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Bethlehemites manuscript, Lima 1746.

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Manuscript handbook for the first religious order founded in America

Bernabe Balcazar; et. al.

[Handbook for the Bethlehemites in Lima].

Peru, 1746.

4°. 16 pp.; 41; 27; [2 blank]; 4; 3; [2 blank]; 12; [1 blank] ll. Mainly manuscript, with two printed pamphlets bound in. All text in Spanish.

Contemporary limp vellum with vellum straps.

A handbook for members of the Order of Bethlehemite Brothers in Lima (Peru), consisting of manuscript and printed rules and regulations of the Order, both general and specific for the Lima chapter of the Order, all bound together. The manuscript content is in one hand, except for the last part which is in a different hand and signed and dated Lima, 1746, by Bernabe Balcazar, who was a notary in Lima. The printed matter is not dated but most likely earlier than 1746.

The parts that lay out the general rules and regulations of the Order are closely related to but not the same as a handbook for Bethlehemites printed in Mexico, 1751, titled Regla, y constituciones de la sagrada religion Bethlemitica, findada en las Indias Occidentales por el [...] Fr. Pedro De San Joseph Betancur (Mexico, Hogal, 1751). The first printed part is titled Regla de Nuestro Padre San Agustin, 16 pp., no name, no date. We could not find this publication in bibliographies, it is not the Regla de N[uestro]. P[adre]. S[an]. Agustin from Mexico 1757. The other printed text is titled Clemens Papa X. Ad perpetuam rei memoriam, [6] pp., no name, no date. It provides the Papal granting in 1701 of the privileges of the mendicant orders to the Bethlehemites. We could not locate this in bibliographies either. Both texts are also included in the handbook printed in Mexico 1751.

The Brothers of the Bethlehemites Order served medical assistance to the local population in colonial Latin America. The Order was founded in Guatemala by Spanish missionary “Hermano” Pedro de San José de Betancourt in 1656, tasked with serving the poor. It is the first religious order founded in America and also the last religious order of the Catholic Church to be established. Founder Hermano Pedro is considered the first saint of Guatemala and Central America. The Order was approved by Pope Innocent XI in 1687 and they quickly spread to several cities in Peru and Nueva Granada. In 1707, Clement XI elevated the Bethlehemites by granting them "the privileges of the mendicant orders, of the Regular Clerks, of the Ministers of the Sick, and of the Hospitallers of Charity of St. Hippolytus". Eventually the Order ran some 20 hospitals throughout New Spain, which are referred to in the Constitusiones in the manuscript part of the present volume.


fols. 1-8: Religion regla de Nuestro Padre San Agustin. Print.

fols. 9-50r: Manuscript. Constitusiones [sic] de la Sagrada Religion Bethlemitica.

fols. 50v-77: Mansucript. Actas Formadas en el Capitulo Gral zelebrado [sic] en Lima el dia 11 de Junio 1739 anos.

fols. 78-79: Blank.

fols. 80-83: Manuscript. Benedicto Papa XIV.

fols. 84-86: Print. Clemens Papa XI. Ad perpetuam rei memoriam.

fols. 87-99: Manuscript. [no title]. Signed Peru, 1746, by Bernabe Balcazar and two other unidentified names. Watermarked Gravell 898 (Genovese).


For Bernabe Balcazar see: M. T. Moron, Catálogo de la serie documental de Cofradías del Archivo del Obispado de Huacho (1609-1937), Obispado de Huacho, 2011, no. 6.11.

Condition: manuscript text slightly faded but legible, in places more faded, first 3 leaves of last part faded and mostly illegible. Multiple mostly marginal expert repairs throughout, otherwise in overall good condition.

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