More Ammunition in the Pamphlet War Defending Freedom of Press in Mexico

“Truth though bitter, is often the price of freedom of the press”

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84. [CENSORSHIP]. N (pseudonym). La Verdad aunque amargue, es muchas veces el objeto precioso de la libertad de imprenta. [Signed in print “N” at end and dated at Mexico City, October 28, 1820].[Colophon] Mexico: En la oficina de D. Alejandro Valdés, 1820. [1] 2-8 pp. 8vo (21 x 16 cm), unbound sheets, as issued. Minor smudges and some light staining, otherwise fine. Ephemeral.

     First edition of a defense of liberal pamphleteer Rafael Dávila (fl. 1820-1829) under the laws of freedom of the press and censorship. Garritz, Impresos Novohispanos, 1808-1821 #3871. Medina, México 11717. Palau 359296. Sabin 98934. Steele, Independent Mexico: A Collection of Mexican Pamphlets in the Bodleian Library, p. 59, 75. Sutro, p. 145.

     The Napoleonic invasion of Spain led to the establishment of freedom of the press under the Constitution of 1812. Repudiated by Ferdinand VII in 1814, but revived through the revolt of Rafael del Riego y Nuñez in 1820, the active publication of political tracts reopened in that year in Mexico. The anonymous writer “N” independently defends Rafael Dávila, who was then imprisoned for writing incendiary material. Dávila was a major supporter of famed pamphleteer José Joaquín Fernández de Lizardi (see herein). Lizardi, though little known north of the border, has been called the greatest pamphleteer of the Western hemisphere (p. 168, Richard H. Dillon, “Sutro Library’s Resources in Latin Americana” in The Hispanic American Historical Review, Vol. 45, No. 2, May, 1965). Dillon (p. 272) notes that Rafael Dávila and Pablo de Villavicencio rank next in political importance to Lizardi in Mexican polemical literature.

     Dillon comments on the pamphlets of this nature (pp. 270-271):

The pamphlets constitute the major source of fresh new material on nineteenth-century and earlier Mexico. They are little exploited or even explored.... Yet, one can find no surer guide to the troublous times of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Mexico than these booklets. Written in the heat of argument, of battle, of revolution, they bring to life a time and place removed from us by hundreds of miles and years.... There were a handful of men who had something important to say and who had the ability to say it with style.

     The pamphlet format developed into true popular literature in the first three decades of nineteenth-century Mexico, with its heyday from 1820-1824. These rare little pamphlets touched on popular issues of the day and were criticized by the traditional literate minority (Alaman grumbled that they “were written in a style that had an immense effect on simple people”). See California State Library, Sutro Branch, Occasional Papers, Reprint Series no. 17, The Early Pamphlets of Rafael Davila, 1820-22 (San Francisco, California State Library, 1940). The printing history of this genre of Mexican pamphlet is highly interesting. For instance, sometimes they were printed on portable printing press to avoid detection by authorities.


Sold. Hammer: $100.00; Price Realized: $122.50.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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