Archaeology of a Book: An experimental approach to reading rare books in archival contexts

Path: Production

In 1538, the Italian printer Juan Pablos arrived in Mexico with orders to establish a printing press. Pablos arrived with support from the Bishop Zumarraga and Viceroy Mendoza, in Mexico, and from the Cromberger publishing house, in Seville. The Manual de Adultos, which he printed in 1540, remains the oldest surviving text printed in the Americas.
The following decades saw the rapid growth of the printing industry in Mexico and Peru. In 1558, Pablos' assistant Antonio de Espinosa went to Spain to obtain permission to break Pablos's monopoly; in his wake, printing houses were established by Pablos' son in law, Pedro OchartePedro BalliAntonio Ricardo; Enrique Martinez, and Melchor Ocharte. In ~1580, observing the saturation of the market in Mexico City, Antonio Ricardo acquired patronage from the Jesuits to travel to Peru, where he established the first printing press in Lima. 
Printing operations in sixteenth-century Mexico were complex. Materials from metal type and wood-cuts to paper were originally acquired from Europe at great expense, though printers later developed the tools to produce materials in-house. Presses were ostensibly run by printers, but operations involved multiple workers, from female spouses to African slaves and European immigrants. Though recent scholarship has shown that the role of the inquisition in censoring early Mexican print production was relatively minimal, printers nonetheless had to deal with multiple regulatory offices and systems of hierarchy.
This video (in Spanish) tells the story of a modern-day printing press based on the early colonial model.
In this path we explore the production of the Advertencias through a close examination of its material record: title page and colophon, duplicate pages, excised phrases, and inconsistent catchwords. We hope that this exploration demonstrates the multiphonic quality of the printed book as a historical artifact. Though it may appear to be a single, coherent object in the shelf (or on the web), close examination reveals traces of the culturally complex scene of its production.

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