Parution : Baptism through incision : the postmortem cesarean operation in the Spanish Empire

Baptism through incision


  • Few, Martha (1964-….)
  • Tortorici, Zeb (1978-….)
  • Warren, Adam
  • Scott, Nina M. Traducteur
  • Martha Few is Professor of Latin American History and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Penn State University.
  • Zeb Tortorici is Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at New York University.
  • Adam Warren is Associate Professor of Latin American History at the University of Washington.


In 1786, Guatemalan priest Pedro José de Arrese published a work instructing readers on their duty to perform the cesarean operation on the bodies of recently deceased pregnant women in order to extract the fetus while it was still alive. Although the fetus’s long-term survival was desired, the overarching goal was to cleanse the unborn child of original sin and ensure its place in heaven. Baptism Through Incision presents Arrese’s complete treatise—translated here into English for the first time—with a critical introduction and excerpts from related primary source texts.

Inspired by priests’ writings published in Spain and Sicily beginning in the mid-eighteenth century, Arrese and writers like him in Peru, Mexico, Alta California, Guatemala, and the Philippines penned local medico-religious manuals and guides for performing the operation and baptism. Comparing these texts to one another and placing them in dialogue with archival cases and print culture references, this book traces the genealogy of the postmortem cesarean operation throughout the Spanish Empire and reconstructs the transatlantic circulation of obstetrical and scientific knowledge around childbirth and reproduction. In doing so, it shows that knowledge about cesarean operations and fetal baptism intersected with local beliefs and quickly became part of the new ideas and scientific-medical advancements circulating broadly among transatlantic Enlightenment cultures.

A valuable resource for scholars and students of colonial Latin American history, the history of medicine, and the history of women, reproduction, and childbirth, Baptism Through Incision includes translated excerpts of works by Spanish surgeon Jaime Alcalá y Martínez, Mexican physician Ignacio Segura, and Peruvian friar Francisco González Laguna, as well as late colonial Guatemalan instructions, and newspaper articles published in the Gazeta de México, the Gazeta de Guatemala, and the Mercurio Peruano.


  • Foreword
  • Acknowledgments
  • Translator’s Note
  • Introduction: Postmortem Cesareans and Pedro José de Arrese’s Guatemalan Treatise in Historical Context
  1. Arrese’s Text: Physical, Canonical, Moral Principles . . . on the Baptism of Miscarried Fetuses and the Cesarean Operation on Women Who Die Pregnant
  • Translated by Nina M. Scott
  1. Additional Translations from Across the Spanish Empire
  • Translated by Martha Few, Zeb Tortorici, and Adam Warren
  • Excerpt from Spain
  • Excerpts from Colonial Peru and Río de la Plata
  • Excerpts from Colonial Guatemala
  • Excerpts from Colonial New Spain
  • Glossary
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Informations pratiques

  • Éditeur : University Park, Pennsylvania : The Pennsylvania State University Press
  • Date de parution : cop. 2020
  • Description matérielle : 1 vol. (XIV-135 p.) : [3] ill., carte ; 22 cm
  • Collection : (Latin American originals ; ).
  • Bibliogr. Index
  • ISBN 978-0-271-08607-1 (br.) : 21,95 $


  • PARIS-BnF : 2021-215306

Citer ce billet
Olivier Jacquot (2023, 20 mai). Parution : Baptism through incision : the postmortem cesarean operation in the Spanish Empire. Amoxcalli. Consulté le 29 mai 2024, à l’adresse

Olivier Jacquot

Chargé de collections : manuscrits des fonds américains, Service des manuscrits ORientaux (SOR), département des Manuscrits (MSS), Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF)

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