This essay focuses on two early English Hispanists, James Mabbe (1571/2–1642?) and Thomas Percy (1729–1811), who exemplify different stages in the pre-history of Comparative and World Literature. It explores their appropriation of La Celestina and Don Quijote as case studies for the use of certain tropes to legitimize the traffic of political and cultural capital involved in the creation of domestic and transnational literary canons. These tropes include conquest and war, finance and trade, community, and language as currency. The networks throughout which their texts circulated, their different formats and means of production, all exemplify the mechanisms for the establishment of an International Republic of Letters. This led in turn to the gradual emergence of a World Canon created under the auspices of Enlightened Universalism, but also driven to a considerable extent by the self-interested policies of cultural imperialism.

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