Some historians dub Tomas Pinpin, as the "Prince of Filipino Printers" or the "Patriarch of Filipino Printing." He learned the art of printing about the end of 1608 in the Dominican-owned printing press in Abucay. In Abucay, Father Blancas employed in 1609 young Pinpin as an apprentice at the printing shop and taught him the art of printing.
The following year, 1610, now good at the job, he printed the famous book of Father Blancas de San Jose, Arte y Reglas de la Lengua Tagals (Art and Rules of the Tagalog Languages). In the same year, he printed, also in Abucay, his book entitled Librong Pagaaralan nang mga Tagalog nang Wicang Castila. He wrote this book in order to help people learn the Spanish language easily.
He printed various books, such as Relacion de Martirio (1625), written by an unknown author; Francisco's Relacion (1626); Carrero's Triunfo (1626); Lopez' Arte Ilocano (1627); Vocabulario Japan (1630), written by unknown writer; Mentridas' Ritual (1630); Hen-era's Confesionario (1636); Sucesos Felices (1637), by an anonymous author; and Perez' Relacion (1639).
The last book he printed was Father Perez de Nuero's book, Relacion de la Vida y Martirio del Jusuita P. Mastrilli; (Report on the Life and Martyrdom of the Jesuit Father Mastrilli). Pinpin, assisted by Domingo Loag, printed the "Vocabulario de al Lengua Tagala," the first Tagalog dictionary written by Father Pedro de San Buenaventura, a Franciscan friar, in the town of Pila, Laguna, in 1613. For the next three decades, he printed at least 14 books.
It is interesting to note that the first 12 volumes carried his name as we spell it out today, but in the last two the first "n" in his surname had been changed to an "m". According to Carlos Quirino, a Filipino historian, the change certainly could not have been a typography error on his part.
Learn more about him
Tomas Pinpin was born in Barrio Mabatang, Abucay, Bataan, between 1580 and 1585. His principal traits, family name, and business acumen points to a Chinese lineage.
Very little is known of his parentage because of the loss of the parish records of Abucay, which the Dutch marauders plundered and burned in 1646. The Spanish historian Wenceslao E. Retana believed that he did not belong to the highest class of natives, the "Principales," such as Pablo Tanclanmanoc and Fernando Bagongbata also from Abucay, who were called "Dons" by the Spaniards themselves.
The Dominican-owned printing press was originally established in Binondo, Manila, in 1602, and was transferred to Abucay in 1608 by Francisco Blancas de San Jose (founder of the press), who was assigned parish priest of the town. This Dominican friar-printer was a consummate master of the Tagalog Language and author of various books in Tagalog.
Accordingly, he was called Demosthenes of Tagalog Language. Aside from being a printer and an author, he was a skilled engraver. He engraved beautifully the book he printed. His engravings revealed his remarkable gift as an artist. However, Pardo de Tavera, claimed that a book by one of the friars in 1648 stated at the end: "Printed in the Office of Tomas Pin-pin." Perhaps he had opened a printing shop of his own in Manila by that time, with his son Simon doing the work.
Pardo de Tavera concluded that Pinpin must have been active and a hardworking man. Pin-pin taught the printer's trade to his son under whose name books appeared starting 1643 at the Jesuit press. There are no records of Thomas Pinpin after 1640 so it is unsure when or where Thomas Pinpin passed away.
The Librong Pagaaralan was the first Pilipino-written book to appear in print. It contained 119 pages divided into five parts.
It was written in the old Tagalog orthography, as shown by the following terms: wica (wika - language); caya (kaya-therefore); and canina (kanina - a while ago). The author's name was printed Thomas Pin-pin.
This book was printed by Diego Talaghay, probably his assistant. Pinpin, having mastered the technique and operation of the printing, was soon appointed shop manager. Thus, the prologue of his book: "Let us therefore study, my country men, for although the art of learning is somewhat difficult, yet if we are persevering, we shall soon improve our knowledge.
Other Tagalogs like us did not take a year to learn the Spanish language when using my book. This good result has given me satisfaction and encouraged me to print my work, so that all may derive some profit from it."