Letters of Cortes to Emperor Charles V - Vol 1/Bibliographical Note

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search




CONCERNING the importance of the Five Letters of Relation of Hernando Cortes, which are now published altogether in an English translation for the first time, it may be permitted to quote a passage from the historian Dr. Robertson, whose part in the discovery of the first and fifth letters, here presented, was such as to give singular interest and value to his opinion.

"Our knowledge of the events which happened in the conquest of New Spain is derived from sources of information more original and more authentic than that of any transaction in the history of America.

"The letters of Cortes to the Emperor Charles V. are an historical monument, not only first in order of time, but of the greatest authenticity and value."

Dr. Robertson's appreciation was shared by his contemporaries, and has been confirmed by subsequent historians, who have drawn from the letters, as from an original source, many of their important facts, have appealed to them for confirmation of information procured from other sources, and have used them as a very touchstone of truth, in accepting or rejecting statements made by other early writers, even when these latter were eye-witnesses of the events they described.

From the beginning, Cortes adopted the plan of reporting faithfully and minutely to the Emperor, each incident, its causes and its consequences, and of recording his impressions of all that he saw in his strange surroundings, with the purpose of putting before his sovereign an accurate and complete picture of the momentous events then unrolling in the New World; and he has done this with perfect frankness and great simplicity, in letters which are minute but not wearisome, nor wanting in a certain literary excellence. His correspondence was voluminous, but, amongst all the others, both for the importance of the events recorded, as well as for their volume, the five letters or "relations" (Relaciones) as they are called, in winch he recounts all that happened from the date of his sailing from Cuba in 1519, till his return from the expedition into Yucatan in 1526, are those which the English historian justly described as "an historical monument of the greatest authenticity and value."

The first of these letters has never been found, and by some is believed, perhaps to have been either the one suppressed by the Council for the Indies at the instance of Panfilo de Narvaez, or the one taken by Juan de Florez from Alonzo de Avila, and thus prevented from reaching the Emperor. It bore the date of July 10, 1519, and left Vera Cruz on the 1 6th of that month with the two envoys, Alonzo Hernandez Puertocarrero and Francisco de Montejo. This letter was in duplicate, as was likewise the letter of the magistrates of the newly founded colony, which was shown to Cortes before it was sent. Bernal Diaz del Castello, who was one of the signers of the joint letter, says that Cortes had omitted from his own letter the account of the expeditions of Francesco Hernandez de Cordoba, and of Juan de Grijalba. The letter of Cortes and that of the magistrates confirmed one another, as they were intended to do, and, according to Bernal Diaz, that of the magistrates was the more detailed of the two; hence it is, historically, the more valuable. The only important events which had happened up to that date were the change in the character and objects of the expedition, and the founding of Vera Cruz, and on these points Cortes and the magistrates were in perfect accord.

The search for this missing letter having been given up in despair, it remained for the perspicacity of Dr. Robertson to divine, that, as the Emperor was about leaving Spain for Germany at the time the envoys from Vera Cruz arrived with the letters, they might still be found in some of the Imperial archives, and he accordingly undertook a search, for which all necessary facilities were obtained by the British Ambassador in Vienna. This was crowned with a dual success, in that a certified copy by a notary public of the letter of the magistrates of Vera Cruz was discovered and, at the same time, the Fifth Letter of the Relaciones was also unearthed.

The letter of the magistrates of Vera Cruz supplies the place of the still missing First Letter of Cortes and serves to complete the series of five Relaciones. It was first published in the Coleccion de Documentos Inéditos para la Historia de España of Navarrete, Salvá y Baranda, in 1844. Señor Alaman reproduced it in the first volume of his Disertaciones sobre la Historia de la Republica Mexicana.

