive accounts of the changes in the target texts, sprinkled with educated guesses on how censorship shaped a given translation and why certain books were banned or allowed to go through the censorial filter.

3.2. Private archives

Archives are an important and, arguably, less fallible source of information than interviews since the documentation they hold was usually generated synchronously to the production of translations and stored for future reference. The private archives of publishers, authors, translators, film distributors, and literary agents may include translation drafts, as well as correspondence between them and censors, which can shed light on what steps were taken to improve the publication prospects of a translated text. A major drawback that must be considered when using these archives is that the flow of information regarding censorial decisions was often kept to a strict minimum, with censors merely communicating their verdict. However, the censorship accounts these archives contain may reveal textual changes resulting from self-censorship, as well as other details about the publishers’ tug-of-war with censors.

The private archives with potentially the most interesting data, both in quantitative and qualitative terms, are those of publishers. Unfortunately, access to these is often either severely restricted or unfeasible since “the vast majority […] have been lost forever” (Rojas Claros 2013: 29), including many from publishing houses that had to close down as a direct result of the Spanish Civil War. In other cases, some archives remain in private hands and are neither properly catalogued nor open to researchers. Another potential obstacle is geographic dispersion. Although most major publishers were based in Madrid and Barcelona, there were numerous independent presses scattered across Spain. This can make wide-ranging studies more difficult, both in terms of cost and time investment.

There has been a recent movement, however, thanks to private donors (in many cases, the heirs of some of the major publishing houses of the Francoist period), to recover and index their archives. This process has accelerated in the past years as a result of a bidding war of sorts between the National Library in Madrid and the Library of Catalunya in Barcelona, in the case of the latter, with an intent to keep the archives of Catalonia-based publishers in the region. Thanks to such efforts, researchers can now access key archives such as those of publishers Lumen, Castellet, Grup 62, Grijalbo, Plaza & Janés, Barral and Gustavo Gili.

Even though private archives are undeniably important sources for understanding censorship-related phenomena, their general lack of accessibility until recently has meant that very few studies on translation and censorship have used them as their basis, and, for practical reasons, those that have done so tend to focus on individual publishers (see Hurtley 1992; Jané-Lligé 2015; Alonso Campos 2017).

3.3. Public archives

Most research on censorship under Franco has been facilitated by the methodical way in which the system operated, which sets it apart from other contemporary authoritarian regimes. A plethora of information was produced in the form of reports and correspondence with other agents, carefully preserved and archived in indexed files that are freely available.

Although the AGA is of special interest to researchers due to both the quantity and quality of its collections, other public archives also merit attention. For instance, in the mid-1990s, TRACE researchers came across an interesting archive of feature films and series censored from 1972 to 1975 kept at Televisión Española (<>). In the latter part of the decade, they went on to consult a large number of cinema censorship files at the Archivo Central in Madrid. These files were later moved to the AGA, where they can now be accessed. Periodical publications and other translation and censorship-related materials are held in various local and regional historical archives throughout Spain, which remain largely unexplored. Finally, another untapped resource is the uncatalogued archive of the Oficina para el Visado de Traducciones, a Visa Office for Translations entrusted with preserving the integrity of the Spanish language, mainly kept at the Arxiu Nacional de Catalunya (Moreno Cabrera 2020). Despite its short lifespan (1942-1946), probably due to the overwhelming amount of bureaucracy involved, its mere existence proves that the Spanish authorities were eager to exert absolute control not only over the content but also over the form of translations.

The Archivo General de la Administración (AGA) houses, among others, all records cataloguing Francoist censorship procedures, dating back to 1938, before the end of the Civil War (1936-1939), and extending into the Spanish transition to democracy, up to 1983. The number of censorship files archived at the AGA and the depth of information they contain are far greater than those of other national archives in countries such as Portugal and Italy. In the case of Portugal, the National Archive is the Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo in Lisbon, where researchers can access the censorship files produced during Salazar’s dictatorship and beyond (1929-1974). The “relatórios de livros” [book reports] do not provide much information beyond the rating given to the corresponding publication and a few details about the edition. However, censorship files from the latter part of Salazar’s regime, that is, the end of his mandate and the beginning of Marcelo Caetano’s government in 1968, contain more information. On occasion, reports from this period included a critical review of the book carried out by one of the censors, also a common practice in Francoist Spain. Regarding the Italian case, Rundle (2000: 71) argues that “books received very little organized attention,” which is reflected in the fact that, in contrast with the Spanish AGA, “many documents are missing” (Dunnett 2002: 98).

