Circulation of Popular Normative Literature in Spanish America, c. 1650–1750

Sunday, January 7, 2018: 11:40 AM
Madison Room B (Marriott Wardman Park)
Otto Danwerth, Max-Planck-Institut für Europäische Rechtsgeschichte
The circulation and implementation of religious pragmatic texts contributed to the establishment of knowledge regimes in early modern Spanish America. Manuals of moral theology, catechisms and other ‘popular’ genres applied especially in missionary contexts were central media for the diffusion of normative orders in an emerging empire. In order to evaluate their dispersion in the New World during the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, this study examines a vast multidisciplinary bibliography on the production, possession, and circulation of books, as well as archival sources related to New Spain (Mexico), Peru, and New Granada (Colombia). This type of approach is necessary for such a “normative mapping of entanglements”.

In my paper, I evaluate the different types of popular literature found in personal and institutional libraries in the mid-colonial period and ask how they circulated. The trans-Atlantic book trade and controlled importation of books from Seville are key factors in this study; American printing presses supplied only a small percentage of books at that time. Whereas the research on the book possession of bishops, friars and priests, of colonial authorities, and of settlers offers rich material, research on the book collections of institutions and corporations –such as monasteries, Jesuit colleges and universities, as well as parishes and missions– is not that advanced. I examine the library catalogues of institutions and personal book inventories from individuals that lived in different Ibero-American regions in order to grasp the importance of circulating popular normative books and manuscripts for the creation of knowledge structures, especially missionary ones, in the imperial contexts of mid-colonial Spanish America.