First Florida-Born Author Discourses on American Saints & Miracles

Bird’s-Eye View of the Tepic Region Locating the Prodigious Grass Cross

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146. FLORENCIA, Francisco de. Origen de los dos celebres santuarios de la Nueva Galicia, obispado de Guadalaxara en la America Septentrional. Noticia cierta de los Milagros Favores que hace la Santissima Virgen, â los que en ellos y en sus dos imagenes la invocan, sacada de los processos autenticos, que se guardan en los Archivos del Obispado, de orden del Ilmô. y Rmò. Sr. D. Juan de Santiago Leon Garabito. Por el Padre Francisco de Florencia de la Compañia de Jesus, añadida en esta reimpression, y dedicada al Ilmô. y Rmô. Señor D.F. Francisco de S. Buenaventura Martinez Texada Dies de Velasco del Consejo de su Magestad, Dignisimo Obispado de Yucatan, y actual de Guadalaxara en el Nuevo Reyno de Galicia, &c. Lleva dos Indices copiosos de cosas notables, Perteneciente cada uno à su Santuario. [Mexico]:En la Imprenta de la Biblioteca Mexicana, Año de 1757. [24], 1-206, [14] pp., 3 copper-engraved plates and 1 text illustration (see list below), title printed in red and black within typographical border. 4to (20.5 x 16 cm), contemporary full vellum with remains of rawhide ties. Binding stained, text block detached. Edges of text at upper right corners deteriorating from water damage (no losses except minor to border of title page), wormed with minor losses, fore-edges of first few leaves wrinkled, plates good with some staining and browning. Overall, a good copy in original binding. No copies of this work have been at auction in the past thirty years.

List of Engravings

Most titled below image; measurements are entire image, including title:

[1] Untitled half-page illustration of arms of Francisco de San Buenaventura Martínez de Texada Diez de Velasco, Bishop of Yucatan, signed at lower left: Bibliotheca Mexicana. 9.5 x 6.7 cm). p. [3] in prelims.

[2] Milagrosa Imagen de Na. Sa. de Tzapopan.... Bibliotheca Mexicana. Our Lady of Zapopán wearing a crown and a halo stands on an ornate pedestal below which are candles and vases with flowers, in a theatrical setting with opened drapes and cornice. 17.5 x 13 cm. Opposite p. 1. The Virgin of Zapopán is said to have interceded between the Spanish and the native population during the European conquest of Mexico. In 1689, a basilica dedicated to her was begun by the Franciscans in the state of Jalisco, and her shrine is a major pilgrimage destination.

[3] Hac Crux Gentiles, qui nollunt esse Salutis Ut credant Signum, credere nata docet.... [titles in image] (a) Prodigiossa Crvz de Tepiqve; (b) Varas y medias para medir la Sancta Cruz. Bibliotheca Mexicana; (c) Copia de los pies de N.S. & tampados en vna piedra en Xalisco. Central image shows compass rose at top and the Prodigious Grass Cross of Tepic set in a landscape with mountains and architecture in the background. A stone nearby has footprints thought to be those of a disciple of Saint Thomas. 17 x 12.5 cm. Opposite p. 5.

[4] V.R. de la Milagrosa Ymagen de Na. Sa. Juan de los Lagos. Bibliotheca Mexicana. Dramatic image of the Virgin of San Juan of the Lakes in stage setting with opened drapes, including crescent moon, crown, and halo. 18.2 x 12.5 cm. Opposite p. 46. The town of San Juan de los Lagos is in the eastern part of Jalisco in west central Mexico.

     Second edition of a Mexican colonial bestseller by the first Florida-born author. The first edition came out in Mexico in 1694 (with two plates only, by a different artist). Editions followed in 1757, 1760, 1766, 1783, 1796, and 1801. In 1998 an edition with scholarly introduction by Dr. W. Michael Mathes was published in Zapopán, Jalisco, by El Colegio del Jalisco. Heredia, Catalogue de la Bibliothèque de Ricardo Heredia 6804. Leclerc, Bibliotheca Americana (1878) 1138. Medina, México 4406. Palau 92349. Porrúa (1949) 6842 (describing the title page composition as “perfecta”). Ramírez Sale 321. Sabin 24816. Sommervogel, Bibliothèque de la Compagnie de Jésus III, Col. 799. Sommervogel, Bibliotheca Mariana de la Compagnie de Jesús #1988.

     The present work with its lengthy history of the various ecclesiastical establishments and their miraculous images is a valuable historical source for the regional history of Nueva Galicia, on the Pacific side of Mexico. The two churches discussed are the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Tzapopán and the church at San Juan de los Lagos, each with their respective images. Extensive discussion surrounds the miracles attributed to each, and this is the basic thrust of the work since having proven miracles attributed to the power of the images would be vital to their religious legitimacy. The miracles attributed to Nuestra Señora de San Juan de los Lagos come so fast that the author can hardly keep up. One chapter is entitled in part “Otras nuevas marabillas,” only to be immediately followed by another entitled in part, “Otras nuevas marabillas.” Those follow a chapter discussing “diversas marabillas” and two on “nuevos favores.” In all, a work offering considerable insight into the churches, people, and priests in the area at the time. The work also seems to have had the somewhat more practical motive of encouraging pilgrimages to the sites.

