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Casa de la Primera Imprenta (Casa de las Campanas)

The Casa de la Primera Imprenta de América is a small cultural center and and an important historic building. The site of the first printing press in the Americas, it was installed during the early colonial period. Later, it became an important cultural center and museum in the 1990s and has remained so ever since.

An original building was erected here by Jeronimo de Aguilar in the 1520s. Captured by the Maya people in Yucatan in 1511, Aguilar was later rescued by Hernán Cortés who employed him as a translator. After the fall of Tenochtitlan, the plot was on the edge of the sacred precinct of the Templo Mayor, then still in ruins. The original site had been dismantled as it was an important temple to Tezcatlipoca, one of the central deities of the Mexica of Tenochtitlan.

The Spanish soon set up a foundry used for casting the first bells in the cathedral and outside of churches across the valley of Mexico. For that, Aguilar’s home was long known as Casa de las Campanas (House of the Bells).

The Archbishop of Mexico City, Juan de Zumárraga received the printing press delivered from Europe in 1539. It was installed at the old foundry just across the street from the Old Archbishop’s Palace. The owner of the press, a publisher named Juan Cromberger, hired an Italian named Juan Paoli to run this operation. Paoli worked for some ten years producing documents for the colonial government and the Church. The most celebrated of these was titled “Breve y más compendiosa doctrina christiana en lengua mexicana y castellana” for it was written by the archbishop.

The building then changed hands many times over the next centuries and it was entirely rebuilt in the 18th century. Most of the archives were lost when the US Army briefly occupied the house in 1847. Thereafter, it became a furniture store and served as offices until the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM) purchased it with the intention of restoring it in 1989.

The Modern Cultural Center

The UAM worked with the Historic Center Restoration Program and the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). During renovations, an ancient 1.5-ton sculpture of a serpent head (pictured above) was discovered some 82 cms beneath the street level. Part of the ancient temple to Tezcatlipoca, the sculpture may have been visible to occupants during the 16th and 17th centuries, or so INAH has suggested. Some 90 other artifacts revealed during the renovations are also on display in the Museo del libro which exhibits some of the oldest books in Mexico.

Since 1994, the building has been part of UAM’s continuing education and cultural outreach network. The Casa de la Primera Imprenta de América holds regular exhibitions, conferences and workshops.

Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

casa de las campanasFrom 1539 to 1548, the house served as the print shop of Juan Cromberger, a Sevillian printer who had the privilege of opening an office in New Spain and producing the first books in the Americas. In this same house, the first bells for the Cathedral were cast. Thus it retains the name Casa de las Campanas and today it's occupied by a Cultural Center run by the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana.

Heart of México Walking Route:  Moneda - Santísima

< < Palacio del Arzobispado | Palacio de la Autonomía > >

Proyecto “Corredor de Cultura Digital”.

Nombre de la investigación: Investigación Centro Histórico, Monumentos, Edificios y Puntos de Interés (2023)

Dirección de investigación y diseño de Rutas: Acércate al Centro A.C. Guadalupe Gómez Collada

Coordinación e investigación histórica: Fideicomiso del Centro histórico Dir. Maestra Loredana Montes

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