Item #4877 Confessionario mayor, en la lengua mexicana y castellana. Alonso de Molina, 1513 or 1514 – 1579 or 1585.
Confessionario mayor, en la lengua mexicana y castellana.
Confessionario mayor, en la lengua mexicana y castellana.
Confessionario mayor, en la lengua mexicana y castellana.
Confessionario mayor, en la lengua mexicana y castellana.
Confessionario mayor, en la lengua mexicana y castellana.
Confessionario mayor, en la lengua mexicana y castellana.
Confessionario mayor, en la lengua mexicana y castellana.
Confessionario mayor, en la lengua mexicana y castellana.
Confessionario mayor, en la lengua mexicana y castellana.
Confessionario mayor, en la lengua mexicana y castellana.
Confessionario mayor, en la lengua mexicana y castellana.
Confessionario mayor, en la lengua mexicana y castellana.
Confessionario mayor, en la lengua mexicana y castellana.
Confessionario mayor, en la lengua mexicana y castellana.
Confessionario mayor, en la lengua mexicana y castellana.
Confessionario mayor, en la lengua mexicana y castellana.
Confessionario mayor, en la lengua mexicana y castellana.
Confessionario mayor, en la lengua mexicana y castellana.
Confessionario mayor, en la lengua mexicana y castellana.
Confessionario mayor, en la lengua mexicana y castellana.

Confessionario mayor, en la lengua mexicana y castellana.

Mexico: Por Antonio de Espinosa, 15 May, 1565.

Price: $70,000.00

Quarto: 20.6 x 15 cm. 120 (of 121), [1] (of 3) leaves. Collation: a-p8, q4. Lacking leaves f4 and q2-q3.

FIRST EDITION.

Bound in contemporary limp vellum (soiled and stained, defects to spine). A slightly defective copy, lacking three leaves (1 text leaf and 2 index lvs.), as noted above. The text is in overall good condition, lightly browned, with scattered minor stains, and with defects as follows: The title page has been crudely repaired with cello-tape along the lower margin, covering the imprint, with 4 letters of the printer’s name defective; fraying, small tears, and marginal glue-stain to the same leaf. Marginal fraying to the first gathering, t.p., marginal glue stain to lvs. 17 and 59; damp-stains on lvs. 60-61, 68, 69 and 111-113; leaf 73 with small marginal hole; small nicks to lvs. 16, 74 and 76. Leaf 92 with a tear; f5 with defects in inner margin, m4 and p7 with marginal tears. Unidentified marca de fuego on the leading edge of the text block.

Very rare. I have traced the following copies in the United States: Indiana, JCB, NYPL (2 copies, 2nd copy lacking 2 lvs.), UCLA (lacking 39 lvs.), Claremont Colleges (lacking 8 lvs., including t.p.), Newberry (lacking 1 leaf), Tulane (2 copies). The 1578 edition is rarer. The 1569 edition exists in only a few copies.

Title page printed in red and black, with a large woodcut of the Crucifixion. The text is illustrated with small woodcuts on 27 pages, including an eight-headed monster (introducing the 7 mortal sins) and a woman at confession with a demon on her shoulder.

First edition of this important confessor’s manual, with parallel text in Nahuatl and Spanish, “destined for the Nahua penitents, literate Nahuas, and preachers and confessors with experience in dealing with their indigenous flock."(Díaz Balsera, p. 125) The author, Alonso de Molina, was one of the most prominent figures in Nahuatl studies in the sixteenth century. [He] arrived in Mexico possibly around 1524 and grew up in close contact with indigenous children, thus learning Nahuatl and Spanish almost simultaneously.”(Ibid.)

“[The book] includes guidelines and questions the priests should ask Indigenous congregants to assess their understanding of confession, baptism, marriage, and doctrine (i.e. Ten Commandments and seven mortal sins). There is also a section for scribes writing last wills and testaments with an example based on an Indigenous couple from Texcoco.”(Primeros Libros)

Molina’s “Confessionario” contains a good deal of information on Indigenous culture, including religion, marriage, sexual practices, and the use of hallucinogenic mushrooms and psychedelic ololiuhqui seeds (“Have you ever eaten the little mushrooms (nanácatl) that make you inebriated, or have you ever drunk that beverage they call ‘ololiuhqui’? And did it make you lose your judgment?”(f. 82v.) See the section “Indigenous Culture” below.

The book was printed by the founder and type cutter Antonio de Espinosa -the first Spanish printer in the Americas and founder of the second New World press. Before coming to Mexico, Espinosa had worked in Spain for the printer Juan Canalla. In 1551, he came to the New World to work as a founder and type-cutter for the printer Juan Pablos. When Pablos’ monopoly on printing ended in 1554, Espinosa established his own press in Calle de S. Agustín. The colophon of the “Confessionario Mayor” gives Espinosa’s address: “en casa de Antonio de Espinosa impressor de libros, junto a la yglesia de señor Sant' Augustin.”

