La historia general de las Indias
La historia general de las Indias
La historia general de las Indias
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La historia general de las Indias
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"I accumulated all that I write here out of two million hardships and necessities and perils in the more than twenty-two years that I have been observing and experiencing these things in my own person"
La historia general de las Indias

GONZALO FERNÁNDEZ DE OVIEDO Y VALDÉS, 1535 AND 1557

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La historia general de las Indias
Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés, 1535 and 1557
OVIEDO Y VALDÉS, Gonzalo Fernández de (1478-1557). La historia general de las Indias. Seville: Juan Cromberger, 1535 [And:] –. Libro XX de la segunda parte de la general historia de las Indias. Valladolid: for Francisco Fernandez de Cordova, 1557.

First edition of both parts of the first encyclopedia of the Americas, as well as an account of Magellan's circumnavigation; signed by the author as issued. Oviedo, the "Pliny of the New World," traveled extensively in the Americas on behalf of the Spanish crown and was named Historian of the West Indies in 1523. "His sprawling book provides a detailed account of the natural history of the Americas, as well as the history of the early Spanish colonization of the Caribbean ... Oviedo was intrigued by the many new species he saw and made drawings as well as written notes almost from the beginning of his tenure in the Indies. His industry provides an extraordinary description of the period, one that his high offices and education gave him a unique ability to record. More than any other writer in the first century after Columbus, Oviedo perceived the great differences between New World flora and fauna and anything known in the Old World. Other early chroniclers almost always discuss new species observed in the Americas in comparison to familiar European models; everthing in relationship to something it resembled at home" (Creating America). Relying on his own first-hand experiences as well as his privileged access to official reports on the Americas, his "two-thousand page general and natural history is the most authoritative text on the Americas from the first half of the sixteenth century" (Myers). He was not without his detractors, however. Bartolomé de las Casas in particular took umbrage at the official chronicler's depiction of Indigenous people, a depiction which would bolster the case of las Casas's opposition in the Valladolid debate of 1550-1551.

Oviedo was a prolific writer, producing works not only on natural history and his experiences in America but in genres as diverse as chivalric romance and heraldry. The original manuscript of La historia general de las Indias stretched to 50 books, written and illustrated over several decades and which Oviedo continually revised throughout his life. Less than half the manuscript made it into print before the 19th century; the first 19 books, along with a portion of book 50, were printed in Seville in 1535, with book 20 following in 1557 in Valladolid as a separate volume, just before the author's death. This final published portion of the Historia provides a history of Spain's activities in the South Seas, from the voyage of Magellan to the Treaty of Zaragoza. The account of Magellan's circumnavigation is drawn both from Oviedo's interviews with survivors of the harrowing journey as well as the diaries of Antonio Pigafetta, However, the Spanish historian is careful to present the facts in a way that supports his country's claims in the Pacific and minimizes the more disturbing details of the expedition. Copies are extremely rare at auction, especially both volumes together. The last substantially complete copy of volume one we trace in the auction records was in 1988. Alden & Landis 535 12; Arents 4; JCB (3) I:118; Creating America 10; Nissen ZBI 3032; Palau 89528; Sabin 57988. See also Kathleen Ann Myers, Fernández de Oviedo's Chronicle of America: A New History for a New World (2010).

Two volumes, folio. Volume 1 (287 x 200mm). Woodcut title printed in red and black with large woodcut coat-of-arms of Charles V (inlaid and with a several small areas of reinforcement on verso), half-page woodcut arms of Christopher Columbus on fol. 10r, full-page woodcut arms of Oviedo on last page, woodcut illustrations in text (small corner repairs and a few small marginal repairs to several leaves at ends, scattered minor stains, 5 leaves in Books 5-6 with old repair to a short closed tear at head, large repair to blank corners of h8 and m7, fol. r2 supplied, with lower and outer margins extended). Volume 2 (273 x 188mm). Woodcut arms of Charles V on the title (stained at inner margin with repaired small losses to first word of title and to lower left corner of arms), woodcut illustrations in text (small reinforcement in gutter of last leaf, minor spotting and light browning). Early 20th-century stamped morocco to style by V. Arrias, edges red (light wear). Provenance: some early Spanish marginalia, mostly trimmed – Biblioteca Nacional (marginal stamps and deaccession stamps in both volumes).

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