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Franciscan Printing Press History

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(Translated by Jaime F. Tiongson from Historia de la imprenta en los antiguos dominios españoles de América y Oceanía by Jose Toribio Medina.)

The Franciscan printing press was first established in Villa de Pila. Tomas Pinpin and Domingo Loag, printers. It is not known that it had nor exist traces of the printing press prior to 1655. It appears in Tayabas in 1702. It was transferred to Manila in 1705. It is taken to Dilao (Paco, Manila). The brother Franciscan de los Santos and Capitan Lucas Francisco Rodriguez, printers. Fray Julian de San Diego and Fray Pedro de la Concepcion. Fray Francisco de Paula Castilla and Juan Eugenio. Fray Jacinto de Jesus Lavajos.

In Villa de Pila, founded in 1578 along the shores of the Laguna de Bay, by the year 1606 the Franciscans established Philippines' second printing press. On 20th of May that year, Tomas Pinpin and Domingo Loag, Tagalos, began the printing of the Vocabulario de Lengua Tagala of Fray Pedro de San Buenaventura, which was completed only seven years later. It is probable that Pinpin began the printing and Loag continued the work once tutored, at least during the year 1610 in which Pinpin was in Bataan working on the publication of the Arte Tagalo of Fray Francisco de San Jose.

Neither the name of Loag nor the printing press of the town of Pila is registered in books that we know later. What became of that press whose first production yielded so much hope,in view of the elements in which it has been arranged to make it?. She might have been placed in a corner in some of the Franciscan convents, or the Franciscans gave it to other religious orders at that time and counted already as one of the printing shops in the Islands?

None of the typographic works of the printing press of the Franciscans appeared before 1655, the year B. Lampao (we do not know his first name) gives light in Manila the Constituciones de la provincial de San Gregorio and soon lost its tracks again, until by the beginning of the 18th century it was established in Tayabas by Fray Antonio de Santo Domingo. According to Father Huerta "In 1699 the elected maestro provincial left, whose position was carried with much fervor…, sending five monks to the missions of these Islands, and two to Cochinchina; it established the press in Tayabas and it gave to the press the Diccionario Tagalog, composed by Fray Domingo de los Santos…"

It is not easy to resolve if the one in Tayabas is the same press that the Franciscan Order had a century ago or that the press had just been mounted, although the last one seems more probable. It is certain though, that the printing of the book started in Colegio de Santo Tomas in Manila, and was completed in muy noble villa de Tayabas in 1702, it is not known who was the one who ran the press, although it is to be conceited that he was under the care of brother Franciscan de los Santos.

The Tayabas press was transferred to the Faculty of San Francisco in Manila, which was placed under their custody from 1705 to 1708, and from there to the convent of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria of the town of Dilao, thus called, although in fact it is just a suburb of Manila. It is located there only during the years of 1713 and 1714, under the care of brother Franciscan de los Santos, who was associated later with Capitan Don Lucas Francisco Rodriguez. In 1718, it appeared again in the Manila convent, run by Julian de San Diego, and ten years later in the same convent of Nuestra Señora de los Angeles de Manila under the immediate direction of brother Pedro de la Concepcion who manage to credit himself as the maestro en el arte tipografico with the printing of the Ceremonial romano reformado of Father Torrubia.

The printing press was situated here for eight years before it was transferred to the convent of Nuestra Señora de Loreto de Sampaloc, located again, like the one of Dilao, in one of the suburbs of Manila.

In this Sampaloc convent, according to Father Huerta, there was a community of monks and it was the Casa de Noviciado from 1614 to 1619. In 1692, the printing press of the Province of San Gregorio was established in the same convent, that by long time was of great use to these islands, until through the years of 1808 it was passed on to the venerable Orden Tercera de Penitencia, who lately alienated it to be deteriorated enough and not able to compete with the modern ones established in Manila during this period.

We see that the Franciscan chronicler made a mistake in writing that the printing press in Sampaloc was established in 1692 since in that date not even the print shop founded first in Tayabas worked. We note though, still in 1809, it continued with the same primitive designation, although under the property of the Ordern Tercera.

We said then, that the transfer of the press in the convent of Loreto de Sampaloc happened in 1736; the year in which the reprinting of the Arte de la lengua pampanga of Fray Diego Bergaño, although without the indication of who the printer was, probably Fray Juan de Sotillo, whose name is seen for the first time, and was honored in books printed there in 1738, the Cronica de la Provincia de San Gregorio of Fray Juan de San Antonio, the third volume was finished in 1744, making the typographic work the most voluminous in the Philippines during that time. He was then succeeded by brother Lucas de San Francisco, whose works had to be the books printed in that convent from 1749 and probably until 1768. Perhaps by modesty, the printer did not sign the books printed during that period.

In 1770, he was replaced by Tomas Adriano, who very shortly before or until then in charge of the printing press of the Colegio de Santo Tomas. Until 1788, no printed works of the Imprenta de Sampaloc carry the name of the printer. From that year, the name of brother Baltasar Mariano appeared, who in 1794 was replaced by another one, fray Pedro Arguelles de la Concepcion, who carried the load and signed his works only after being ordained as a priest, from 1798 to 1803, without interval except in 1797 in which, perhaps he was burdened by studies needed for priesthood, replaced by Juan Eugenio and Fray Francisco de Paula Castilla. In 1805, the print shop seems to have a manager named Vicente Atlas, and finally, in 1809, the responsibility (cargo de taller) was passed to Fray Jacinto de Jesus Lavajos, who arrived in Manila four years before.


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