“An extraordinary combination of Old World erudition and New World anthropology”

The First Book of Mexican Authorship Printed in Europe, with Superb Engravings

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559. VALADÉS, Didaco [Diego]. Rhetorica Christiana Ad Concionandi, Et Orandi Vsvm Accommodata, Vtrivsq Facvltatis Exemplis Svo Loco Insertis, Qvae Qvidem, Ex Indorvm Maximè Deprompta Svnt Historiis. Vnde Praeter Doctrinam, Svma Qvoqve Delectatio Comparabitvr Avctore Rdo Admodvm P.F. Didaco Valades Totivs Ordinis Fratrvm Minorvm Regvlaris Observantiae Olī procvratore Generali In Romana Cvria Ano. Dni. M.D.LXXVIIII Cvm Licentia Svperiorvm.... [Colophon with large woodcut of printer’s device] Pervsiæ: Apud Petrumiacobum Petrutium, 1579; i.e., Perugia: Petrus Jacobus Petrutius, 1579. [2, engraved title], [3-18], 1-378, [16] [2, blank] pp. (text printed within ruled borders), copper-engraved title included in collation, 27 copperplate engravings: 13 plates (including title page, 3 leaves of which have illustrations on recto and verso), 14 text illustrations (of which 5 are full-page), 1 folded letterpress chart (“Universalis de Deo...”), type ornament head- and tail-pieces, grotesque woodcut tail-pieces, decorative and historiated woodcut initials, including a large initial “C” illustrating the Last Supper on the dedication leaf (a1 recto), printer’s woodcut serpent device on 3D3 verso. 4to (25 x 18.5 cm), contemporary limp vellum (recased, recent headbands, two small, old repairs, minor staining, wants ties). Engraved title remargined at bottom (no loss) and old repaired tears not affecting image; early ink ownership stamp in right blank margin (repeated on last leaf). Overall a fine, complete copy (with the final blank), engravings excellent and in fine, dark impressions.

Engraved Plates & Text Illustrations

[1] Title page incorporating female allegories of Theology and Rhetoric, with device of the Franciscans at head and arms of Gregory XIII (to whom the work is dedicated) at foot.

[2] Man with globe and instruments, moon, stars, and sun above. This illustration documents Valadés’ commitment to the importance and necessity of universal education. Half-page text illustration, p. 5.

[3] Christ pouring out the River of Life. Half-page text illustration, p. 7.

[4] An angel assists the author with his writing. Half-page text illustration, p. 10.

[5] Sacra Theologia. Allegorical representation of theology showing a priest receiving inspiration, books below. Half-page text illustration, p. 14.

[6] Elaborate engraving with strap work and circles showing pursuit of the seven liberal arts: Arithmetic, Geometry, Astrology, Dialectics, Music, Rhetoric, and Grammar. Full-page text illustration, p. 17.

[7] Ecclesiastical figure preaching to a small congregation dressed in European clothing. Half-page text illustration, p. 25.

[8] Schematic representation of a man’s head showing the main parts of the cerebral region and speech and hearing. Valadés emphasized that these were necessary attributes for preachers, missionaries, and teachers. Signed at top: “F. D. Valades Inventor.” Half-page text illustration, p. 88.

[9, 10 & 11] Syllabary of 63 examples of letters of the Roman alphabet superimposed on images, some of which are Native American pictographs. Images include indigenous figures, house, bird in tree, eagle, cow, fish, ship, owl in tree, deer, Huitzilopochtli (with serpent and shield), and others. These ingenious images document the author’s pedagogical methods for communicating across great cultural barriers. (Valadés and the Franciscans did not originate these memory devices, but they were the first to adapt them to teaching alphabetic literacy in the New World.) 3 plates, following p. 100.

[12] Aztec calendar, superimposed with Julian calendar and figures of the zodiac. Signed by author in lower part of plate. Plate preceding p. 101.