The Second Letter was dated from Segura de la Frontera, October 30, 1520. It contained the first account ever written of the wonders of Mexico and the adventures of the Spanish conquerors in the newly discovered countries, and awakened the liveliest interest in Spain, where it was first published by Juan Cronberger, a celebrated German printer in Seville, November 8, 1522. It was again printed the following year by another German, George Coci, in Saragossa.

The Third Letter was dated from Coyohuacan, May 15, 1522, and was likewise first printed in Seville by the same Juan Cronberger, March 30, 1523.

The Fourth Letter was dated from the city of Temixtitan (Mexico), October 15, 1524, and was first published in Toledo by Gaspar de Avila, and again in Saragossa, July 8, 1526.

All of these editions are folios in gothic lettering and are now extremely rare.

The Second, Third, and Fourth Letters, which were the only ones known until Dr. Robertson's fortunate discovery completed the series, have been translated into Latin, French, Italian, English, and German, at various times.

Of the Second and Third Letters a Latin translation made by Pietro Savorgnani of Forlì, secretary to the bishop of Vienne (Dauphiné), was dedicated to Pope Clement VII. and first published in Nuremberg in 1524. This translation was reproduced in the work entitled: De Insulis nuper inventis, which first appeared at Cologne in 1532 and was afterwards included in the Novus Orbis of Simon Grineo, of which one edition was issued at Basle in 1555 and another at Rotterdam in 1616.

Nicholas Liburno (or Liburnio) translated the Latin text of Savorgnani into Italian, publishing his work in Venice in 1524. This Italian translation was again published by Ramusio in the third volume of his work, Delle Navigationi et Viaggi, in Venice (edition of 1606).

A German translation of two of the letters was made by Xysto Betuleio and Andrea Diethero and published in Augsburg in 1550. (Garcia Icazbalceta, Documentos, vol. i., P. xxxvi.)

Another German edition was published in Heidelberg in 1779.

The first Spanish edition of the Second, Third, and Fourth Letters was published by Andrés Gonzalez de Barcia in the first volume of his work entitled Historiadores Primitivos de las Indias Occidentales, Madrid, 1749.

In 1770, Archbishop Lorenzana of Mexico, afterwards Cardinal Archbishop of Toledo, published the Second, Third, and Fourth Letters, together with other documents and his commentaries, under the title of Historia de Nueva España, and of this work an indifferent second edition was issued in New York by Manuel del Mar in 1828.

Mr. George Folsom, secretary of the New York Historical Society, translated Archbishop Lorenzana's text into English in 1843.

The Vicomte de Flavigni dedicated to the Marquise de Polignac a very free translation of the three letters then known, in a book published in Paris about 1778 (there is no date given), entitled Correspondance de Fernand Cortes avec l'Empereur Charles V. sur la conquêt du Mexique: reprinted in Switzerland, 1779.

Such liberties were taken with the Spanish text that Mr. Folsom, in his notice of this work, rightly calls it rather a paraphrase than a translation.

The Fifth Letter, which was discovered in Codex CXX. of the Imperial Library in Vienna, has no date, but a codex of the sixteenth century in the National Library in the City of Mexico bears the following: De la cibdad de Temixtitan desta Nueva España, à 3 del mes de Setiembre, año del nascimiento de nuestro Señor é Salvador Jesucristo de 1526. Three editions of the complete series of five Relaciones have been published in Spanish: one is found in the first volume of Historiadores Primitivos de Indias of Don Enrique de Vedia, which is contained in Rivadeneyra's Biblioteca de Autores Españoles, Madrid, 1877; another appears in the first volume of the Biblioteca Historica de la Iberia, and the third is the admirable collection of the learned Don Pascual Gayangos of the Spanish Academy, Cartas y Relaciones de Hernan Cortés al Emperador Carlos V., published in Paris in 1866. The same author made an English translation of the Fifth Letter, which appeared in a single volume of the Hakluyt Society's publications in 1868.

A French translation of the five letters was published by Desiré Charnay in Paris in 1896 under the title of Lettres de Fernand Cortes à Charles Quint.