For over two decades, TRACE and other researchers have made extensive use of AGA archival evidence to chart the history of translation and censorship in Francoist Spain (Merino 2017). However, to date, they have provided little public reflection upon their own experience with the archive. What follows is an examination of the history of the AGA, the censorship resources found therein, the way they are classified and how they enrich translation and censorship research.

4. The Archivo General de la Administración

The Archivo General de la Administración was created by the Decree of 8 May, 1969 (BOE 26-V-1969). Article 1 states that the archive’s purpose is to “hold, select, conserve, and make available for information and research purposes those document collections of the Public Administration which are no longer in use.” The amount of documentation held in the archive is staggering, with “over 170 km of documentation, making [it] […] the fourth [largest] document repository globally” (AGA 2019).

AGA collections include all sorts of documents produced by the Spanish public administration, the vast majority issued by the executive and judicial branches, together with documentation produced by a few private associations and companies. Among other materials, the AGA holds all censorship files (except for those for periodicals), which were gradually transferred from other, more primitive archives (Gozalbo Gimeno 2017). What sets the AGA apart is the fact that its staff selects those documents that merit being archived permanently and destroys others which are deemed no longer valuable (Conde Villaverde 1988). Despite this selection process, it is important to note that censorship-related collections have been largely preserved.

Censorship documentation is held in separate collections, all under the umbrella label of “Culture,” with the (03) identifier. Relevant ones include those on Book (050) and Film (121) censorship, as well as the Imported Books collection (052.117). Censorship files from those collections are stored in envelopes, with the corresponding file number (sometimes followed by up to three letters) handwritten on them. These, in turn, are kept in numbered boxes. To identify specific files and boxes within document collections, databases for each collection are available on site, and online via the PARES portal (<>). A major flaw affecting both versions of the databases is the fact that the information they provide is extremely limited, merely sufficient to locate the files. Crucially, their usefulness is severely restricted, given that they neither include translation as a search category nor provide information on censorship verdicts.

In the early days of TRACE’s archival research, the AGA kept a helpful Kardex manual card indexing system. In it, there were small blue cards containing basic information about each file (e.g. title, publisher, file number, reception and resolution dates and rating). By far the most interesting piece of information they supplied was the censors’ verdict, which vastly simplified data collection. Researchers could use that information to quickly select and discard titles. Unfortunately, the Kardex system was phased out in the mid-2000s, and cards were placed in their corresponding file envelopes, which means that researchers can only gather information about verdicts by physically accessing the files. AGA users also face other inconveniences regarding document access, the main one arguably being the complete lack of digitalisation of censorship documentation, which makes remote access impossible. To further compound this issue, document reproduction requests are handled by AGA staff, with the current turnaround being roughly 6 months.

Researchers can consult several AGA collections containing key information on the inner workings of the censorship system and how that affected the reception of translated titles. Since information pertaining to books and public performances is fragmented into several collections, to make full use of these resources, researchers should get acquainted with the documentation contained in each of them. The following section examines how these collections provide complementary information that enriches any study on translation and censorship, with special emphasis on censorship reports and their evolution over time. It will also present some caveats researchers should be aware of.

5. AGA censorship-related resources and materials

5.1. Book censorship

There are three main sources of information at the AGA on book censorship, which will be covered in the next few pages: the Book Censorship and Imported Books repositories, and the Publishing Companies Registry.

5.1.1. Book censorship files

Book censorship files contain two main sets of information: the internal documentation produced by the censors, that is, their reports, as well as that generated through interaction with the publishers (e.g. correspondence, drafts, galley proofs, etc.). Early censorship reports included basic publication data, such as author and book title, publisher, number of pages, format, print run, as well as the report creation and resolution dates and a rating section where censors could write their decision. There was barely any space for the lengthy reports that, in time, would become the norm. In late 1939, a new field appeared, namely, “paper.” Given the scarcity of paper at the time, on which the regime had imposed strict quotas, publishers now had to specify, not only the amount of paper they required, but also its type. Some publishers circumvented these restrictions by using Bible paper, the distribution of which was not subject to the same limitations (Moret 2002: 91, 92). Report forms from this period began to leave some room at the end of the page for a brief report.

