"Monasterium sine libris est sicut civitas sine opibus, castrum sine numeris, coquina sine supellectili, mensa sine cibis, hortus sine herbis, pratum sine floribus, arbor sine foliis", said the Abbot to Brother William of Baskerville, in the novel Il Nome della Rosa, by Umberto Eco. For centuries, monasteries were viewed as a sanctuary for prayer, relics and books. Santo Domingo was no exception.
The central passageways of the Francisco de
Burgoa Library are an ideal setting for
conferences in the Santo Domingo
The first public library in Mexico was established in Oaxaca in 1827. 32 years later, with the expropriation of the propriety of the Catholic Church in Mexico, the vast libraries that had belonged to the Franciscan, Dominican, Augustinian, Jesuit and other religious congregations, became state property, and the books were confiscated. Looting seems to have taken placed, as books became constantly "misplaced". The new managers of these collections were predominately anti-clerical, so they had little motivation to look out for their upkeep.
As Mexico came closer to the end of the 19th Century, the predominant ideas were that of the Enlightenment, and Science was at the center of Education. Old musty books about religion in Latin were tantamount to the superstitions that this age wanted to suppress, and therefore were subject to pilferage and abuse.
The wire hook screens on the doors of the
wooden bookshelves provide excellent visibility
and ventilation, while preserving an ambience
of distinguished antiquity
During most of the 20th Century, these collections remained undocumented and out of public sight, but in the last decades, private philanthropy groups became involved in funding initiatives aimed as archiving these ancient collections, appreciating them for their cultural and historical value.
The semicircle pillared archway creates a
separation between the double halls with their
Towards the end of the 20th Century, a leader appeared: Maria Isabel Grañén Porrúa. Books had always been a part of their family tradition, and she studied in Spain, so when she moved to Oaxaca, she became involved in organizing what we know today as the Francisco de Burgoa Library, one of the most important libraries in Mexico specialized in collections form the Colonial Period of Mexico.
Estela became captivated by a 18th Century
book she started to read on the Meditations
of Sister Hipolita.
David Karminsky is one of the Burgoa
Library's chief coordinators.
What makes Cicely Winter and Maria Isabel Grañén Porrua so different from other individuals that usually command similar posts, is that they understand team work and the concept of synergy at the service of promoting the world of culture in the 21st Century.
Maria Isabel Grañén Porrua giving an introduction
to the Francisco de Burgoa Library display on the
documents relating to the mysterious life of Pedro
Nibra, the mid-19th Century organ constructor.
Cicely Winter, Ricardo Rodys and Maria
Isable Grañén Porrúa explaining the exhibit
Ricardo Rodys, investigator for the Exhibit
"Pedro Nibra, the 19th Century Organ Constructor"
Display cases with historical
documents on the life of
In these church registers we can see how much
Pedro Nibra, early 19th Century organ builder
received money (200 pesos) on account of
one of his organs.
Another display case with more
memorabilia on the life of Pedro
Display of the Exhibit of Pedro Nibra.
Pedro Nibra built the organ of the
Church of San Matias Jalatlaco,
which currently is being restored
by a grant of IOHIO. with funding
from the Alfredo Harp Foundation
The forged iron window protection
lets the light come in from the Plaza
of Santo Domingo
Estela is in the main research hall of the
library, searching for the famous Christophorus
Platinus Polyglot (Greek, Latin, Hebrew
Aramaic and Syrian text) Bible published in
Antwerp in the mid 16th Century.
One of the main halls of the
Francisco de Burgoa Library.
A difficult decision to make in the Burgoa Library
is where to start and what to read. As time passes
you don't feel like leaving. It is truly a magical
This window gives us an idea of the
thickness of the walls. The window
frame, when closed, looks more like
Sometimes the books were bound with
pre-Columbian codices used as covers
Juan Torixa, appointed architect to the
Court of Spain, published in Madrid
this treatise on Vaults in 1669.
Penelope Orozco Sanchez, Curator of the
collection showing us some of the rarest
books in the collections.
This diagram is part of a text printed in Spain
in the 18th Century, a treatise on the
construction of church vaults, and
vaults in general
Here is the Chapter VII of the
18th Century text on Vaults.
The branding marks on the edge of the book.
Penelope Orozco shows us how the older books
must be handled with care, using gloves to
avoid biological contamination.
Here is the title page of a 18th
Century Spanish edition on the
Passion of Christ according to
The Meditations of
Here we can see the Book of Sister Hipólita
with the branding marks on the edge.
The Burgoa Library is a lot more that what we are showing you here in these pictures. It has some of the most modern equipment available for digitalizing old archives and books. Besides, they created the "Adabi" or "Apoyo al Desarrollo de Archivos y Bibliotecas" (Support for the Development of Archives and Libraries).
The barrel vaults are covered with tempera
paintings and designs typical of the Dominican
The pillars are decorated with
tempera paintings of Dominican
Our introductory conference in the main hall
of the Burgoa Library.
Maria Isabel Grañén Porrúa explains the
relationship between the documents of the
exhibit of Pedro Nibra.
The conviction and passion with which
Maria Isabel and other members of the
Burgoa Library speak when they talk about
their collections is contagious and captivating.
Display cases and bookshelves in another
section of the Burgoa Library
This window looks on to the
inside courtyard of the
Santo Domingo Cultural
A view of the library with the figures
of Dominican Saints on the pillars in
the perspective of the archway
and the vault.
Maria Isabel Grañén Porrúa
greeting Estela during inaugural cocktail