In preparing this present edition, a careful comparison has been made of the various texts known, and, while idiomatic differences have imposed certain rearrangements of form, particularly in the matter of punctuation, and the suppression of many cumbersome repetitions, it has been sought to leave to the letters their unique characteristics, due to the personality of their author, and to the temper of their times.

The Spanish language was not yet the strong and stately vehicle of thought into which it was afterward shaped by generations of scholars, whose writings not only brought the Castilian tongue to a superlative degree of purity and perfection, but also conspicuously enriched the universal patrimony of literature. Fernando Cortes had but scanty learning, and the conditions under which he wrote were little conducive to the cultivation of literary style, but the absence of adornment, the precision of fact, and forceful terseness of expression furnish his compositions with singular merit. The restraint and self-control of which he was master appear in the equal and passionless style of his writings; for he seems neither exalted by success nor cast down by misfortunes, both of which he describes with calm simplicity in language which is both natural and fluent. Perhaps nowhere does the real superiority and inherent strength of his character more plainly appear than in those passages where he writes of the intrigues and detractions of his enemies, men whose ambitions were selfish and whose characters were vulgar and unscrupulous. Judged by his letters alone, Cortes must be ranked high amongst the Spanish-American discoverers and conquerors. His rudely honest contemporary and faithful follower Bernal Diaz del Castillo resented — and perhaps not unnaturally — the scanty mention of the other officers and men of the expedition, and, occasionally, in the course of his gossipy chronicle, he breaks into acrimony over what seems to him a cheating of others of their dues.

On the whole, however, Cortes was wise to eschew personalities in his reports, for no distribution of praise would have satisfied his followers, and he would have merely risked wearying the Emperor with a useless repetition of meaningless names. Cortes cannot be fairly reproached with self-laudation; he evidently knew the value also of occasional self-effacement, and he never loses sight of the high dual mission with which he felt himself invested, — the spreading of the Faith and the extension of the Spanish sovereignty; while the glory of victory is invariably ascribed to divine protection or the intervention of the saints, rather than to his own courage or ability, and the fruits of his victories were laid at the feet of his sovereign.

The notes with which the present edition is supplied have been carefully compiled from the best authorities, ancient and modern. Among these authorities, the soldier chroniclers contemporary with Cortes, and the Spanish priests in America at the same early period, take the first rank, and some brief notice of the character of these men, the circumstances under which, and the motives for which, they wrote may be of service in enabling the reader to estimate their testimony at its just historical worth.

It should always, however, be borne in mind that the letters of Cortes have the unique and superlative merit of having been composed on the spot from day to day, in the midst of the events in which their writer was playing the chief part, and that they were destined for the Emperor alone, hence misstatements of fact could only result from an x to deceive the Sovereign. The astuteness of Cortes would seem to exclude the adoption of a short-sighted policy, which would have foredoomed him to exposure and failure, and, though the story of his dealings with Diego Velasquez, Panfilo de Narvaez, and the other Spanish officials with whom he came in conflict, is told from his own point of view, the version he gives cannot be essentially untrue in any important particular. His story of the conquest from 151 9 till 1527 is thus told almost in the form of a diary, written at different times and places, under varying circumstances of fortune, and as it was written, so do we now read it.

The other conquerors, and the priests, wrote or supplied material to others several years after the events they chronicled, and under the influence of different motives, either avowed or dissembled. These latter on some points give to their histories the bias of special pleading, besides which, in many instances, their manuscripts reached responsible hands only after many vicissitudes, and, at times, only in copies or translations, which may suggest reasonable doubts of their entire authenticity. Whenever, therefore, a conflict of testimony is found concerning any event described by Cortes, modern historians have almost invariably decided that his statements, on all points of which he had personal knowledge, should be held to outweigh those of other writers unless it conclusively appears that his conscious intention was to mislead the Emperor.