Around March 1940, censors started using a separate sheet for the report, which featured three fields they had to fill in with information about the “literary or artistic value” of the reviewed book, its “documentary value” and potential “political slant” (Figure 1).

Figure 1

Book censorship file 494-42. Rabindranath Tagore. De la india lejana. Los cantos a la luna naciente

Book censorship file 494-42. Rabindranath Tagore. De la india lejana. Los cantos a la luna naciente

-> See the list of figures

The literary value criterion in particular was often used as a justification for banning books since the official line at the time was that the lack of paper meant that only works that had artistic merit were worth publishing. Another field was included so censors could specify which pages, if any, contained passages that had to be deleted. At the end of the form, censors could note down other general observations about the work, along with their rating.

The same form would go on to be used until 1943. The following year, a slightly revised form was introduced. The first three fields of the report were replaced by three questions targeting various aspects of the text: “Does it attack [Catholic] Dogma or [Christian] Morality?,” “[Does it attack] the institutions of the regime?” and “Does it have literary or documentary value?.” Lastly, the observations field was replaced with another one that specified “Circumstantial reasons that inform either decision” (i.e. authorisation or ban).

The report questions would be slightly altered and expanded by the late 1940s to cover attacks against individuals (Figure 2):

“Does it attack [Catholic] Dogma?,” “[Christian] morality?,” “The [Catholic] Church or its Ministers?,” “The Regime or its institutions?,” “Individuals who collaborate or have collaborated with the Regime?.” A further question was added so censors could provide their overall impression of the severity of those attacks: “Are the objectionable passages representative of the overall content of the book?” The use of these questions was common practice early on, even though censors would often provide simple yes/no answers. However, they were progressively abandoned in favour of the report. As a result, although early versions of this model left a mere quarter of the page for the report due to the added questions, these became more compressed over time, leaving more room for the censors’ observations. The same questions and basic layout would be kept until the late 1970s (Figure 3).

Figure 2

Book censorship file 681-49. Rudyard Kipling. Nuevos cuentos de las colinas

Book censorship file 681-49. Rudyard Kipling. Nuevos cuentos de las colinas

-> See the list of figures

Figure 3

Book censorship file 6978-69. Mario Puzo. El padrino

Book censorship file 6978-69. Mario Puzo. El padrino

-> See the list of figures

The last version of the form, used from 1980 onwards, vastly simplified the review process by eliminating the report in favour of two implied questions with checkboxes that had to be marked as applicable: “It is not appropriate to adopt the measures outlined in Article 64 of the Press and Print Law,” by which it referred to the sequestering of the book, and “Formal requirements complete,” which included the imprint and the legal deposit of 5 copies of the title.

Apart from the reports themselves, book censorship files may contain other documents. These include preliminary covers and illustrations, source and/or target text manuscripts, galley proofs, and copies of the final source/target texts. Also, correspondence between publishers and censors showing their negotiation processes can sometimes be found (see Gómez Castro 2008). Furthermore, for those books that were reported to the authorities, particularly in the aftermath of the 1966 law, legal documents, including court judgments, may be included as well.

Some of these documents are invaluable. For instance, letters may clarify some of the censorship criteria. Also, sourcing the original texts may be quite difficult at times, most notably in the case of anthological titles. Since anthologies usually consist of dozens of STs, or even hundreds in the case of poetry volumes, locating and acquiring the original publications for comparison purposes can be a major challenge. Researchers, however, should be aware that, even in bilingual publications, STs could be, and sometimes were, in fact, tampered with (Lobejón Santos 2015). In any case, STs and pre-publication drafts complement censor reports by enriching textual comparisons and allowing academics to track (self-)censorship processes across source and target texts.

5.1.2. Imported books

In the first few decades of the regime, imported books, including original Spanish and foreign-language titles, as well as translations, underwent the same bureaucratic process as those produced in Spain. The standard censorship forms used for domestically produced books were also employed to review imported titles. Import files, up to 1965, can be found in the book censorship catalogue and are often identified by the suffix -EXT (short for foreign) next to the file number. The fact that distribution companies had to follow the same basic submission procedures as Spanish publishers meant that they could not import titles in batches, but had to submit one request per book.

