A significant piece of Peruvian Inquisition history

Peruvian Inquisition

Lima, 1605


Paper manuscript in Spanish executed in neat secretarial hand, dated May 20th, 1605. Folio(310 x 190mm), 214 uncut leaves. Light browning, sporadic stains, wormholes, and candle burns but still largely clean and in excellent condition, Near Fine. Bound in modern quarter-calf and marbled boards.


It begins:


Titulos de las casas que compro el Senor Juan Osorio en Virtud de Sentencia del Tribunal de la Sancta Crusada que solia ser de Melchior de Palma e Ysabel Benavento su muger.


Titles of the houses that Mr. Juan Osorio bought by virtue of the Sentence of the Court of the Holy Crusade, formerly that of Melchior de Palma and Ysabel Benavento, his wife.


The document outlines the properties and holdings now in the possession of Juan Osorio, a judge on the Inquisition Court. There is also a petition against Osorio by someone described as a notary who is seeking Osorio’s rank and titles, along with details of transactions between other individuals.


While the Peruvian colony’s lower classes such as women, indigenous, and black people faced charges like sorcery and witchcraft, Inquisitors used their power to enrich themselves by confiscating property of successful people like Melchior, likely a Jewish merchant.


‘Spain introduced the laws of the Inquisition to Peru (which at the time comprised all its colonies in South America) in 1569. New Christians – Jews who had converted to Christianity, a group constantly under suspicion because its members were viewed as prone to backsliding – up until the fourth generation were forbidden from immigrating to Spain’s colonies in the New World. Yet many of them did so nonetheless.


This was especially true after the royal and papal pardons of crypto-Jews of 1601 and 1604, respectively. The merging of the Spanish and Portuguese crowns in 1580 also led to thousands of Jewish refugees from Portugal arriving in Peru, where the financial opportunities were great.


As historian Henry C. Lea wrote about these Portuguese New Christians in his 1908 book on the Inquisition in Peru: “They became masters of the commerce of the kingdom; from brocade to sack-cloth, from diamonds to cumin seed, everything passed through their hands; the Castilian who had not a Portuguese partner could look for no success in trade.”’(Haaretz)


A significant piece of history that provides an interesting and detailed look into the world of the early Peruvian Inquisition.


Ref: Recent Works on the Inquisition and Peruvian Colonial Society

A significant piece of Peruvian Inquisition history