The death of Montezuma is one of the few cases in which it seems the decision should be against Cortes. With great and perfect frankness he admits the murder of Quauhpopoca, the torture and subsequent murder of Quauhtemoczin, and he owns to a somewhat extensive catalogue of indefensible crimes, but for Montezuma's death he refuses responsibility. Yet, whether we consider the unanimous testimony as to the trifling character of the Emperor's wound, the useless embarrassment his presence had become, the imprudence of leaving him free in the capital, or the impossibility of carrying him captive out of it, and finally the contemporary Mexican versions of his death, all the circumstances certainly point to the conclusion that the royal captive died by the will of his conqueror.


francisco lopez de gomara

The Historia General de las Indias and the Cronica de la Conquista de Nueva-España, which were published in Saragossa, 1552, were at first received with the greatest favour by the public, and other editions as well as translations into Italian and French rapidly followed. This success, however, was short-lived, as Gomara's facts and appreciations were promptly impugned, first by Bernal Diaz del Castillo, who, in publishing his book, called it The True History of the Conquest, in contradistinction to Gomara's false and fanciful one.

In 1553 the Spanish Government took steps to suppress the work, and withdraw it from circulation, imposing a fine of 200,000 maravedis upon any one who should print or sell it in the future. This rigid prohibition was not revoked until 1727. Concerning Gomara's birth and antecedents, nothing is known, and, likewise, neither the date nor place of his death is recorded: "He came like water and like wind he went.' He is said to have held the Chair of Rhetoric at the University of Alcala, and afterwards to have passed several years in Rome. In 1540 he entered the service of Fernando Cortes, then Marques del Valle, and recently returned to Spain. Dr. Robertson surmises that he then began his historical work, under the inspiration, if not at the dictation, of his patron, and this would seem to be likely. He is undoubtedly the apologist of Cortes, and, although the latter was dead some years when the work was published, the first part is dedicated to the Emperor, and the second to Don Martin Cortes, second Marques del Valle.

But, all reservations admitted, the work of Gomara illustrates a most important and interesting period of history, and, if he was constrained to treat his hero leniently, he nevertheless had access to a mass of original information, by which he profited with excellent results. His style is agreeable and scholarly, revealing a writer of wide culture, gifted with unusual knowledge of astronomy, geography, and history. Although he never was in America (as far as is Digitized by Microsoft ® recorded), he has known how to lend the realism to his descriptions which usually only an eyewitness can impart. When not vindicating Cortes, Gomara has every claim to be ranked amongst the most trustworthy of the early writers on SpanishAmerican events, and his facts and descriptions generally stand the test of comparison with authentic temporary records.


bernal diaz del castillo

Bernal Diaz was a perfect type of the military adventurer of his age, and first went as a private soldier to America in 1 5 14, under the command of Pedrarias de Avila, bound for Darien. He next appeared in Cuba, where he was always ready to join any expedition of adventure which might be organised, and, indeed, he went on most of them, and was one of the few who escaped from the disastrous exploration conducted by Ponce de Leon on the Florida coast. He next joined Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba on his journey to Yucatan. He returned again thither the following year with Juan de Grijalba, from whose expedition he arrived once more at Cuba just in time to take service under Fernando Cortes. Diaz was a brave soldier, popular amongst his comrades, and esteemed by his commander, who some years later (in 1540), recommended him to the notice of the Emperor, as did likewise the Viceroy Don Antonio Mendoza.

