Make a Joyful Noise unto the Lord, or Else

Rare Palafoxiana

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478. PALAFOX Y MENDOZA, Juan de. Reglas y Ordenanzas del choro de esta Santa Iglesia Cathedral de la Pvebla de Los Angeles. Segunda impression. Con licencia de el ordinario en la Pvebla de Los Angeles, en la imprenta de D. Joseph Perez. Año de 1711. Puebla de los Angeles: Joseph Pérez, 1711. [2], 1-38 pp. (p. 37 misnumbered 7), title within ornamental border with elaborate woodcut of the Virgin on verso. 8vo (19.5 x 13.8 cm), original plain wrappers, original stitching. Except for two small worm holes in lower and right blank margins well away from text, and a minor paper flaw touching a few letters on pp. 3/4, very fine, fresh, original condition. Very rare. Only two other known originals are in the Medina collection in the National Library of Chile and UIUC; no copy of the first edition is known and only three of the third.

     Second edition (first edition Puebla, 1648; third edition Puebla, 1736). Andrade 2662 (listing only the third edition, 1736). Medina, Puebla de los Angeles 266. Palau 209707. Sabin 66575 (listing only the third edition, 1736).

     Originally issued August 25, 1648, these rules reflect a sometimes unruly cathedral choir that seems at times to have sunk to the behavior level of eight-year-olds. Apparently this renewed admonishment may not have had the intended result, because the rules were issued again in 1736. The main part of the text (pp. 1-23) consists of 73 rules; the second section (pp. 24-33) relates to the interaction of the choir and various mass celebrants; the third section (pp. 34-36) gives specific dress rules for certain ceremonies; and the final section (pp. 37-38) states the starting times of various services.

     Although a dignified, well-ordered cathedral choir might seem like a given, considering the gravity and solemnity of the services, one is surprised to find rules against talking during mass, passing notes, being late, leaving early, cutting up by making jokes or causing mischief, and disrespecting the choirmaster. One rule even contemplates those who malinger by feigning illness. The last section is also somewhat startling in that it is clearly a reminder to one and all of the exact times when various services commence and clearly implies that punctuality was a problem, containing such obvious reminders that certain services start at the same time all year long. Despite long-standing church practice dating back hundreds of years, some people apparently could not, for example, keep it in their heads that matins started at 4:00 a.m.

     Palafox issued these rules originally with the obvious intent of regulating the choir that would perform in the new Puebla cathedral, which he saw completed and dedicated on April 18, 1649. It would seem that the bishop either already had problems with the choir or was doing his best to obviate them before they arose. That his successors had to issue them two more times decades after his death implies that all was not necessarily solemnity and dignity during the services at Puebla cathedral. Palafox himself must have been personally stung by any misbehavior given his important place in securing for his diocese the reputation as the musical capital of New Spain. That so distinguished a musician as his maestro de capilla, Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla, could potentially be subject to disrespect from his own choir must have been doubly upsetting.

     Palafox y Mendoza (1600-1659) was one of the leading religious, political, and intellectual figures in New Spain, even serving for a time as Viceroy. He is well known for his kind treatment of the Natives, a practice that brought him into conflict with the Jesuits. Despite his obvious attainments and piety, he was not beatified until 2011.


Sold. Hammer: $650.00; Price Realized: $796.25.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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