Learning the Mixe Language - A Manual for Confessors - Printed in Puebla by Catalina Cerezo

AMERICAS. MEXICO. Quintana, Augustin de (ca. 1660-1734)

Confessonario [sic] en lengua Mixe, con una construccion de las oraciones de la Doctrina Christiana, y vn compendio de voces mixes, para enseñarse â prononciar la dicha lengua

Puebla: Por la Viuda de Miguel de Ortega, 1733


Quarto: 20.5 x 14.5 cm. [16], 148, [4] p. Collation: π4, ¶4, A-T4

FIRST EDITION, printed by Catalina Cerezo.

An extremely fine copy bound on contemporary vellum (remains of ties, small defects to vellum at fore-edge of lower board and foot of spine.) The text is in excellent, bright condition (a few light marginal stains, first three lvs. with minute marginal wormhole, tiny paper defect on leaf H2.) Woodcut of Saint Vincent Ferrer with angel's wings on title verso, Emblem of the Order of Santo Domingoon leaf Q2v, elaborate half-page woodcut device on final leaf (T4v). Preliminaries in Spanish; text in Spanish and Mixe in parallel columns. A lovely copy of this important book. Rare. 5 U.S. copies:  NYPL, UC Berkeley, Harvard, JCB, Penn.

First edition of this important confessors' manual, in Mixe and Spanish, by Agustin de Quintana, "a native of Oajaca, and labored for 28 years as a missionary among the Mijes Indians, whose difficult dialect he perfectly mastered' (Sabin)Remarkably, Quintana stresses that the main objective of writing his 'Confessario' was not 'to teach morality', but'to teach the Mixe language.'

"Born in Mexico, in Antequera, the capital of Oaxaca around 1660, Augustin de Quintana entered the Dominican order (O.P.) in 1688 and was sent to the missions of the Mixe people. Quintana tells his readers in the prologue of the Instrucción Christiana that he spent his entire youth in the Nación Mixe (“passê toda mi juventud”), i.e. 28 years in total. He was appointed superior of the convent of Zacavilla and for reasons of health, he retired to the convent of the Dominicans in Antequera where he completed his work on and in the Mixe language. Three printed works have been conserved 'Instrucción Christiana' and 'Doctrina Christiana' both published in 1729 and the 'Confessonario', which appeared in 1733."

"Quintana's 'Confessonario' has a first section in Spanish and Mixe in parallel columns, followed by a section with texts in Mixe with a detailed line-by-line analysis in Spanish. At the end of the volume a Mixe vocabulary is appended (p. 125-148, 'Compendio de vozes mixes util para comenzar a estudiar la lengua mixe'), which also contains information related to pronunciation and phonology. As the titles indicate, the work is particularly directed towards beginners.

"It is remarkable that Quintana informs his readers explicitly why he wrote his 'Confessonario'. As we may expect, these texts were made primarily for the missionaries in order to preach or to listen to the confessions of the indigenous people. Quintana stresses that the main objective of writing his 'Confessario' was not 'to teach morality', but 'to teach the Mixe language.' Apparently, the examples of confessions could be increased, and therefore they have to be seen as ancillary tools in the acquisition of Mixe. Therefore, Quintana observes that he has not put 'all in it, which must be asked, but rather the Mixe phrases that can be used, 'mutatis mutandis,' for asking everything one desires.

"An interesting feature of the Confessonario is that the indigenous language is the source text, which is translated ‘as well as possible’: “Confessonario en lengua Mixe. El qual, primero se hizo en la Lengua al modo de los Naturales, y despues se traduxo en Castellano, del mejor modo possible" (p. 1; emphasis is mine). Apparently, Quintana did not only try to find the best translation of Spanish religious terms into Mixe, but also concluded that the translation must be the best possible rather than being perfect, admitting that certain concepts were at least partially untranslatable. The Mixe text must be natural, and the Spanish version was only added as a tool for the missionary who teaches or learns Mixe. Quintana warned his readers that the Spanish and Mixe texts could not correspond precisely, although they did so in substance. He observes that even St. Augustine used ‘barbarisms’ when necessary for a better understanding of the Christian message. It is better for the grammarian to be criticized than for the ignorant not to understand. He goes on to say that the Spanish in the translations is extremely ‘vulgar, coarse and crude’ (“llano, tosco, y basto”) and that its syntax is often ‘in the Indian style’: perhaps the translations will be found ridiculous, but Quintana would prefer to be ridiculous than to neglect his missionary duty." (Zwartjes, "The Missionaries' contributions to translation studies in the Spanish colonial period", in Missionary Linguistics V, 2014, p. 27-32)

About the printer, Catalina Cerezo:

"Miguel Ortega y Bonilla began printing in Mexico in October 1711. By 1712 he was established in Puebla, having purchased the printing press of Diego Fernández de León. In 1715, the press, located in the Portal de las Flores, was taken over by Ortega y Bonilla's widow, Catalina Cerezo. Cerezo operated as the only printer in Puebla until 1723, when she was forced to compete with Francisco Javier de Morales. Around 1722, in order to modernize her workshop, Cerezo purchased from Gabriel de Rivera y Calderón (from the dynasty of printers of the same surname) a printing press that he bought in Mexico from the heirs of Juan Guillena Carrascoso. Cerezo worked until her death in 1758, having been in charge of the workshop for (coincidentally, like Paula Benavides) 43 years. Among the books printed by her, mention should be made of the 'Margarita Seráfica' of Fray José de los Reyes. The press continued with the imprint 'Heirs of the Widow of Miguel de Ortega' from 1773 to 1777. The press came into the possession of Pedro de la Rosa, who had married Cerezo's daughter."(Freely translated from Gravier, ¿Ornamentos tipográficos? las mujeres en el mundo del libro antiguo. Algunas noticias biobibliográficas.)

Medina, Imprenta en la Puebla de los Angeles (1640-1821), 399; Viñaza, Bibliografía española de lenguas indígenas de América, 301; Palau y Dulcet, Manual del librero hispano-americano (2. ed.), 244703; Sabin, Dictionary of books relating to America from its discovery to the present time, 67320