empiresspanish americana




Maury A. Bromsen was primarily a Latin Americanist. His legacy includes Guatemalan and Colombian as well as Mexican and Peruvian imprints, several of which are extraordinarily rare, and all of which substantially bolster the John Carter Brown Library’s holdings. The Traduccion de la Clementina printed in what is now Antigua, Guatemala in 1758 is the only known copy in the world. Cayteano Francos y Monroy’s 1780 sermon in honor of Saint Augustine is apparently held by only one other library.

Several European Americana are also displayed, beginning with Paolo Giovio’s 1577 picture book of famous men, Musaei louiani imagines, that includes “portraits” of Hernán Cortés and Christopher Columbus. One of the most widely read novels of the eighteenth century was Mme. de Grafigny’s Letters from a Peruvian woman. Grafigny’s novel has little to do with the Andes, but is a prime example of misinformation that circulated in Europe about South America and is a classic example of early literature regarding the liberation of women.

Two of the Peruvian imprints are also exceptionally scarce: the 1779 Auto del Real Acuerdo sobre la reconquista de las misiones del Zerro de la Sal (two other known copies) and the 1771 Un amante, rendido capellan del excelentisimo señor D. Manuel de Amat y Junient, virey de estos reynos(one other known copy). The Auto del Real Acuerdo is bound with the personal paper of Juan José Abella Fuertes, a little known colonial military officer and bureaucrat instrumental in the recovery of the Provinces of Tarma and Jauja in Peru, lost during the Juan Santos Atahualpa’s rebellion 30 years earlier.

Because of the Bromsen bequest, the John Carter Brown now holds more early Colombiana than any other library, including twenty-five Bogotá imprints. Among these is the previously unregistered 1813 sermon by Juan Agustín Estévez, the first item known to have been published in Tunja.

Paolo Giovio


Giovio, Paolo, 1483-1552. Musaei louiani imagines artifice manu ad viuum expressae. (Basel, 1577). [B07-451]

This picture book reproduces 134 woodcut illustrations of famous men of history, from the legendary Romulus, the founder of Rome, through the Florentine financier, merchant, politician, and diplomat Niccolò Capponi (1473–1529), with brief captions in Latin. Interestingly enough, the current Count Niccolò Capponi, a direct descendant, is a distinguished historian. Displayed here is Giovio’s “portrait” of Hernán Cortés (1485–1547), the conqueror of Mexico, in which he looks more like a German burgher than a Spaniard.



Vaca de Guzmán, José María. Las naves de Cortés destruidas. Canto premiado por la Real Academia Española. (Madrid, [1778]). [B07-27]

In prize-winning verse Vaca de Guzmán celebrates Hernán Cortés’s destruction of his ships, with one exception, on the shores of the recently founded Veracruz (originally Villa Rica de Vera Cruz) in 1519 so that none of his followers could desert and make their way back to Cuba or one of the other Caribbean islands. The exception was the ship that Cortés dispatched with emissaries to “Old” Spain to present his case at court as the rightful conqueror of New Spain. Vaca de Guzmán also extols Cortés’s multiple “virtues” and his feats as a conquistador par excellence.



Genovese, José María. Semana Sagrada para el culto, veneracion, y amor de la Santissima Trinidad, de Christo Sacramentado. (Mexico, 1749). [B07-49]

This work appeared under the pseudonym of Ignacio Tomay. It is a classic example of the devotional literature that was produced in Mexico during the colonial period. Genovese’s “Holy Week” was so popular that it was reprinted eleven years later in Madrid. The Bromsen copy originated in the archives or library of the former Hieronymite Convent of San Lorenzo (1598–1867) in Mexico City.

Traduccion de la Clementina


Traduccion de la Clementina unica en el titulo de las reliquias, y veneracion de los sa[n]tos por la qual se ma[n]da guardar la constitucion en que se estableció la solemnidad del dia del Santissimo Cuerpo de N. Sr. Jesu-Christo Sacramentado, y se imprimió á costa de la Archicofradia de esta Ciudad de Guatemala. (Guatemala City, 1758). [B07-600]

Although confraternities have long been recognized as major vehicles for the preservation of community resources (especially indigenous), as mutual aid societies, and as agencies of social control, they remain poorly known. In large part this is because printed and manuscript materials regarding the multiple confraternities established in the colonies are scarce or scattered, or are in ecclesiastical archives that remain closed to researchers. This piece concerns the celebration of the feast of Corpus Christi, to which the Archconfraternity of the Cathedral of Guatemala City was devoted. This is the only known copy and one of a significant number of Guatemala imprints left to the JCB by Maury A. Bromsen.

