LEÓN, Martin de.


LEÓN, Martin de. Manual breve, y forma de administrar los Santos Sacramentos á los Indios.

Mexico, Francisco Robledo, 1640


Small 8vo. ff. (ii) 53 (i). Roman letter, with Italic. Woodcut t-p vignette with Dominican device, unusual decorated initials and ornaments. T-p a bit soiled, small tear towards lower edge of t-p affecting a few letters of imprint, another to D3 just touching a couple of words, light age yellowing, trimmed a bit short (occasionally touching chapter title), institutional stamp (c.1900) to C5 verso, light oil splash at centre of three or four ll., verso of last dusty, small worm trail in blank gutter at end. A remarkably well-preserved copy in contemporary probably Mexican limp vellum, title inked to spine, later paper label at foot, scattered inked spots, C19 stamp G within roundel (repeated) to ffep, C17 ms. ‘Del P[adr]e Fr[ay] Aug[ustin]us de Lun[a?]’ (last word trimmed), ms. annotations to text (same hand).

A remarkably well-preserved copy of the very scarce third edition of this manual for missionaries in Mexico. Martin de León was a most important C17 Dominican ‘nahuatlato’, i.e., an interpreter between the Spanish missionaries and the Nahuatl-speaking people (even translating the work of Thomas á Kempis), probably born and raised in New Spain. First published in 1614 for the use of the convent of S. Domingo de Mexico, ‘Manual’ went through a second edition in 1617; all are remarkably rare, as is frequently the case with practical manuals intended for intense everyday use. The chapters focus on specific rituals, for which they provide instructions for the actions and behaviour (e.g., how to hold a baby at christening) as well as the priest’s rubrics and the community’s response. The section on baptism has the ritual lines in Latin and the instructions in Spanish. The second, on marriage for ‘the Indios of New Spain, Peru and the Philippines’, alternates instructions in Spanish and ritual formulae in Nahuatl or Spanish (according to the language spoken by the betrothed) and Latin (for the priest). The third section, on the extreme unction, instructs the priest in Spanish on the Latin lines he should pronounce when blessing each body part of the dying person, referring to the specific sin it encourages. The early owner of this copy revised the lines for the unction of the feet adding, in place of Amen, ‘et ardores lividinis’ (i.e., ‘libidinis’ pronounced by a Spanish speaker), i.e., the fire of passion. The phrase comes in fact from the following section, on the unction of the navel, which the owner circled and marked ‘omittitur’. The section on burial includes specific instructions for christened children under 7, and is followed by another on prayers against tempests and hail, the blessing of fields and vines, with prayers against pests, and others on the feasts of the liturgical year (with a table). A very scarce, important work for the history of Mexican missions. 

Only New Mexico copy recorded in the US. Palau 135426; Medina, Mexico 524; Pilling 2255. Not in Sabin, Alden, JFB or Maggs, Spanish Books.
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