[13] This fantastic bird’s-eye view of Mexico City presents a microcosm of scenes observed by the first twelve Franciscans who arrived in Mexico after the Conquest, recreating a specific moment in cross-cultural encounters in the New World. The dynamic scene is dominated by an Aztec human sacrifice taking place in the Great Temple surrounded by abundant details of life, customs, and natural history, including: dancers; games; music; preparing tortillas; women carrying large jugs; people fishing and boating on a lake in canoes and rafts; burial ceremony; persons making astronomical observations; agricultural activities and plants (agave, corn, coconut, pineapple, nopal, nuts, etc.); and an array of architecture which, except for the Great Temple, looks more European than indigenous. Folded plate, between pp. 168 and 169. Signed by author in lower image.

[14] Ecclesiastical organization from the Pope down, depicted on a stylized tree, with sinners in Hell at the bottom. Recto of leaf following p. 176.

[15] Christ pouring out forgiveness in the name of the Church via the Seven Sacraments, elaborate concentric circles at top. Verso of leaf following p. 176.

[16] Secular hierarchy on the branches of a highly stylized tree, with the emperor residing at the top, descending down to Hell at the bottom, as a reminder to those who do not follow orders. Recto of second leaf, preceding p. 177.

[17] Large cross, with ship at left and church at right, representing events during colonization and conversion to Christianity. Verso of leaf preceding p. 177.

[18] Symbolic illustrations of the Franciscan organization of evangelization and activities carried out by them in the New World. At upper left and right, Native Americans are instructed using symbols, words, and pictures. Monks carry the Church, with the Holy Spirit in the entry and God the Father in clouds above it. Full-page text illustration, p. [207]. Signed by author above lower register of images.

[19] Church interior showing a friar preaching to an overflowing congregation; a monk holds an hourglass on the steps of the pulpit. This iconic preaching image is also significant because it shows scenes of the Passion on now exceedingly rare lienzos, painted linen panels that the Franciscans used to illustrate Christian concepts. This image was adapted for use as the frontispiece of Torquemada’s 1615 Monarchía Indiana. Full-page text illustration, following p. [211].

[20] Typus Peccatoris. Grotesque sinner with angel at left and macabre devil at right. Half-page text illustration, p. 214.

[21 & 22] Stages of temptation and sin, with various afflictions of sinners and very intricate depiction of Hell below. Two full-page text illustrations, pp. [216 & 217].

[23] This image relates to the holiness of matrimony and the punishment for infidelity, which leads to hell. At top, Native Americans wearing tilmas are suspended from two trees while a devil tries to pull one down with a chain. Below the male adulterer is tied to a pole as spears and arrows strike his body. The adulteress is stoned, which was already a Nahua custom. On recto of leaf following p. 220.

[24] The Great Chain of Being, the linkage between all stages of the universe with God as its creator, redeemer, and remunerator, at the top seated by His Son. The various rows represent paradise (nature, animals, water, and earth in harmony), humans, and angels. Below is the fall of the bad angels to Hell. Among the images of animals is a unicorn. Verso of leaf, following p. 220. Signed by author at lower middle. This is an iconic image, having been used widely for centuries to illustrate the concept.

[25] Sumptuous and well-executed scene of Christ’s crucifixion, with a friar instructing a group of Native Americans. Recto of leaf preceding p. 221. Signed by author at lower left.

[26] In a mountainous landscape with fire pit in the foreground, a missionary and his party carrying religious artifacts meet a small group of Native Americans with bows, arrows, and shields. A child and two women kneel before the missionary. Half-page text illustration on p. 224. Signed by author in lower part of image at center.

[27] Native Americans with bows, quivers, and arrows sit in a circle around a missionary in a landscape with trees and village in distance. Half-page text illustration, p. 225.

     First edition of one of the earliest books by a native of Mexico to interpret Mexican culture to Europeans (and vice versa); a remarkable compendium of culture, theology, philosophy, catechisms, and Mexican history, treating various aspects of religious education in the New World, ranging from Creation to the structure of the Catholic Church. Adams V18. Bell V6. Beristáin de Souza, Biblioteca Hispano Americana Setentrional (1883), Vol. III, p. 215. Brasseur de Bourbourg, Bibl. Mex.-Guat., p. 147. JCB I (1, to 1599), pp. 277-278. Brunet V, cols. 1029-1030. European Americana 1579/50: “Manual for instruction of missionaries to Mexico, describing indigenous religious rites and customs, etc.” Glass, Guide to Ethnohistorical Sources, Parts 3 and 4 (Vols. 14 & 15 of Handbook of Middle American Indians) #388, Figure #73, Vol. 14, p. 232: “Valadés Calendar Wheel. A version of the wheel [including] signs of the European zodiac and a correlation of the 18 months with the Julian calendar”; Vol. 15, p. 715. Graesse VI, p. 235. Leclerc, Bibliotheca Americana (1867) 1513; (1878) 589. Medina, Hispano-Americana 259. Mortimer (Italy) 510. Osorio Romero, Floresta de gramática, poética y retórica en Nueva España, pp. 134-141. Palau 346897. Sabin 98300 & 25934n. Streit I:131.