Cayetano Francos y Monroy


Francos y Monroy, Cayetano. Sermon que el ilustrisimo señor Dn. Cayetano Francos y Monroy, arzobispo de Guatemala, predicó en la Iglesia de RR. PP. Augustinos Calzados, a su glorioso patriarca, en la Nueva Ciudad a 28. de agosto de 1780. ([Guatemala, 1780]). [B07-604]

Although this sermon in honor of Saint Augustine might strike some as yet another in the seemingly never-ending series of homilies that came off the presses of Spanish America during the colonial period, it cannot be overemphasized that sermons are an important source for reconstructing and understanding the mentalities of New World peoples. They are also indispensable sources for reconstructing the lives of those who delivered them, in this case one of the most important archbishops of Guatemala, Cayetano Francos y Monroy (d. 1792), who was instrumental in the transfer of the ecclesiastical as well as civil seat of government from Antigua to “New Guatemala” in 1779, following the destruction of “Old Guatemala” in the earthquake of 1773. This title is apparently held by only one other library, the Biblioteca Nacional de Chile.

Miguel Gonzalez


González, Miguel. Memoria sobre el estado actual del comercio de Guatemala. (Guatemala, 1823). [B07-552]

This treatise is a major assessment of the state of the commerce of Guatemala (then corresponding to all of Central America except for Belize), following its independence from Spain. It was written by Miguel González Valenzuela, a Spanish merchant so firmly entrenched in local society that he was one of the few Spaniards not expelled from the former colony. This important “think piece” on the economy of Central America during the early nineteenth century has been reproduced in microfilm and as an electronic resource. The printer was Ignacio Beteta, himself a leading member of literary and reform circles in Guatemala during the late colonial, independence, and early national periods. Beteta is best known as the editor of Central America’s first newspaper, Gazeta de Guatemala (1794–1812).

Mme de Grafigny


Grafigny, Mme de (Françoise d’Issembourg d’Happoncourt), 1695–1758. Lettres d’une péruvienne, avec la traduction italienne. (London, 1795). [B07-350]

Françoise de Grafigny’s Letters from a Peruvian woman, originally published in 1747, was one of the most popular novels of the eighteenth century. Now largely forgotten, it went through more than 130 editions in multiple languages. A bold critique of French society of the first half of the eighteenth century, its heroine Zilia, nominally an Inca ñusta or princess, was in reality a spokesperson for Grafigny herself. The author drew her inspiration for Zilia from the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega’s early seventeenth-century Royal commentaries of the Incas and general history of Peru. Lettres d’une péruvienne is represented here in the original French and an Italian translation, with the French and Italian on facing pages.

Peru (viceroyalty)


Peru (Viceroyalty). Real Acuerdo de Justicia. Auto del Real Acuerdo sobre la reconquista de las misiones del Zerro de la Sal. ([Lima, 1779]). [B07-53-3]

The missions in the Provinces of Tarma and Jauja in eastern Peru were lost to Spanish and Franciscan control for thirty or more years during and following the Rebellion of Juan Santos Atahualpa (1742–1756), a precursor movement to the later and better known uprisings of Tupac Amaru and Tupac Katari in the highlands of Peru and Bolivia (1780–1782). The piece exhibited is bound with personal papers of Juan José Abella Fuertes, the Spanish army officer who was instrumental in the pacification and resettlement of Tarma and Jauja in the 1780s. These materials illuminate a little known episode in the history of Peru as well as the life and career of the unstudied Abella Fuertes.

Un amante


Un amante, rendido capellan del excelentìsimo señor D. Manuel de Amat y Junient, virey de estos reynos, hizo en su celebridad, con los mismos consonantes, otras tantas dècimas como las que escribiò el comandante general de guerra don Ignacio de Escandon. ([Lima, 1771]). [B07-605]

Colonial period rulers had their “yes men” too. One such was the “chaplain” who penned these sycophantic verses in honor of the Viceroy of Peru Manuel de Amat y Junient (1707–1782). José Toribio Medina, who saw this piece in a private library in Buenos Aires, attributed its authorship to Ignacio de Escandón, upon his promotion to the rank of coronel. Why then did the author identify himself as a “chaplain,” and therefore a priest? And would a military officer have had the temerity to use the informal form of address (“tu” in Spanish) with his commander-in-chief? Be that as it may, this scarce piece adds to the already substantial holdings of JCB Peruviana, and constitutes a significant source for the study of one of the most important viceroys of the late colonial period and of the Baroque literature of the time. Only one other library is known for certain to hold a copy of this piece.



