Vocabulario manual de las lenguas castellana y mexicana.

Mexico, widow of Bernardo Calderon, 1683.


12mo. pp. (viii) 118 (ii). Roman and Italic letter, double column. Decorated initial, typographical head- and tailpieces. Mostly light dust soiling, outer edge of first and last few ll. repaired, a few letters supplied on latter, a few mostly marginal spots and faint stains. A good copy in later vellum, recased. Early annotations in places, autograph ‘Jose (?)’ and faded ms to t-p, early inscriptions ‘In la Sancta Yglecia Catholica la Comonion de los san[tos?]’ (p. iii), ‘Maychua en Camahuis titilano (?)’ (p. 4), ‘Este vocabulario selo compré á S[anc]ta M[ari]a a la S Cuares’ (p. v) and ‘Maychua zin (?) yn A. Dios (?) Chicahua limie (?)’ (p. 37) ; autographs ‘D Imanuel Diaz y B(?)’ (p. 31), ‘Señor Dr Juan de la Cruz perez maychua (?) ca huili’ (p. 85) and ‘Senor D[on] Amado y Bustamante Pustillo’ (p. 92) ; early ex-libris ‘Sor Cura D[on] rufino S.P. Andres Chibrino’ (p. 41), ‘S(?)aco pilli don Juan Martin maychua ym A. dios’ (p. 55), ‘Sor Cura D Mariano Rodriguez’ (p. 75) and ‘S. Cura Bicente Cehola B’ (p. 77); drawing of dove with faded inscription to outer margin (p. 67).

Very uncommon, good third edition of Pedro de Arenas’s Spanish- Mexican (Nahuatl) dictionary, first printed in 1611. Very little is known about Arenas; it appears that he did not know Latin, so was not a Jesuit, but he needed to know Nahuatl to move around Mexico and interact with the Indians. Unlike previous grammar manuals published for the native languages in the C16 and early C17, his ‘Vocabulario manual’ was a user-friendly practical guide. In the preface, Arenas explains that he adapted an earlier Spanish-Mexican dictionary for the benefit of Spaniards who spoke ‘in the vernacular language’ and whose only pretence at ‘elegant eloquence’ was being able to communicate with and understand the Indians. Divided into two parts (Nahuatl-Spanish and Spanish-Nahuatl), it features the most useful phrases and a succinct vocabulary of a few thousand words concerning topics like numbers, kin relations, salutations, travel, food and specific situations like selling a horse, addressing someone ill or talking to Indians working in the mines or fields. Arenas sought ways of transcribing Nahuatl sounds absent in the Latin alphabet, as well as to bridge through translation the gaps between the two cultures. Several Nahuatl words so passed into common European usage (e.g., cacao and tomato). In the second section, Spanish translations into Nahuatl include numerous borrowings for things or concepts that had no counterpart in Mexico (e.g., ‘caballo’ as ‘cahuayo’ or ‘cahuallo’).

This copy, probably first purchased in Sancta María, belonged to a variety of Spanish owners who annotated its margins with autograph ex-libris and, as far as can be assessed from the faded inscriptions, with variations on salutations in Nahuatl like ‘ma Dios quimochicahuilli’ or ‘ma Dios mitzchicaua’ (‘may God bring you health’).

Paula Benavides, the ‘widow of Bernardo Calderon’, managed her late husband’s press and bookstore in the ‘calle de San Augustín’ in Mexico City between 1641 and 1683. She was one of 17 women (usually widows) at the outset of printing in early modern Hispanic America. The most influential ‘impresora’, ‘mercadera’ and ‘empresaria’ in the Mexican book trade, Paula published almost 300 books in 43 years, mostly literary and religious, and owned a store with over 1000 books printed in Europe and Mexico, from Virgil to hagiographies and works on medicine. From 1666, she sometimes published with the signature ‘Imprenta del Secreto del Santo Oficio’, after the death of the official printer of the Inquisition.

Only Harvard copy recorded in the US.

Medina, México, 1271; Palau y Dulcet (2. ed.), 15924; Viñaza, Bib. lenguas indígenas de América, 211. M. Ontiveros, et al., ‘Paula de Benavides: Impresora del siglo XVII. El inicio de un linaje’, Contribuciones desde Coatepec, 10 (2006), 103-15; M. Garone Gravier, ‘Herederas de la letra: mujeres y tipografía en la Nueva España’, Casa de la primera imprenta de América, México, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, 2004.


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