From 1965 onwards, the system was streamlined considerably, resulting in companies being able to import up to 25 titles at a time. There were then two standard forms distributors had to complete, the first of which was a cover letter stating the company name, its address and its inscription number in the Importing Companies Registry. The second form is formatted as a table in which companies had to include a list of the titles to be imported, along with basic bibliographic information, such as book title, author and publisher, the number of copies to be imported, and, in some cases, the place of publication. Censors would often write their rating on the same page – either a “yes” or a “no” for authorised or denied –, along with a brief justification of the decision next to the rejected titles, and, in the case of previously denied imports, the date of the prior review. At times, short, hand- or type-written reports based on the close examination of the book were produced on the same page or on a separate piece of paper to flesh out their arguments, particularly when it was reviewed for the first time. Once a title was cleared for import, it was assigned a registration number. The administration would then proceed to notify the publisher of which works, translated or otherwise, were authorised and which were banned and would therefore have to be returned to their countries of origin. This is the only piece of censorial information publishers had access to.

Although more limited in scope, these reports provide essential information to understand how imports were used. While those in the hundreds and thousands suggest efforts to fill domestic production gaps, those in the tens are indicative of limited distribution to individuals close to the publisher. Importing one or two copies may signal that a publisher was trying to acquire a foreign book to assess its viability for publication in its original language or in translation. Imports may have also been used to circumvent censorship, since they were subject to a different level of scrutiny. Despite their value, translation research based on book importation reports has been scarce due in large part to accessibility issues. A separate database is used for records from 1965 onwards, which in the past used to be locally stored in the same folder as the book censorship database. Currently, access to it needs to be cleared by the archive’s administrative staff. Moreover, box numbers are not listed in the database, but need to be extracted from paper indexes, also provided by AGA staff on a request basis. These indexes include the box number(s) (up to three) where a specific range of files can be located, which means that sometimes researchers have to open several boxes before they find a file. As a consequence of these impediments, few researchers know about this repository and even fewer use it to complement their studies.

5.1.3. The Publishing Companies Registry

Another recently available repository on publisher activity is the Publishing Companies Registry, transferred to the AGA around 2013 (Rojas Claros 2013: 317). Following the creation of the registry, as per Article 51 of the 1966 Press and Print Law (BOE 19-III-1966), publishing houses were legally compelled to register as a prior requirement for publication[8]. This process entailed submitting basic information to the administration regarding the company’s operations, including details about their capital to determine their financial viability and, more importantly for translation researchers, a document outlining their publication plan. Companies were also required to submit any changes to the initially reported information every six months. Submission of the required paperwork did not guarantee inclusion in the registry. The administration could, at their own discretion, put the process on hold indefinitely if the information provided was not to their satisfaction (Art. 53). Moreover, companies were sometimes denied registration for political reasons, and, in the case of registered ones, the regime had the prerogative to close them down arbitrarily (Rojas Claros 2013: 138).

The regime’s stringent control of the registration process resulted in a hostile environment which publishing houses navigated by doing whatever it took to keep their operations afloat. For instance, some dissenting publishers only managed to get into the registry by “presenting a very vague publishing plan” (Rojas Claros 2013: 138). The fact that some of those publication data could have been falsified has a bearing on their immediate usefulness:

Although [the registry files] are very valuable documents, some of their data have an evident flaw, particularly those provided by the publishers themselves. Dissenting publishing houses always operated in semi-clandestinity. Thus, information declared to the authorities can only be deemed as for guidance only, and can, under no circumstance, be taken literally without careful vetting.

Rojas Claros 2013: 29

To date, due to the recency of their availability, no wide-ranging studies on censorship in translation have made use of registry data. These files, however, are a very useful, complementary tool that helps characterise the publishing industry in late Francoism. Additionally, they reveal the negotiation strategies employed to secure registration and, as such, should not be overlooked.

5.2. The censorship of public performances

The main source of information for researchers analysing the censorship of public performances is the corresponding files, which can be located using the film and theatre censorship databases. The classification system used first by the Archivo Central and then by the AGA divides boxes into different periods which roughly match the years in which the various censorship boards operated.