After the conquest, he received an encomienda in Guatemala, where he held the office of regidor of Santiago de los Caballeros, where presumably he died. And this would have been all there was to say about Bernal Diaz, had Francisco Lopez de Gomara not published his history of the conquest in 1552. His exaltation of Cortes, to the exclusion of other members of the expedition, enraged the old soldier, living in peaceful retirement on his estate at Chamula, and he resolved that he and his fellows, who had borne the burden of the conquest, should likewise make good their just claims to a share of the credit. It was a case of "mine enemy writing a book," and the old veteran slashes his cultivated rival's polished prose in the language of the camp. Thirty years had then elapsed since the fall of the Aztec Empire, and Bernal Diaz was no longer a young man; nowhere does he say that he had taken notes or memoranda of what happened from day to day, and yet, were his chronicle a journal, its details could hardly be more minute, nor its statements more emphatic. These were the great events of his life, worthy indeed to be the great events of a greater man's life, and doubtless he relived and rehearsed them constantly, and, being a man of quick and careful observation, given to pondering and reflecting upon all that he saw and heard, gifted moreover with a good memory, it is not so strange that in the quiet of his last years the retired soldier could evoke the procession of events in their perfect order.

He began writing in 1558, and his declared purpose was to correct the mistakes and misstatements of Gomara, and to show that not only had those under Cortes's control shared in the fighting, but had likewise been called into the counsels of their chief. His indubitable claim upon Mexico's perpetual gratitude is in his introduction of the orange-tree as, when on Grijalba's expedition, he landed one day, and planted eight orange seeds, which he brought from Cuba, all of which grew. The Indians, seeing the strange little plants coming up, carefully protected them from insects and other perils, and from this casual little plantation the culture of the orange-tree spread over all tierra caliente.

The father of Bernal Diaz was Francisco Diaz del Castillo y Gaban, and his mother was Maria Diez Rejon; as the former held the post of regidor of the important town of Medina del Campo, he must have been a man of some family.

The Verdedera Historia, as we have it, is incomplete, and was printed not from the original, nor even from a certified duplicate of it, but from a copy in possession of the councillor Ramirez de Prado. The work was undertaken by F. Remon, who died before its conclusion, so that it was passed on to Fray Gabriel Adarzo de Santander, afterwards Bishop of Otranto.

As literature, the work of Bernal Diaz ranks far below the letters of Cortes, and shows the writer to be without instruction or culture. The narrative is involved, the mass of small details bewildering, while through all pierces the jealous determination of a wounded vanity to assert its claims to recognition. The stamp of perfect sincerity and frankness, however, is upon the whole work, and its value as an historical document, particularly when paralleled with the letters of Cortes, and the chronicles of Gomara, is superlative and unimpeachable.

Prescott describes Bernal Diaz as of "a poor and humble family," but since his father held the office of regidor this can hardly be exact, as such posts, especially in a town of the importance of Medina del Campo, were not held by the poor and humble. He himself claimed some kinship with Don Diego Velasquez.


gonzalo fernandez de oviedo y valdés

Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo was born of an illustrious family in Asturias in 1478, and passed his early years at Court as page to the Infante Don Juan, only son of the Catholic Sovereigns. He spent some years in Italy in the service of the King of Naples, but returned to Castile, where he became custodian of the crown jewels, until he was sent as royal inspector of the gold smelting in the Indies. After taking part in Pedrarias de Avila's colonising expedition to Darien, he returned and settled permanently in San Domingo.

Oviedo kept in touch with the Spanish Court and returned several times to Spain, on one of which occasions, in 1526, he published his Sumario, which was dedicated to the Emperor, and dealt with the geography, climate, vegetation, animals, and tribes of the American Colonies, and which met with a popular reception from the public. The first volume of his great work, however, Historia General de las Indias, in nineteen books, to which he had given years of careful labour, appeared in 1535. The entire work is divided into three parts, consisting in all of fifty books, and includes everything that had already appeared in his Sumario. The second and third parts are occupied with the conquest of Mexico, Peru, and other South American countries. Oviedo, through his relations with most of the great personages of his day and his personal knowledge of the countries he describes, the events he portrays, and the men who figured in them, collected an enormous mass of data, which, however, he never properly classified. He is, therefore, confused and confusing, self-contradictory and something of a plagiarist, of whom it was said that, not content with drawing his information from the higher and more trustworthy sources, he did not scruple to collect the gossip of the camp from common soldiers, and the cancans of great mens' ante-chambers. Las Casas describes his work as "a wholesale fabrication, and as full of lies as pages. Oviedo and Las Casas were poles asunder, and the good bishop was so averse to the sentiments and opinions of his contemporary (so contrary to his own) that he could see no good either in him or his work.

