CORTÉS, Hernando (1485-1547). Praeclara Ferdinãdi. Cortesii de noua maris oceani Hyspania narratio sacratissimo. – Peter MARTYR. De rebus, et insulis nouiter repretis. Translated from Spanish into Latin by Pietro Savorgnanus. Nuremberg: Fridericus Peypus, 1545.
Two parts in one volume, 2° (273 x 190 mm). Title within woodcut ornamental border, woodcut imperial coat-of-arms on title verso, and portrait of Pope Clement VII on a4v. (Lacking folding woodcut plan of Mexico, supplied in facsimile, washed, H2 with short marginal tear crossing one line of text, pale marginal stain in last three leaves.) Modern vellum over board, edges gilt, by Roger Powell, 1951; cloth folding case. Provenance: Walter Oakeschott (1903-1987), vice-Chancellor of Oxford and discoverer of the Winchester Manuscript of Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur (inscription dated 1944 on front free endpaper).
FIRST EDITION IN LATIN, first published in Spanish in Seville, 1522. This is the second of five reports sent by Cortés to Emperor Charles V, detailing his campaign in Mexico. “This letter traces events in Mexico after the departure of Cortés from Vera Cruz, when the Spaniards were driven back from Mexico City. In conclusion Cortés reviews his embarrassments, and says that he holds danger and fatigue lightly in comparison with attainment of his object. He was confident the Spaniards would soon regain their former position. He names the country New Spain of the Ocean Sea.
“The letter excited the greatest sensation at the Spanish Court, and among the friends of science generally. Previous discoveries in the New World had disappointed the expectations which had been formed after the solution of the grand problem of its existence. They had brought to light only rude tribes, which, however gentle and inoffensive in their manners, were still in the primitive stages of barbarism. Here was an authentic account of a vast nation, potent and populous, exhibiting an elaborate social polity, well advanced in the arts of civilization, occupying a soil that teemed with mineral treasures and with a boundless variety of vegetable products, stores of wealth, both natural and artificial, that seemed, for the first time, to realize the golden dreams in which the great discoverer of the New World had so fondly, in his own day, so fallaciously indulged. Well might the scholar of that age exult in the revelation of these wonders, which so many had long, but in vain, desired to see” (Herschel V. Jones). The large folding map is of utmost rarity and is scarcely seen in copies. Alden & Landis 524/5; Church 53; Harrisse BAV, 125; JCB (1919) I, p. 90; Jones Adventures 18; Jones Checklist, 29; Medina BHA, 70; Sabin 16947.