Chronica de la Provincia del Santo Evangelio
Special Collections recently acquired a copy of an important 17th century religious chronicle of New Spain. Published in 1697, the Chronica de la Provincia del Santo Evangelio is the fourth part, issued separately, of Agustín de Vetancurt’s four-part Teatro Mexicano de Successos Religiosos. Chronicles such as this one are important sources of historical information about the Spanish Missions in the new world.
Vetancurt’s Chronica provides detailed descriptions of Franciscan houses and missions throughout New Spain, focusing on Mexico City and Puebla, but including areas as far away as New Mexico and California. These descriptions are of particular interest to art historians and architects, as Vetancurt includes rich details of the physical appearance of 17th century New Spain churches and convents. Cultural and religious historians may also be intrigued by his detailed documentation of apparitions of the Virgin across the provinces. Vetancurt concludes his volume with a menology or calendar of the months of Franciscans, including the stories of those who were martyrs, and a biographical list of bishops, writers, and other notable figures of New Spain.
Vetancurt’s Chronica is also of interest as an example of late 17th century printing in New Spain. During this century, the older styles of typefaces seen in European incunables and earlier printed works began to be replaced by roman styles, which are similar to many fonts still in use today. In contrast to the trend towards simplified lines in typefaces, the 17th century saw an increase in the complexity of woodcuts and printer’s ornaments used to provide decoration. The Chronica is not an extreme example of this trend, but the detailed border on the title page and the entwined curls of printer’s ornaments used to open or close chapters do show a baroque tendency.
Also of interest is the fact that the Chronica was printed by one of Mexico City’s notable woman printers, Maria de Benevides, the widow of printer Juan de Ribera. During the 17th century, edition binding was not yet commonly practiced. Instead, individuals or institutions that purchased books commissioned the binding. Our copy was bound in a simple case-binding of vellum over boards, perhaps on behalf of the Augustinian monastic library of Morelia, whose ownership is decalared on the back of the title page in an 18th century hand.