CARO DE TORRES, Francisco.

CARO DE TORRES, Francisco. Historia de las ordenes militares de Santiago, Calatrava y Alcantara […]

Madrid, Juan González, 1629


FIRST EDITION. Fol., ff. (xvi) 252. Roman and italic letter, woodcut floriated and historiated initials, decorated headpieces and endpieces. Attractive engraved architectural t-p signed “Alardo de Popma me fecit (Matriti)”, with standing figures of St. Benedict and St. Bernard at head, Charles V and Philip IV of Spain on the sides, arms of Philip IV at centre. T-p a bit dusty with lower and outer margins slightly trimmed, intermittent age yellowing, light browning and mainly marginal foxing, lower outer corner of first few ll. a bit softened with very slight loss to corner of engraved t-p, lower edge very slightly waterstained, one l. strengthened at gutter, tear to one lower outer corner affecting 3 words on recto. A good copy in C19 vellum over boards, spine triple gilt ruled with gilt ornamental roll at head and tail, gilt title label, marbled endpapers.

First edition of this remarkable history of the Spanish military orders, from their establishment in the Middle Ages to the reign of Philip II. Dedicated to Philip IV, this work represents a fundamental source of information about the military conquest of the New World.

Francisco Caro de Torres (c. 1550-1642) was a Spanish priest, soldier and writer. Born in Seville and son of a conquistador, he had first-hand information regarding military action in America: after fighting in Italy, Azores and the Netherlands, he sailed to Peru with Fernando de Torres, count of Villar, recently appointed viceroy. During the journey, as well as in Lima, Caro de Torres dedicated himself to historical readings, realising that: “the stories that were written in our language, both about the wars in Italy and in Flanders, and many of the events that happened in my presence were told in a way very different from how I had actually seen, heard and observed them” (Medina). Later, he joined the troops sent to Chile to assist Alonso de Sotomayor, the Chilean governor, and a solid friendship developed between them. In August 1592, Caro de Torres accompanied de Sotomayor, who was finishing his term as governor, to Panama, where they fought and defeated the English corsairs lead by the feared and celebrated admiral Sir Francis Drake. Back to Madrid, Caro de Torres dedicated the rest of his life to writing.

In the introduction to his ‘History of the Military orders’, the author states that he composed an “official history”, which highlights the nobility and greatness of the orders, focusing on the things that “must be imitated and do not give scandalous example”. The first and second books contain the history of the military orders of Santiago, Calatrava and Alcantara, presented through a series of short chronological chapters dedicated to the various leaders of the orders (‘Maestres’, or ‘Grand masters’) who followed each other. The third book is the longest and most interesting, dealing with the Spanish conquests in the New World. It starts with the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, and it comprises long accounts of the wars in Chile, the conquest of Peru and Mexico by the famous conquistadores Francisco Pizarro and Hernan Cortes, as well as the actions of Sir Francis Drake and his death at Nombre de Dios. At the end, the author also included the Latin text of a series of Papal bulls concerning the establishment of three military orders and an apologia for the orders by Don Fernando Pizarro de Orellana, biographer and knight of the Order of Calatrava.

The finely engraved title page was realised by the Flemish engraver Alardo de Popma, active in Sevilla, Toledo and Madrid between 1617 and 1641.

USTC 5020824; Palau 44869; Sabin 10951; Brunet II p. 1589; Graesse II p. 51; Alden p. 289, 629/31; BM STC Sp. Por. 17C, 208. J. T. Medina, Colonial Biographical Dictionary of Chile (1906)
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