LETTERS FROM PARAGUAY BY ONE OF THE PREACHERS CLOSEST TO THE LOCAL PEOPLE
Litterae annuae provinciae Paraquariae Societatis Jesu
Antwerp, Jean van Meurs, 1636.
FIRST EDITION. 8vo., pp. 168. Roman letter; few decorated initials; one blank corner of repair to title page, some age browning, occasional lateral underlining in red pencil. A good copy in contemporary vellum, early title inscription on spine and shelfmark on front cover, all edges red; lightly worn joints; front pastedown and endpaper from eighteenth-century Spanish manuscript letter; on title, two nineteen- and twenty-century library stamps and contemporary inscription ‘Del P.re Diacceti Mon…bro’, probably member of the Florentine noble family; early account note on rear end paper verso.
First edition of this remarkable report from the Jesuit missions in Paraguay. Nicola Mastrilli (1568-1653), from Naples, was a prominent churchman of the New World. After joining the Jesuit order, he was sent to Peru, where he changed his surname into Durán and graduated at the University of Lima. He distinguished himself as a zealous preacher, directing in Juli (Bolivia) the first Jesuit mission deeply engaged with the evangelisation of the local population. In 1623, he was elected supervisor of the province of Paraguay and then of the whole Peru. His care for the Indians was all but common among the Spanish establishment and was questioned even by some members of his order.
These letters, addressed to the general of the Society, Muzio Vitelleschi, recorded the fast expansion of Jesuit activities in the southern region of the Spanish Viceroyalty, mainly between 1626 and 1627. They were written on Mastrilli’s behalf by his confrere and collaborator, the Belgian Jean Rançonier. As other contemporary reports from the Americas and the Levant, the letters met immediate success and were translated into French two years later.
Alden, 636/37; Medina, BHA 953; Sabin, 21407; Palau, 77442.