1649 · Puebla de los Angeles
Puebla was the second city in New Spain to obtain a printing press, issuing its first book in 1642, not 1640 as Medina claimed. The man responsible for the press's arrival was the same eminent figure mentioned on the title-page of this extremely rare volume: Don Juan de Palafox y Mendoza. Bishop, later viceroy, Palafox, was one of the most interesting and controversial figures to reside in Mexico during the 17th century. Born in Fitero, Navarre, Spain, in 1600, the illegitimate but recognized son of Jaime Palafox, the Marqués of Ariza, he rose in the service of the Church in Spain through his native talent and his father's connections. In 1640, the king appointed him the bishop of Puebla, Mexico, with special powers to serve concurrently as a visitador, or special investigator, specifically charging him with reforming the various religious orders (Jesuits, Franciscans, Dominicans, etc.) who seemed to defy and stymie the king's will at every turn, and who had grown to be more secular in behavior than was seemly, legal, customary, or acceptable.
The bishop's efforts as visitador met with dogged resistance, even from the viceroy, whom Palafox suspected of being a sympathizer with the Portuguese separatists (and whom he was to succeed). => The various orders initiated protracted legal opposition to everything Palafox attempted.
Notwithstanding the imposing odds against him, Palafox did have his share of unqualified accomplishments during his years in Mexico: He composed and saw into print the codification of the constitution of the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico, established a school for girls, founded the famous Palafoxiana Library in Puebla with a donation of 6,000 volumes, and introduced printing in Puebla, Mexico's second largest city during the colonial period.
The printer of this rarity was Bachiller Juan Blanco de Alcaçar (or Alcazar), almost certainly the first printer to set up a press in Puebla de los Angeles. Like many of Mexico's printers of the late 16th and early 17th centuries, Juan de Alcazar (as he generally identified himself in documents) was well educated: He held a bachelor's degree from the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico. He began his life as a printer in Mexico City in 1617 and there printed several major books, including Fray Martín de León's Manual [y] breve forma de administrar los santos sacramentos a los yndios (1617) and Diego Cisneros's Sitio, naturaleza y propriedades de la ciudad de México (1618). His name disappears from imprint lines of Mexican title-pages and colophons in 1637 to reappear on title-pages printed in Puebla at least as early as 1643; some attribute the "anonymously" printed pieces of 1642 to his press work and more than a few think he printed the even earlier, suppositious Arco triunfal of Mateo Salcedo. From the notarial archives of Puebla we know that he had moved his press to that city by December 1641, and that in January 1642, he had begun to hire apprentices (Pérez Salazar, Los impresores de Puebla en la época colonial [1987 edition], pp. 9–12). The bachiller's "in" ("enchufe" in Spanish) with Bishop Palafox was a strong one: His wife was the sister of Don Luis de Monzón, the Treasurer of the Puebla cathedral (Pérez Salazar, p. 16).
The work at hand, which Bishop Palafox ordered to be printed, explains changes in the newly adopted Ceremonial that affect when congregants sit, kneel, and genuflect. It was => an important work, affecting every communicant at every mass attended.
Searches of NUC Pre-1956, WorldCat, COPAC, CCPBE, BRUIN, and the OPACs of the national library of Spain and Mexico, located only three copies in U.S. libaries and two in Mexican institutions.
Apparently all institutional copies lack the final blank, present in this exemplar and bearing => contemporary manuscript poetry on both sides.
Not in Medina, Puebla; not in Palau; Gavito, Adiciones a La imprenta en la Puebla, 2. Nicolas Antonio,II, 116; Pinelo-Barcia, II, 859; Beristáin de Souza, II, 5. On Blanco de Alcazar, see: Francisco Pérez Salazar, Los impresores de Puebla en la época colonial. Mexican quarter calf binding of the second half of the present century. Small wormhole in upper inner margin, well removed from text. Manuscript additions as above on final blank; on one side, at end of verse, inked skull-and-crossbones devices. => An exceptional copy of a rare book. (Inventory #: 37100)