Despite the blemishes which mar his work, Oviedo must be considered an astute observer, nor can it be thought that he consciously or intentionally misstated facts. From the same events, two different observers draw opposite conclusions, and, in the study of historical records, their value may be more accurately estimated by considering the character of the medium through which they reach us.

Oviedo died at Valladolid in 1559,while on a visit to Spain to prepare for the publication of the remainder of his work.


bernardino de sahagun

The Historia Universal de Nueva España of Fray Bernardino de Sahagun serves as a most valuable text-book for all students of Mexican antiquities.

The author was born at Sahagun, and entered the Franciscan Order in Salamanca, where he studied at the University. He went to Mexico in 1529, where he devoted his energies to the conversion of the Indians. He entered upon this task on the basis that, to convert the natives to Christianity, it was first necessary to know them, to understand their language, beliefs, and traditions, and, most of all, to be thoroughly versed in their ancient mythology, theology, and ritual. To acquire such knowledge, he lived among the natives of Texcoco for several years, and mastered their language and their hieroglyphic writings to such an extent that his own work was originally written in the Mexican tongue.

His superiors did not give unqualified approval to the publication of his MSS., the tendency being rather to obliterate as far as possible all knowledge of ancient Aztec beliefs, with a view to detaching the Indians entirely from the traditions of their ancestors. Starting thus with a tabula rasa as it were, it was thought that the work of conversion would progress more rapidly. Fortunately this mistaken conception did not lead to the destruction of the mass of unique information which Fray Bernardino had accumulated, although his manuscripts were widely scattered through various convents of the Order.

Sahagun sent a statement of the nature and extent of his labours to Spain, where it attracted the attention of the President of the Royal Council for the Indies, at that time Don Juan de Ovando, who fortunately perceived its value, and caused the scattered manuscripts to be collected and restored to their owner, at the same time directing that he should return to Spain, and forthwith translate them into Spanish. Sahagun was nearly eighty years of age at this time, but he set diligently to work, and completed the translation, which was placed side by side with the original, and the whole illustrated with an Aztec vocabulary. The entire work, contained in two large folio volumes, was sent to Madrid, from which time it completely disappeared, not to be seen again for more than two hundred years, when the cosmographer Don Juan Bautista Muñoz unearthed it in the Franciscan Library at Tolosa in Navarre.

The first publication, dedicated to Pope Pius VIII. and edited by Carlos Maria de Bustamente, deputy for the state of Oaxaca, appeared in Mexico at the cost of the national treasury. One year later Lord Kingsborough introduced it into the 6th volume of his magnificent work, under the natural impression that he was giving it for the first time to the public.


bartolomé de las casas

Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas, who later became Bishop of Chiapa, was born at Seville in 1474. His father went with Columbus on his second voyage in 1493, and amassed sufficient means to provide his promising son with a university education at Salamanca. He was the first priest ordained in the new world, where he went with Ovando in 1502. The sufferings of the natives under the cruelties of the first colonists, and especially the system of ripartimientos and encomiendas, so aroused the sympathies of the young priest that he dedicated his life to their defence, and was the first to bear the glorious title of Protector-General of the Indians, which Cardinal Ximenez de Cisneros, regent in the absence of Charles V., conferred upon him. He was indefatigable in his crusade and not always discreet. After the failure of the native colony entrusted to him, he retired to a Dominican convent (which Order he entered) and devoted himself during many years to various compositions in vindication of the Indians and their violated rights. He enlisted his brethren of the Order in his apostolate, and never during his long and eventful life flagged in his zeal for the noble end he had set himself. After refusing the bishopric of Cuzco, the richest perhaps in the New World, he later accepted the poor diocese of Chiapa. He died in July, 1566, at the age of ninety-two, in the monastery of Atocha, at Madrid.

