The Birth and Evolution of Mexico's First Printing Press
Mexico's first national printing press, from its establishment after independence to its pivotal role in promoting the freedom of printing and documenting the country's governance. Discover the challenges and achievements of the Imprenta Nacional del Supremo Gobierno de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos.
The establishment of a national printing press was a pressing need for the newly independent Mexican government. The first national printing house of the Supreme Government of the United Mexican States, also known as the Imprenta Nacional del Supremo Gobierno de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos, played a crucial role in publishing and disseminating information about the administration and regulations of the government.
From its early days printing only religious materials to becoming a source of news about religion, economy, and social issues, the evolution of this printing press reflects the changes in Mexican society throughout the centuries. This article talks about the first national printing press in Mexico. It talks about how it made money and what it printed. It also talks about how it changed the history and culture of the country.
Ink & History: Mexico's First National Printing Press
One of the first needs that the new Mexican government had after achieving its independence was to establish a national printing press that would be in charge of making known and publishing everything related to its administration and regulations. Learn about the work of the first national printing house of the Supreme Government of the United Mexican States (Imprenta Nacional del Supremo Gobierno de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos).
When the first printing press was set up in New Spain, it could only be used to print religious books and pamphlets. As time went on, other printing presses were set up, but they were always supervised by the viceroyalty government.
With the appearance of the Gaceta de México y noticias de Nueva España in the 18th century, a new phenomenon was experienced within the printing presses of New Spain because it was the first periodical publication that sought to communicate news about the economy, religion, and social issues of the main regions of New Spain, as well as to promote permitted books.
Lack of freedom in the printing presses of New Spain became one of the biggest problems for Creole society, especially during the Bourbon reforms, which caused big changes in the government and economy of New Spain and led to a general lack of conformity in society, as shown by the expulsion of the Society of Jesus in 1767.
In its first years, specifically in 1824, the National Printing Office of the Supreme Government recorded an income of 18,265 pesos, 1 real, and 3 grains for the publication of 742 printed materials. A large part of this income came from subscriptions, the purchase of gazettes, and government payments, while other income came from private individuals who paid for the publication of their advertisements in the Gaceta del Gobierno.
It is important to emphasize that during that year, the National Printing Office of the Supreme Government devoted itself to the arduous task of publishing everything concerning the new form of government that the Mexican Federal Republic had adopted. Some of the things that were printed were the Constitutive Act of the Mexican Federation and the Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States of 1824. Other things that were printed were the Sovereign Congress's regulations, commission rulings, circulars, and other documents.
Among the main expenses that the National Printing Office of the Supreme Government had to attend to was the purchase of paper, as shown by the 9,336 pesos that the government had to pay in 1824, that is, almost half of the income obtained during that year. This cost depended a lot on the quality of the paper used since the National Printing Office had access to foil, half foil, Chinese, and stamped paper.
Foil paper turned out to be one of the most expensive because of its whiter shades; hence, the government only acquired, in that year, 35 reams for a unit value of 16 pesos. On the other hand, although Chinese paper was cheaper—it cost 5 pesos per ream—it was of low quality, and the National Printing Office avoided using it, which is why it only acquired 103 reams. The best option was half-foil paper, whose quality was lower compared to foil paper but superior to Chinese paper. The cost of this paper was 6 pesos per ream, so about 1,366 reams were acquired and used for printing.
The paper that was less used by this old printing press was stamped paper since only 5 reams were acquired for the price of 13 pesos per unit. It was probably used for administrative or legal matters with other government agencies, which explains why it wasn't used very often.
This is how the National Printing Office of the Supreme Government (Imprenta Nacional del Supremo Gobierno de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos) worked. It was one of the first printing presses, and it changed the way printing was done in Mexico in the 1800s. It also helped promote the right to freedom of printing, which was one of the most important rights that was suppressed in New Spain for almost 300 years.