     The engravings in the present edition are skillfully executed. The Prodigious Grass Cross of Tepic is exceptionally interesting and highly unusual, giving a birds-eye view of the Tepic region, the Cross, and its history, with a precision and attention to detail one might expect to find in a map rather than in the rendering of a miracle. Mathes, La Ilustración en México colonial (Register No. 4406): “The great printing house of Dr. Juan José de Eguiara y Eguren, Bibliotheca Mexicana, employed engravers who signed the name of the press to engravings of highest quality. Among the more notable examples of these are Nuestra Señora de Zapopán, the Prodigious Cross of Tepic, and Nuestra Señora de San Juan de los Lagos for P. Francisco de Florencia, S.J., Origen de los dos celebres santuarios de la Nueva Galicia, 1757.” Not in Romero de Terreros, Grabados y grabadores de Nueva España.

     The engravings and their accompanying text all deal with themes indigenous to Mexican Catholicism. The story of the Prodigious Grass Cross of Tepic, which commenced as an oral tradition passed from one generation to the next, varies over time. The Cross was discovered between Jalisco and Tepic about 1619 by a young muleteer who was herding domestic animals. Said to be on the spot where a wooden cross decayed and fell, the Cross was formed entirely of grass distinctive of the surrounding landscape. Word of this marvel soon spread, and the Cross became a sign that could heal the sick and initiate other miracles. In 1694 a modest chapel was built at its location while a larger Franciscan monastery was built in 1784. California missionary Junípero Serra visited the site several times. The Cross exists to this day, despite Colonel Antonio Rojas’ attempts to destroy the Cross during the Reform.

     Like the Cross of Tepic, the Virgin of Zapopán, also known as Our Lady of Expectation, held special meaning to the indigenous peoples of the Zapopán area. In a particularly brutal campaign Conquistador Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán conquered the area in 1530. The campaign cruelties caused such despair among the Indians who carried the supplies of the expedition that a great many committed suicide by hanging themselves in groups of ten. Local legend has it that the Virgin of Zapopán interceded between the Spanish and the Native population during this Conquest, convincing the local population to lay down their arms and convert to Christianity. The shrine of the Virgin of Zapopán is considered the third most important pilgrimage center in the country (after the Virgin of Guadalupe and the Virgin of San Juan de los Lagos).

     The Virgin of San Juan de los Lagos is also referred to by her native name, Cihuapilli, which means “Great Lady.” Her shrine in San Juan de los Lagos, the second most visited pilgrimage in Mexico, is graced with a small statue in her image made of sugar cane paste. The story of the Virgin of San Juan de los Lagos begins in 1542, when Father Miguel de Bologna brought an image of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception to the village. In 1623 legend recounts that the daughter of Indian parents fell gravely ill and her death was imminent. However, after the parents earnestly prayed to the Virgin of San Juan de los Lagos, their daughter was saved. As a result of this miracle, there was a steady increase in the number of pilgrims who came to the Virgin, not only Indians, but also Spanish and mestizo as well. Her image is a popular one for retablos, including Chicano retablos created in the United States.

     Creole author Francisco Florencia (1620-1695) was born in Saint Augustine, Florida, at the edge of the Spanish American colonies, and became a Jesuit ca. 1642-1643. For many years he served as Procurator-General of the Jesuit Order in Seville. Florencia was a respected theologian, author, and preacher. Most of his writings promoted Mexico’s religious shrines and indigenous saints, the achievements of the Jesuits, and the virtues of the people of Mexico. As might be expected, Florencia was also an enthusiastic proponent of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Convinced of the veracity of the apparition account and the miracles associated with her image, Florencia searched for historical proof and tried to convince Rome to authorize veneration of the Mexican Virgin at her shrine and to obtain official sanction of her apparition at Tepeyac in 1531. His encyclopedic La Estrella del Norte de Mexico (Mexico City, 1688) describes the Virgin’s apparitions by commenting on Spanish and Mexican written, oral, and pictorial sources. The result was a synthesis of published works, augmented with poetry, songs, legends, and miracles within a tradition of Creole and Baroque historiography. With these writings, Florencia established the foundations of the textual and historical tradition of the Virgin of Guadalupe. As with Guadalupe, Florencia in the present work gives equal value to miracles in Europe and America, and asserted Mexico’s claim to an independent religious tradition. His writings and activities were important contributions to the establishment of a separate Mexican national identity.

     Regarding the Press of Biblioteca Mexicana, H.G. Whitehead remarks in “An Eighteenth-Century Mexican Book” in The British Museum Quarterly, Vol. 22, Nos. 1/2 (1960), pp. 8-10:

The press of the Biblioteca Mexicana, one of the most important of eighteenth-century Mexican publishing concerns, was founded, owned, and operated in his own house, by the wealthy and learned don Juan José de Eguiara y Eguren, canon of Mexico Cathedral, who, with his brother Manuel, had ordered a printing press from Madrid in 1744 or possibly 1754, according to Medina. The press began operating in the latter year, “en frente de San Agustín” and from the start was a great success. Such was Eguiara’s enthusiasm for his hobby, that he refused the bishopric of Yucatán in order to devote himself to typography.

     Florencia dedicated this work to Franciscan Francisco de S. Buenaventura Martínez de Texada Díez de Velasco, a native of Seville, a member of the Recollect reform of the Franciscan order who lectured in philosophy and theology. Like our author Florencia, Bishop Texada has a connection to Florida history. While serving as first Auxiliary Bishop of Cuba, he visited Florida in 1735, 1742, and 1745, residing for a decade in San Augustine, where he built the parish church of St. Augustine, Florida. In 1745 he became the Bishop of Yucatan, and subsequently transferred to Guadalajara in 1752. He was among the best-travelled Bishops and twice visited his entire diocese, including its most distant province, San Fernando Parish in Texas, where he contracted the illness from which he died in 1760. ($1,000-2,000)

Sold. Hammer: $1,000.00; Price Realized: $1,225.00.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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