Internet Archive and Music of the Spheres

An occasional series in which JCB Fellows, staff, and friends write about a particularly memorable reading or research experience in the Library.

vavarro1       vavarro2       vavarro3

The Internet Archive|John Carter Brown Library collaboration continues to create excitement. Constantly uploaded books and new personnel combine to generate buzz.

In a routine gander at some of the books newly scanned by our new steward of the Internet Archive Scribe in the basement of the JCB, one book in particular caught our eye. It also gave us reason to acknowledge Internet Archive’s new employee and the new JCB’s scanner,  Donna Dorvick. Donna joined us in July 2013, and had a brief, but powerful, instruction in the secrets of Internet Archive by our departing scanner, Xephyr Inkpen. We were sorry to see Xephyr leave—but happy she happily departed to pursue her artistic dreams—and we are very happy to welcome Donna into the fold.

This book also points out how very interesting the JCB books that we have been digitizing are.  This book:

was written expressly for the Franciscan missions of Michoacán. The eminent Chilean bibliographer, José Toribio Medina lauded Navarro’s book as a “typographical masterpiece.” It was printed by Diego López Dávalos, who had married Maria de Espinoza, daughter of Mexico’s second printer. At least a dozen books with music were printed in New Spain prior to Navarro’s but for many years his was considered to be the first to include compositions done there. The prolific musicologist Robert M. Stevenson wrote, in 1952, that it would “qualify as the oldest printed music actually composed in America.” He revised that opinion in 1968, suggesting that that honor belonged instead to Juan Hernandez’s Graduale Dominicale (1576). By 1986, he was convinced that Hernandez held priority.

While Navarro’s book can no longer claim status as a “first,” it is notable for two “lasts.” It is the last book from New Spain’s viceregal period to be printed using Gothic types; and it is the last book of music printed there until 1725. The latter is the Franciscan Reglas, also held by the JCB, and is a book worthy of its own commentary.

Please make sure to check back on all the new books that are being added to the Mexican Incunabula Collection. More treasures WILL be found!

—Kenneth C. Ward, Maury A. Bromsen Curator of Latin American Books, John Carter Brown Library
—Leslie Tobias Olsen, Manager of Computing and Digital Imaging, John Carter Brown Library