Historia general de los hechos de los Castellanos
en las Islas y tierra firme del Mar Oceano (mas)
Descripcion de las Indias Occidentales
Madrid, Juan Flamenco, 1601 y Juan de la Cuesta, 1615
(Palau 114.286; Vindel, Mapas de America en libros Espanoles pp 62, Sabin 31544 and 31539; Medina BHA 455)
Folio, uniform, contemporary limp vellum.
Leaf size: 27,3x19,2 cm.
Watermark in both text and maps and in both the Flamenco volumes as in the de la Cuesta volumes: cross in an oval (45x30 mm) with B F and A D and possibly other letters hanging under it. Compare Piccard, cross, 653 and 654, Torino 1606 and Lucca, 1617 respectively.
Title in manuscript on the spine, an integral authentic set.
Text in double columns. Woodcut historiated initials all through
8 (of 9) engraved title pages; 14 copper plate engraved, folding maps
Two of the nine title pages from a 1726 copy with the date corrected in manuscript, one engraved title page missing (book VIII). Engraved title page of book III remargined. The atlas (Descripcion) bound after book IV in Volume two, but complete and original. Two text leaves missing from book VIII. Some of the fly leaves renewed, a small tear repaired in a few places. Slight browning in the first books. Overall a healthy copy, printed on very white paper. An original set in its original condition.
Volume one (Juan Flamenco, 1601) :
Book I: Engraved title page; 372 pp; 11 nn lvs (missing a last blank??).
1492-1514: de Columbus al Ponce de Leon y Piedrahita
Book II: Engraved title page; 368 pp. ; 8 nn lvs.
1515-1520: Núñez de Balboa al Cortes
Volume two (Juan Flamenco, 1601):
Book III: Engraved title page;374 pp 1 blank plus 8 nn lvs:
1521-1526: Cortes; Magellan; Pizarro; Loayza.
Book IV: Engraved title page; 1 nn leaf; 294 pp. 8 nn lvs, last blank :
1527-1531: Pedrahita; Nunez Guzman.
Descripcion de las Indias Occidentales: Engraved title page, 1 nn leaf; 96 pp; 14 folding maps
Volume three (Juan de la Cuesta, 1615):
Book V: 4nn lvs including an original blank and an engraved title page ;
318 pp; 1 original blank plus 10 nn lvs.
1532-1535: Pizarro al Alvarado en Chile.
Book VI:, 2 nn lvs, including engraved title page; 302 pp; 1 plus 8 plus 1 nn lvs.
1536-1541: Federmann; Jimenez de Quesada; de Soto; Núñez Cabeza de Vaca.
Volume IV (Juan de la Cuesta, 1615):
Book VII: 4 nn lvs including engraved title page; 316 pp; 10 nn lvs.
1541-1546: Almagro; Gonzalo Pizarro; Núñez Cabeza de Vaca.
Book VIII: Engraved title page missing; 2 nn lvs; 342 pp. (missing Ss5); 6 nn lvs (missing qqqq 1, the first leaf of the index)
1546-1554: Desde Gonzalo Pizarro hasta el final de las guerras civiles del Peru.
Spain has a rich history of documenting its conquistas en las Americas and these were usually published (if censored), in contrast with the Portuguese practice. Columbus letter had 17 editions in 4 languages before 1500. Pedro Martir published his decadas since 1511 and completed them in 1532. They were translated and widely read in Europe. Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo published the first part of his Historia general de las Indias en 1535, and de las Casas his own in 1552. In that same year, 1552, Fernando Lopez de Gomara published his Historia general de las Indias y de Mexico in Zaragoza.
Antonio de Herrera was named Cronista mayor de las Indias in 1596. His task was to document the conquest of the Americas by Spain. He did so in a very detailed manner and based on an official point of view. The text is published in 8 books, each of 10 chapters (las decadas) covering the period between 1492 and 1554. (Kagan, 2010, pp 244-263). The work describes nearly on a daily basis the voyages and actions of Coloumbus, Cortes, Pizarro and all the other Spanish conquistadores. Decada VII, book 6, chapter 5 gives the complete text of the Leyes de Indias, the set of laws Spain designed for the Americas. In 1542. Herreras work is still the main source for research into the birth of the Spanish empire.
The Descripcion is a separate book. It is an atlas of the Americas, that is description of the countries involved and the corresponding maps. This is the second atlas (only) to be exclusively dedicated to the Americas, the first being the Wytfliet (1597).
The earliest explorers of the Americas made manuscript maps to illustrate their discoveries and claim their rights (like the 1519 map of Pineda of the Gulf of Mexico and the 1524 (published) map by Cortes). Most of these are now lost. Paez Castro, historiador of Charles I (Carlos V) and Philip II proposed a map library as part of the Royal Library (1555). Philip ordered all his Governors to write Relaciones topograficas in 1575, including detailed maps. These were used in turn by Lopez de Velasco, then historiador del Rey to constitute a set of maps of the Americas. A few of these (1575) survive in manuscript in the John Carter Brown Library. These are in original colour. Herrera in turn, used the manuscript maps of Lopez de Velasco for his atlas (Kagan, 2010)
i) Contrary tof or example de las Casas who with his Brevisima relacion de la destruccion de las Indias gave a personal interpretation of the same events.
Bibliography: Kagan, Richard: Los cronistas de la Corona, Madrid 2010