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José Mariano Beristain y Martin de Souza
Mexican bibliographer, b. in Puebla, Mexico, 22 May, 1756; d. at Mexico, 23 March, 1817. He went to Spain and spent some time in the family of the former Bishop of Puebla, then Archbishop of Toledo. Returning to Mexico (1811) he was made Archdeacon of the Metropolitan church of Mexico (1813), and was afterwards its Dean. Beristain was a secular priest who had made thorough studies at Mexico and perfected them in Spain under the most favourable circumstances. He wrote a number of treatises, some of them on economic subjects, but hardly any were published, the manuscripts being mostly lost through carelessness in sending them to Europe. His great work is the "Biblioteca hispano-americana septentrional," the last part of which was published after his death. For this he used as a basis the "Biblioteca mexicana" of Bishop Juan José de Eguiara y Eguren of which only the first volume (as far as "J") appeared in print. Beristain at first intended to republish Eguiara, completing the alphabet by means of sketches and notes left by the author, but, as he proceeded to carry out the idea, he found that it would be preferable to compose an independent bibliography, incorporating in it the material Equiara had collected. The "Bibioteca" of Beristain is, thus far, the most complete work on the subject that exists, but it contains many errors in names and dates. Still, if we take into account the time when he wrote, and the great obstacles he had to overcome in the shape of distances from sources and their frequent inaccessibility, it must be considered a monumental work and, up to this day, the principal source of knowledge of the bibliography of Mexico and Central America.
Autobiography in the Biblioteca hispano-americana septentrional (Mexico, 1816-19); Diccionario universal de Historia y Geografia (Mexico, 1853), I; Ycazbalceta, Bibliotecas de Eguiara y de Beristain; Memorias de la academia Mexicana (Mexico, 1878), I.
AD. F. BANDELIER