A typical film censorship file includes the censorship report, the content and structure of which is examined further on, along with various documents related to the importation and reception of foreign films: customs certificates and fees, plot summaries, still pictures of the actors or different scenes, posters, taglines and catchphrases for advertising campaigns, and censors’ correspondence with Spanish distributors, which facilitates the identification of textual changes made during the negotiation process (Gutiérrez Lanza 2011). The translated scripts used for censorship purposes only appear in a very small number of files. Film trailers were usually dealt with in a separate file.

Film censorship reports are much more complex than book censorship ones, likely due to the special attention the authorities devoted to cinema as the most effective medium of mass education at the time. The basic model published in BOE 27-III-1937 was rapidly replaced by a more complex one (BOE 05-V-1937). The existence of individual reports greatly increased the complexity of the procedure, but, in turn, these added substantial detail to justify the banning or authorisation of films. If necessary, separate, more detailed reports were added, focusing on a specific aspect of the film (e.g. the report issued by the Ecclesiastical Authority, judging the morality of the film Esmeralda la Zíngara, files 4872 and 35988). In the 1950s, the front cover of film censorship reports included the typewritten names of censors. Every censor issued a separate, individual report and the back cover, which included the final decision, was signed by both the president and the secretary of the board. During the 1960s, the model used by the authorities was very similar (Figure 4). The reports by individual censors and the final summary remained the same and were in use until the end of the dictatorship (Figure 5).

Whenever a film was banned, the Spanish distributors usually suggested the inclusion of voluntary image cuts or changes in the translation of the dialogue to make the film more acceptable to the censors. The censors took these modifications into account in their follow-up reports, which typically resulted in the eventual authorisation of the film.

Figure 4

Film censorship file 21804. 1961. Terence Fisher. Las novias de Drácula. Report front cover

Film censorship file 21804. 1961. Terence Fisher. Las novias de Drácula. Report front cover

-> See the list of figures

Figure 5

Film censorship file 21804. 1961. Terence Fisher. Las novias de Drácula. Individual report

Film censorship file 21804. 1961. Terence Fisher. Las novias de Drácula. Individual report

-> See the list of figures

6. An Overview of AGA-Based Research

Having barely scratched the surface of what it can offer in terms of resources for censorship researchers, we can confidently say that the AGA is, as Abellán (1978: 12)[9] fittingly described it, “a true museum of Francoism.” It holds a treasure trove of information pertaining, not only to censorship, but also to publication and distribution. Undoubtedly, censorship reports and other AGA materials provide invaluable information about the translating and editing processes, as well as the reception of specific works.

What makes the AGA such a compelling source in censorship research is that much of this information cannot be obtained by any other means. The inherent value of the document collections described in the previous pages is underlined by the fact that they have spawned numerous ground breaking, wide-scale studies on translation and censorship of genres such as children’s literature (Fernández López 1996), television (Gutiérrez Lanza 1996), feature films (Gutiérrez Lanza 1999), narrative texts (Gómez Castro 2009), drama (Merino 2000; Bandín Fuertes 2007), and poetry (Lobejón Santos 2013), which would not have been feasible otherwise.

Most translation and censorship studies, including those of TRACE, have focused on the use of AGA censorship files as their primary source of information. However, academics might fail to see that censorship materials are “the product of ideological indoctrination and subordination” (Jones 2011: 22), thus requiring closer critical scrutiny, complemented by the use of additional sources.

In the case of TRACE, the information taken from censorship files has been supplemented with documentation from other public archives and research centres, bibliographic indexes and library catalogues, periodicals, monographs, interviews, and contemporary reviews. Informed by these sources, TRACE researchers have carried out in-depth analyses of the socio-political context and relevant legislation, as well as corpus-based textual comparisons, which aid in the understanding of how decisions were reached and the criteria employed. Other AGA resources such as the Imported Books repository and the Publishing Companies Registry, along with publishers’ archives – many of which have only become available in the last decade –, have received little attention until recently.

Being such a complex, multi-layered issue, the study of translation and censorship involves consulting various sources, such as those featured in this paper, in order to properly frame and evaluate the nature and reception of translated works. Researchers working on the Francoist period are fortunate to have access to such a vast amount of invaluable information centralised in one location: the AGA. We hope this paper highlights the value of archival resources, and, as a result, inspires future studies into the censorship of translations across various genres, publishers and periods of Spanish history and beyond.