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Printing the Advertencias
A brief history of the printing of the Advertencias.
We begin with two questions: who printed the Advertencias and when was it printed? Though these questions may seem simple, the attribution of book production can be as complex as authorship in the early colonial context.
Seis o más ejemplares de las Advertencias he visto, y casi todos presentan diferencias entre si. (353)
This inconsistency begins, as García Icazbalceta says, with the title page: he identifies at least three different title pages, including special pages for volumes one and two, as well as an additional version featuring an entirely different image.This material inconsistency is compounded by inconsistency during the binding process. During this period books were frequently acquired unbound, and binding was done at the expense of the purchaser. This makes it difficult to trace the source of various copies. For example, in several cases volume one of the Advertencias was bound together with an earlier volume by Juan Bautista, the Confesionario en lengua mexicana y castellana. This is the case, for example, of the exemplar of volume one held in the archive at the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City. Other exemplars contain varying front matter and back matter.In her seminal work on the history of printing, Elizabeth Eisenstein writes that printed books and hand-copied manuscripts in the first century of European printing look surprisingly similar. Behind the surface similarity, however, are obscured more significant changes in the processes of production. A careful examination of the material variation of the Advertencias allows us access to how these processes may have operated in the case of the press at Tlatelolco. Though the title pages consistently inform readers that the books were printed "En Mexico, En el Conuento de Sanctiago Tlatilulco, Por M. Ocharte. año 1600," a careful examination of the different versions of the volume reveals a more complex story. Though Melchor Ocharte's name is listed on the title page, it is unlikely that he was actually the printer of the Advertencias. It is equally unlikely that the book was printed in 1600.Melchor Ocharte was the third generation in a family of printers that could trace its history back to Juan Pablos, arguably America's first printer. Pablos was sent to Mexico to establish a printing press by the Cromberger family, an important printing house in Seville, Spain. The first positive proof of his press is a Manual de Adultos printed in 1540. Pedro Ocharte, Pablos' son in law, took over the press after his death in 1560. (When he was arrested by the inquisition for Lutheran sentiment, his second wife, Maria de Sansoric, ran the operation). Melchor Ocharte, whose name appears on the title page of the Advertencias, was their son.Printing operations, however, were complex and multifaceted. Though Melchor Ocharte may have run the operation that produced the book, it's unlikely that he was directly involved in the printing process itself. This is corroborated by the colophon of the second volume of the book, which states:
Luis Ocharte Figueroa was Melchor Ocharte's half brother, the son of Pedro and his first wife, Maria de Figueroa. The attribution here suggests that perhaps it was Luis who printed the book, and that perhaps he did so in 1601.Excudebat Ludouicus Ocharte Figueroa,
Mexici, in Regio Collegio ſancte
Crucis, ſancti Iacobi de Tlati
lulco. Anno Domini
1601.A third possibility is that the actual work of printing the book was done by Cornelio Adrián César, a Dutch printer whose biography and work has been carefully analyzed by the printer and bibliophile Juan Pascoe. Pascoe provides compelling evidence that César worked at the press at Tlatelolco under the management of Juan Bautista, author of the Advertencias. He argues that César worked for some time at Tlatelolco under the authority of the widow of Pedro Ocharte, and that he was involved in printing the Confessionario that Bautista produced immediately prior to the Advertencias. Pascoe suggests, however, that due to conflict between Bautista and César, Melchor was sent at some point to complete the task. Melchor, it seems, was not a skilled workman. In Pascoe's interpretation, this is the problem that Bautista refers to in his dedication when he writes:...auiendo començado a imprimirlas (viendo el mal aparejo que para eſto auia) las dexaua, y reſeruaua para tiempo mas acomodado...Finally, some copies of the Advertencias contain a set of indulgences dated 1603. These pages suggest that, at the very least, the books continued to be gathered and bound in 1603. Though it is also possible that 1603 marked a second printing, this is not corroborated by the similarities in type between the many surviving volumes.The uncertainty of the basic history of the book's production allows us to make several more general observations about the first century of printing Mexico. First, the unclear attribution serves as a reminder that though the press was located at Tlatelolco, it was operated by commercial printers with complex ties to the ciudad letrada. Contractual obligations, financial incentives, and even ethnic difference shaped the production even of these religious texts.Second, the uncertainty of the date of publication reminds us that though a book may have a single publication date, its production was a long operation shaped by a number of internal and external factors, from the relationship between author and printer to the accessibility of paper and other printing materials, to the various forms of approbation necessary under Spanish law. These concerns will be addressed in more detail further along this path.
