Biography of José Toribio Medina Zavala (1852-1930)

Humanist and Chilean polygraph, born in Santiago in 1852 and died in his hometown in 1930. Possessor of a vast intellectual and training provided with a no less endless capacity for study and work, left an extensive, deep and very well-documented printed legacy consisting of more than five hundred titles, covering subjects as diverse as literature, history, geography, archaeology, translation, literary criticism lexicography, biography, Ethnology, entomologynatural science and numismatics. Considered, by all these works, as one of the most brilliant incarnations of the figure of the Renaissance humanist in contemporary letters, José Toribio Medina contributed with his varied and enjoyable studies to shape cultural identity and outline the historical past of all Latin American Nations, in a dazzling documentary analysis and exercise intellectual performance, since its modesty of wise man delivered to their silent reflections, he summed up with these humble words to sum up his life and work: "I've worked hard and I'm little tired". To facilitate the diffusion of its enormous work of polygraph, the Chilean writer founded the famous Elzeviriana printing, where almost all of his works under the proud imprint saw the light "Printed and recorded at the author's House".


Around twenty years of age, the young José Toribio Medina Zavala became known as a writer through journalistic collaborations that he began to publish in different journals and Rotary Chileans, which won him an immediate literary prestige. In 1874 he published his first work of translation, a Spanish version of the long loving poem Evangeline, by the American writer Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Shortly thereafter, in capacity as Secretary, was appointed to the diplomatic legation in Chile in Lima, where became interested vividly by the study of history and rescued numerous Peruvian archives documents that would serve him for their further investigations of the Spanish colonial past, matter that, within the huge vastness of knowledge that came to dominate the polygraph of Santiagosoon become more specialized.

Since then, José Toribio Medina undertook a series of constant movement by all the countries within the Latin American geocultural, in search of bibliographic material and documentary sources that would allow it to complete its fruitful studies. In addition, he visited also many archives, libraries and private collections in Europe and North America, always driven by the need to verify in-situ data and accurate documents needed to complete their investigations. Thus, v. gr., in 1876 visited for the first time the United States of America, where, with the initial pretext of attending, in Philadelphia, to the Centennial Exhibition, made a long tour of libraries, universities and organizations and cultural institutions around the country. Identical curiosity dragged him, soon after, the old continent, to engage in the consultation of the English files and, essentially, Spanish.

On his return to Chile, during a brief period of time he returned to practicing law, activity which, although it was the main purpose of higher education who had studied during his youth, not attracted you too. Hence, soon to leave the robe to devote himself to humanistic studies, which soon shone with own light thanks to the publication of his history of colonial literature of Chile (Santiago: Imprenta y Librería El Mercurio, 1878), the work, published in three volumes, immediately became an essential instrument for scholars of the letters of the Andean nation.

The following year, José Toribio Medina took an active part in the so-called war of the Pacific (1879-1883), conflict which was mobilized, as counsel, to play different positions within the military judiciary. At the same time, was able to continue his research on the documentary history of Chile (based, fundamentally, the old Spanish Chronicles) and venture into new fields of work that soon made him one of the most internationally renowned in matters as complex as the natural sciences, archaeology, and Ethnology. It contributed the emergence, especially at the beginning of the 1980s, her famous anthropological study, titled Aboriginal in Chile (Santiago, 1882).

At the end of it contends it war, the humanist of Santiago was commissioned to locate and catalog the files of the colonial administration in his country, a mission that led him to found, between 1883 and 1884, the General archive of the General captaincy of Chile. Engaged in this arduous task, you felt like essential to return to the old continent, purpose accomplished when he was appointed Secretary of the Chilean embassy in Madrid.

Again on Spanish soil, began to deploy a tireless work of search and collection of documents that forced him, among many other tasks, copy of your own hand more than three hundred sixty-five volumes, at the rate of five hundred pages of average in each of them. Thanks to this enormous task (performed, mainly, in the archives of Madrid, Seville and Simancas), José Toribio Medina was introduced in the most outstanding Spanish intellectual cenacles, where befriended the leading intellectuals of the time and left remarkable samples of its primacy in the studies of the Hispanic colonial past (among them, the happy discovery of the geographical, natural, and civil history of the Kingdom of Chilewritten by Felipe Gómez de Vidaurreflowing religious). During this lengthy and fruitful stay in Europe, Medina Zavala toured also in search of material for his research, archives of the main capitals of the continent (such as Rome, London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, etc.), where continued accumulating data that would then form part of its immense cultural heritage.

