Extirpacion de la Idolatria del Piru. Dirigido al Rey N.S. en su Real Conseio de Indias. Pablo José ARRIAGA.
A Manual for Clerics Printed in Lima 1621
Rich in Ethnographic & Anthropological Information on the Indians of Peru
Lima, Geronymo de Contreras, 1621.

Extirpacion de la Idolatria del Piru. Dirigido al Rey N.S. en su Real Conseio de Indias.

4to. (8) ff., 142 (ie 137) pp., (3) ff. Elaborate woodcut tailpiece on fol. **3v. With pastedowns and endleaves from a contemporary 4to liturgical service book printed in red and black. Bound in contemporary flexible vellum. Early ownership inscription of the second Jesuit college in the Americas, “El Collegio de S. P[edr]o y S. Pablo” on title page, and personal ownership inscription in an early hand of a Jesuit father, Padre Diego de Lacios [?] on the front cover. Vellum somewhat shrunken due to age, exposing margin of a few leaves to minor soiling, otherwise an extremely crisp copy, excellent.

A fine and very genuine copy of the rare first edition of Pablo José de Arriaga’s rich account of the Indians of Peru at the turn of the 17th century. Intended as a manual to help clerics identify native “superstitions”, the work is filled with minute details describing Indian ceremonies, medicines, and beliefs. Thanks to the all too effective execution of Arriaga’s duties, the Extirpacion de la Idolatria del Piru ironically remains the original go-to source for much ethnographic and anthropological information on the very cultures he was trying to eradicate. Recorded by an eye-witness on the eve of the final cultural obliteration of Incan and pre-Incan civilizations in the 17th century, Arriaga’s account is one of the earliest ethnographic records of post-Conquest Peru and an essential source for the historical reconstruction of now-lost Peruvian cultures. “In spite of its brutality, the book is a rich trove of Andean ethnography.” (JCB, “Sources of Peru”)

Because of their ‘simplicity and poor understanding’ and their all too recent introduction to the faith, the Indians of the New World were not subject to the authority of the Holy Inquisition. The task of stamping out heresy instead fell to independent contractors – local bishops and religious leaders – who established a system in Peru modeled in essence on the Inquisition, but subject to far less regulation (cf. Griffiths, “The Inquisitorial Model and the Repression of Andean Religion in Seventeenth-Century Peru”). Arriving from Spain and distressed to find native heresies thriving after one hundred years of evangelization, figures such as the Archbishop of Lima Bartolomé Lobo Guerrero, the Spanish Viceroy Francisco de Borja, and the Jesuit Provincial Pablo José de Arriaga all spearheaded vicious and concerted campaigns during the early 17th century to wipe out all traces of native religion and superstition. Only Arriaga, however, produced a written record of his work.

Compiled as a catalogue of all the heresies encountered by Arriaga in his fight against native religions, the Extirpacion de la Idolatria del Piru chronicles Arriaga’s own experiences with Indian customs in order to assist others in recognizing them as signs of idolatry. As a manual for others engaged in the ‘Extirpacion’, Arriaga’s work is organized into helpful chapters: “How to begin to uncover idolatry”, “What things the Indians venerate, and what their Idolatry consists of”, “What and how they offer sacrifices”, etc. Directions are given for a kind of protocol for such visits: on the first day, one must seek the assistance of the Cacique (local leader, usually Indian); on the second day one reads out to the village proclamations against idolatry and sorcery (“it is especially important to explain that those who denounce others will be pardoned…”); and by the 12th day one should be ready to leave… “It is very good to carry in your hand some pieces of bread, or something similar, to give to the Indians you encounter”... (p. 81)

Arriaga’s account is especially valuable for its detailed observations on contemporary Indian medicine, including the use of coca. Many sorcerers, he notes, are ambicamayos, or experts in the use of herbal medicines (p. 34); but others are apparently expert only in the use of poisons, which they use to kill their enemies (pp. 38-9). On page 71 he notes that the practice of the Spanish priests and officials conspiring to sell large amounts of liquors to the Indians for ‘medicinal purposes’ is becoming widespread.

Arriaga concludes his report with a set of “Regulations to Be Left by the Visitor in the Towns as a Remedy for the Extirpation of Idolatry”. In addition to prohibitions against dancing and ceremonial sacrifices, he significantly singles out the practice of native medicine as posing a great danger to recent converts. Indian medical practitioners are seen by Arriaga as one of the main causes of idolatry – in treating their victims, with occasional success, they only encourage the idolatrous superstitions upon which most of their their medicine is based (p. 171). Interestingly, however, he also instructs priests to examine very carefully the healing methods of these native practitioners, “in order to get rid of what is superstitious and evil therein, and to profit by what is good, for example their knowledge and use of certain herbs and other simples” (p. 99).

A sought-after Americanum, the Extirpacion de la Idolatria del Piru has not appeared at Anglo-American auction in more than half a century. The present copy is in an unusually fine contemporary state, bearing an early exlibris of the missionary training College of San Pedro y San Pablo in Mexico City where, presumably, it was used to equip missionaries before heading into the field.

OCLC shows copies at Cornell, Arizona, the Newberry, Bryn Mawr, the Rosenbach Museum, SMU, and the JCB.

* Sabin 2106; Adventures in Americana, 82; Palau I, 119; not in Church. Cf also Medina, La Imprenta en Lima, Vol 1 no. 92 (devoting 77 pages to this book); The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas, p. 850; Dorsey, A Bibliography of the Anthropology of Peru, p. 66 (“relates native religious beliefs and practices in minute detail”); and Mills’ monograph, Idolatry and Its Enemies: Colonial Andean Religion and Extirpation, 1640-1750 (Princeton University Press, 1997).

Price: $85,000.00

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