1736 · Mexico
Sweeping in its breadth and detailed in its depth, Gutiérrez Dávila's history of the Oratorian Order in Mexico from its founding in the second half of the 17th century offers fact and myth about the order as well as biography and near-hagiography of many members, up to to ca. 1730.
The Oratorians were unlike the other religious orders in New Spain: "The Oratory of St. Philip Neri was founded by the saint in Rome in 1575. . . . It consists of independent communities of secular priests held under obedience but not bound by vows, and it is dedicated to prayer, preaching, and the sacraments" (online Encyclopedia Britannica). That is, members were free to leave at any time and embraced no vows of silence, poverty, or denial.
Further, "[e]ach Oratorian community enjoyed locally autonomous government by their own elected officials, and acquired many of the benefits of both religious and lay corporations without the burden of formal vows, or professional exclusion from religious offices" (Reed). => Scholars have noted that Oratorians used preaching to help shape the formation of patriotic culture and historical writing in colonial Mexico.
The author (1676–1740) was a member of the order and had served as its provost. He dedicated this work to Archbishop and Viceroy Juan Antonio de Vizarron, y Eguiarreta, whose coat of arms appears in a woodcut on the recto of the leaf following the title-leaf. The title-page is printed in black and red and has a woodcut of the "logo" of the Mexico City Oratory. The text is printed in double-column format in roman and italic, with head- and tailpieces and woodcut initials.
The tome comes from the shop of => one of Mexico's famous widow printers, Maria de Rivera — daughter and granddaughter of other woman printers (her mother Maria de Benavides, her grandmother Paula de Benavides). This three generations of women printers spanned the period 1641–1754 and printed 860 known books, sermons, pamphlets, and broadsides.
The Mexican engraver => Jose Antonio Amador provided a full-page plate, which a cataloguer at the John Carter Brown Library describes as "A priest [Saint Philip Neri?] wearing a biretta and holding a flower stand[ing] on clouds, flanked by angels. Below him is a group of priests [Oratorians] who carry a book, birettas, and rosary. One angel throws flowers down on the priests while holding a rosary, the other holds a sacred heart and a book."
Provenance: Marca de fuego in upper edges of an unidentified Oratorian monastery
=> In all, a very important book for its text, illustration, printer, and genre.
Sabin 18778; Medina, Mexico, 3418; Palau 11568; Streit, Bibliotheca missionum, III, 389; Lathrop C. Harper, Three catalogues of Americana, II, 333; Benjamin Reed, "Devotion to Saint Philip Neri in Mexico City, 1659-1821" (digital repository, University of New Mexico). Modern quarter brown leather with red and green title and author labels to spine; handsome blind tooling with gilt accents. Text with variably light old waterstaining to leaves' lower half nearly throughout, in parts rising to moderate and occasionally with another sort of spot or blot; yet => a copy that impresses one as clean and crisp. (Inventory #: 36013)