an exhibition chiefly from the books of the 
South Carolina College Library

 Introduction | 16th Century | 17th Century | Some 18th Century Historians | Alexander Von Humbolt | Revolution & Independence | Rediscovering Mexican Antiquity | Emergence of Mexico

16th Century

mexico cityRamusio's Voyages

Ramusio, Giovanni Battista, 1485-1557. Terzo volvme delle navigationi et viaggi
Venetia, Nella stamperia de' Givnti, 1565. Later vellum.

The oldest published account of Mexico in Thomas Cooper Library appears to be that printed in the third volume of this mid-16th century Italian collection of exploration narratives, published less than fifty years after Hernan Cortes invaded central Mexico in 1519. Shown here is an illustration and description of Mexico City, built on the ruins of the much larger original lake-bound Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan.

A View of Mexico City from 1572 

Georg Braun, 1541-1622, and Franz Hogenberg, c.1536-1588.  "Mexico Regia Celebris Hispaniae Novae Civitas," from Civitates Orbis Terrarum, Liber I.
Frankfurt: Braun and Hogenberg, [1572]. John Osman Collection. 

The Osman Collection, donated by to the University by Mrs. Mary C. Osman, includes more than four hundred copperplate engraved maps and views of (mostly European) cities, issued by the Dutch engravers Braun and Hogenberg in six volumes over the years 1572 to 1618. In this engraving, the view of Mexico is paired with one of Cusco, in Peru.

Purchas His Pilgrimes

Bartolomé de Las Casas, 1474-1566, translated in Purchas, Samuel,Purchas his Pilgrimes, in Five Bookes. The Sixth, Contayning English Voyages to the East, West, and South Parts of America: Many Land and Sea Fights, Invasions and Victories against the Spaniards in those parts. 4 vols.
London: Printed by W. Stansby for H. Fetherstone, 1625. Later sprinkled calf.

 Purchas's collection of exploration narratives, in English translations made in the same years as the King James Bible, long retained a major influence among English-speaking readers as a source on the Spanish conquest. As the subtitle suggests, European rivalries, sharpened by religious differences, influenced Purchas's choice of sources to reprint. Shown here is the sharply-critical account of the cruelties of the conquistadors by the Franciscan missionary Bartolomé de Las Casas (1474-1566), which in 1542 led to changes in Spanish administrative policies in New Spain.

The Extent of Spanish Influence in the New World

R: Eltracke, sculp.,"America Septentrionalis." in Samuel Purchas, 1577?-1626  Haklvytvs posthumus or Pvrchas his Pilgrimes.  Contayning a history of the world, in sea voyages, & lande-truells, by Englishmen and others. . .  
London: Printed by W. Stansby for H. Fetherstone, 1625.  4 vols. Later sprinkled calf.

This map gives a striking representation of the extent of Spanish settlement in 1600, not only in Mexico and central America, but north up the Californian coast, into what is now New Mexico, and up the Atlantic coast from Florida.

de orbe novo

Peter the Martyr, as edited by Hakluyt 

Anghiera, Pietro Martire d', 1457-1526; Hakluyt, Richard, 1552?-1616, ed. De orbe novo Petri Martyris Anglerii Mediolanensis, protonotarii, & Caroli Quinti senatoris decades octo, diligenti temporam obseruatione, & vtilissimis annotationibus illustratæ, suóque nitori restitutœ, labore & industria Richard Haklvyti. 
Paris: apud G. Avvray, 1587.  Contemporary calf, gilt.

This decade-by-decade chronicle of Spanish conquest, by Peter the Martyr, had been published earlier, and had appeared in English translation in 1555. Shown here is the version edited and annotated by the British geographer Richard Hakluyt, resident in Paris in 1583-1586.

map of new spain

Theodor de Bry's Greater Voyages, I

Bry, Theodor de, 1528-1598, map of New Spain, in Americæ pars quarta. Sive, Insignis & admiranda historia de reperta primùm Occidentali India à Christophoro Columbo anno M.CCCCXCII. 
Frankfurt: Feyrabend, 1594. Contemporary vellum with the date 1605.

The two volumes of Theodor de Bry's illustrated collection of voyages to the Americas were purchased for the South Carolina College library in the 1820's. The fourth part printed Urbain Chauveton's annotated Latin translation of the Italian Historia del Mondo Nuovo, book 1, by Girolamo Benzoni. Benzoni had travelled in America in the years 1541-1556. De Bry's beautiful map of New Spain shows how widely Spanish exploration and settlement had reached by the 1590's.

Theodor de Bry's Greater Voyages, II

Bry, Theodor de, 1528-1598. Americæ nona & postrema pars. Qua de ratione elementorum: de Novi Orbis natura: de huius incolarum superstitiosis  cultibus: . . . Catalogo Regum Mexicanorum omnium. . . & figuris . . . æneis coornata.  
Frankfurt: Matthew Becker, 1602.  Contemporary vellum stamped 1605.

Each of the separate parts of de Bry's great project was illustrated with an appendix of copperplate engravings, which had a lasting influence on European perceptions of pre-Columbian America. Shown here is de Bry's illustration of Aztec sacrifice, with the victim's discarded corpse tumbling down the steps of the temple, and the racks of human skulls beneath the main platform. While most of this ninth part of de Bry's collection is drawn from the Dutch explorer Sebald de Weert, the first section is by the Spanish Jesuit José de Acosta.

José de Acosta on American natural history and customs

Acosta, José de, 1540-1600. Historia natural y moral de la Indias, en que se tratan . . . los ritos, y cereminas, leyes, y govierno, y guerras de los Indios.  
Sevilla: Juan de Leon, 1590.  Nineteenth-century calf.

In1583, as a Jesuit missionary, Jose de Acosta had published the first book ever printed in Peru. This sophisticated defence of Spanish policy in the New World was his most famous book, notable especially for its careful descriptions of natural resources.

acosta translation

José de Acosta in translation

Acosta, José de, 1540-1600; Grimeston, Edward, transl. The natvrall and morall historie of the East and West Indies. . . . with the manners, ceremonies, lawes, governements, and warres of the Indians. 
London: V. Sims for E. Blount and W. Aspley, 1604.  Nineteenth-century calf. 

The extent of European interest in Mexico and the New World is indicated by successive translations of Acosta's book into Italian (1596), French (1597), Dutch (1598), German (1601), Latin (1602), and English (1604).

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