Moya y Melgar, Manuel de, b. 1680. Novena. De Nuestra Señora de Loreto, venerada con especial culto, en la Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesus de Popayán. (Bogotá, 1739). [B07-35]

The John Carter Brown Library’s pre-1810 holdings of Colombiana were previously few, consisting of only eight items. Now the Library holds 25 Santa Fé de Bogotá imprints—more early Colombiana than any other repository in the world—seventeen of which come from the Bromsen legacy. Several of these imprints are exceptionally scarce. One of these is Father Manuel de Moya y Melgar’s novena in honor of Our Lady of Loreto, venerated in the Jesuit church in Popayán in southern Colombia. It is the fifth item known to have been published by the first press in Colombia, the Imprenta de la Compañía de Jesús. One other copy may exist, in a Carmelite convent in Quito, Ecuador, but it was last seen sixty years ago.

Juan Agustin Estevez


Estévez, Juan Agustín. Sermon predicado en la Iglesia Mayor de la capital de la Republica de Tunja con motivo de la solemne funcion de la conquista. (Tunja, 1813). [B07-641]

Father Juan Agustín Estévez was one of the signers of the first constitution of Colombia (1811). The title of the sermon he preached in Tunja, the temporary capital of independent New Granada, on Aug. 6, 1813—the fourth year of Colombia’s “liberty”—would seem to indicate that he was a royalist. But in this sermon he castigates the conquistadors for having violated God’s law in imposing themselves on the innocent inhabitants of the New World. Not even the nominal conversion of the Indians to Christianity justified the Conquest in Estévez’s eyes. He also employed this sermon to promote the cause of American liberty: “Haced pues la guerra del Señor; vuestra libertad es su causa.” [Make the Lord’s war, your freedom is his cause.] This sermon was issued by the “Imprenta del Congreso de la N[ueva] G[ranada] por el C[iudadano] Joaquin Bernardo Moreno Octubre 1º. de 1813.” This previously unknown piece apparently constitutes the first item to have been published in Tunja.

New Granada. Viceroy


New Granada. Viceroy (1803–1810 : Amar y Borbón). Don Antonio Amar y Borbon ... teniente general de los reales exércitos, virey gobernador y capitan general del Nuevo Reyno de Granada ... A los señores regente y oydores de esta real audiencia pretorial. ([Bogotá, 1809]). [B07-556]

This decree prohibited the importation, distribution, and reading of any seditious literature regarding the “subversive” junta formed in neighboring Quito on 10 Aug. 1809. It also prohibited writings derogatory to Ferdinand VII and Spain, or laudatory of Napoleon.



Kalendarium Romanum Seraphicum ad usum trium Ordinum S.P.N. Francisci, in hac alma Provincia Assumptionis Deiparae Paraquar. Pro anno Domini bissextil 1784. (Buenos Aires, 1783). [B07-498]

This is the first published calendar for Paraguay. It was compiled by and for Franciscans, and is, therefore, religious order specific as well as ecclesiastical in coverage. It details which feast days were to be celebrated by the Franciscans, not only in Asunción (Paraguay) but also in Buenos Aires, Salta, Tucumán, Córdoba, Villa Rica, and Jujuy (Argentina).

Ignacio Pinuer


Pinuer, Ignacio. Relacion jurada que haze, y da el capitan g[ene]r[al] de ynfanter[i]a D[o]n Ygnacio Pinuer. ([Valdivia, 1774]). Ms. [B07-393]

On January 3, 1774, Captain General Ignacio Pinuer (1717–1791) reported that he had found the long lost, fabulously wealthy City of the Caesars in southern Chile, one of the several rumored cities of gold that dotted the imagined landscapes of South America. Of course, Pinuer never saw this particular “city of gold” himself. Nonetheless, he reported that the City of the Caesars was situated on an island in a volcanic lake in what is now the Province of Osorno in southern Chile, that it was inhabited by pure-blood Spaniards, and that it was heavily fortified against Araucanian attacks, all on the basis of reliable reports from trustworthy Indians in the vicinity. Needless to say, the elusive City of the Caesars disappeared into the mists almost as soon as it had “reappeared.” Not surprisingly, Pinuer’s Indian informants were happy to see him and his followers well on their way, just so long as it was elsewhere.

    Exhibition prepared by Michael T. Hamerly.
John Carter Brown Library