Personalities of our network of routes: Saturnino Calleja

He revolutionised the publishing world in Spain in the 19th century with the publishing house he founded

Saturnino Calleja was a Spanish publisher, educator and writer born in Burgos who revolutionised the literary scene in the 19th century with his publishing house, which he named after his surname – Calleja – and which he made the most important in the Spanish-speaking world for its collection of short stories.

In Spain there is an expression that says «you have more stories than Calleja». And it is true, because this publisher from Burgos (he was born in the capital in 1853) founded a publishing house that bore his surname and which, until its closure in 1958, published an innumerable number of titles. Many of them were children’s stories.

Born in 1853, his coming of age coincided in time with the period of the Restoration in Spain, which among other objectives was to generalise elementary schooling in Spain. The so-called Moyano Law, passed in 1857, was of great help in this regard.

Saturnino Calleja.

Saturnino Calleja took over the reins of the family business, which was dedicated to bookbinding, and turned it into one of the most important publishing houses in Spain. So much so that twenty years later, at the end of the 19th century, it sold almost three and a half million volumes between Spain, Latin America and the Philippines.

One of its great successes was, from 1884 onwards, to reduce the size of the stories so that children could take them anywhere, even comfortably in their pockets, to collect them as if they were stickers, or buy them in any shop. Stories with small print, with some illustrations in black and white and with an amusing content.

Thus, it can be said that Spanish children got to know Hans Christian Andersen or the Brothers Grimm thanks to Saturnino Calleja. He even wrote the ending of countless Spanish-language stories: «…y fueron felices y comieron perdices» (and they were happy and ate partridges).

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