Back to his native country, in 1866 married Mercedes Ibáñez, which from then on was to become your best partner, both in their work for search and copy of documents and dedication that required the printing press recently founded by the own humanist, who was initially named "Ercilla" on Remembrance and homage of the Madrid poet author of La Araucanathat he left the brochure of José Toribio Medina between 1910 and 1918, in a magnificent edition published in five volumes (though, when appeared the first volume of this excellent Edition, Medina company happened to be called Imprenta Elzeviriana already fourteen years earlier). With the invaluable support of his wife, Santiago polygraph published, in its first six years of marriage, about twenty-five titles, among which are devoted to the study of the Inquisition in the Spanish colonies - history of the Court of the Holy Office of inquisition of Lima (1569-1820) [Santiago: Imprenta Gutenberg, 1887], 2 vols.- and the devoted to their nation's colonial history - collection of unpublished documents for the history of Chile from Magellan's voyage until the battle of Maipo (1518-1818) [Santiago, 1888-1890], 30 vols.-, without forgetting his valuable contributions to the dissemination of the first news about the printing press in the Spanish colonial domains: Bibliography of the printing press in Santiago (Santiago: Ercilla, 1891); History and bibliography of the printing press in the former Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata (La Plata: Museo de la Plata, 1892); The printing press in Manila (Santiago: Imprenta Elzeviriana, 1986); etc. The publication of the first study on the technique of Gutenberg in Santiago de Chile (considered, even in our days, as one of the best contributions to the knowledge of the implementation and dissemination of the press in Latin America) reported such fame to José Toribio Medina, to the authorities of Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay commissioned the cited study of its origins in the colonial territory of the Río de la Plata. Thanks to these works, the researcher of Santiago was elected in Spain member of the Royal Academy of history, circumstance that led him back to a long stay in the Iberian Peninsula.

Meanwhile, José Toribio Medina continued amassing the largest collection of documentary sources for the knowledge of the history of his country, embodied in forty-five volumes added to the collection of the historians of Chile (1861-1923) and the thirty tomes that formed his valuable unpublished documents (1888-1902). Naturally, this impressive work of research, study and writing could only take it out along a quiet and modest life consecrated to their humanistic vocation, regulated by a strict order and an amazing discipline, and away completely from the hustle and bustle and the tinsel of hectic society that surrounded him. However, despite his constant desire to stay in the tranquillity of their anonymity, throughout its fruitful existence José Toribio Medina was forced to attend to numerous acts of homage rendered to his work and his person, both in his country home as in the rest of the Latin American Nations and, especially, in Spainwhere his work was the subject of the admiration of the entire intellectual class.

He returned for the fourth time, to Spain in 1902, to continue hauling material relating to his studies on the printing press in Latin America, that previously had taken him also by land from Peru, Guatemala and Mexico. On his return to Chile, it's fame that brought in their bags more than ten thousand notes on books and documents relating to the colonial history of America, most of them affable to his inexhaustible curiosity about the printing press. Carried out, as well, about eighty monographic works on Gutenberg's invention and its broadcasting in Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Cuba, and even, as already indicated more above, the Philippine Islands. His Magnum Opus in this regard is the entitled library Hispano-Americana (1493-1810) (Santiago: author's House, 1898-1907), a set of seven thick volumes which, published between the end of the 19th century and beginning of the next century, devoted to José Toribio Medina as one of the largest Spanish-speaking scholars of his time. In his monumental bibliographic collection, are there collected more than eight thousand five hundred titles printed in America since the appearance of the log of Christopher Columbus until the first decade of the 19th century.

It is not surprising that, by the sum of all these works, the humanist of Santiago was admired and also respected in his country, where he was offered a teaching position at the Faculty of philosophy and Humanities; However, fully dedicated to the study and research work was soon cluttered by the demands of his chair, so it took very little to leave teaching to engage in the search, analysis and editing of documents.

Thus, in 1910 he returned to Buenos Aires to take part, as highlighted in the International Congress of Americanists figure, he was elected Honorary President. On his return to Chile, it gave another sign of his generosity and his selflessness by wordly goods to cede all his valuable collection of books and manuscripts (made up of more than sixty thousand pieces) free of charge to the National Library of Santiago, despite having received by the then succulent offers from different foreign institutions seeking to increase their funds with the invaluable wealth of material gathered by José Toribio Medina. With this donation from corpus was created the very famous "Medina library", which today continues to be a must-visit place for the americanists from all over the world.

Logically, the dizzying pace of production which José Toribio Medina had developed in their most fertile years decreased as the eminent polygraph was heading toward old age; Even so, between 1904 and 1923 gave printed thirty-eight new titles - many of them focused on the study of the literary works of the great classics of Spanish, such as Miguel de Cervantes and Lope de Vega-, which is certainly enough to justify the impossibility of gathering, in an article of this nature, the complete list of his works. Such was the number of books and articles published by the Santiago humanist throughout his life, that in 1952, when it was already almost a quarter of a century since his disappearance, the Government of Chile decreed the creation of the background José Toribio Medina, exclusively for the rescue and the reprinting of his huge print production.

However, despite their efforts to always go unnoticed, he enjoyed also in lives of other honors and tributes that the Chilean people had the opportunity to pay him the respect that his figure and his work deserved. Among them, it is forced to remember, for his Special emotions, the celebrated in 1923 in the Hall of Honor of the University of Chile, where, in commemoration of the 50 years since its first publication, is decorated him with the Medal of the University, in the presence of the Government in full (with President Arturo Alessandri to the head), the diplomatic corps in Chile and the cream of the Andean intelligentsia.


