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The Spanish Inquisition Comes to Mexico

CATHOLIC CHURCH. INQUISITION. [Caption title] Nos Don [blank] hazemos saber a todos, los vecinos moradores de toda; las ciudades, villas, y lugares de todo este obispado.... [colophon] En Mexico, en casa de Pedro Ocharte: por mando del illustre señor maestro fray Bartholome de Ledesma, administrador en este Arçobispado po: el Reuerendissimo del. [Mexico: Pedro Ocharte, 1569-1571]. Broadside: 51 x 36 cm (untrimmed). Professionally washed, deacidified, and stabilized, with sections of worm loss supplied in expert facsimile. A very good copy of this rare broadside.

First edition. JCB, Additions, p. 12. Palau 226977. Valtón 16. Wagner, Huntington 61a (but a photostat). Not in Medina (Mexico), Medina (BHA), or Izcalbaceta.

Very rare. Only three other copies located: the John Carter Brown Library (imperfect), the Mexican National Library (stained), and one in a 1986 Sotheby’s sale (present location unknown). OCLC 822038578 locates only the JCB copy. The copy in 1986 at Sotheby’s from a private collection is the only known copy for sale in the past 35 years. It was stained and had slight losses from worming.

The date of publication is problematic. Pius V’s decree was issued in Europe in April 1569 and supposedly would have arrived in New Spain a few months thereafter. One assumes that it would have been published fairly promptly, as orders from Spain usually were. Unfortunately, the date line is blank in all known copies. Because the Inquisition in Mexico did not take any actions until 1571, the publication dates assigned are usually 1569-71. (For further discussion, see Lawrence C. Wroth, JCB Annual Report for 1940, pp. 52-54.) However, the Inquisition published its Reglas y Constituciones in Mexico in 1569 (Medina, Mexico 863), arguing for a 1569 publication date for this broadside, which probably would have preceded any such further publication; thereafter, Inquisition publications began to follow regularly.

This is the document that introduced the Spanish Inquisition into the New World, setting up seats in Mexico City and Lima, Peru. Divided thematically into two sections, the first is Pius V’s order concerning the Inquisition, and the second is the order introducing the Inquisition into New Spain, noting that the original order was faithfully translated from the original Latin so that it might be understood by everyone.

An interesting backstory on this publication concerns its printer. Hardly had it been published than, in 1571, Ocharte himself was swept up in the first Inquisition wave on suspicion of heresy. According to Medina, he was accused of allegedly having read an unnamed book and declared that one should pray to God alone and to no other religious figure, thereby negating the efficacy of prayers to the Virgin Mary and the saints. He was imprisoned for a year and apparently tortured before finally being exonerated and allowed to resume printing, which he did not do until several years after his release. As was typical with many Inquisition inquiries, Ocharte was probably ratted out by someone who overheard him.


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