     According to Medina, there are at least two issues: in one, there are eight plates on seven leaves; in the other (as in present copy), the plate headed “Hierarchia Ecclesiastica” has on its verso another symbolical engraving with the word “Meritorum” in one of the blank spaces. Medina also describes two variant issues of the folded table: in one, there is a woodcut tail-piece in the lower left corner (as in present copy); in the other, the printer’s imprint is in the lower left corner.

     Diego Valadés (1533-1582?) was the son of a Spanish conquistador who had been a member of Pánfilo de Narváez’s Florida expedition. His father later settled and married in Tlaxcala, a powerful indigenous community about seventy miles from Tenochtitlán (Mexico City). Born to an indigenous mother, Valadés enrolled at the Franciscan Colegio de Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco, whose goal was to teach humanistic European culture to mestizos and the sons of the caciques of Mexico. That college is generally considered to be the first European institution of higher learning in North America. While serving as Pedro de Gante’s pupil and secretary, Valadés excelled to a high degree, and the friars urged his ordination as a Franciscan priest. He went to Europe in 1571, but his mestizo status was hidden from his European superiors, since ordination of mestizos, Indians, and Blacks were prohibited by the synod of 1555. He became a liberal humanist imbued with the ideals of the Renaissance and played many active roles in New Spain, such as establishing the convent of Tlaxcala. After entering the Franciscan Order, he was especially interested in evangelizing Native Americans, of whose languages he knew Tarasco, Náhuatl, and Otomí. He was among the first missionaries to work among the natives in Mexico (1558-1562), especially the Chichimeca, the semi-nomadic peoples who inhabited the far northern provinces of modern-day Mexico and the southwestern United States. In 1526 Cortés in one of his letters stated that the northern Chichimeca tribes were not as civilized as the Aztecs he had conquered, but they might be enslaved and used to work in the mines. Apparently, Valadés had other ideas.

     Once in Europe, Valadés became an official in his Order and in 1579 published this book, the first book of Mexican authorship printed in Europe, and for which he drew and engraved the beautiful, precise, and unique plates himself. Three of the engravings are of a teacher, and it has been speculated that they might be the author’s own self-portraits. Valadés’ imagery is discussed by Francisco de la Maza, “Fray Diego Valadés, escritor y grabador franciscano del siglo XVI, Anales del Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas 3 (1945), pp. 15-44. Maza maintains that Albrecht Dürer influenced Valadés imagery. Another insightful discussion of the author’s imagery and Weltanschauung are found in Don Paul Abbott’s, “Diego Valadés and the Origins of Humanistic Rhetoric in the Americas” in Winifred Bryan Horner’s, Rhetoric and Pedagogy: Its History, Philosophy, and Practice (Mahwah [New Jersey]: L. Erlbaum, 1995, Chapter 14, pp. 227-242): “The Rhetorica Christiana is the first rhetoric that is not exclusively European in conception and execution. Not only was Valadés born in Mexico, but the work graphically reflects his Mexican origins and experiences... [It] is an extraordinary combination of Old World erudition and New World anthropology. In its pages Valadés transmits the literature of the Greeks and the Romans and records the customs of the Mexicas and the Chichimecas.” Abbott states illustrations had never been so integral to a work of rhetoric before Valadés and attributes this to the author’s exceptional artistic ability and his New World experience that convinced him that actual images must be combined with mental images for conversion to be effective. Abbott concludes that although Valadés’ work is truly one of rhetoric—albeit one that is innovative for the time—it has tremendous importance for documenting Native folkways and Franciscan methods employed in the Great Conversion.


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