ARENAS, Pedro de.


ARENAS, Pedro de. Vocabulario manual de las lenguas castellana y mexicana.

Mexico, Henrico Martinez, [n.d., 1611 or after]


FIRST EDITION. 8vo. pp. (xvi) 160. Roman letter, with Italic. Decorated initials and ornaments. Title a bit soiled, light age yellowing, slight browning to edges, lower margin of final gathering stained and frayed with paper but not text loss to last two, upper outer corner creased, some edges untrimmed. A good, large, unsophisticated copy in contemporary probably Mexican limp vellum, early shelfmark A in red ink at head of spine, covers dusty, scattered ink splashes. Crossed-out early ms. inscription to t-p verso, C17 ms. ‘es del uso del P[adr]e fr[ay] Juan de Monzeny [Montseny?]’ at head of §4 recto, traces of contemporary ms. notes to pastedowns, unidentified Mexican marca de fuego to upper edge. In folding box.

A good, pleasantly used, ‘original’ copy of the first edition of this most important Spanish (Castilian)-Mexican (Nahuatl) dictionary—from the library of a Spanish friar (from Montseny, in Catalonia) seconded to an unidentified Mexican monastery. ‘Primera edición rarisima’ (Palau). Very little is known about Pedro de 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 natives. Unlike previous grammar manuals published for the native languages in the C16 and early C17, his ‘Vocabulario manual’ (edition undated, but ‘licencia’ dated 1611) 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 natives. Divided into two parts (Castilian-Nahuatl and Nahuatl-Castilian), it features the most useful phrases and a succinct vocabulary of a few thousand words concerning topics such as numbers, kin relations, salutations, travel, food and specific situations such as 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 first section, Spanish translations into Nahuatl include ‘common insults’, words concerning writing, and numerous borrowings for things or concepts that had no counterpart in Mexico (e.g., ‘caballo’ as ‘cahuayo’ or ‘cahuallo’).

Palau records a subsequent undated edition printed by Martinez, with a different pagination (173pp.).

Only UCSB copy recorded in the US. Viñaza, Bib. lenguas indígenas de América, n.128; Palau 15920; Sabin 1935. Not in Alden, JFB or Maggs, Spanish Books.
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