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Galvez, Ordenanzas de la Real renta de la polvora para este Reyno de Nueva España, Mexico, 1777.

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Royal colonial decree to improve the vital gunpowder production in New Spain

José de Gálvez y Gallardo (1720-1787); Marques Carlos Francisco de Croix (1699-1786).

Ordenanzas de la Real renta de la polvora para este Reyno de Nueva España, y Provincias de su comprension, que se administra de cuenta de su Magestad.

Reimpresas en Mexico, en la Imprenta Nueva Madrileña de Don Felipe de Zuñiga y Ontiveros, 1777.

Folio. [II], 40 pp. With an attractive etched Royal Spanish coat of arms on the title, signed “Naxera Ft.” and a woodblock capital letter.

Modern stiff marbled paper covers, in linen made-to-measure case with title on front.

First edition of the second Royal decree regarding the production of gunpowder in Nueva España. The decree entails instructions and regulations for the Real Fabrica de Pólvora and comprises LVII articles. Notably, one article is dedicated to "Indios para los trabajos de la Fábrica," in which forced labor is mandated upon the inhabitants of the villages surrounding the factory, with penalties for refusal to work.

This second gunpowder decree (the first issued in 1767, followed by a third in 1787) was expanded to include additional ordinances:

  • Ordinances for Nitrate Workers, along with regulations for the Nitrate Factory (pp. 28-33).
  • Ordinances for those involved in Sulfur extraction, and Regulations for its Factory (pp. 33-38).
  • Ordinances and regulations to be followed by all practitioners of the Art of Rocketry (pp. 38-40).

In 1766, gunpowder came under direct governmental oversight in New Spain. "During the Bourbon Reforms under the reign of Charles III (1759 - 1788), the Crown experimented with one of its more intriguing, though lesser-known, reforms: the establishment of a royal monopoly on gunpowder production. This was central to the aspirations of many reformers, who sought to enhance the empire's defensive capabilities" (Lewis). The principal factory for producing explosives in New Spain was established at Chapultepec on the outskirts of Mexico City. This factory played a vital role in sustaining colonial rule, as it supplied Spanish strongholds in New Spain, the Caribbean, and the Philippines with powder for military, mining, religious fireworks, and various other purposes. Established in 1767, the factory soon faced challenges related to supply and quality due to high demand. This 1777 decree aimed to address supply issues by implementing new regulations, while efforts to improve quality included the hiring of the French expert Salvador Dampierre in 1779.

The significance of this decree is matched by the rarity of extant copies.

Condition: minor marginal soiling on title, otherwise in excellent, near new condition.

Reference: Medina, Mexico, 6017; not in Palau; Sabin.


Lewis, James A. “The Royal gunpowder monopoly in New Spain (1766-1783): A case study of management, technology, and reform under Charles III”. In: Ibero-Amerikanisches Archiv, vol. 6, no. 4, 1980, pp. 355–72.

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