Cervantes is considered one of the greatest writers of all time. Often, Cervantes is compared to Shakespeare. Both men have become "national literary treasures" glowing during "golden ages" of literature. Cervantes was writing along aside a number of literary luminaries, many of whom were more esteemed during their era than ours. Lope de Vega, Quevedo, and Calderon among them. The words in the preface of Book I suggest that Quixote began thinking about the novel while he was in prison. Even after Book I was completed, it took some time before Quixote was able to find a publisher. This publisher, Francisco Robles of Madrid, was reluctant to take the book and he did not bother securing a copyright for Aragon or Portugal, thinking that Castile would be enough.
The book was an immediate success. Pirated editions could be found in Valencia and Portugal until the next year, when Cervantes acquired the appropriate copyrights. The aristocracy was not amused with the novel's critique on chivalric literature. Lope de Vega, the most renown of Cervantes' contemporaries, was extremely dismissive of Don Quixote. A Brussels edition was published in 1607. The seventh edition of the novel was published in Madrid in 1608.
The first translation of Don Quixote was the English translation done by Shelton in 1608, and published in 1612. In 1687, John Philips, a nephew of John Milton, re-translated Don Quixote, announcing that it was "made English according to the humour of our modern language."
Milan followed in 1610, and Brussels brought ought their second edition in 1611. In the intervening years, Cervantes wrote other works, postponing his work on Book II. His Novelas Ejemplares was published in 1613, and was dedicated to the Conde de Lemos. In the preface of Novelas, Quixote writes: "You shall see shortly the further exploits of Don Quixote and the humors of Sancho Panza." At this point, Cervantes was only halfway through Book II. Ironically, Cervantes had high hopes of becoming Spain's great dramatist. He wanted to create a national epic drama, but unfortunately, his dramatic works were quite unsuccessful.
In the Fall of 1614, Cervantes had made it to Chapter LIX of Book II. To his horror, he discovers a small book being printed at Tarragona entitled: "Second Volume of the Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha: by the Licentiate Alonso Fernandez de Avellaneda of Tordesillas." The last half of Chapter LIX and most of the following chapters of Book II respond to Avellaneda. Cervantes could see how his nine year delay had invited such a disaster. Still, there was no real justification for the invective found in Avellaneda's preface. As John Ormsby put it, in 1885, Avellaneda "taunts Cervantes with being old, with having lost his hand, with having been in orison, with being poor, with being friendless, accuses him of envy of Lope's success, of petulance and querulousness, and so on; and it was in this that the sting lay." To this day, critics remain uncertain as to who "Avellaneda" was ("Avellaneda" was only a nom de plume, and not an actual person). Avellaneda's work does not match the brilliance of Cervantes' work, but it is clear that Avellaneda's imposter sequel certainly made Book II a prompt and more superior effort than might have been the case otherwise. The volume was published at the end of 1615 and Cervantes died a few months later, in April, 1616. Except for The Bible, no book has been so widely diffused into as many different languages and editions as Don Quixote.