The idea of a thieve’s guild first came from Miguel de Cervantes in 1613, in his story, “Rinconete and Cortadillo: Or, Peter of the Corner and the Little Cutter.” Here is the first introduction to the guild for the two young wandering thieves, Rinconnete and Cortadillo:
“Oh, your worships do not understand, don’t you?” said the porter; “but I will soon make you understand, and even sup up my meaning with a silver spoon. I mean to ask you, gentlemen, are your worships thieves? But why put the question, since I see well that you are thieves; and it is rather for you to tell me how it is that you have not presented yourselves at the custom-house of the Señor Monipodio.”
“Do they then pay duty on the right of thieving in this country, gallant Sir?” exclaimed Rincon.
“If they do not pay duty, at least they make them register themselves with the Señor Monipodio, who is the father, master, and protector of thieves; and I recommend you to come with me and pay your respects to him forthwith, or, if you refuse to do that, make no attempt to exercise your trade without his mark and pass-word, or it will cost you dearly.”
“I thought, for my part,” remarked Cortado, “that the profession of thieving was a free one, exempt from all taxes and port dues; or, at least, that if we must pay, it is something to be levied in the lump, for which we give a mortgage upon our shoulders and our necks; but since it is as you say, and every land has its customs, let us pay due respect to this of yours; we are now in the first country of the world, and without doubt the customs of the place must be in the highest degree judicious. Wherefore your worship may be pleased to conduct us to the place where this gentleman of whom you have spoken is to be found. I cannot but suppose, from what you say, that he is much honored, of great power and influence, of very generous nature, and, above all, highly accomplished in the profession.”
“Honoured, generous, and accomplished! do you say?” replied the boy: “aye, that he is; so much so, that during the four years that he has held the seat of our chief and father, only four of us have suffered at Finibusterry; some thirty or so, and not more, have lost leather; and but sixty-two have been lagged.”
Here is the full translation, with footnotes:
1613 Cervantes – Rinconete and Cortadillo