LAWS OF THE EARLY CATHOLIC CHURCH IN CENTRAL AMERICA

Sanctum Provinciale Concilium Mexici.

México, Juan Ruiz, 1622.

£9,500

FIRST EDITION. Folio, ff. (6), 102, (1), 38, (1), missing final blank. Neat Roman letter; title with full-page engraved architectural border (outer edges frayed), secondary title within large woodcut frame, large decorated initials and elaborate hand- and tail-pieces in Spanish colonial style; light mostly marginal foxing to few leaves, light damp stain to lower gutter and foot of last gathering. A very good copy in contemporary limp vellum; a bit stained, reglued long since, spine holed; early shelf mark to front cover; unusual early monogram ‘AE LC OC’ branded on upper and lower edges; small “MM” ink stamps on verso of title and f. 52r; eighteenth-century handwritten monogram [RHPB?] at foot of first five leaves, the same hand annotating in Spanish in margins of gathering Hh and Kk; earlier extensive marginal annotations in Latin on first two leaves.

Extremely rare first edition of the decrees issued by the third Mexican Council of 1585 and approved by the papacy four years later. Gathered by the Viceroy and Archbishop Pedro Moya de Contreras, this highly influential assembly brought the decrees of the Council of Trent into the religious and social life of the New World, drawing up a legislation in use until the early twentieth century. Bishops attending the Council focused mainly on doctrine, the internal organization of the Mexican province, missionary activities and the rights of local people.

Their decisions were first recorded in Spanish and later translated into Latin, so as to be confirmed by the pope. Yet, the Roman cardinals’ committee in charge of approval rewrote a large part of the decrees, strictly sticking to those of the Tridentine Council. As a result, the final official text came out only in 1622. The printed marginalia of the volume refers constantly to the sources of the Mexican decrees. Along with canon law and papal bulls, they comprise the deliberations of the Council of Trent, of the five Synods held in Milan under Carlo Borromeo, as well as assemblies of the American and Spanish Church in Lima, Quiroga, Guadix and Granada. The final part of the book, and perhaps the most important, is devoted to the statutes of the recently-established Mexican Church.

The beautiful engraving of the title shows the personification of Faith and Church in a classical architectural frame. It is signed at the bottom by the Dutch artist Samuel Stradanus. Stradanus worked in New Spain from about 1604. His most prominent patron was the promoter of this belated first edition, Archbishop Juan Pérez de la Serna (1573-1627), whose arms appear at the head of the title.

Graesse, II, 245; Medina, México 343; Palau, 293978; Sabin, 48373. Not in JFB or Alden.

L1925

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