In 1539, less than twenty years after the fall of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, the first printing press was established in the New World. For the next sixty years, that printing press (and the ones that followed) would become a central part of the growing intellectual culture in New Spain, producing secular and religious texts including grammars of indigenous languages, medical treatises, and religious manuals. Today, these books, which we call here the primeros libros (first books), are valued both as cultural heritage items and as valuable scholarly resources.
The Primeros Libros project is a multi-year, multinational effort to produce a digital collection of all surviving exemplars of all books printed before 1601 in the Americas. This collection is freely and publicly available online in the form of digital surrogates. "Archaeology of a Book" has been designed as a companion to that collection. Its purpose is to demonstrate methods for approaching the digital surrogates in the Primeros Libros collection, and to tell some of the stories that are made available through a close examination of the social and bibliographical history of these books. It focuses on how the meaning and value of these books has changed over the course of more than four hundred years of history.
To tell this story, "Archaeology of a Book" traces the long history of the Advertencias para los confessores de los Naturales, a confessional manual printed at a Franciscan convent and school in Tlatelolco, Mexico around 1601. Like many confessional manuals, the Advertencias was written to be used as a field guide for new Spanish missionaries; for this reason, it is a trilingual text written in Latin, Spanish, and the indigenous Mexican language Nahuatl.
While its rich multilinguality and theological significance makes the Advertencias interesting for scholars, it has remained in the background of early colonial Mexican texts. The combination of impenetrable prose (mostly in Latin) and heavy borrowing from other texts has often led the book to be overlooked in favor of more culturally, linguistically, or theologically innovative texts, like the Nahuatl grammars of Alonso de Molina, Andrés de Olmos, and Antonio del Rincón, or the proto-ethnographic writing of Bernardino de Sahagún. Nevertheless, more copies of the book are held in archives and popular collections than any other printed book from the same era.
As a result, this project is primarily concerned with the stories a book can tell when we look beyond the pages towards the material evidence of their production and use. Bibliographical methods - examining catchwords, watermarks, typefaces, and bindings - can allows us to understand how the book was written, printed, and read. Studies of provenance can help us to understand where the Advertencias fit in the context of early colonial Mexico, and how that context may have changed over time. Collectively, these stories offer one path through the long history of the book. The goal is not, however, to provide a single comprehensive narrative of book history. Instead, the project is conceived as a sequence of case studies which gesture towards the many competing stories that a book may tell.
Navigating the Project"Reading the First Books" has been published using Scalar, "a free, open source authoring and publishing platform that's designed to make it easy for authors to write long-form, born-digital scholarship online." Scalar allow users to find multiple pathways through the material. You may explore this project by following tags or media, or you may use the Table of Contents on the drop-down menu to move quickly through the entire project.The most straightforward way to explore the project is through the paths listed in the main menu and described below. Each path leads the user through a sequence of short multimedia essays that offer a close reading or analysis of the Advertencias.Introduction: This path (which you can follow below) will provide an overview of the Advertencias, including information about authorship, content, and use.Production: This path explores the scene of production of the Advertencias, considering who printed the book and where it was printed. We consider questionable colophons, duplicated pages, and irregular catchwords.Collection: This path considers how the Advertencias was collected in religious libraries across Mexico during the early colonial period, using firebrands, manuscript evidence, and archival records to trace the early collection history of the books.Acquisition: This path considers the movement of the Advertencias into private collection and public institutions from Mexican independence to the present day. Focusing on a few specific case studies, we consider the national, intellectual, religious, and financial forces that drive the movement of these books as sources of information and as heritage items.(Digital) Futures: In this final path, we discuss the material and digital futures of the Advertencias, and point to some areas for future research.References: Here we provide a list of references that were used in the development of this project.Terms: Here we provide definitions for key terms used in the study of early book production.