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Hidden Stories: Books Along the Silk Roads

Baptismal Register from Mexico City

This 18th-century register records the names and baptism dates of Indigenous children in the Mexico City parish of San Sebastian.

In the colonial period, Catholic Church parishes kept separate record books for communities of Indigenous, African, Spanish, and mixed descent. Entries in the register, which covers the period from 1768 to 1775, also note information about the baptized children and their families, including the child's date of birth, their parents' profession and marital status, names of their godparents, the priest who performed the baptism, and the neighborhood in which the family lived. These details provide insight into the social history of various communities in the period.

The register is handwritten on paper, most likely imported from Spain, and like other documentary books of colonial North and South America, it features a characteristic elongated cover flap related to the account books and Islamic-style envelope flap bindings of the Iberian peninsula. At the beginning of the register, an index of names appears on A-Z tab pages similar to those used in modern address books.

For further context on this important book, listen to a conversation between Suzanne Conklin Akbari, of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and David Fernández, of the Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library, Toronto.

Use the viewer below to zoom in on the pages of the book, digitized by the Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library.