1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Acosta, José de
ACOSTA, JOSÉ DE (1539?–1600), Spanish author, was born at Medina del Campo about the year 1539. He joined the Jesuits in 1551, and in 1571 was sent as a missionary to Peru; he acted as provincial of his order from 1576 to 1581, was appointed theological adviser to the council of Lima in 1582, and in 1583 published a catechism in Quichua and Aymara—the first book printed in Peru. Returning to Spain in 1587, and placing himself at the head of the opposition to Acquaviva, Acosta was imprisoned in 1592–1593; on his submission in 1594 he became superior of the Jesuits at Valladolid, and in 1598 rector of the Jesuit college at Salamanca, where he died on the 15th of February 1600. His treatise De natura novi orbis libri duo (Salamanca, 1588–1589) may be regarded as the preliminary draft of his celebrated Historia natural y moral de las Indias (Seville, 1590) which was speedily translated into Italian (1596), French (1597), Dutch (1598), German (1601), Latin (1602) and English (1604) The Historia is in three sections: books I. and II. deal with generalities; books III. and IV. with the physical geography and natural history of Mexico and Peru; books V., VI. and VII. with the religious and political institutions of the aborigines. Apart from his sophistical defence of Spanish colonial policy, Acosta deserves high praise as an acute and diligent observer whose numerous new and valuable data are set forth in a vivid style. Among his other publications are De procuranda salute Indorum libri sex (Salamanca, 1588), De Christo revelato libri novem (Rome, 1590), De temporibus novissimis libri quatuor (Rome, 1590), and three volumes of sermons issued respectively in 1596, 1597 and 1599.
Authorities.—José R. Carricido, El P. José de Acosta y su importancia en la literatura científica española (Madrid, 1899); C. Sommervogel, Bibliothèque de la Compagnie de Jésus, Première Partie (Brussels and Paris, 1890), vol. i., col. 31–42; and Edward Grimston’s translation of the Historia reprinted (1880) for the Hakluyt Society with introduction and notes by Sir Clements R. Markham. (J. F.-K.)