Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Featured Manuscript: Libro de las Ordenanzas de la Cofradía de Santa Anna

Modern Mexico differs vastly from the Aztec territory contacted by Hernan Cortez’s company on April 22, 1519. Motecuhzoma II, ruler of Tenochtitlan, allowed the Spaniards entrance to the capital on November 9, 1519. The Spanish thirst for riches was not well concealed and on May 21, 1520 they massacred many Aztecs during a religious celebration. Although the Aztecs resisted and tried to expel the invaders from the city, epidemics had already begun to kill thousands of indigenous peoples, which allowed the Spanish to quickly establish themselves as the new power.


During the 1520s, the Spaniards continued to strengthen their control by the inhumane treatment of natives. The arrival of Fray Juan de Zumarraga (soon known as Protector of Indians) ushered in a period of more tempered treatment of the native peoples.  With the discovery of silver mines near Mexico City, the Spanish population increased dramatically. This enabled friars to create schools for both the Spanish and native residents. The Spanish continued to develop a government which recognized natives as part of their new colony. Christianity flourished, mass baptisms of natives peoples became commonplace, and Mexico City became a heavily populated area for Spanish settlers. This allowed for the creation of the cofradía of Santa Anna in Mexico City on April 27, 1557. The Book of Orders on display contains the original articles of the constitution of this cofradía. 

Paper & Printing:

As a result of Muslim occupation in modern day Spain, some of the first paper mills were in production as early as the 12th century in both northern Christian and southern Moorish regions. It is probable that this document was printed on paper imported from Spain and hand written although a printing press existed in Mexico City by 1540. The introduction of the movable type printing press into the Americas has been attributed to the first Archbishop of Mexico City, Juan Zumarraga, in 1539. The publishing house created and operated by Juan Cromberger and Juan Pablos printed religious and government documents. The Book of Orders is bound most likely in vellum (calf hide), another craft that had been practiced by the medieval Spanish Arabs.  


This Book of Orders was acquired by collector Lloyd W. Smith in the 1920s. Most likely fascinated by its connection to the early European settlement of the Americas, Smith held this, and other early examples of Spanish and European “New World” exploration in his collection of nearly 400,000 manuscripts. In 1955, he bequeathed the collection to the Morristown National Historical Park where it is part of the Special Collections library today.

Cofradía of Santa Anna:

Cofradías were organized groups that functioned through churches. The members were lay men who sought social and economic protection while aiming to become active members of their communities through service to the church that sponsored them. Members were required to plan events like the procession of the Virgin of Santa Anna. Restrictions on membership were based on race and profession. The cofradía of Santa Anna was made up of tundidores, fabric refinement specialists, aiming to recreate the lifestyles they had maintained in Spain. The two main parts of the Book of Orders describe the formation of the cofradía and distribution of tasks among members. 


Dr. Jude Pfister, Chief of Cultural Resources at the Morristown National Historical Park 
Dr. Luz Huertas, professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University - Florham Campus.


Basbanes, Nicholas A. On paper: the everything of its two-thousand-year history. New York: Vintage Books, 2014.

Brundage, Burr Cartwright. A rain of darts: the Mexica Aztecs. Austin, Tex.: Univ. Pr., 1972.

Caistor, Nick. Mexico City: a cultural and literary companion. Oxford: Signal, 2000.

Cohen, Sara E. "How the Aztecs Appraised Montezuma." The History Teacher 5, no. 3 (1972): 21-30.

León-Portilla, Miguel. The broken spears: the Aztec account of the conquest of Mexico. Boston: Beacon, 1962.

Szirmai, J. A. Archaeology of Medieval Bookbinding. S.l.: Routledge, 2017.

The Americas, Vol. 5, No. 3, Special Issue Dedicated to the Memory of Don Fray Juan de Zumárraga, First Bishop and Archbishop of Mexico (Jan., 1949), pp. 264-274. Cambridge University Press. 

This blog post by Pamela Russo, Adiana Perez, and Katherine Kurylko Fairleigh Dickinson University.

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