Given the impossibility - already manifest in earlier paragraphs - in this article reflect the comprehensive relationship of innumerable titles which compose the bibliography of José Toribio Medina, below a chronological compilation of his most important works, supplemented with other notable works his not mentioned so far:

-History of the colonial literature of Chile (Santiago: Imprenta y Librería El Mercurio, 1878)-the natives of Chile (Santiago, 1882) [Santiago: historical background and bibliographic J.T. Medina, 1953]-history of the Court of the Holy Office of inquisition of Lima (1569-1820) (Santiago: Gutenberg printing press, 1887), 2 vols.-collection of unpublished documents for the history of Chile from Magellan's voyage to the battle of Maipo (1518-1818) (Santiago(, 1888-1890), 30 vols.-bibliography of the printing press in Santiago (Santiago: Ercilla, 1891). [Enlarged ed.: Santiago, 1939].-history and bibliography of the printing press in the former Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata (La Plata: Museo de la Plata, 1892)-printing works in Manila (Santiago: Imprenta Elzeviriana, 1896); - Spanish bibliography of the Philippine Islands (Santiago: Imprenta Cervantes, 1898)-Hispanic American Library (Santiago: author's House, 1898-1907), 7 vols.-printing works in Lima (1584-1824) (Santiago: Imprenta Elzeviriana)(, 1904-1905), 4 vols.-history of the Court of the Holy Office of the Inquisition in Mexico (Santiago: Imprenta Elzeviriana, 1905)-popular in Chile instruction from its origins to the Foundation of the University of San Felipe (Santiago: [SPI], 1905), 2 vols.-Diccionario Biográfico colonial de Chile (Santiago: Imprenta Elzeviriana, 1906)-printing works in Mexico (1539-1821) (Santiago: House of the author, 1907-1912), 8 vols.-the Venetian Sebastián Caboto in the service of Spain (Santiago(: Printing of the University, 1908), 2 vols.-La Araucana de Alonso de Ercilla [critical ed.] (Santiago: Imprenta Elzeviriana, 1910-1918), 5 vols.-the primitive American Inquisition (1493-1569) (Santiago: Imprenta Elzeviriana, 1914)-bio-bibliographical news of the expelled Jesuits from America in 1767 (Santiago: Imprenta Elzeviriana, 1914)-aunt mock novel (Santiago: Imprenta Elzeviriana, 1919)-Hispanic American writers concluded by Lope de Vega in "El Laurel de Apolo" (Santiago(: Imprenta Elzeviriana, 1922).-Cervantes in the Chilean letters (Santiago: Imprenta Universitaria, 1923)-female literature in Chile (Santiago: [SPI], 1923).-printing works in Guatemala (Santiago: Imprenta Elzeviriana, 1924)-printing works in Cartagena de Indias (Santiago: Imprenta Elzeviriana, 1924)-dictionary of anonymous and Hispanic American pseudonyms (Buenos Aires: University Press, 1925), s vols.-the journey of the Parnassus (Santiago: University Press, 1925)2 vols.-Cervantes in Portugal (Santiago: Nascimento, 1926)-American writers concluded by Cervantes in the song of Caliope (Santiago: Nascimento, 1926)-Chilenismo, lexicographical notes (Santiago: lithograph universes, 1928)-history of the University of San Felipe de Santiago de Chile (Santiago: [SPI], 1928).

These titles you can add the following works published posthumously, entresacadas among the sixteen books that José Toribio Medina left unpublished in 1930, at the time of his death:

-Hernán cuts bio-bibliographical essay (Santiago: historical background and bibliographic J.T. Medina, 1952)-cervantine studies (Santiago: historical background and bibliographic J.T. Medina, 1958)-history of the printing press in the old Spanish domains in the Americas and Oceania (Santiago: historical background and bibliographic J.T. Medina, 1958)-historical, biographical, critical and bibliographical studies (Santiago: historical background and bibliographic J.T. Medina)1965)-studies on colonial literature of Chile (Santiago: historical background and bibliographic J.T. Medina, 1970), 2 vols.

See Chile: literature.


-SOLAR AMUNATEGUI, Sunday. José Toribio Medina (Santiago, 1932).

-CHIAPA, Víctor M. Catálogo publications of D. José Toribio Medina (1873-1914) (Santiago: Imprenta Cervantes, 1924).

-FELIU CRUZ, Guillermo. Bibliography of don José Toribio Median. Critical notes (Buenos Aires: Imprenta de la Universidad, 1931).

-------------------. Brief catalogue of the library of Americana that gift to the National Library of Santiago José Toribio Medina (Santiago: Imprenta Universitaria, 1953-1954), 2 vols.

-------------------. José Toribio Medina. Historian and bibliographer of America (Santiago: Ed. Nascimento, 1952).

-------------------. José Toribio Medina and Chilean and American colonial literature studies (Santiago: Ed. Nascimento, 1971).

-ROBERTS, Sarah Elizabeth. José Toribio Medina. His Life and Works (Washington, 1941).

-TORRES-RIOSECO, Arturo. "José Toribio Medina." Critic of Chilean literature", in essays on Latin American literature (second series) (Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1958), pp. 39-49.

-VILLALOBOS, Sergio. Medina. His life and his works (1852-1930) (Santiago: Imprenta Universitaria, 1952).

J. R. Fernández Cano