Preventing heresy : censorship and privilege in sixteenth-century Mexican publishing




Palacios, Albert Anthony

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Prevailing Catholic thought in the sixteenth century perceived heresy as a cancer on society and the printed word an effective carrier. Acceptance of this view throughout the Spanish kingdom resulted in the vigilant scrutiny of printed works, in particular those imported or produced in the Americas. Who reviewed manuscript works destined for or written in Mexico before the printing block hit the paper? Did the New Spanish bureaucracy repress colonial authors intellectually or financially? This thesis examines preventive censorship, or the inspection and licensing of manuscripts considered for publishing, and printing privilege in sixteenth-century Mexico. Mexican books printed 1540-1612 and official correspondence form the basis of this thesis. The overarching analysis is diachronic-bibliographic in nature. It starts with the origins of preventing censorship in Spain, its transference to New Spain, and its administration during the first decade of the American printing press (1487-1550). Thrusting ahead, it then delves into the bureaucratic, political, and economic nuances of the mature publishing practice at the turn of the century (1590-1612). The conclusion compares the bookend phases, defines factors, and looks at prevailing practices in Europe to contextualize Mexico’s unique publishing industry. In the Americas, religious authors established, financed, and developed the publishing economy to facilitate indigenous indoctrination and enculturation, enforce Christian hegemony, and promote higher education. As these authors came to dominate in the writing, censorship, and production of Mexican printed books throughout the sixteenth century, printers increasingly assumed a subordinate role. In the European printing industry, non-cleric officials predominantly censored manuscripts and printers assumed primary ownership of intellectual work. Inversing European practice, published authors in Mexico enjoyed significant influence over the censorship, printing, and economic potential of their intellectual fruits from the onset of colonization to the remainder of the sixteenth century and beyond.


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