Las Casas barely tolerated Cortes, and, having known him as an obscure young man of no importance, courting the favour of Diego Velasquez in Cuba, he could never refrain in later years, when extraordinary fortune had elevated him at his former patron's expense, from recalling the humble origin and many doubtful transactions of the great Conqueror's youth. Indeed he treats Cortes throughout as a mere lucky adventurer. Prescott says of him that he had the virtues and faults of a reformer, being inspired by a great and glorious idea which "urged him to lift the voice of rebuke in the presence of princes, to brave the menaces of an infuriated populace, to cross seas, traverse mountains and deserts, to incur the alienation of friends, the hostility of enemies, to endure obloquy, insult, and persecution."

His great work, Historia General de las Indias, to which he devoted himself during thirty years, while still in manuscript, was largely drawn upon by different writers, notably by Herrera, who incorporated a large amount into his own work published in 1601. An edition of his works was published in five volumes at Madrid in 1876. His Brevisima Relacion, widely read and translated into foreign languages, was a terrible indictment of his countrymen and their dealings with the natives. The integrity of his character, the purity of his motives, and his apostolic virtues command admiration, and, though his intemperate zeal in the cause he championed troubled the serenity of his appreciations as an historian, his statement of facts may be invariably trusted, and his record of contemporary events is of unquestionable value.



Toribio de Benevente is best known by his Indian name (which he himself adopted) of Motolinia, meaning the "poor man" (equivalent of the Poverello which was St. Francis's dearest title). He was one of twelve Franciscans who first came to Mexico in response to the request of Cortes, at the close of the conquest (1523). He travelled from Mexico to Guatemala and Nicaragua on foot, and knew the country and its peoples as did few. His headquarters were at a convent at Texcoco, where his life and energies were devoted with success to teaching and converting the Mexicans. His Historia de los Indias de Nueva España embraces first religion and rites of the Aztecs, second conversion, third their character, chronology, astrology, and some account of their principal cities, etc. His MS. was printed in the first volume of Icazbalceta's Documentos Ineditos.


peter martyr

Pietro Martire de Angleria of Arona, Italy, came to Spain in 1487. He wrote in Latin De Orbe Novo, printed in a complete edition by Hakluyt, Paris, 1587. He took great interest in the discoveries and colonisation, and was allowed to attend meetings of the Royal Council for the Indies. He was personally acquainted with Columbus, Cortes, and others, and their correspondence with the Court was open to him. His writings are those of a philosophical observer of historical events, unencumbered with the manifold details and small incidents which crowd and confuse the pages of the soldier chroniclers such as Bernal Diaz. He died in 1525.


antonio de herrera

Antonio de Herrera was born at Cuellar in 1549, and was made Historiographer of the Indies from 1492–1554. His Historia General de las Indias Occidentales is divided into eight decades, of which the first four were published in 1601, the others in 1615, five volumes in folio. A very free English translation, with omissions, was made by Stevens. The plan of this work is confused and interrupted, wanting in sequence, and filled with irrelevant details. He had access to all the Statepapers, colonial reports, and every MS. relating to the discovery, conquest, and colonisation of the New World, and he quoted very freely from Las Casas. Dazzled by the wonderful events of the times and the equally marvellous achievements of his countrymen, he was blind to their faults and excesses, so that, while not exactly a panegyric, his work is coloured by a strong patriotism, which shows in his optimistic appreciation of the character and deeds of the conquerors. His work is, however, a compendium of authentic information which cannot be too highly esteemed. He died in 1625.


