With an Engraving of Souls in Purgatory & An Unusual Woodcut Icon - A Rare Manila Imprint - Printed on the Franciscan Press

Boneta y Laplana, José (1638-1714)

Gritos del Purgatorio, y Medios para acallarlos.

Manila: Convento de N. P. S. Francisco por Francisco de los Santos, 1711


Quarto: 19.7 x 14.1 cm. [16], 244 [i. e., 251], [13]; 24 pages. Collation: π4, Oo4, A-Z4, Aa-Nn4.

FIRST PHILIPPINES EDITION. (1st ed. Zaragosa 1675).

Bound in contemporary stiff vellum, title written on the spine. A very good copy with the added engraved plate showing souls in Purgatory. Clean tear in Gg2, no loss. Occ. light marginal staining, one signature loose. A few interesting attempts to mend the sewing in a few signatures (one involving tying a tiny twig into the gutter.) With three intact fabric (silk?) place-markers, two of them with a floral pattern, all three with silver wire at the ends. Four woodcuts in the text (two busts of Jesus in profile, the winged head of a cherub, and a naïve image of two Franciscan priests within a church, kneeling before a statue of Jesus on an altar.) The image of the Franciscans kneeling in prayer is both instructional (showing the attitude of prayer to be adopted by the reader) and serves also as icon before which the faithful are to recite prayers in order to earn their indulgences. (See below.)

The engraving shows souls in the flames of Purgatory, pictured as a sort of open chasm, with their cries going up to the Virgin and Child, who hover on a cloud above the sea and lands that could very well represent the Philippines. 

Written by the Zaragosan theologian and philosopher José Boneta y Laplana, “The Screams of Purgatory and How to Silence Them” enjoyed great success both in Europe and in Spain’s overseas possessions, with editions appearing in both Mexico and the Philippines. 

The book was printed by the Franciscans on their press at the convent of Dilao, a district of Manila, by Brother Francisco de los Santos. The “Approbación” explicitly authorizes the printing of editions in both Spanish and Tagalog (though the latter was never accomplished.) Perez and Güemes note that manuscript versions of the text exist in both Tagalog and Ilokano but neither was published “acaso por falta de facilidades y recursos.”

Among the important authorities on the subject, Boneta cites the revelations of Lutgarde, Birgitta, and Catherine of Siena. As an example to be followed when practicing penance, Boneta “presented the nun Francisca as a model for pious Christians. She covered her body with ‘beads and medals’ and counted every step she took. She offered up her steps to Christ every time she reached the number 33 in honor of the number of years he had resided on earth. She fasted on bread and water, disciplined her flesh until it bled, and wore hair shirts.”(Larkin)

On the title page, the Archbishop of Manila, Francisco de la Cuesta (1661-1724), announces a 40-day Indulgence to those who read the book. At the end of the volume the reader is provided with a novena for the souls in Purgatory.

An “Instructional” Icon:

Toward the end of the volume are printed the 9 prayers of Gregory the Great that (by a decree of Pope Innocent VIII) may be recited to earn indulgences as follows: Each day, 14,185,149 years of indulgence; each Friday, double that amount; and on Holy Fridays, 8 plenary indulgences. The illiterate, who cannot read the prescribed prayers in the text, may instead recite Pater Nosters and Ave Marias. 

The 9 prayers of Gregory were to be recited on ones knees before an image of Jesus with the “Arma Christi”, the instruments of the Passion. According to the printed instructions, the accompanying woodcut of priests kneeling in prayer before a statue of Jesus with the “Arma Christi” is to be used for that purpose. In an interesting twist, the woodcut also demonstrates the attitude of prayer to be adopted whilel praying.

Perez-Güemes, Adiciones y continuación de"La imprenta en Manila", 455 (not noting the plate); this edition not in Palau, CCPBE, or OCLC. Larkin, “The Very Nature of God: Baroque Catholicism and Religious Reform in Bourbon Mexico City”, p. 56