Jose Manuel Sartorio was a priest in late colonial Mexico. Of humble origins, Sartorio excelled in his studies and was several years in residence at the Colegio de San Ildefonso, a prestigious Jesuit college. His 4,000-volume personal library would have made for a formidable display of his penchant for letters. Some of these are now at Sutro Library, likely from Adolph Sutro’s wholesale purchase in 1889 of the Abadiano bookstore in Mexico City. The Abadianos are known to have trafficked in the literary property of the church and its clergy, on which more later.
Sartorio often signed his books with only his last name. Of course, I didn’t know this was his signature when I first saw it months ago. Searching for the signer’s identity seemed almost futile; it was so little to go on. I did come across a Sartorio in the Library of Congress Name Authority File, but how was I supposed to know they were the same person? The signature appeared in a handful of other books in the following weeks, but nothing made certain a link between the one name I found and the autograph.
When the war for Mexican independence began, Sartorio sided with the insurgents. A popular and influential figure, Sartorio held many administrative positions before and after the war, including a spot on the provisional government which, on September 28, 1821, signed the Act of Independence of the Mexican Empire, the birth of the Mexican state. Sartorio’s is the fourth signature down on the first column.
I forget exactly what led me to seek a digital copy of the Declaration, but I recall the easy joy of recognition when I saw the name and recognized the abbreviated “Manuel” and angled “J” and “S.” With this evidence in hand (or on screen), I can now make more detailed notes, and add the fully authorized name, to records so that a single search in the California State Library’s catalog will find instances where he is listed as “former owner.” There aren’t many yet, but I have every reason to believe more will emerge as I comb Sutro’s collections at which point the list of results will grow. Among Sartorio’s many roles—which include professor, prison chaplain, and college rector—his work for the Spanish courts as a censor of drama, literature, and newspapers make me especially curious about what his personal library contains.
Print secondary sources, like biographies, and digitized primary sources, like the image from Mexico’s Archivo General de la Nación, can help us see anew what before appeared as indiscernible or of little consequence. The books themselves open possibilities for studying print, book, and reading cultures of Mexico in the years prior to, during, and after independence. The Abadianos appraised and sold the libraries of many deceased priests and laypersons, which is likely how they got Sartorio’s books. Several handwritten catalogs made during the appraisal and sale of these collections are available in the Abadiano bookstore records, though one for Sartorio is not to among them. Since there is no finding aid available for this collection (yet) I’ll list them at the end of this post.
Apart from the text, there are many other ways to approach books, but there is only one way to enter Sutro Library—we hope you’ll visit us on the 5th Floor of J. Paul Leonard Library!
Jose Guerrero is Sutro Library’s Cataloging & Metadata Librarian.
Appendix: A list of manuscript catalogs of libraries appraised or sold by Libreria Abadiano, 1826-1843
Ynventario de los Libros que quedan por fallecimiento del Sor. Dr. Dn. Dimas Maldonado. Ano de 1826.
Lista de los libros abaluados por Dn. Jose Lubian con precios tamano y estante en que se hayan. Agosto de 1831. 27 pages.
Todos estos libros qu pertenecian al R. P. Sr. Jose Alcantara he tomado para aplicar por el [?] la 3a parte de su valor en union con la mayor brevedad possible. 3 pages.
Lista de mis libros segun sus materias que formo yo Nicolas Aragon hoi 19 de Agosto de 1836. 11 pages.
——A second list of Aragon’s books made after he died is titled: Lista de los libros que el que subscribe remite a la Sra. Da. Urbana Mendoza, para que se avaluen y vendan con los de la libreria del finado Sr. Cura Dr. Dn. Nicolas Aragon.
Ynbentario general de los libros que se benden y pertenesieron al finado Sor. Dn. Ramon Abarca y es como adentro se esperesan ala letra. 11 pages.
Avaluo de los libros que quedaron por muerte del Sr. D. Jose Maria Picaro, heco por D. Luis Abadiano y este es el borrador de dicho avaluo. 5 pages.
Ynbentario de los libros y muebles pertenicientes al finado P. Dn. Manuel Gutierrez de Teran. 7 pages.
Libros de la testamento del finado R. P. D. Jose Joaquin Ruiz. 10 pages.
Avaluo de los libros que quedaron por fallecimiento del Sr. Lic. D. Manuel Ostia. 9 pages.
Abaluo de los ienes que quedaron por fallecimiento del Sr. Rev. Dn. Fernando Garcia Quintana[?], hecho por el corridor del mismo, Jose Crespo, por nombramiento que hicieron los Sres. […] del Campo, y Rev. D. jose Anto. Aguirre Alvacias testamentarios de mancornas[?] del otro finado, quien los expresa enla forma y manera siguiente. 44 pages.
Lista de los libros que quiedaron por fallecimiento del Sr. Cura de Atotonilco el Chico, Rv. D. Ygnacio Roldan. 4 pages.
Lista de libros de venta, del Sr. Yermo. 12 pages.
Ynventario Avaluo de los libros que pertenecian al finado Sr. L. D. Yo. Espinosa, hehco por Luis Abadiano. 10 pages.
 Most of the details of Sartorio’s life are drawn from the biographical entry found in: Pedro Henríquez Ureña, La utopía de América. Edited by Angel Rama and Rafael Gutierrez Girardot. Caracas: Biblioteca Ayacucho, 1989, pages 193-194.
 The photograph below is courtesy of Wikipedia user Hpav7, and can be viewed, along with the text of the Declaration, at: https://es.wikisource.org/wiki/Acta_de_independencia_del_Imperio_Mexicano