Privately Printed Mining Laws of Colonial Mexico

With Engraved Arms of Spain by Fabregat

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461. [MINING]. SPAIN. LAWS. [GÁLVEZ Y GALLARDO, José de (compiler)]. Reales Ordenanzas para la Direccion, Régimen y Gobierno del Importante Cuerpo de la Minería de Nueva-España, y de su Real Tribunal General. De Orden de Su Majestad. Madrid: [Joaquín Ibarra], Año De 1783 [with] Untitled February 5, 1793, law clarifying certain provisions of the 1783 law and dated in type Mexico, June 27, 1793 [Mexico, 1793]. [2], [i] ii-xlvi, 1-214, [2, blank], 1-7 [1, blank] pp., copper-engraved frontispiece (royal arms; along bottom Maella inv. | D. Santos la dibo. | J. Joaquin Fabregat la gravò). Two works in one volume, 4to (30 x 20.5 cm), full contemporary mottled sheep, spine gilt decorated and with gilt-lettered label, edges painted red, green and red marbled endpapers. Minor to moderate rubbing, two minor holes at upper end of lower joint, some repairs to upper cover where sheep has been lost, upper hinge open but holding, lower hinge starting; except for light edge wear to last three leaves and old repair on pp. 193-194 (no losses), interior is fine, the handsome frontispiece in a strong impression. With José de Gálvez’s paraph on p. 214 and Antonio Bonilla’s on p. 7 of the second work (Bonilla was the first historian of Texas, and heavily involved in Texas matters; Handbook of Texas Online). Contemporary foliation in ink of the corresponding títulos on verso of each page. Overall a fine copy of a book printed only for the use of those involved in the industry.

     First edition of one of the most important set of laws relating to colonial Mexican mining. JCB III (2, 1772-1800) #2900. Goldsmiths’ Library 12399. Medina, Hispano-Americana 5040. Palau 251937. Sabin 56260: “A rare and valuable compendium of the old mining laws and mineral customs, printed only for the use of the parties concerned, and prepared by Josef de Gálvez. A fine engraving of the Spanish arms precedes the title-page of the Madrid edition.” For more on the importance of this work, see John Carter Brown Library exhibition, “The Great Frontier” (April, 1962), No. 26. Second work not in Medina, México.

     Divided into nineteen titles, this comprehensive overhaul of Spain’s mining laws as they relate to New Spain was an attempt to bring organization and order to an extremely important, lucrative commercial activity that had been increasing in value ever since the Conquest. The law covers all aspects of mining, including who may engage in mining, taxes and other levies, who may own mines or otherwise participate financially in them, who has jurisdiction over various mining activities and disputes, mine drainage, etc. One important aspect of the law stated that when an owner abandoned a mine, its possession reverted to the state. Another important provision was the establishment of the Real Seminario de Minería, the first mining school in Mexico. Among other provisions, title 7, article 1 provided that foreigners could not own or work mines unless they had been naturalized or obtained the king’s special license (p. 76). That attitude changed drastically after Mexican independence when the country actively sought foreign investment and involvement in its mining industry. As the developments after independence demonstrated, the state of mining in the country still left much to be desired, the industry having been basically left in ruins by the wars. At the time of this law, however, the industry was relatively productive and flourishing. According to Humboldt, Mexican mines from 1592-1803 produced a total value of over two billion pesos.

     José de Gálvez y Gallardo, Marqués de Sonora (1720-1787), was an important Spanish official in New Spain and a prime mover in the Bourbon Reforms, which included the present work. His Borderlands activities included establishment of missions in the Californias, expediting the Portola expedition to San Francisco, establishment of the naval base at San Blas, and establishment of the Provincias Internas (which included Coahuila y Tejas, Sonora and Sinaloa, the Californias, New Mexico, and Chihuahua). He also helped raise money for the American Revolution.

     Engraver José Joaquín Fabregat (c. 1748-1813) had an intimate connection to Mexico, having been ordered by the king to go to there in 1787 to assume leadership of the engraving division of the Academia de San Carlos. Fabregat instituted the highest standards for printing and engraving, introducing the most advanced techniques from Europe. His engravings are considered to this day “magníficos” and embody a refined neo-Classical style. He is one of the more important Mexican engravers of all time, and this book’s frontispiece is an excellent example of his art. (See also [MAP]. GARCÍA CONDE. Plano general de la Ciudad de México, 1807 herein).

     Spanish printer Joaquín Ibarra y Marín (1725-1785), premier printer of eighteenth-century Spain, set up shop in Madrid ca. 1749, and printed more than 2,500 titles by the time of his death (his widow continued the work of the firm). King Carlos III of Spain worked diligently to improve all industries in Spain, but especially the book arts. Ibarra was appointed Royal Printer, and under his astute and devoted direction, the Imprenta Real issued classics, literature, and liturgical works in addition to government documents. Ibarra’s masterful work benefited from the great improvements in the second half of the eighteenth century in Spanish type founding, engraving, and calligraphy.


Sold. Hammer: $900.00; Price Realized: $1,102.50.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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