For an account of this press, see Nuria Lorente Queralt, “La apertura del segundo taller de imprenta en México: Antonio de Espinosa y el desarrollo de la tipografía americana”, Artifara 20.1 (2020), pp. 23-34. For the types used in the printing of the "Confessionario mayor", see Rodríguez Domíngues, “La imprenta en Mexico en el siglo XVI”(2018), p. 239-41

“[Molina explains in his dedicatory epistle] that he has been moved to write his two bilingual confession manuals in order to instruct the ministers of the church in the ways of Nahuatl and the natives in important matters pertaining to confession:

‘And so that the Ministers know the proper and natural words that are required to ask and understand in the administration of the Sacrament of Penance... it is necessary to apprehend the true knowledge and force of the word and the way of speaking that [the natives] have -which many ministers lack- even though they speak the language and are learned... and useful and necessary matters for the penitents, so that they know how to confess and declare their sins and their circumstances.’

“In the colonial context of the New World the ministers of penance also had to become linguists, ‘nahuatlatos’, very learned in the Nahuatl language… Full and thorough knowledge of the meaning of the penitent's words was necessary in order to ask the proper questions and understand the answers. For even though many ministers knew Nahuatl in a grammatically correct way, they were ignorant of the moods, the specific contexts, and the inflections of the language the natives used. This prevented confessor and penitent from adequately comprehending each other. On the other hand, the penitent's desire to confess and even to repent his sins needed to be declared in an appropriate way.”(Díaz Balsera, The Pyramid under the Cross, p. 125 ff.)

Indigenous Culture:

Molina’s Nahuatl “Confessionale” contains valuable information on Indigenous religion, customs, and economics, making it “not only useful for the study of a distinct indigenous language but also for increasing or confirming our knowledge in distinct spheres of pre-contact and Spanish colonial history.”(Moreno)

The confessor is instructed to ask specific questions that relate directly to Indigenous culture. For example:

“Do you believe in dreams? Or by chance do you take as omens the witch-owl [la Lechuza], the owl, the weasel, the pinauiztli and tlalácatl beetles, the skunk that sprayed in your house, or the threads of the cobwebs when sometimes they pass by your eyes [sic], or when your eyelids tremble, when you hiccup, or when you sneeze? Did you also take the fire as an omen when the flame or the wood makes a loud noise or did you make a new fire when you first moved into your house?

Another example of questions about the first commandment:

“Did you perhaps worship any creature (or the sun, the moon or the stars, etc.) as a goddess?... Do you still have any image of the devil stored away or do you know that someone else has one hidden?... Did you invoke some demon? Or did some other person invoke him before you and you did not hinder him or accuse him before the Holy Mother Church? . .. Did you offer [the idol] any offering or give him any present or put any incense, or cut papers, or kill any animal in front of him?… Did you ever call a sorcerer to cast lots for you or to cast some spells on your body?... or did you call him to reveal to you what you had lost, or did he divine in front of you looking into water?

Some questions refer to rites and customs of marriage: “or by chance did you perform with them [the bride and groom] some of the superstitions that you used to do, by putting them in the home together, tying their blankets together? and sprinkling incense there?” (The foregoing has been translated and adapted from Roberto Moreno de los Arcos’ introduction to the facsimile edition (Mexico, 1984), p. 17-19)

The section on the Seventh Commandment (Thou shalt not steal) is valuable for information on Indigenous economy and trades. For instance, there is the interrogation of the cacao seller:

“Auh yn ticacauanamacac, yn aqualli mocacauauh, aço ticnenelo yuan yn aqualli, ynic ticcepanaquitia, ynic teca timocacayahua? Auh yn xoxouhqui cacauatl aço ticnexuia, aço tictiçauia, inic tiqualnextia [sic], anoço tzoualli ytic tictlalia yn iyeuayo cacauatl, anoço auacayollotli, ynic çan ticchichiua cacauatl? Auh yn tepitoton, yn patzauac cacauatl, aço tiquicequi, ynic tichueueylia, ynic neciz ca chamauac?”

“And you seller of cacao, did you mix your poor cacao with the good in order to place them together and deceive others. And the green cacao, did you cover it with ashes or chalk so that you caused it to appear good, or you place amaranth paste inside the skin of the cacao or a paste of avocado pits in order to merely fix up the cacao? And the small, cloudy cacao beans, did you roast them in order to augment them and so that they will appear larger?”(translation by Mark Z. Christensen).

JCB Lib. cat., pre-1675, I: 229; Medina, Mexico, 49; García Icazbalceta, Bib. mexicana 44; Sabin 49871; Palau y Dulcet (2. ed.) 174363; Viñaza, Bibl. lenguas indígenas, 41; Ugarte, Catálogo 245; Valtón, Impresos mexicanos 9; Pilling 2606