juan de torquemada

Juan de Torquemada, Provincial of the Franciscans in Mexico from 1614-1617, spent more than fifty years of his life in the country, during which time he amassed an immense collection of ancient pictures, writings, and original manuscripts, besides the information, often legendary and contradictory, which he obtained from the Indians. Of his Monarchia Indiana Clavigero says that one must seek jewels among the rubbish. It was first published in Madrid in 1614, and again in 1724.


william h. prescott

The work of the eminent American historian William H. Prescott is too well known to require extensive notice here. His diligence in research, and his scholarly familiarity with the sources of Spanish-American history, contributed to make his Conquest of Mexico a masterpiece of historical narrative, in which sober facts seem almost to catch the glamour of romance from the delightful style of their presentation, and this work will doubtless long remain the most complete, as it is the most fascinating, account in our language of the stirring events it describes.


manuel orozco y berra

In 1880, the Historia Antiqua de la Conquista de Mexico, by Don Manuel Orozco y Berra, Vice-President of the Society of Geography and Statistics, was published by the order and at the expense of the Mexican Government, Don Porfirio Diaz being then President, and Señor Mariscal Minister of Public Instruction. This erudite work, the fruit of a lifetime of discriminating research by the distinguished author, is divided into four parts: I. Civilisation, II. Prehistoric Man in Mexico, III. Ancient History, IV. The Conquest.


manuel garcia icazbalceta

The collection of documents, for the most part inedited, published in 1858 by Don Joaquin Garcia Icazbalceta, opens many original and invaluable historical sources to all. The labours of this learned Mexican in the field of historical research are beyond all praise.

Besides the writers above noticed, the following are the principal authorities who have been consulted:

De Rebus Gestis, anonymous. in Icazbalceta's Documentos Inéditos, volume i.
Itinerario de larmata del Re Catholico
El Conquistador Anónimo
Ixtlilxochitl, Historia Chichimeca.
P. Diego Duran, Historia de las Indias de Nueva España.
Fernando Tezozomoc, Cronica Mexicana, 1538.
Diego Muñoz Camargo (Tlascalan), Historia Tlascala.
Carlos Siguenza, Imperio Chichimeco, Geneal. Reyes Mexicanos.
Pizarro: Varones Illustres.
Joseph de Acosta, S. J., Historia Natural y Moral de las Indias. Madrid, 1608.
Thomas Gage, Voyage 1626.
Archbishop Lorenzana, Historia de Nueva España, 1770.
Salazar y Olarte, Historia de la Conquista.
Francesco Xaverio Clavigero, Storia Antica del Messico.
Agostino de Vetancourt, Teatro Mexicano, 1698 (Mexico).
Gemelli Careri, Giro del Mondo, Venezia, 1728.
Antonio de Solis, Historia de la Conquista.
Andres Cavo, S. J., Los Tres Siglos de Mexico (Carlo Bustamente).
Archivo Mexicano, Residencia de Cortes.
Diego de Landa, Relacion de las cosas de Yucatan.
William Robertson, History of America; History of Charles V.
Washington Irving, Life of Columbus; Companions of Columbus.
Luca Alaman, Dissertazioni sulla Storia del Messico. Italian translation by E. Pelaez, 1859.
Humboldt, Essai Politique; Vues des Cordillieres.
Mexico a Travers los Siglos (published under direction of D. Vincente Riva Palacio).
Sir Arthur Helps, Cortes.
Stephens, Incidents of Travel in Yucatan.
Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of Mexico in Vol. X.
Abbé Brasseur de Bourbourg. Histoire des Nations Civilisees du Mextque, 1839.
Ternaux-Compans, Voyages, Relations et Memoires, Originaux. Paris, 1883.
Andres Gonzalez de Barcia, Historiadoses Primitiros de las Indias Occidentals.
Martin Fernandez de Navarrete, Documentos ineditos para la Historia de Espana.
Riradeneira's Biblioteca de Autores Españoles.
Desiré Charnay, Ancient Cities of the New World. Paris, 1887.